Better Off Wet Water Lifestyle Magazine July 2022

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JULY 2022

VISIT

STUDIOSEA GALLERY

THE BETTER OFF WET CREW HITS UP

FLORIDA’S NATURE COAST GAG GROUPER

SEASON IS HERE



American Picnics and Better Off Wet Charters have teamed up to offer unique and customizable on the water picnic cruises and sunset cruises! American Picnics has created a time-capsule into another era with their Luxury Picnics and are sure to bring elegance and charm to your special day. Combine this extraordinary picnic experience with a comfortable cruise along Florida’s Nature Coast and a beautiful West coast sunset, to have an unforgettable day. All trips are customizable, be sure to let us know your thoughts. Swimming, island exploration, and fishing are available for those who want to maximize their day of adventure, on the water.

Call today to start planning your amazing American Picnic!

a m e r i c a n p i c n i c s . c o m | b e t t e ro f f we t . c o m


Better Off Wet is now offering UPF performance hoodies and youth sizes. Please visit

www.betteroffwet.com to get yours and to check out our other gear. All shirts are Made in Florida!


PUBLISHER Benjamin Chewning ben@betteroffwet.com SALES Megan Chewning megan@betteroffwet.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR Theresa Barzyk TIBCreativeStudio@gmail.com

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WEB Juan De Leon info@webdevelopmentanddesign.com CONTACT Better Off Wet Media Group 352-238-7009 www.betteroffwet.com info@betteroffwet.com

Bet ter Of f Wet, all rights reserved. No part of this magazine or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted without the express written consent of the Publisher.

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ARTICLES

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WELCOME TO OZ! Ozello Island and the Ozello Keys are a true beauty, located on Florida’s Nature Coast. Welcome to a place any water lover will not want to leave! OZELLO KEYS MARINA Ozello Keys Marina is your gateway to the Ozello Keys. They are a full service marina with campground and home to Friday Night Fish Talk.

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STUDIO SEA GALLERY The Better Off Wet Crew visits with Nancy Taylor, a truly inspirational woman, artist, and Owner of Studio Sea Gallery.

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CRYSTAL CLEAR Crystal River is at the heart of Florida’s Nature Coast. Make the trip to the “home of the Manatee” and enjoy all that it has to offer.

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CRYSTAL ISLES RV RESORT Pack up your friends and family and head to a true “RV Resort” with something for everyone, they have it all.

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GAG GROUPER Gag Grouper Season is in full swing on Florida’s Nature Coast. Be sure you know the rules and regulations.

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SHALLOW WATER HEAVEN The Hernando Beach and Bayport areas of Florida’s Nature Cost are breathtaking, fun, and full of adventure.

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Welcome to OZ

Welcome to

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OZ


O

zello is a community in Citrus County, Florida, located between Crystal River and Homosassa. Ozello consists of several keys which are connected by The Ozello Trail (County Rd 494), one of Florida’s most scenic drives. The Ozello Trail is 10 miles of twisty road, running West off of US 19. The trail is extremely popular for motorcycle riders and offers a ton of wildlife and beautiful scenery. Ozello has a particular “old Florida” feel that seems to just put you into an “old Florida” state of mind. The small community was only accessible by boat, until the early nineteen sixties. The community is surrounded by St. Martin’s Nature

Welcome to OZ

Reserve. So, hopefully, as the rest of Florida seems to be growing at a Hare’s pace, Ozello will go the way of the Tortoise, slow and steady. Our trip brings us to Ozello in mid May and the weather was absolutely beautiful, for our 3 day stay. We were greeted, on arrival to Ozello Keys Marina (OKM) by the Owners of OKM, Captain Gary, his wife Breanna, their son (and ball of energy) Brody, and Marina, their dog. We pulled our 26 foot Silver King Boat Works panga, on our custom aluminum Loadmaster trailer, with our RV, to OKM. OKM has a tractor available to launch your boat for you, if you decide to pull it to OKM with your RV. This is a great

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Welcome to OZ

service for the” trailering RV’er”. We have launched our boat with the RV in some “tight” boat ramps. So, the help from the tractor was greatly appreciated. The RV area is just behind the Marina, directly on the canal. The RV hookups include power (30 amp and 50 amp service) and water. The RV spots have fire pits, dock space, fish cleaning station, and a custom grill, available for your use. OKM also has a very nice rental house, with private deck and boat slip available. The beautiful weather and warm welcome from OKM let us know up front we were in for a great trip. After getting our RV set up and the boat launched, we met a couple of OKM Fishing Guides, Captains Jake and Teddy, who told us of a friendly fishing tournament, taking place that night, for the heaviest keeper Redfish. We were not fishing in the tournament but were happy to be able to follow them out of the Marina, since it was our first time boating in the area. As with many places on the Nature Coast, Ozello has their share of rocks and underwater obstructions, as the Captains reminded us. If, you

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are new to the Ozello waters, OKM has a screen setup in the Marina that can show you the tracks for getting around. We were then able to spend a few hours exploring the channels, cuts, and islands leading out to the Gulf, from Ozello, before the daylight disappeared. Once back at the dock we saw some of the anglers, who had fished in the Redfish tournament. They then informed us the heaviest keeper Redfish was around five and a half pounds and all the other keepers brought in were just an ounce or so shy of the Winner. With a busy day of traveling and exploring, we thanked God for the wonderful day and headed off to snoozerville, to get some rest for a busy next day. The sunrise was beautiful to start our day 2 of exploring and fishing. We decided to just fish artificial baits on the end of the morning’s incoming tide. We headed out to an island where we saw some Redfish action, the day before. We saw many redfish but didn’t catch any that morning. They did not seem to be interested in the artificial baits we were casting their way. The water is very clean

and clear. We did manage to hook up on a flawless little 20 inch Snook, who was in the mood for the D.O.A. shrimp tossed his way. Being out of season and out of slot, he quickly went back in the water and swam back to the shelter of the island. After a few hours of fishing and not much luck on the artificial baits, we decided to head back to OKM, to grab a bite to eat and explore the island by bike. Boating in Ozello is a true pleasure. Just on our ride back to the marina we saw multiple Rays swimming and playful Dolphin. There is no lack of wildlife and beautiful views! Once back at OKM, we decided to have lunch at The Tropical Tarpon, a wonderful food truck located at the Marina. Everything we had there was delicious. If we were in that area every day, we would certainly be at the Tropical Tarpon every day. Our bike ride took us from OKM to Ozello Park Boat Ramp. This covers the majority of the Ozello Trail and takes you by a couple Gift shops, an ice cream shop, hiking trails, and a few restaurants. There are large signs on Ozello Trail that say to share


