SHARK SAFARI: TEETH IN VENICE
It might seem unnerving how many shark's teeth you can expect to find walking on Caspersen Beach in Venice. The Sarasota County shoreline is a prime spot for shelling, as well as canoeing, kayaking, fishing and walking the nature trails through coastal mangroves. But it's the prehistoric, fossilized shark's teeth, many dating back more than 20 million years, that are real prize to be found. The best time to search is in the early morning in an area that claims the title of the "Shark's Tooth Capital of the World." Venice is a sleepy beach town 60 miles south of Tampa, worthy of a quick getaway, especially if you have a boat.
GO FISH: BASS RULES CHANGE
In case you missed it, Florida's regulations for largemouth bass changed on July 1. The new statewide bag and length limits are five bass per day, only one of which may be 16 inches or longer. There is no statewide minimum length limit for largemouth bass. Tournament bass fishermen who typically catch and hold bass longer than 16 inches will be able to do so with the new state limits, but tournament sponsors must have waivers to the law for anglers.
Largemouth bass grow faster in Florida than any other state, thanks to our warm climate. And summer is the easiest time to catch Florida largemouth bass, just before sunrise or near midnight when the water has settled from boat traffic.
Florida boasts more than 7,500 lakes and most support healthy populations of bass. The best are found in Lake Okeechobee, a yearly stop on national bass tours. Lake George, Florida's second-largest lake, is located along the eastern border of the Ocala National Forest and has a reputation for big fish. And don't let the name fool you: Lake Tarpon in Pinellas County is a popular spot for bass fishing, renowned for its trophy-sized catches. The 2,500-acre lake is a quiet oasis from the bustling traffic of nearby Palm Harbor. There are two boat ramps, boardwalks and piers for anglers at the two county parks bordering the lake, John Chestnut Park to the east and A.L. Anderson Park to the west.
If you end up catching a big one, snap a picture and send it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's TrophyCatch program at trophycatchflorida.com. The program, designed to encourage catch-and-release of the biggest, oldest and most valuable bass, offers prizes for anglers who document and release largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or more. For information on fishing licenses and regulations see myfwc.com.
OLD SCHOOL: LESSONS FROM BROOKER CREEK
In only a few short weeks, the kids will be back in school. Get in the last of your summer outings and sneak in a little learning thanks to the educators at Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs. Clocking in at 8,700 acres, it is the largest natural area in Pinellas County. It's not a park, but a wilderness area consisting primarily of forested wetlands and pine flatwoods, providing a home to white-tailed deer, wild turkey, otters, gopher tortoises and a variety of orchids, lilies and butterflies. The preserve's Family Fun Friday Mornings is a series of family-oriented programs aimed at helping children build an interest in the natural world through fun and educational activities you can do together as a family. Wear closed-toed shes as you head out for the Summer Science Sampling lesson from 10 a.m.-noon Friday. Saturday at 10:30 a.m. is Tree ID, starting in the classroom to learn the basics of tree identification. Then, hit the trails for some hands-on identification in the woods. Or check out Saturday morning's Our Wildest Place Hike, starting at 9 a.m., with a guided walk along the trails. All programs are free, but you need to register at (727) 453-6800 or brookercreekpreserve.eventbrite.com.
Kids are all grown? Check out the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve. Through fundraising, volunteer programs and education, they ensure the preserve remains a natural wilderness for future generations. They are currently at work on the Fall Wildflower Festival coming Oct. 15 with presentations, exhibits, naturalists on the trails to answer questions and wildflower "hunts" with cameras. Learn more at friendsofbrookercreekpreserve.org. The preserve is at 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs.