AMBERJACK season to close
Add greater amberjack to the list of offshore species off limits to recreational anglers. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council announced this week that the season will shut down on Aug. 25 and remained closed until Jan. 1, 2015.
According to the Gulf Council, sport fishermen will reach their 888,839-pound catch limit by Aug. 24. The Gulf's amberjack stocks are split between the recreational and commercial sectors, with roughly two-thirds of the quota going to sport fishermen....
ST. PETERSBURG — Ron Taylor was just a boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old, but he remembers that first snook as if it were caught just yesterday.
"It was the biggest tussle … such a robust catch," recalled the 72-year-old marine biologist. "Over the years, the visions of snook in my brain, instead of fading, just became more brilliant.
"For many people, fishing for snook is not a sport," he said in a slow Alabama drawl. "It is a religion."...
LOBSTER SEASON OPENS, RUNS THROUGH MARCH
If you missed last month's two-day recreational lobsters season, don't worry. The regular season for spiny lobster in Florida state waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean opened this week and runs through March 31.
Many veteran bug hunters wait for August, when the crowds are gone, to dive for spiny lobster. If you are a newcomer to the sport, make sure you measure the lobster in the water. The body shell must be longer than 3 inches. If the lobster is "short," leave it in the water....
ST. PETE BEACH — Dave Markett has been fishing the Gulf of Mexico for more than 50 years, but the Tampa charter boat captain and former commercial fisherman fears his grandsons will not be able to do the same if federal fishery managers move ahead with new red snapper rules this month.
Markett, and more than 100 angry recreational fishermen, packed into a tiny ballroom at the Sirata Beach Resort this week to hear representatives of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council discuss "Reef Fish Amendment 40," also known as sector separation....
GULF OF MEXICO — Some anglers prize grouper for their delicate flesh. Others praise king mackerel for their long, fast runs. But when it comes to on-the-water entertainment, the great amberjack just can't be beat.
Pound for pound, you won't find a better fighting fish in the gulf. After a two-month closure, the season for these offshore brutes — which can be found from Key West to Pensacola — reopens today....
Forget about getting anything out of Tom Matthews. The lobster biologist is as cagey as the crustaceans he studies.
"The problem is that lobsters are notoriously hard to count," said Matthews, who works in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's field office in Marathon. "If you took all of the lobsters and put them in one room, they would all gather together in one corner."...
ST. PETE BEACH — Keith Overton didn't know what to do about his skinny snook. The avid angler had caught the linesiders in Tampa Bay and transferred them to his new 33,500-gallon fish tank, but now he watched helplessly as the apex predators slowly wasted away.
"There was plenty of food in the tank," said the man behind Guy Harvey's RumFish Grill & Bar on St. Pete Beach. "But for some reason the snook just weren't eating."...
World-renowned shark expert George Burgess, keeper of the International Shark Attack File, is used to getting silly questions about the ocean's most fearsome predator. "Are sharks out to get you?" is among the most common, he said. "The short answer is 'No.' " The 64-year-old University of Florida professor is co-author of a new book, Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide, which contains a trove of great information for sharkophiles. "There are more than 400 species of shark but only a select few have been implicated in attacks," he said. "But another way you can look at it is this: Any shark that can get to be 6 feet or longer can be considered dangerous." Burgess said he receives many inquiries about great white sharks. "They are identified in many shark attacks because they occur in areas where they are the only species," he said. "But if you are looking for the most common 'grabber' in Florida, that would be the blacktip shark.''...
Michael Poole doesn't remember his first epileptic seizure. He was cycling. When he came to, bruised and battered, he thought his triathlon career was over.
"It wasn't pretty," the 22-year-old said. "I went through a hard couple of months and wondered how I could possibly go on."
Poole was one of the best young competitive cyclists in New Zealand, and he was just 18. A gifted runner and swimmer as well, many thought he would be the next great champion from a nation that has produced so many gifted triathletes. Then epilepsy nearly derailed his dreams....
new diver safety rules take effect
Summer is the season for snorkeling and scuba diving so boaters should keep an eye out for "diver-down" flags. But whether you are scalloping on the Nature Coast or "bug" hunting in the Florida Keys, new rules will help keep divers safe.
Effective July 1, divers and snorkelers have the option of displaying a buoy with a series of divers-down symbols (red field with a white, diagonal line) as an alternative to the traditional divers-down flag. The buoy can be three- or four-sided and must have a divers-down symbol of at least 12-by-12 inches displayed on each of the flat sides. Such a buoy should help divers, especially those in open waters, be more visible to passing boats....
HONEYMOON ISLAND — Peter Krulder is no salesman. As the manager of Florida's most visited state park, his product sells itself.
"I guess you could say we have it all," said Krulder, who not only works but also lives on Honeymoon Island, "… great water, beautiful beaches, a fantastic nature trail … what's not to love?"
In the fiscal year 2013-14, which ended June 30, Honeymoon Island had 1,144,285 visitors, making it Florida's most popular state park for the eighth year in a row....
At first, Clark Wright thought they had hooked a giant carp.
"I said, 'That fish has got an orange head,' " recalled the Bradenton charter boat captain.
He was fishing a school of tarpon in the Tampa Bay area June 4 when he hooked the unusual specimen shortly after 7 a.m.
"The first time the tarpon took flight, I noticed the fish had bright orange features around its head and down its back," Wright said. "Each time the fish jumped and rolled and we got better looks, there was no doubt that it was a tarpon unlike I have ever seen or heard of before."...
HOMOSASSA — Scallop season starts Saturday, a three-day head start on the usual July 1 opening. So now's the time to get prepared to grab your share of the tasty shellfish.
Before you hit the water, here are a few tips from local fishing guide Jim Lemke, who spends most of his summer scouring the grass beds of the North Suncoast.
"Make sure all of your dive gear — your mask, fins and snorkel — are in proper working order," Lemke said. "You don't want to get out there and find that you have got a leaky mask."...
Summer's a busy season for the Tampa Bay area's scuba shops as veteran divers and newcomers to the sport get ready for tropical vacations and the upcoming lobster season in the Florida Keys.
"Everybody wants to learn how to dive as soon as lobster season rolls around," said Rocky Welch, an instructor with Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park. "But scuba diving is not a casual sport — you have to take it seriously."...
get ready for gag season
Stock up on hooks, line and sinker — gag grouper season opens Tuesday in most state and all federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But if you live in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, hang up your grouper sticks. The gag season closes in state waters off your coast. The gag season will remain open in state waters (except in those previously mentioned areas) through Dec. 3....