Welcome to OZ

the road. But, as with anywhere, be cautious when riding bikes on narrow roadways. Heading towards the Ozello Park Boat Ramp on the trail you will come to a bridge at Peck’s Old Port Restaurant. Just from our bicycles we saw beautiful 40 inch plus Snook having a ball and feasting at the culvert outfalls. A local Senior Lady, who lives near the bridge, said she buys shrimp all the time at OKM to head home after the fish that congregate around the bridge. Ride just over the bridge and take a couple of easy to navigate turns and you will end up at the Ozello Community Park and Boat Ramp. We were scheduled for an airboat tour back at OKM, so after a little more bicycle exploration, we made our way back down the trail to OKM. OKM offers a couple different airboat tours. We had the pleasure of going with Captain Billy on the Gulf and Backwater Airboat tour, which lasts about an hour and a half. This is by far the best airboat tour, we’ve ever done! Captain Billy and Captain Gary grew up as next door neighbors and have been friends so long, they

don’t remember meeting. Captain Billy thinks they were around 2, when they became neighbors. Both Captains grew up in the area together and built their first airboat around the age of fifteen. Captain Billy said there were many times when they’d have to find a place to use a phone and call home after exploring and hiking through the marsh trails. Captain Billy is more than “at home” on the airboat, and in our opinion the perfect man for the job, to show you Ozello by water! On this tour you can expect backcountry sightseeing, to include

many birds, gators, pigs, and deer. The trails are unbelievably cool, fun, and beautiful. We saw a ton of wildlife including some baby gators. Captain Billy also took us to the Gulf side of Ozello, where he killed the engine, and we drifted across the St. Martins Reef. We saw Sea Turtles, Dolphin, Rays, and a ton of fish. On the tour before ours, Captain Billy said they saw a beautiful Tiger Shark, right off of the boat. Captain Billy has a great demeanor for a tour boat captain, a great sense of humor, and (in our opinion) one of the best offices a water

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Welcome to OZ

lover could ever dream of. An airboat tour from OKM is sure to be a good time. We saw many folks coming back in and every one had a smile! After heading off of the airboat, we bought some live shrimp from OKM and set out on the boat, to look for some fish. We looked for fish around a few different islands, before setting our shallow water anchors and posting up on the leeward side of an island that had a lot of action at the Mangrove line. We set up our rods to fish our live shrimps with popping corks on 2/0 hooks. Our first stop was a good one; we caught the targeted species of Redfish as well as some Mangrove Snappers. The Redfish were as plentiful as anywhere we had ever been. A good pair of polarized sunglasses can make the difference, in our opinion, when it comes to spotting fish and knowing where and when to cast. Don’t limit yourselves with bad visibility. We continued fishing multiple islands, until the sun set beautifully on the horizon. The Redfish, Sea Trout, and Snook were plentiful and the backdrop was breathtaking. OKM has 12 fishing Guides that op10 BETTER OFF WET | JULY 2022

erate there. We saw many Sea Trout slobs and Redfish come in to the filet table, caught by clients of the Guides at OKM. The Guides at OKM know fishing and they know Ozello waters. Our evening of fishing was fun and very rewarding. After cleaning the boat and heading out on the bicycles to grab a bite for dinner, it was time again to catch some Z’s and get ready for the next day of adventure on the water. On our last morning staying in Ozello, we left out on the boat around 9 a.m. and went on a cruise to explore more of the area around the outer islands of Ozello, nearest to the Gulf of Mexico. We were very fortunate to have a light wind and calm sea state, once we were at the outer islands. We shut off the motor and spent a couple hours just drifting over the beautiful St. Martins Reef. There was around 2 foot of crystal clear water under our boat and we could see everything, like


Welcome to OZ

viewing an aquarium. The St. Martins Reef was teaming with life this morning, as we had seen the day before on the airboat. But, being over the reef for an extended time, on our boat, of course we were able to observe much more. The biggest standout, among many things, to us was the incredible number of Sea Turtles we saw, in such a short amount of time. There were literally dozens of them, seeming to playfully swim around our boat, then stop, then swim off again. Early afternoon came and we started to make our way back through the channels and Mangrove Islands to get back to OKM. We fished some of the same islands and a few new ones from the days before, on our way back. We didn’t end up catching any monster Redfish but it’s always a blast for us and never grows old catching the gorgeous smaller ones, mostly around 18 to 20 inches. The numbers of Redfish present in this area continued to be BETTEROFFWET.COM 11


Welcome to OZ

Ozello is one of those places that made us feel like we literally never wanted to leave... ”

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Welcome to OZ

a topic of conversation for the Better Off Wet Crew and we were already talking about the next visit to Ozello, to catch one of the big brothers to the Redfish we did catch. Our trip to Ozello and Ozello Keys Marina was amazing. Ozello is one of those places that made us feel like we literally never wanted to leave, pretty much from the moment we arrived. The hospitality and smiling faces of OKM had us feeling right at home, as well. If, you are a water lover, the Better Off Wet Crew will basically guarantee that you will thoroughly enjoy your time on the water there. We cannot wait to return. Maybe we will be able to get back for some Winter Groper fishing in the shallows! Thanks for reading. Stay safe and have fun on your next watery adventure.

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The White Barn is located 45 minutes north of Tampa in historic Brooksville, Florida. We pride ourselves in our reputation and look forward to helping you and your families plan a beautiful wedding. At The White Barn, you start out as friends, and leave as a part of our family.

w w w. t h e w h i t e b a r n w e d d i n g . c o m

We invite you to our ceremony site, surrounded by trees, and centered in front of our hand built Oak Cross or arched Barn Door backdrop. Couple’s initials are monogrammed on the fence welcoming the guests during a wedding event. Appetizer and Cocktail hour are held in front of The White Barn on pavers. Receptions are held inside The White Barn surrounded by warm white led custom lighting and custom-tailored draping. There are endless photography opportunities from the 100 year old brick chimney from the original farmhouse on site, to the majestic wooded areas. With only one wedding per day our wedding venue can ensure that the bride and groom receive our undivided attention and have a day that they will never forget. The White Barn Venue is a Wedding Wire and Rustic Bride Member. We have won the 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 Wedding Wire Couples Choice Award and have been recognized amongst the top 5% of wedding professionals nationwide. We also recently were featured in The Knot best of wedding venues, and won Gold in Tampa Bay Times Best Wedding Venue. We also are featured at Rustic Weddings as a Top Barn Wedding Venue in Florida. The White Barn also was chosen for the Best of Brooksville Awards in the category of Wedding Chapel. The Best of Brooksville Award was created to acknowledge the best businesses in our community. We have been recognized for 2022 Brooksville Business Hall of Fame. With only one wedding per day, our wedding venue can ensure that the Bride and Groom receive our undivided attention and have a day that they will never forget. Mention “Better Off Wet” for a discount on your package at The White Barn.


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Ozello Keys Marina

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Ozello Keys Marina

Ozello Keys Marina

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Ozello Keys Marina

W

elcome to Ozello Keys Marina, located in true Old Florida! OKM has live Shrimp, tackle, fishing charter services, campground, scallop charters, airboat tours, ice, boat storage, boat ramp and so much more. Let one of our team members guide you into the ultimate fishing experience with our knowledge and resources of the area. OKM has the Shrimps! OKM takes great pride in making sure our live bait comes in lively and healthy. That’s why we’ve sourced out the best commercial fishermen around! We’ve spent countless hours perfecting our holding tanks to ensure all live baits are kept in a similar environment to where they came from! As fellow anglers and captains, we know just how important healthy and lively bait is! OKM also offers a variety of frozen baits, some of which we package ourselves and others that we source out from a tried and true distributor - Aylesworth’s Fish & Bait!​ OKM offers waterfront campsites. Welcome to camper paradise! “It feels like we’re camping on our own RV Island!”

