Better Off Wet Florida Lifestyle Magazine Winter 2016

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Kodiak Disc Brake, Vortex Hub and Torsion Axle Assembly

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Standard LED lights. (tail, side marker, 3 Bar ID)

Optional — Kodiak Dacromet or stainless steel disc brakes with life time warranted ceramic pads Optional — Stainless steel u-bolts, bolts and lock nuts for your aluminum trailer.

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Standard torsion bar with quick change spindle and Vortex® hub. Vortex® hub comes with 100,000 mile, 6 year warranty.



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BETTEROFFWET.COM   3 Jupiter, Florida

The perfect companion to a day on the water!

PUBLISHER Benjamin Chewning SALES & DISTRIBUTION 863-623-8452 CREATIVE DIRECTOR Theresa Barzyk GRAPHIC DESIGNER WEB Juan de Leon CONTRIBUTORS Capt. Jimmy Nelson @extremefishingadventures on Facebook Luiza @FishingWithLuiza on Facebook Hank Cushard United States Coast Guard Auxilary, Stuart, FL Debbie Rivera Beth Bowere CONTACT Better Off Wet P.O. Box 1096 Palm City FL 34991 863-623-8452

CENTRO YBOR • YBOR CITY 1600 East 8th Ave. Tampa, Florida 33605 |


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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Want to swim with sharks...just kidding. But, check out why folks want to communicate with them and how current technology allows us to do just that!


Have you tried SUP? Stand Up Paddle boarding is great exercise, fun, and provides you with a unique perspective of the wonderful Florida waterways.


Have a dog that likes to head out on the water with you? Check out some tips on how to keep your 4 legged friend happy and safe.


Better Off Wet always promotes safety on the water. Here are some smart tips from our friends at Clubtails.


On the Cover - Capt. Jimmy Nelson and Luiza. Captain Jimmy shares some tips on trolling for those nice Wintertime Grouper!


Get out and catch some Sea Trout this winter from your kayak. Don’t have a kayak? Learn about some basic rules of the road and how you can get started in this fun sport.


Let’s get more of our children outside and on the water! Read great tips on how to get kids comfortable in, on, and around the water.


Ever hunted a Florida lion? Better Off Wet believes more of us should get out and do just that. Hunt Lionfish! Learn why this invasive species needs to go.


Make sure you and your boat are “up to snuff” before heading out for a day on the water.










MIGRATION of Blacktip sharks at any time from a desktop computer. The sharks basically call home and announce their arrival with the “shark phone.” We now know that the Blacktip, a popular area shark, migrates to Florida coastal waters each year during the winter months. Now before you get overly excited, understand that the Blacktip averages about 5 feet in length and is not a great white like Jaws. They feed on small fish such as herring, not large prey like humans, okay?

Continued on page 8 by Beth Bowers

Snowbirds flocking South to Florida to escape the cold and enjoy our warm climate have some interesting company; sharks. A ton of articles have appeared in the press recently. This article goes beyond that sensationalism to give you the facts about our very typical and important shark population. Before scientists began tracking sharks, more known’s than unkown’s existed about this sea creature. Recent efforts, however, give us new insight into shark migration. One of the leaders in this field of research is our own Stephen Kajiura; a professor at Florida Atlantic University and head of its shark study. Kajiura spends time in the air spotting shark populations in the Atlantic, off Florida’s coast. Then, accompanied by a group of University students, he catches sharks, logs types, sizes and sex to learn more about this ocean predator. A unique part of this undertaking is inserting tiny transmitters into the sharks’ bellies as a way of tracking their movements.

