survey helps state biologists monitor gulf
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission needs help from offshore anglers. Sign up today to participate in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, an easy, no-cost process that will help state biologists understand how many people are targeting grouper and other species in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as what anglers are seeing on the water....
CRYSTAL RIVER — Manatees don't like cold water or crowds. That's why Darren Wilkes recommended staying aboard the pontoon boat and finishing my cup of coffee.
"Take your time," advised the veteran manatee tour captain. "Just chill out and relax. The manatees aren't going anywhere."
Wilkes has been running the pontoon boat out of the Crystal Lodge Dive Center for more than 20 years. Every winter he gets his regulars, law students from Maryland, biologists from Tennessee and journalists like me hoping to get a few close-up pictures of the state's favorite Sirenian....
It took a backpacking trip to get Jim Burgasser back into running.
The 45-year-old St. Petersburg man had been a serious road racer but drifted away from the sport he loved after he started a family.
"You know how it goes … kids, work … they take up time," said Burgasser, a member of the Forerunners Track Club. "Next thing I knew I had been away from it for years."
Then Burgasser's father-in-law suggested the two of them do a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The historic footpath runs from Georgia to Maine through mountainous terrain, making it a challenge for flatlanders from Florida....
01/15/15 Human Interest
EGMONT KEY — Casey Coy needed the weather to hold until noon.
"Wind and rain won't make the job any easier," said Coy, director of diver operations for the Florida Aquarium. "If the seas hold, we can drop the monument and be back at the boat ramp by noon."
Coy, a veteran underwater explorer, knows how unpredictable the Gulf of Mexico can be, especially during the winter months. It was on a cold January day in 1866, not unlike Thursday, when an 82-foot tugboat called the USS Narcissus ran into rough water at the mouth of Tampa Bay....
Dust off your 8-track and bust out those hip hugger jeans, old is new at this year's Florida RV SuperShow.
"Retro is hot," Dave Kelly said as he cruised through the parking lot of the Florida State Fairgrounds. "People want classic style with all the modern amenities."
The show, which runs through Sunday, features hundreds of recreational vehicles of all varieties and price ranges. You will still find million-dollar motor homes worthy of the most finicky rock star and pop-up trailers ideal for the weekend warrior....
KISSIMMEE — Cody Detweiler didn't like the look of the cloud line rolling in from the north.
"That cold front is here," said the 22-year-old pro bass fisherman. "We are going to have to work for it today."
Detweiler, whose family runs the Big Toho Marina on one of Florida's premiere bass fishing lakes, was doing a little scouting. The Bassmaster Southern Open was coming to town, and he wanted to get the edge on the more experienced anglers hoping to win $10,000 and a new bass boat....
01/09/15 Human Interest
Dave Welker never met Pat Tillman. But the 33-year-old Air Force pararescueman, whose job is to recover downed crew members in the toughest conditions, knew the story of the NFL player who gave up a multimillion-dollar career to become an Army Ranger after the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001.
Anthony DeSantis was a college freshman when the Twin Towers fell, and he, like Tillman, volunteered. The 31-year-old Tampa native ended up an officer in the Marine Corps in Fallujah, Iraq, where he worked with Navy SEALs....
FORT COOPER STATE PARK
The blue lips and uncontrolled shivering signaled something was wrong. We were halfway through a 10-mile hike on a cold, wet day when I noticed my crew of Boy Scouts didn't look good.
"We're heading back," I said. "Hike's over."
The boys needed the mileage to complete their backpacking merit badge, but when none protested, I knew I had made the right call....
wildlife corridor expedition
The Florida Wildlife Corridor, a non-profit devoted to creating wildlife corridors to ensure the long-term survival of Florida's wildlife, kicks off its 900-mile journey at the Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday. Members of the expedition will hike, bike and paddle across Florida on a 70-day long journey this month. Wildlife corridors provide habitat for 42 federally listed endangered species and 176 state listed endangered species including the whooping crane, Florida panther, West Indian manatee, green turtle, leatherback turtle, hawksbill turtle and gulf sturgeon. Contact Krystin Olinski at (813) 205-5572 or email@example.com for details. To learn more about the previous expeditions go to floridawildlifecorridor.org....
As a boy growing up in the Northeast, I looked forward to the week between Christmas and New Year's Day for snowball fights, sleigh riding and camping at Stokes State Forest in Branchville, N.J.
My father, a.k.a. Les of the Woods, was that rare breed of outdoorsman who looked forward to camping during the winter months. "There's no such thing as bad weather," he would often say. "There are just bad campers."...
People love to make New Year's fitness resolutions. But though many may work hard for two or three weeks, maybe even a month, most are back to their old sedentary routine by Valentine's Day. "That's because they try to do too much too fast," said Tampa Bay area personal trainer Andre Hudson. "Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint."
Hudson built his business by helping elite high school and college football players shave tenths of seconds off their 40-yard-dash times. Small, incremental improvements over the long haul are the keys to good health. "You have got to take baby steps," said the 40-year-old owner of Pro Builder Fitness. (Check out his work at probuilderfitness.com.) "And you have got to take them every day."...
Like many kids who came of age in the '70s, I used to be scared of sharks. Blame the movie Jaws, released in the summer of '75, for my irrational fear of the ocean's apex predator. • Over the years, I've tried to conquer my demons, even once participating in an event called Sharkfest in which contestants swim from the island of Alcatraz to the city of San Francisco. • Today, almost 40 years after Jaws, I consider myself a shark fan. That said, I must admit that despite years of diving and surfing with these creatures, I still get a little nervous every time I get into the water with these toothy critters. • "Just don't make any sudden moves," Rocky Welch advised as we slipped into the giant fish tank at the Florida Aquarium. "You don't want to get them excited."...
a reminder: beware of bears
A 15-year-old girl was injured Sunday when she encountered a black bear while walking her dog in Eastpoint, near Panama City. Florida black bears generally avoid humans, but occasionally attacks occur. In areas with bears, be aware of your surroundings and supervise small children. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tracks and traps nuisance bears. It relies on the public to report bears that exhibiting threatening behavior. If you encounter one, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline toll-free at 1-888-404-3922....
It seems every December people ask me what adventures I have planned for the new year. After 25 years on the outdoors beat I've been to quite a bit of this great state, and hopefully, I'll have another 25 to get to the rest. But don't live vicariously through my adventures. Start your own Florida bucket list. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Hook a tarpon...
motorsports festival to help amputees
Street riders, dirt bikers and ATV lovers will be out in force Saturday for Barney's Motorcycle and Marine charity bike show and food drive. The motorsports festival runs from noon to 5 p.m. at the Barney's St. Petersburg showroom on Gandy Boulevard.
Bring your motorcycle, enjoy music, food trucks and vendors, and help raise money for the 50 Legs Foundation, which helps amputees get the care and prosthetics they need to live happier, heathier lives. For information, go to 50legs.org....