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Ozello Keys Marina

is a something OKM will often hear due to the private setting and because water surrounds the all the sites. OKM’s campground has a restroom and shower facility for campground guests along with complimentary laundry room. Each site comes with 30/50 amp hook up, fresh water and WiFi. OKM also offers their Vacation Rental. Stay within the famous Ozello Keys Marina & Campground in a cabin that’s located directly on the water and minutes from world-class fishing and the best scalloping on the Nature Coast! This cozy and unique cottage comes with a boat slip and a back deck that sits out over the water. The back deck has a private fish or scallop cleaning station along with a grill to cook your fresh catch! OKM is also home to Friday Night Fish Talk podcast. Live on Facebook & Youtube every Friday, at 715pm. Join the host’s Capt Gary & Capt Billy, as they

share valuable information on fishing the Nature Coast. Capt Zac gives you detailed fishing reports each week on the Ayinde Matthews State Farm Fishing Report, Capt Louie talks about tackle and techniques on the Bush Home Services Tackle Table Talk, and don’t forget to submit your fishing photos each week to be displayed on the Extreme Decalz Catch of the Week segment. There are giveaways on every show. So, be sure to tune in live! OKM hours are pretty much from sun up to sun down. But, please call anytime or check the OKM Google page, for updates. 2355 S Ripple Path, Crystal River, FL 34429, USA ozellokeysmarina@gmail.com (352) 228-8095 https://www.ozellokeysmarina.com

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TITLE HERE

Custom Boats, T-Tops, Canvas & Upholstery, Live Wells & Bait Wells, Aluminum Fabrication, Outboard Repower, and much more. We welcome your call today to discuss your wants or needs. SilverKing - 941-266-0903

1848 Gillespie Ave, Sarasota, FL 34234

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TITLE HERE

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Studio Sea Gallery

Studio Sea Gallery

B

etter Off Wet Crew was so pleased to spend the last day of our stay in Ozello, FL with the owner of Studio Sea Gallery, Nancy Taylor. We would like to say thank you, to Nancy, for showing us around the beautiful Gallery and taking the time to tell us everything you do there. Nancy is a very inspirational person, with a treasure trove of inspirational stories, from solo riding her Harley 4000 miles across Country, to becoming a ballerina in her 50’s and we here at B.O.W. are so happy to have met her. Studio Sea Gallery is a very unique place and well worth the visit. Studio Sea Gallery is open on Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Make sure you mail one of her incredible “post-cards” back to a friend or family member, from Ozello Island! Nancy Taylor is a self-taught artist, working in a range of many mediums. She enjoys watercolor, oil, acrylic, pencil, ink, paper, and metal. Much pride is taken in the quality of her artistry, as seen in her original paintings, prints, jewelry, greeting cards, book marks, paper bead art, natural shell designs, and crafts. The ocean and its living creatures have been this artist’s lifetime inspiration, obvious by her nautical flair. She also draws energy from the spiritual, which shows in her Southwestern Indian art. For the past forty five years, Nancy has taught art classes, fiving many “artist hopefuls” the opportunity to follow their passion and fulfill the dream of becoming professional artists. Nancy’s greatest reward is in knowing that her creativity is bringing endless pleasure to its beholder. 22 BETTER OFF WET | JULY 2022


Studio Sea Gallery

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Studio Sea Gallery

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Studio Sea Gallery

Nancy feels most creative when her “art spirit” is in tune with nature. She keeps herself in balance by residing on Ozello Island, in the Saint Martin’s Aquatic Preserve, along Florida’s Nature Coast, where her work can be seen at Studio Sea Gallery. Studio Sea Gallery has beautiful Talavera Pottery available. 941-350-6491 ntaylorart@yahoo.com

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Crystal Clear

Crystal

clear

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Crystal Clear

B

etter Off Wet Crew visits Crystal River Isles in Crystal River, FL What a beautiful late May afternoon, when the B.O.W. Crew arrived at Crystal Isles RV Resort, in Crystal River, Florida! Upon first arriving to the Resort, it was hard not to notice how impressive this place was. They have a boat ramp, tennis court, basketball court, sand volleyball pit, playground, dog park, and a ton more. Launching our 26 boat was no issue at all (the tide was in, when we launched. So, depending on your vessel, be sure to look at the tide tables and speak with the nice folks working at the Resort, before launching at low tide). A beautiful day, a beautiful Resort, and a beautiful Crystal Clear River, We sure feel Blessed, at Better Off Wet, to be in such a beautiful location. BETTEROFFWET.COM 27


Crystal Clear

After taking a tour of the Campground, meeting some of the Resort Staff, launching the boat, parking our trailer, setting up the RV, and taking our dogs to check out the Dog Park, the tide had gone out. Not being familiar with the Resort Canal, and only seeing a couple feet of water under our boat, we decided to drive to dinner (We would later find out the center of the Canal is fine, even at low tide, just watch the edges). We decided on Waterfront Social, just down the road from the Resort, a few minutes, by car. If, you find yourself eating at Waterfront Social, We highly recommend the Kingfish Dip, it is phenomenal. What a wonderful afternoon, evening, and dinner we had. Off to the Resort and to get a good night’s sleep, to enjoy a beautiful King’s Bay and Crystal River day, in the morning.

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Crystal Clear

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Crystal Clear

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Crystal Clear

King’s Bay is Crystal Clear and very easy to navigate, even if it is your first time boating there.”

The next morning brought a beautiful sunrise, warm temperature, and a wonderful smell; eggs bacon, grits, and eggs were on the griddle, in the B.O.W. RV. After breakfast, we loaded up the boat and headed out of the Crystal Isles RV Resort canal and into Crystal River (just across the River from the Archeological Park) and headed towards King’s Bay. King’s Bay is Crystal Clear and very easy to navigate, even if it is your first time boating there. There are large signs indicating the No Wake Zones. There are a lot of commercial trapping vessels at work, so pay attention to your surroundings and you will do fine and have a blast. There are several buoyed areas, for swimming. We spent the

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Crystal Clear

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Crystal Clear

whole day exploring the nooks and crannies of the Bay, checking out the sailboats on hook, doing a little swimming, and fishing the seemingly never ending islands in and around the Bay. After we had a fun filled day in the Bay, we had another delicious seafood dinner at The Crab Plant (literally a crab plant), just North of Pete’s Pier. The Crab Plant was phenomenal. They have fresh Red Snapper and Grouper, right off the boats you will tie up next to, if you go by water. We have to brag on the hushpuppies and homemade shrimp dip. We were feeling blessed to start the day off so nicely and to finish the day with an incredible meal!