Beth Bowers, a doctoral student at Florida Atlantic University studying shark migration explains how it works. The acoustic transmitters emit a signature ping that uniquely identifies each individual shark. When these sharks swim within range of one of the acoustic listening stations deployed along the Florida Eastern seaboard, their presence is recorded. Previously, the listening stations were standalone receivers that required retrieval by a SCUBA diver, a data download via Bluetooth technology on the boat and subsequent laboratory analysis; a process lagging by a few months in determining the presence of a shark. Recently, Beth deployed a cabled receiver; a “shark phone” that delivers real-time data to an IP address enabling her to check for the presence BETTEROFFWET.COM   7

ENVIRONMENT Read more articles like this with a free subscription to Better Off Wet Magazine. Learn about all sorts of marine related facts in Florida. You can also place and access free classified ads and learn about events and places to see. To subscribe to Better Off Wet Magazine, just click HERE. And don’t forget, you’re Better Off Wet.

The good news, according to marine biologists, is that the shark population is important to Florida’s marine ecosystem, so they deserve a vote of thanks for helping to preserve our pristine waters that offer a great waterway lifestyle to locals and tourists. Like New Yorkers and Canadians, sharks don’t like the cold. Their survival depends on southward migration. They seem to prefer water that’s about 73 degrees, according to Professor Kajiura, which is typical of South Florida in the winter. Sharks like to eat, so they track food. Since many other fish follow similar migration patterns as sharks, sharks can stay on their “tails”. Ask any avid Florida angler about the abundance of fish in our coastal waters during winter and you’ll be assured that sharks have a full menu filled with a great variety of cuisine. Now think about how attractive 73-degree water and a sun-filled sky can be during frigid winter months. Again, don’t worry about the sharks. However, if you want to remain extra safe, follow these tips: Try to avoid swimming between sand bars. These are not the safest places to swim even without sharks present. Sharks tend to hang out between sand bars to feed. Don’t swim around jetties or openings from the ocean into a bay. Water moves fast in those areas posing a threat to even the strongest swimmer and also carries lots of food for awaiting sharks.


Don’t wear shiny jewelry in the water. Leave this to fishermen who like to use shiny lures to attract fish. Be observant. A big school of fish such as mullets, herring, or squads of diving seabirds is indicative that larger predators will soon be attracted to the area for a delicious lunch. Okay, now you’ve decreased your odds of a shark encounter, so you can confidently enjoy great water sports all winter long. Winter is one of the best times to enjoy South Florida, so don’t be alarmed if you read one of the recent many articles about shark migration. It’s part of nature’s way of keeping our locale such an attraction. So get moving! Get outside and get wet!


Paddle Boarding



in South Florida


Sup? SUP: Stand Up Paddle Boarding. It’s what’s up in South Florida, and it’s up in a big way. Get in on the fun and join the fastest growing water sport in the area. Outdoor sunshine, exercise, and awesome sights are at least of what’s expected! If you’re not familiar with paddle boarding, it’s a simple activity that combines surfing (it’s similar to a surf board) with kayaking (a paddle). You can cruise the calm South Florida waters for a fun-filled, eye-popping excursion. Paddle boarding opens up a new and exciting world as you explore some of the most spectacular sites South Florida has to offer.

There are hundreds of waterway miles to satisfy your sense of adventure. The mangrove forest is one of the more popular spots. Much of the area is a protected ecosystem, so it’s teeming with sea life. Stingrays gliding gracefully are seen regularly; crab, sea stars, and sea cucumbers abound. Great White Heron and Green Heron can be observed on these fishing expeditions. The occasional Manatee can be spotted. Or, you can mingle with sea turtles and an abundant number of saltwater fish as your paddle board meanders

Continued on page 12



along the South Florida coast. This route also gives you the opportunity to absorb the beach scenery filled with bikinis and six-pack abs during the warm, winter months. You’re guaranteed to get an eyeful.

You won’t have to look far to find gear, tours, and services. Rates are low. Paddle boards are likely your least expensive rental option for water sports.

Winter couldn’t be a better time for paddle boarding in this locale. While we boast the warmest winter temperatures in the country, it’s not too hot or too humid to enjoy.

Mastering paddle boarding is simple, and it doesn’t require the physical conditioning of a pro-athlete. Cruising along the water is easy and effortless and provides a cardio work out at the same time.

