HIT THE TRAIL: Local preserves
Take advantage and give back to local nature preserves this weekend. Friends of Brooker Creek invite nature lovers to Return the Preserve Day 8-11 a.m. Saturday to help rid the preserve of exotic, invasive vegetation and nuisance plants. Bring work gloves and yard tools. Water and snacks will be provided. Best for ages 12 and older. Free. Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. (727) 453-6800.
When the day is done, head to Boyd Hill Nature Preserve for a Twilight Canoe on the Lake. Paddle out before the sun sets and watch twilight settle over the water. For $15 you get a spot in one of the preserve's tandem canoes. It's limited to 15 people for ages 8 and up so call to reserve a spot at (727) 893-7326. The twilight paddle is 6-8:30 p.m. Saturday at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg.
TREASURE HUNT: Scallop season under way
Florida's bay scalloping season opened June 25, which means the boat ramps in Hernando and Citrus counties are hopping with hungry hunters eager to check out the scallop beds in northern Homosassa, Crystal River and Steinhatchee, which are among the richest in the state. And it's looking like a very good year, according to the annual "abundance survey" conducted by the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The region, which extends from south of the Chassahowitzka River estuary north to Crystal River, has a higher density of the shellfish this year than at any time since 2012, the agency reports. Florida Sea Grant, a university-based research and education program, this year has published brochures at flseagrant.org with marina and boat ramp maps, recommended size limits to keep the crop sustainable, as well as recipes and information on how to clean and dispose of shells. Experts suggest when you head out for scallops, start early. Aim to be on the water before sunrise, and finish before noon to avoid storms and crowded boat ramps. Tides and location are among other important considerations. Adults need a fishing license to harvest scallops, and the boat must display a dive flag anytime divers are in the water. For details on harvest regulations, visit myfwc.com. For scallop trips, check out homosassaredfish.com or the charters at homosassainshorefishing.com. The season ends Sept. 24.
SAFETY FIRST: Emergency beacon rental
If you are looking for some extra security when away from your home port this summer, the Sea Tow Foundation and ACR Electronics have launched a new emergency beacon rental program, allowing boaters to rent Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) and Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs). It typically costs $150 to $500 to own one of these critical safety features that let you tell family and friends you are okay or send out an SOS signal. But boaters can rent one through boatingsafety.com for $45 to $65 a week. An EPIRB is registered to a vessel, designed to be mounted on a boat, and will emit a distress signal for an extended period of time. A PLB is smaller and intended to be worn. It's a small price to pay for safety. All proceeds earned from the beacon rentals will be reinvested into Sea Tow Foundation's other programs, such as the Designated Skipper Campaign to promote sober boating and the Life Jacket Loaner Program.