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Crystal Clear

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Crystal Clear

Our last day at the Crystal River Isles RV Resort was a little overcast and a little windy but, beautiful nonetheless. We spent the morning on Shell Island. After heading out of the Resort canal, turn your boat towards the Gulf and the last island to your Port side, will be Shell Island. You can anchor up on the East side of the island, easily (there are some large rocks and concrete pieces…easy to spot though with the water being so clear). Shell Island is fun to explore and has many small pockets of water. We saw one holding a large Redfish, on the Southeast end of the Island. There were several other folks there picnicking and fishing. If, you like a good adventure and have a good imagination, Shell Island will provide to be tons of fun. After a great day on Shell Island and a high tide, with us, we made our way back to the Resort to load up the boat and head back home. Our trip was only a couple of days and we had a blast! Please, make the most of your time in Crystal River, if you visit because the time will fly!

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Crystal Isles RV Resort

Crystal Isles RV Resort

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Crystal Isles RV Resort

Crystal River is the self professed “Home of the Manatee”. Crystal River is at the heart of the Nature Coast of Florida. The city is situated around Kings Bay, which is spring-fed and so keeps a constant 72 °F temperature year round. A cluster of 50 springs designated as a first-magnitude system feeds Kings Bay. A first-magnitude system discharges 100 cubic feet or more of water per second, which equals about 64 million gallons of water per day. Because of this discharge amount, the Crystal River Springs group is the second largest springs group in Florida. Kings Bay can be home to over 400 manatees during the winter when the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico cools.

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Crystal Isles RV Resort

Enjoy a beautiful RV resort on Florida’s scenic West Coast. Indulge in the nearby Gulf beaches, shopping, restaurants, golf courses and fishing. Crystal Isles RV Resort lets you create the perfect blend of peace, pleasure and play for the Florida RV vacation you have been dreaming of. Hit a golf ball, stroll on the wide beaches, rent a boat, catch a fish in local streams and lakes, or visit nearby King’s Bay to swim with a manatee - it’s all waiting for you! Whether you’re planning a retreat for the whole family, a group of friends or a getaway for two, there’s no shortage of unique activities to explore at Crystal Isles RV Resort. Plan activities upon arrival or visit their webpage before your departure, to plan ahead. Looking for more? Our friendly staff can fill you in on all of the great ways to make your stay a memorable experience.

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Crystal Isles RV Resort

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Crystal Isles RV Resort

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Crystal Isles RV Resort

Crystal Isles RV Resort offers a wonderful experience for the whole family! This low-key riverside resort is 5 miles from both Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and Fort Island Gulf Beach, and 10 miles from Crystal River State Archaeological Park. We offer relaxed cottages sleep up to 6 people and come with kitchens, decks and cable TV; some have sleeping lofts accessed by ladders. Wi-Fi is available. Parking is free. Other amenities include: clubhouse, outdoor pool and a kids’ playground, as well as volleyball and tennis courts. There’s also a convenience store, laundry facilities, an RV park and a campsite. Boat rental and a boat ramp are available. Minimumstay rules may apply. Pets are welcome. 11419 W Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 (352) 795-3774 https://www.rvonthego.com/florida/ crystal-isles-rv-resort/

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TITL E HER

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NUAL 49TH ANOPEN ST. PETE INSIDE

Better Off Wet Better magazine Off Wetis magazine a FREE quarterly is a FREE magazine quarterlyfull magazine of articles, fullinformation of articles, information and and SILENT photographsphotographs about life onabout the water. life onDesigned the water. toDesigned educate, inform to educate, and entertain inform and readers, entertain readers, APPROACH Better Off Wet Magazine is full of articles, information and every issue will every contain: issue will contain: LTS SEE RESU

HING KAYAK FIS , FL STUART

20162016 Winter Winter Issue Issue

photographs about life on the water. Designed to educate, inform and entertain readers, every issue will contain:

BOATING

BOATING BOATING

DIVING

DIVINGDIVING

INSHORE FISHING INSHORE FISHING INSHORE FISHING

GONE GIGGIN’

NKS ON THE BA KE OF LA EE OKEECHOB

OFFSHORE FISHING OFFSHORE FISHING

DIVING

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DIVERS 4 HEROES

AYE ERI D SH H CAPT. AJ RS VE IN WIT

How do you feel when you see a wounded warrior? The sight provokes many emotions, but for some they feel called to action. Which is exactly what inspired the founders of Divers 4 Heroes (D4H).

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Divers 4 Heroes 501c3. www.Divers4Heroes.org photo copyright Debbie Twillman

OFFSHORE FISHING

FRESH WATER EVENTS EVENTS FRESH WATER

SPEARFISHING

Photo Credit: Alessandra Hally

Favorite Groupers for sport fishing include the Gag Grouper that averages 30 pounds, and the Black Grouper is a much heftier species that can top 100 pounds. The Red Grouper is a moderately sized yet robust. The Florida state record catch for a Red is 42 pounds 4 ounces. They all hit hard and dive to the bottom fast. Stay secure on your boat or these warriors will pull you right out of your boots!

you like Bass and Halibut, you’re sure to enjoy Grouper; fried, baked, and grilled. One interesting side note about Grouper—

they may change sex when mature—but that has nothing to do with fishing, so let’s get on with the tips of the day from Captain Jimmy Nelson.

The Goliath Grouper, true to its name, can weigh in at over 800 pounds with a length of eight feet or more. These heavy weights put up quite a battle if you hook one, but understand that the Goliath is a protected species, so catch and release is a must. You can spot them by their brown or yellow mottling (small black spots on the head and fins and rounded tail). Younger Goliaths show dark stripes on their bodies. If you haven’t eaten it, fresh Grouper is a lean, moist flaky fish with a firm texture and a mild, but unique flavor. The Red Grouper is slightly sweeter and milder than the Black Grouper. Some chefs prefer the taste and texture of Red Grouper while both are tasty. If

Postscript, by Sheri: I’ve been lucky to make some genuine friendships through spearfishing, and one of my dearest is with AJ Hally and his family. I’ve had the honor of seeing AJ grow from a sweet boy when I first met him into the talented young man he is today. He is one heck of a spearfisherman, and he’s landed some very impressive fish, but I’m equally impressed by his captaining skills and his desire to help others achieve their dreams in the water. You go, AJ -- looking forward to our next adventure in the water!

GONE

INFO

AJ Hally Into the Blue Charters Ph: 305.923.6085 / Em: AJ@Intothebluecharters.com Facebook: Into The Blue Spearfishing Charters Instgram: @Intotheblue_charters

GIGGIN!

Sheri Daye The Blue Wild - Ocean Adventure Expo www.TheBlueWild.com Facebook: The Blue Wild

Andrea Duenas Frog gigging is something we here at Better Off Wet feel every Florida outdoor lover should try. It is great (inexpensive) fun for the whole family and provides a tasty meal, as well. After your first trip, we know you’ll be hooked! Frog gigging has been an American nighttime sport for many years, especially here in Florida. The concept is simple. We took one of our Better Off Wet girls, Christina Corkern, out on Lake Okeechobee to go gigging. We first went to the local bait & tackle shop and geared up with a gig pole, gig and spot light. Frogs can be found in ponds, lakes, creeks or rivers (just listen and you will hear their high pitched chirping calls). We were lucky enough to be on the largest freshwater lake in Florida and went out on an airboat with one of the locals. An important aspect of frog gigging is the timing; you have to wait until it’s good and dark until you begin to move along the banks either by foot or boat, scanning the shore line and lily pads. It was not minutes until we reached our first location and could see several pairs of glowing white eyes and the occasional white belly within our spotlight’s path.