New to paddle boarding? No worries. All it takes is a board, a paddle, and the willingness to experience fun. You can get outfitted with local rentals and trained by certified professionals. You’ll be an expert South Florida paddle boarder ready to navigate the South Florida winter wonderland.

Experienced guides who know the best spots for paddle boarding serve as your personal Sherpa to take you on a fantastic journey. They’ll share their passion and enthusiasm for the unsurpassed Florida nature explorations and lead you on a must-see South Florida paddle board safari. Whether you’re a local looking for a new and exciting experience or vacationing to take a break from cold weather and snow, winter Florida paddle boarding is the easy, fun, and inexpensive way to go.




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POOCH Staff Report

Enjoying Florida’s waterways is best with friends. For many of us, man’s best friend comes along. But too often, failure to heed water safety tips for dogs can lead to complications. Take a look at these water safety tips to ensure your pooch is safe when spending time on the water.

Don’t assume your dog is a good swimmer—or even knows how to swim. It’s best to gradually introduce dogs to the water at a young age until they learn how to swim and become comfortable. Keep in mind that some dogs aren’t built to swim. Bulldogs, for example, who have large chests and comparatively small hindquarters, aren’t good swimmers. Other breeds that have a tough time emulating Olympic swimmers include those with short muzzles and those with short legs, like Pugs. So, be prepared when “Spot’s” ready to splash in the water. Buy a pet water-safety life vest especially when on a boat. Many affordable vests are available for pets of all sizes and shapes. Learn basic pet first aid such as CPR and how to treat cuts and injuries, from your local veterinarian. Read more to learn why. Continued on page 18 16   BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016





WATER SAFETY Even if your furry companion is a water dog with a protective coat and webbed paws built for swimming, there are hazards that can present risks. Before letting “Rover” go for a romp in the water, check for strong currents, rip tides and choppy seas. All of which can be challenging for even the strongest athletic swimmers. Other water safety tips to look for include algae or dead fish, that can make “Fido” sick, and underwater branches that can cause canine injuries. Speaking of underwater branches, it’s a good idea to remove your canine’s collar to avoid potential snagging. Take flea/tick collars off as well, so the protective ingredients don’t wash off. Remember: when fishing, the idea is to snag some fish; not your four-legged friend. So keep your gear stowed safely and keep your dog away from sharp hooks that may cause harm. One injury veterinarians see is dogs chasing lures or hooks. Be mindful when casting and stowing your finishing poles. Heat from the sun intensifies on water, even on relatively cool days. Keep a supply of fresh water on hand to keep your pup hydrated and to curb his/her desire to drink ocean, lake or stream water which may not be good for him/ her. One product that can help keep your dog cool is a simple slip-on, evaporative, water vest. And, believe it or not, dogs can sunburn too, especially ones with shorthaired, light-colored coats. The ears and nose are especially susceptible to sunburn . Avoid overexposure to the sun, and add a little extra protection with sunscreen made just for pets. When your outing is over, bathe “Old Blue” to rid his/her skin and fur of any potentially irritating minerals or algae. Be sure to completely dry ears to guard against infections. So, follow these basic water safety tips to make your time on the water fun, safe, and remember to enjoy your Pooch’s companionship. Sign up today for Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer editions of Better Off Wet Magazine! Each issue includes insightful articles, and keeps you in the know about anything marine related. Get yours now and remember you’re Better Off Wet!





Booze and Boating Don’t Always Mix A day on the water with a cold drink... Sounds appealing? Better Off Wet doesn’t want ruin your boating bash, but we do want to share our top three tips for alcohol and Florida water sports: health, safety, and, uh oh, here it comes, the law. Health. Even Florida winters present the possibility of dehydration. Risks range from mild headaches and cramps to life-altering conditions. Alcohol increases dehydration. Drink lots of water. Try drinks that include hydrating juices like Clubtails’ tasty tropical mixtures. Safety first. Reaction time, judgment, and vision are all affected. Water adds more variables—currents and underwater hazards to name a couple. Cut back, or assign a designated driver, and PLEEASE NO GLASS! Use cans. Glass is bad for bare feet, marine life and the environment. Florida laws. Only some beaches allow alcohol. Check before visiting the beach bar. Most people know DUI but many may now know BUI: “Boating Under the Influence.” Florida treats them the same—drink and drive, boat and drive. Assigned fines, suspended licensing, an impounded vessel, and jail time are all possible penalties. Fun on the water? You’re Better Off Wet. Adult beverages? You’re better off consuming moderately. Enjoy your winter fun in sunny Florida safely and responsibly.




