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Take it Outside Planner: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, red snapper season

EXPLORE MORE: JONATHAN DICKINSON STATE PARK

Next time you head to Florida's east coast, make sure you swing by Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Located just south of Stuart, this state park has pine flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps. Bring your canoe, kayak or paddleboard, or rent one there and explore the Loxahatchee, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River. For a more structured adventure, take one of the ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson, the "Wildman of the Loxahatchee." The 25-passenger Loxahatchee Queen II offers a two-hour tour of the river. Nelson eventually opened up one of the area's first tourist attractions, "Trapper's Zoo and Jungle Gardens." Nelson died in 1968 from a gunshot wound. Officials ruled it a suicide, but speculation swirled. Many a Trapper Nelson story has been told around a campfire. You can camp in an organized camp or head into the backcountry, where some say the old trapper's ghost wanders on moonlit nights. If you go, don't forget your fishing pole. The Loxahatchee has freshwater species such as largemouth bass upriver and snook and snapper as you approach the picnic area and boat ramp. floridastateparks.org.

SWEET SPLENDOR: GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE

This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the U.S. Postal Service has issued a series of collector stamps to celebrate. But why not see the real thing? Head north to Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola. The protected barrier islands, which stretch into Mississippi, have miles of deserted, undeveloped beaches as well as historic fortifications and nature trails. nps.gov.

WHEN TO CATCH: RED SNAPPER

Red snapper season in the state waters of the Gulf of Mexico opened for Saturdays and Sundays as of last week. That is great news for anglers in northwest Florida, but if you live here in Tampa Bay, you're out of luck. Red snapper are usually found far offshore in federal waters. The season opens to include weekdays May 28 through July 10. Then the season will goes to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October, also including Labor Day. All together, that's a 78-day season in gulf state waters. Red snapper season in federal waters, which begins 9 miles offshore, will run June 1 to 9. The federally permitted charter boat and headboat season for federal waters will run June 1 through July 16, closing July 17.

GREAT GIFT: ULTIMATE WATER SHOES

OluKai's new Eleu Trainers are the official footwear of the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association. Great for standup paddleboarding, sea kayaking or busting out a 3-mile run on the beach, these are not your average water shoes. $110. OluKai.com.

Take it Outside Planner: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, red snapper season 05/11/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 10:54am]
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