Photo Credit: Alessandra Hally

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We slowly began our pursuit by inching through the waters, after Christina’s first few attempts, she learned quickly and perfected her attack by keeping eyes on the frog, a tight grip on the gig pole and with one swift motion; jab the gig through the frog. Once a frog is gigged, depending on your set up, you can either place the frog in a mesh bag or through an aluminum frog chute with a bag attached underneath. The frog chute makes the process much easier and faster when on the bow of a boat. A simple bag or bucket works perfectly if gigging by foot. Ok, so you’ve gigged a frog... Now you have to put him in your bag or frog chute. It’s easy to think that your catch is dead, but a lot of the time they are waiting to come off the gig... so, they can make a run for it. Be careful taking them off and moving them to your bag… Or, they might just get away. If you can complete these steps and gig 30 or more frogs, you can easily feed a nice size family. But, remember… like most other things in life… Just because a concept is simple; it doesn’t mean it will necessarily be easy. Gigging the frogs can be frustrating at first. But, after the

first few, you will be a pro. Christina missed quite a few frogs in the beginning of our trip, but once she perfected the steps, she closed the night out with over 45 frogs! Frog gigging poles range from 6-14ft long; You’ll probably want a long pole, so that you can get to the frogs easier. But, the longer the pole…the more inaccurate it may be. So, ask the experts at your local bait & tackle shop what they suggest for the right length pole that is best suited for you. The first priority in any sport or activity is always…Safety. Make sure you have on the proper attire for the occasion. Frogs have other predators out there hunting them, as well: be on the lookout for snakes and gators. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, by watching where your feet and hands are located. It’s best to have someone go with you, for increased safety and good company. They are able to provide an extra spot light and set of eyes for spotting frogs, lookout for those snakes and gators mentioned and offer any assistance you may need bagging the catch. Special thanks to Jeff Treece for taking Better Off Wet out!

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ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT Come with us and discover Weedon Island. One of the “must sees’ in Florida. Weedon Island Preserve is an expansive 3,190-acre natural area located on Tampa Bay. It is comprised mostly of marine ecosystems. The Preserve is a well-known birding and fishing site. The Preserve’s rich human history began with prehistoric peoples who thrived on the abundant fish, shellfish, plants, and mammals of the wetlands, islands and estuaries of Tampa Bay. These people evolved into Photo credit: Bay Soundings. the Weeden Island culture that lasted some 800 years. Their social structure included ceremonial and artistic pottery. In 2011, archaeologists and volunteers excavated an ancient dugout canoe from the shoreline of Weedon Island Preserve. The canoe was first discovered by a local resident in 2001. Radiocarbon testing yielded a date of AD 690–1010. Today, the preserve protects this wide diversity of natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. Sweetwater Kayak’s self-guided kayak tours give seafarers a quiet look at the ecosystems of Weedon Island without the

clamor and commotion of a motorboat. Wind along the 4-mile marked trail, across the crystal clear lagoons and through mangrove tunnels in which you will likely see a resident bird, dolphin, or manatee. Each trip lasts up to four hours and provides a panorama of pristine environments and a glimpse into the life of a pirate or native floridian. Sweetwater Kayaks will provide the necessary vessels, paddles, life vests, and trail maps. They sell kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for the novice paddler, the expedition minded paddler, and everyone in-between. Everyone on Sweetwater’s staff is a coach and possesses certification from the American Canoe Association (ACA), British Canoe Union (BCU), or both. “We have put hundreds of paddlers on the water over the last 20 years, and are skilled at matching your size, physical capabilities, and paddling skills with the right kayak, thereby enhancing your comfort, fun, and safety for your style of paddling.”

“Tampa Bays hidden gem”

Staff Report

If, you like spearfishing, having fun and enjoying a weekend on the water, you will love the St. Pete Open (SPO)! This was the 49th year that the St. Petersburg Underwater Club (SPUC) has hosted the event, turning it into the largest spearfishing event in the world. In l966, 50 divers entered the first ever St. Pete Open. Since its inception, the Open has grown to an annual attendance of more than 300 competitors. There were 343 shooters this year, the second highest turnout! More than 6,000 people, spanning the last 40+ years have taken part in the St. Pete Open; making it the premier spearfishing event in the world. From the time we arrived and met with Denny, Dean, and many of the other welcoming Club members, we felt right at home. We could instantly tell that the members are very passionate about their sport, event, and of course...having fun. This year the SPO was held at the Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove, marking the tenth year that the event has been held at the hotel. The Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove is a great place for any fishing event or a simple weekend getaway. The Hotel is right on the water and has a beautiful view of the Skyway Bridge. Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove is perfect for family fishing fun. With a private beach and private 32 boat slip marina, guests will enjoy all the first-class amenities of a full service resort. Guests of the Hotel will never lack for fun things to do: there are two swimming pools available, as well as hot tub, fitness center, volleyball, tennis and shuffleboard courts, jogging path, playground, bicycle rentals, yoga classes and arcade room. Don’t worry about getting hungry; because the Hotel offers waterfront dining at Periscopes or Banyan Tree Deli. And, for all of you pet owners out there, it is a pet friendly resort! We would like to thank Steve Springman (Hotel Manager) and all of his great staff, for a wonderful stay. Steve has been at the Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove since 1991, and is very passionate about taking care of his guests. We cannot wait for next year, the 50th St. Pete Open! And, the Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove will be hosting once again. Everything kicked off on Friday night with registration by the pool from 6-8, followed by a Captain’s meeting from 8:30-9 pm. This is where everyone has a chance

to register, get their Captain’s bags, mingle, catch up with old friends and new friends and hear any rule changes and guidelines the current President GR Tarr announced. We had an incredible time meeting individuals who all share the same passion for the sport and lifestyle of being out on the water, from all over the country. The meeting ended with a big surprise for all the captains, having been told they would each receive a complimentary case of Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s new Reef Donkey APA. After that, the countdown began for all the divers, waiting 3 more hours until the tournament began at 12:01 a.m. on that Saturday. Saturday, the line started around 6 p.m. and teams were allowed until 7:30 p.m. to have their entire catch in the weigh-in line, with at least one team member present. For whatever the reason may be, you can not weigh in a minute past 7:30 p.m. The weigh in line is where the action began, for the captains, friends, family and guests of the St. Pete Open. Shooters are waiting in line to see if their catch will be just a couple ounces or pounds bigger than the last fish weighed. As each fish makes its way onto the stage,

