Saturday, November 18, 2017
Outdoors

Take it Outside Planner: Lake Kissimmee, the Great Horned Owl and TreeUmph

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Destination: Lake Kissimmee

Not much has changed at this state park located a few miles east of Lake Wales since the days when "cow hunters" ruled the Florida prairie. You'll see white-tailed deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and wild turkeys. Anglers can catch bass on lakes Kissimmee, Tiger and Rosalie. There are also 13 miles of hiking trails, six of which are open to equestrians. The full-service campground is one of the best places in Florida for stargazing. And while Florida might be known today for oranges, in the 1800s cattle was, literally, the state's biggest cash cow. The Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon can be credited with kick-starting the industry in 1521 when he introduced seven Andalusian cows to Florida's ample grazing lands. Life was hard for those cowboys who drove the cattle through the wild Florida scrubland. In the 1800s, Florida was an open range with no fences, so the great herds of cattle, some with as many as 50,000 head, roamed freely. Florida's first cowboys had to hunt their cows in the cypress swamps, pine flatlands and hardwoods hammocks. After a while, folks started referring to these hardened men as "cow hunters." The cattle themselves, skinny by today's standards, were survivors. These "scrub cows" could eke out a living almost anywhere. And by the late 1800s, there were cattle operations, or "cow camps," spread out across the state. One of the better-known cow camps was located among the rich grazing lands of the Kissimmee Valley. Locals called it "Cow Town," which was a good fit since most of its residents had hooves. Today, the state park has a little living history to share: an authentic cow camp straight out of 1876. Take the kids on a Saturday. It shouldn't be missed.

High flyin' in Bradenton: TreeUmph

Modern humans seldom get to test themselves, push their limits, venture out of the comfort zone. Luckily, Bradenton's TreeUmph!, with its 76 treetop adventure games (including one called the "Leap of Faith," and the zip line that's longer than two football fields), is just the thing you need to make this holiday season one to remember. The park, open year-round every day except Wednesday, is an ideal place for families looking for fun and fitness. If you go, don't rush your visit. Bring a smartphone or a camera that you can stick into a bag that attaches to your safety harness. TreeUmph! provides gloves, which help protect your hands, but if you have workout or baseball gloves, bring your own. Wear long pants; the harness can chafe. Instructors will show you what you need to know to stay safe. Do as many of the games as possible, and don't miss the zip line at the end. To learn more, go to treeumph.com.

Quench your thirst: Camelbak Hawg

Ditch that old Army surplus aluminum canteen and get yourself a modern hydration system. The Camelbak Hawg holds 3 liters of water and has 1,200 cubic inches of storage space. Prices vary depending on the color and supplier, but count on spending $125 to $150. If you love outdoor adventure, this is an essential piece of gear.

Nesting time: Great Horned Owl

Florida's largest owl is a fierce nocturnal hunter. Sometimes called a "tiger owl," it will take on everything from snakes to rabbits. Nesting season in Florida starts in December. Good places to see these mighty birds of prey include Honeymoon Island State Park and Fort De Soto Park.

   
Comments

Captainís Corner: Snook bite remains aggressive

We are in the midst of prefrontal conditions, so there should be good fishing today. Bait seems to have moved on the last full moon and judging by the amount of bait fry that has filtered onto the flats, it spawned also. Load up the wells with the sm...
Published: 11/17/17

Captainís Corner: Calm seas closer to beaches rewards with kingfish

Strong east winds have made it challenging for offshore anglers. The first few miles are quite tolerable since the land buffers the shoreline. After that, sea conditions have been tougher. Anglers searching for kingfish have been rewarded with calm s...
Published: 11/16/17

Captainís Corner: A little wind doesnít stop hot fishing in November

Despite many windy days, November fishing has been amazing. The water is cooling off, and the fish are becoming more aggressive. Itís getting to be the time of year when the cold fronts start to make their way out of the north. When this happens, win...
Published: 11/15/17

Captainís Corner: Fly fishing success possible, even in wind

When your day to fly fish arrives, do you hope for a day without wind? Knowledgeable fly fishers know there are many ways to deal with different wind situations. Avoid open water, and select an area that offers protection. Stay close to shore and use...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/14/17

Captainís Corner: Low tides and cold fronts make for rewarding fishing

Fall and winter low tides combined with cold fronts passing through can lead to highly rewarding fishing. It takes winds blowing 20-plus miles an hour out of the northeast combined with an astronomical low tide around the new moon and full moon phase...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17

Captainís Corner: Reef fish abundant offshore; mackerel, kings better near shore

Before this recent cold front, we were able to travel where we wanted, and the calm seas allowed us to make the mistake of running past the best depths for our type of fishing. The 40- to 50-foot depths produced almost nonstop action from reef fish, ...
Published: 11/12/17
Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

Captainís Corner: Mackerel still going strong in bay area

The fall king mackerel run is still going strong. The fish have seemed to come in waves; one week there are numerous fish more than 30 pounds, and a week or two later no one can find any more than 20. It also seems the fish are not moving south all t...
Published: 11/11/17

Captainís Corner: Cold front should push fish into backcountry waters

The approaching front is forecast to drop temperatures for a couple of days. This should push more fish into the backcountry rivers and creeks that feed the bay. Once the front passes and the weather stabilizes, fishing should return to normal. This ...
Published: 11/10/17

Captainís Corner: Kingfish domination

With calm seas and water temperature just the way they like it, kingfish will dominate much of the nearshore and offshore activity. Light wind and strong tides from the weekendís full moon have allowed nearshore waters to cleanse, so baits are being ...
Published: 11/08/17
Captainís Corner: November means strong snook fishing

Captainís Corner: November means strong snook fishing

November is the month that moves most inshore fish from the flats to the backcountry creeks, docks and rivers. Itís a month when you can enjoy great weather and great fishing without waking up at the crack of dawn. The South Shore in particular has s...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/09/17