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the thousand attendees would roar and applaud every time, and even more when someone topped the previous standing weight. There were numerous large Grouper, Snapper, Amberjack, Hogfish, Barracuda, Cobia, Sheepshead, and Lobster. However, S.P.U.C member and owner of E-SeaRider marine bean bags, Pat Bennett had everyone in the crowd screaming when the biggest fish of the day, a Grouper, showed up at 99.75 lbs! What a beautiful fish it was. Saturday night continued into the early morning with fishing stories, Reef Donkeys, swimming, and celebration for the sport of spearfishing. Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. was the awards ceremony. The ceremony is always held inside, rain or shine. The St. Petersburg Underwater Club had a prize table with the best gear, gift certificates, and marine related items than we could possibly take in. It is known as the largest prize table in spearfishing. As a part of the SPO; every person who weighs a fish on Saturday gets an opportunity to pick a prize on Sunday. Here we saw first year shooters win trophies and prizes as well as shooters who have been coming for decades. Also, there are mystery tickets that give everyone a chance to win. It was an amazing thing to witness so many passionate spearfishing lovers in one room. The awards ceremony on Sunday is fun for every member of the family and is a great finish to an awesome weekend. Better Off Wet would like to give a special thanks to everyone we met at the St. Pete Open! We had a blast as a first year sponsor. And, thank you to Paul Fleming from Intrepid Powerboats for taking us on the Intrepid 327 Center Console for a closing boat ride to a fun-filled weekend. We cannot wait to see everyone next year at the 50th St. Pete Open. And, we cannot stress enough to all the spearfishing men and women out there...to go ahead and start looking into being at next year’s Open. SPUC is a member of the FSDA (Florida Skin Divers Association) West Coast Council. www.divefsda.com

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SAFETY

GEARED for KAYAKS SWEET RIDE

The latest generation of fishing kayak is now here. The Feel Free Lure, coming in three sizes (10 ft, 11.5 ft and 13.5 ft), has all the amenities a fishing fan could ask for. Rod and drink holders, places for tools as well as tackle boxes, coolers ect. They also have all the handles molded into the hull so there is no place for a line to catch on as a fish works its way around the boat. Also they all have a standing deck in front of the most comfortable seat in kayak fishing today! The Stern wheel makes getting your kayak to and from the water a breeze. Here at Sweetwater Kayaks, we are all paddlers and can help you make the right decisions to maximize your on water experience. Sweetwaterkayaks.com l 727.570.4844

Better Off Wet is all about life DESTINATIONS DESTINATIONS on the water! Whether you are fishing, boating, swimming, diving, relaxing at the beach, floating in the pool, or working (yes, even working) on the water, we at Better Off Wet believe it is time well spent! Better Off Wet Magazine will be delivered to thousands of folks electronically, every month. With each issue containing a variety of water lifestyle Better Off Wet RECIPES topics, RECIPES Magazine is sure to be a valuable resource to advertisers. Please, reach out to us to find out more.

COOLER THAN THE REST

Finally, a cooler to make your fishing trip frustration-free! The Award Winning Engel UC30-RH, for even the most expert fisherman or angler, getting an armful of rods out to the water is beyond frustrating, especially when you’re carrying so much other gear. That’s why Engel created the Cooler / DryBox with Rod Holders, a unique cooler with fishing rod attachments that hold your rods, so you don’t have to! This ideal gem has all the reliable insulation, rugged durability and storage protection you’ve come to expect from Engel Cooler / DryBoxes – with the added convenience of removable rod holders that stay firmly secured thanks to specially-molded brackets that attach to our cooler wall from the inside. ICAST 2014 New Product Showcase “WINNER” Best of Show in Tackle Management Systems. *Shown with: Comfortable - Optional Cooler / DryBox Cushion Made of durable vinyl dipped closed cell foam rubber. Die cut for accessing cooler handle - for easy carrying. Hook and loop attachment for securing to your coolers lid. Engel Cooler / DryBox weight limit is 220lbs - for UC30 model. Engel-USA.com l 888.272.9838

FISH BEWARE

The new DOA 4 – inch Shad was developed in response to the company’s customers’ demands for a larger profile shad-style bait. The heavy mass of plastic in the nose of this bait allows for maximum holding power when matched to a DOA jighead. The large opening in the belly of the bait and recessed hook slot allow for flawless rigging with worm or screw lock-style hooks. The Shad’s broad tail provides a hard “pulse” in the water as well as a natural flutter on the drop. This new bait has already performed impressively in both salt and freshwater. Doalures.com l 877.DOA.LURES

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ADVERTISEMENT

SAFETY LIFE JACKETS SAVE LIVES but ONLY IF YOU WEAR THEM!

RECIPES

to With print plans 20,000+ to print magazines 20,000+ distributed magazines FREE, distributed throughout FREE,the throughout state of Florida the state every of quarter, Florida every Betterquarter, Off WetBetter magazine Off Wet is magazine is a valuable sure to be resource a valuable for advertisers. resource forBetter advertisers. off WetBetter magazine off Wet willmagazine be available willinbe fish/tackle available shops, in fish/tackle dive shops, shops, boat diveretailers, shops, boat retailers, nters, charter resorts, centers, general resorts, water-spots generalbusinesses, water-spots marinas businesses, and other marinas industry and other outlets. industry Since outlets. it is free,Since we plan it is to free, expand we plan by to expand by oreprinting copies and more sending copiesthe andmore sending places thewith more each places newwith issue! each Better newOff issue! WetBetter magazine Off Wet is also magazine available is also free available ONLINE atfree ONLINE at et.com. betteroff wet.com. HANK CUSHARD - United States Coast Guard Auxiliary - Flotilla 59

STUART, Fla. | All recreational vessels must carry on board at least one approved wearable-type life jacket for each person on board or being towed. All life jackets, otherwise known as PFDs(personal flotation devices), must be the proper size for the intended wearer, be in good condition, readily accessible and United States Coast Guard (USCG)-approved. Furthermore, ” while on Florida waters, any person under six years of age must wear a PFD of proper size while on board any vessel less than 26 feet in length that is underway.” (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, MyFWC.com). Information below will give you an idea of what it all means.

United States Coast Guard Life Jacket Classifications:

TYPE I: The offshore life jacket provides the most buoyancy. It is effective for all waters, especially open, rough or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. It floats you best but is bulky and not comfortable for extended wear. TYPE II: The near-shore vest is intended for calm, inland water where a quick rescue expectation. These are the basic orange vests most boaters have on board. TYPE III: The flotation type vests are good for calm, inland water, or where there is a good chance of quick rescue. These are the most common jacket used for recreational purposes.They are light weight and comfortable. TYPE IV: Throwable devices like a cushion or a ring and can be thrown to anyone in the water needing assistance. TYPE V: Special-use devices are intended for a specific activities and may be carried instead of another life jacket if used according to the approved conditions. These include work vests, board sailing vests, etc. Some other noteworthy requirements: • Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency. PFDs should not be stowed in plastice bags, in locked or closed compartments. • All vessels 16 feet or greater (except canoes and kayaks) must carry one Type IV throwable preserver (i.e., ring or cushion). • Inflatable PFDs are authorized for persons over 16 years of age and are not recommended for use by weak swimmers or nonswimmers. • Personal watercraft operators and all passengers must wear a PFD at all times.

Remember this, 90 % of those who drown while boating were not wearing a life jacket. They work if you wear them. This information is provided as a guideline and not to be used for any other purpose. Some information reprinted from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s About Boating Safety.

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Please contact us:

SPEARFISHING FRESH WATER FRESH WATER

was invited on the show again at age 17. It was fun to have the whole experience recorded and to be able to share it with some of my non-diving friends and relatives. Sheri and I still go out on the water to this day, and we consider her family. I am now 20 years old and presently run a spearfish/eco-freedive charter company called Into the Blue Charters LLC out of Little Torch Key. With my knowledge of the reefs and conditions, I’m able to put clients on the fish. I’m also able to supply photo/video with the help of my sister and mother for those that would like to record their ventures. My good friend, Daryl Wong, supplies my company with spearguns so my clients can try them out during my charters. I consider myself lucky to be doing something I love and to be able to share this underwater world with clients, family, and friends. To me, this is the ultimate job! Some last words – I know I am a Young Gun and have a lot to learn, but I want to share my experience with fellow divers. Being a freediving spearfisherman is a dream come true for me, but I will always remember our lost friends and divers who will not come back to us. We must always remember to be safe and to follow one simple rule, and that is, ALWAYS have a dive partner/buddy. It could save your life!

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WET.C BETTEROFF

2022 RATE CARD

INFO There are many ways to help

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While on vacation in the Keys, the founders of the organization did such a thing. Debbie Rivera -Twillman saw these young men and women and decided to take action… “Let’s teach them how to SCUBA Dive”! Now 7 years later, D4H is still serving wounded veterans with SCUBA Discovers every month, quarterly Open Water Certification, continuing monthly education, fun dives and 2 international trips annually to Bonaire, and the Bahamas. We have wonderful volunteers with collaborative partners that allow us to serve the Wounded Warrior Project Alumni and other veterans who have served and been injured prior to 9/11 from all branches of our military. “I want you to know that being involved has become an important part of my life and recovery. The different levels and certificates for diving achievement have allowed me to set attainable goals, and successfully achieve them despite my injuries. I always look forward to the knowledge, laughter, experience and the comradery that I share with the other Veterans whenever I participate in any D4H’s events,” says Wounded Warrior Damon Zeigler.SCUBA is an opportunity to be free. Many injuries are visible, however, so many are not. Our goal is freedom, free from crutches, prosthetics, wheel chairs, and all the cares that life brings, not leaving anyone behind. Water is truly the great equalizer. Join us in “giving back to those who gave so much of themselves.”

OFFSHORE FISHING EARFISHING SPEARFISHING

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FULL COLOR Back Cover $370.00 Inside Front Cover $320.00 Inside Back Cover $320.00 Centerfold $430.00 Full Page $200.00 1/2 page $100.00 1/4 Page $50.00 *Please call for custom sizes and pricing

NO CONTRACTS NEEDED. ADVERTISE WHEN YOU WANT! DUE DATES:

Centerfold 16" x 10.5"

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Deadline for ad insertion and artwork is the 15th of the month prior to the month your ad is to appear.

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MEGAN CHEWNING (352) 238-7009 megan@betteroffwet.com

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BETTER OFF WET MEDIA GROUP 3341 Shoal Line Blvd Hernando Beach, FL 34607 info@betteroffwet.com

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The publisher reserves the right to reject any ad at any time, even if it has been published previously. Payment is due on or before the date agreed in contract. Rates are payable in US funds only. The publisher cannot be held responsible for the quality of reproduction when specifications are not adhered to, an approved proof is not provided, or when material arrives after the stated ad materials deadline. If you have artwork you would like to use, but it doesn’t follow these specifications, please let us know. Prices can be adjusted according to size of the ad.

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GAG GROUPER SEASON


Gag Grouper Seaseon

Gag Grouper Season is in full swing on Florida’s Nature Coast – Know the rules! Gag Grouper Appearance: • Color brownish-gray with dark worm-like markings on sides. • Bottom of preopercle (cheek) has strong serrated spur. • Fins are dark, with white edges on anal fin and tail. • Dark lines radiate from the eyes. • Similar Species: Black grouper, M. bonaci (spur on preopercle is gently rounded, not serrated). Size: • Up to 36 inches (50 pounds); common to 25 pounds. Habitat: • Coastal waters near structure such as rocky bottoms, reefs and drop-off walls in water over 60 feet deep. Juveniles found in estuaries and seagrass beds.

Minimum Size Limit: • 24 inches. Daily Bag Limit: • 2 per person with a 4 Gag Grouper Aggregate. • 0 Gag Groupers allowed for Charter Captain and Crew. Gear rules require circle hooks and dehooking tools in Gulf waters reef fish fisheries. In Gulf federal waters, a descending device or venting tool must be rigged and ready to use.

Madison Swanson

Gag Grouper

The Edges

Florida State Waters Boundary All waters from shore to 3 nautical miles in the Atlantic and from shore to 9 nautical miles in the Gulf

Oculina Experimental Closed Area

Steamboat Lumps

Four-County Region All state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties Open April 1 - June 30 and Sept. 1 - Dec. 31

Gulf State Waters Excludes state waters off Monroe County and Four-County Region Open June 1 - Dec. 31

Gulf Federal Waters Open June 1 - Dec. 31

Atlantic State and Federal Waters

Includes all waters of the Atlantic, and state waters off Monroe County Open May 1 - Dec. 31

Areas Closed to Bottom Fishing

All areas are closed to bottom fishing year-round except The Edges, which is closed Jan. 1 - April 30 Nautical Miles

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Tortugas Ecological Reserves and Research Natural Area

24°35' N 83°00' W

Behavior: • Born as females but can later become male. Gag and red grouper are the most widely distributed of the Florida groupers. Goliath and Nassau grouper are protected from harvest in Florida waters. Spawn between January and May with some of the more tropical species spawning year-round. Gag Grouper like to feed on fishes and invertebrates.

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Gag Grouper Information: Courtesy of myfwc.com Photos: Courtesy of Dana Roy. Dana is a good friend of the folks at Better Off Wet. Dana is an avid fisherman and Dive Master, who loves to spearfish, any chance he gets. Good work Dana, on these nice Gags. Especially the 2 you shot wearing the Better Off Wet Shirt! BETTEROFFWET.COM 47


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Hernando Beach a

E TA V EEN E RWH A L OA TW ALW HW SSH A L L O

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Hernando Beach and Bayport

and Bayport R H E AV E N

Watch out for Rocks! We at Better Off Wet, like many boaters, are familiar with folks telling us to watch out for rocks. Well, around Hernando Beach and Bayport areas you definitely want to listen when folks give you that advice. We have the good fortune of knowing some folks who grew up in the area and took some time to show us around. These locals have met up with said rocks many, many times. In fact, just at the writing of this, one of our good friends, who has logged thousands of hours as a fishing guide, just showed us the damage to his hull, from a rock just off of his normal path. Hernando Beach and Bayport areas both have great public boat ramps. No matter which one you choose, you will be able to easily navigate out to the gulf with well marked channels. Stay inside the channel markers and you will not have any issues. But, if you want to do some exploring, like we at Better Off Wet love to do, you will have to “brave” the area outside the marked channels. Check your tides! If, you know your vessel and know how much water you need, check the tides and plan your outing from Hernando or Bayport accordingly. Paying attention, watching your speed, and staying away from the “dark spots” will have you out and about exploring island after island and have you fishing the grassy flats that hold a true abundance of sea life. So, no matter whether you put in at Hernando Beach, Bayport, or one of the other ramps or kayak launches nearby, use a little “nautical common sense” and head out to enjoy Florida’s aptly named Nature Coast.

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Hernando Beach and Bayport

HERNANDO BEACH:

For years, the area that is now Hernando Beach was all wetlands, typical of much of the Gulf Coast of Florida, North of Tarpon Springs. Most of the land west of US-19 is wetland all along this stretch of Florida coast. Hernando Beach is mostly situated along Shoal Line Boulevard runs North and South along the eastern edge of the Hernando Beach community. Most of the dredged up fill in Hernando Beach is only 3 feet above sea level. Some of the earliest houses were built on grade and subject to flooding during high water storm events. Many of the homes and building you see today are elevated much higher. As you would expect of a community in such a watery location, boats and seafood are important businesses. There are several places to rent boats and kayaks, and there are four full service marinas in Hernando Beach with wet and dry boat storage facilities. The long North-South canal on the West side of Calienta Street is lined with boat slips, which are full of both power and sail boats. There are also commercial fishing boats, lining the canal, including shrimpers.

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Hernando Beach and Bayport

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Hernando Beach and Bayport

BAYPORT:

The village of Bayport, located at the mouth of the Weeki Wachee River, sprang up in the early 1850’s as a supply and cotton port. During the Civil War, Union naval squadrons blockaded Florida’s coasts to prevent goods and supplies from passing into and out of the state. By 1863 the East Gulf Blockade Squadron had effectively closed the larger ports along the Gulf Coast. Small rivers, such as the Weeki Wachee, became important trade routes. Shipping at Bayport attracted the attention of the Union Blockade Squadron which intercepted eleven blockade runners near there, between 1862 and 1865. Various skirmishes took place at Bayport, between Union troops and the Confederate Home Guard during the course of the war. The Confederate cannon battery site can still be seen on the wooded point just north of the Bayport fishing pier at the mouth of the Weeki Wachee River.

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Hernando Beach and Bayport

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Hernando Beach and Bayport

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Hernando Beach and Bayport

After the war, Bayport became Hernando County’s major outlet for lumber and agricultural products, and continued to serve as its transportation center until railroad service came to Brooksville in 1885. Since that time, Bayport has primarily served as a retreat for area fishermen, and many families from nearby Brooksville have weekend homes and fishing camps in the area. Redfish, Trout and Snook exist in abundance in Bayport’s waters. Tarpon and Cobia are seasonal visitors, as well. On any given day you can see numerous bird species, Manatees, Dolphin, Stingrays, Sea Turtles, and literally tons of wildlife. Bayport is looks like a post card and feels like a paradise, painted for the nature lover. Some info from this text is from Mike Miller’s April 10th, 2022 article on Hernando Beach, Fl at https://www.floridabackroads-travel.com/hernando-beachflorida.html

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By: Megan Chewning

THE WINDING ROAD… I f you are heading to Ozello, it is easy to miss your turn. Small signs, road construction and a busy State Road 19 makes for plenty of distraction. Once we turned on the road, it felt like it was going nowhere at first. Besides a few houses and a small water treatment plant, there was not much to look at. The road has some sharp turns and is very narrow. When we first visited Ozello, I was a bit confused. I was told about this beautiful, picturesque Florida scenery and all I saw were trees and a curvy road. After a few miles, you start to see life again with beautiful marsh land, old Florida style homes, a community center, a church, and the Ozello water tower. Our first time there, we visited late at night. We stopped by Peck’s Old Port Cove Restaurant to eat and headed to the Community Boat Ramp to get a few hours of sleep before heading out to our destination in North Florida. Since we got there after dark and left early in the morning, we did not get to see much. During our recent stay at Ozello Keys Marina, we decided to go on a bike ride, in the middle of the day….not exactly the best time to go on a hot day in the Florida sun. We wanted to explore more since we did not have that chance during our first spontaneous trip. Starting off, we saw this lovely little community as we were right by the “downtown” area of Ozello. We took a detour to visit Fishcreek Boat Ramp, but found out it was under construction once we arrived. On the way, we admired the houses mixed right into the gorgeous nature. Many parts 56 BETTER OFF WET | JULY 2022

surrounding the homes are still untouched by man. As we headed back down the Ozello Trail, it seemed like hours before we reached anything. The sun was beating down on us, there wasn’t much wind blowing and my legs were starting to feel like jello. We passed by a few houses tucked back into the trees off the main road and miles of marshland but very little wildlife. Many of the turns became a bit more sharp and there was a feeling that this road was never going to end, even though I knew from our trip before that it did. Riding our bicycles in that hot sun with little to no breeze, made me just want to turn back to what was familiar to me at the time, our camper and boat at the marina.

Finally, we saw Peck’s, so I pulled into the gravel parking lot to get a little shade and some water. Captain Ben kept riding his bike to the bridge which was only about 25 feet away from my comforting shade. After looking for me, he came over to tell me all about the 40+ inch Snook he just saw, swimming in the waters on the culvert. I could not believe it at first so I got the strength to get back on the bike and ride over to the bridge. I was awestruck by the beauty. What a sight to see! Countless fish just over the edge, dolphins playing not too far off, and the bluest, clearest waters as far as the eye could see. I felt like I was back in the Florida Keys except this time it did not take me hours in traffic to get to. It was just a short bicycle ride away. I sat there thinking about how close that bridge was when I pulled into that gravel parking lot. My quick detour to

the shade made me more exhausted since I was trying to ride on a gravel parking lot. Had I stayed on the paved trail, I would have enjoyed the destination much sooner and not worked so hard to get there. The view from that bridge was well worth the heat and winding roads to see. In life, we often feel like quitting on the journey because we cannot see the beautiful ending. If God showed us where we would end up but how difficult it would be to get there, would we still take the path He is directing us to? Even on that path that we know is God ordained, how many detours of our own do we take that leads to dead ends or gravel parking lots? In today’s instant gratification world, we tend to take for granted the journey. It is in the difficult times, those narrow turns and hot days, that forms our character. We gain strength, grit, wisdom, and courage on those winding roads. If we just stay on His path for us, as difficult as it may be, He will give us that strength to go on. Whereas when we detour thinking we know best, we are relying on our own strength which many times fails us. One of the most famous verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) where God tells us that He has plans for good, not disaster, to give us a future and a hope. Instead of turning around, giving up, or taking our own detours, let’s trust the path God has given us, knowing He has something beautiful in store for us if we just press on.


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