ER GROUPfishing





Staff Report


ver notice how every fisherman you ever met is an expert? Well, we cut through the “fish tales” and the fish bait to bring you the real deal from Captain Jimmy Nelson known for his fishing adventures on television. Better Off Wet had an opportunity to pick the Captain’s brain about one of the favorite sports’ fish in Florida; the Grouper Before we get to the expert tips, here’s a thing to know about fishing for Grouper in Florida. Cooling waters coax grouper to move close to shore and even into inland waterways where they enjoy the warmer temperatures..

Continued on page 26




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! 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 24   BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016

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.



Jimmy Nelson’s

Personal Tips and Tricks: According to the Captain, November-December and March-May are the best times to fish for Florida’s West Coast Grouper. December is Capt. Jimmy’s favorite over all month to seek out these tasty game fish. The water temperatures are to their liking, about 68-72 degrees, maybe even a little cooler with a higher oxygen concentration. Both combine to put a little more fight in these great fish.

In 25-40 feet of water depth, Capt. Jimmy says go with Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnum lures. In 40 feet maximum depth, Capt. Jimmy likes to troll for Grouper when he heads out of Crystal River. A good rule of thumb when heading offshore is a foot of depth per mile offshore when thinking about trolling for Grouper. These tips will also lure a wide variety of by-catch fish which, of course, just adds to the great fun of a day out on the water!

If trolling is tough Trolling Tips: due to sea conditions:

The Central and North Central waters of Florida’s West coast are hotbeds for Grouper; a favorite spot for Capt.ain Jimmy to head out from is at Plantation ( in Crystal River, FL.

When trolling, keep your speed to about 4.5 to 5 mph. Troll over wrecks, specific rock piles, and structure in a figure 8 pattern. Otherwise, troll over areas of good structure or straight from one spot to the next when in an area that has good bottom structure.

Anglers can use the same rod and reel setup mentioned above, with the Yo-Zuri Pink 80 lb Fluorocarbon leader, sinker, and Mus-

tad Demon 8/0 Perfect Circle hook (www. on a “knocker” or “sliding sinker” rig. Set your boat up, up-current of the structure where you plan to fish, and leave yourself plenty of room to fish over the structure. Capt. Jimmy also recommends using The Chum Buddy ( with threadfins. It is the same kind of bait he uses, and it helps keep the scent in the water along with being cleaner than traditional chum bags. Okay, you got the straight scoop from a great fisherman. Many thanks to Capt. Jimmy from Better Off Wet. So what are you waiting for? It’s December. So plan to get your Grouper this winter in sunny Florida. Tantalizing tastes and trophy treasures await you. Get all the latest tips and tricks you’ll need for fishing and catching on Florida’s fabulous waterways with a free subscription to Better Off Wet Magazine. Reel in your free subscription now by signing up here. And remember, you’re Better Off Wet! Take the time to get out on the water and have some fun!

Capt. Jimmy recommends using the Shimano Tallus Trolling Series 20-40 class rod paired with a Shimano Tekota 700 Convential Reel (, 65 or 80 lb TUF-LINE Donin8 line (www.tuf-line. com), and Yo-Zuri Pink 80lb Fluorocarbon leader (

Water Depth: In 10-20 ft water depth Capt. Jimmy recommends Yo-Zuri 3D Crystal Minnow Deep Diver (Luiza’s favorite is the pink Crystal Minnow). BETTEROFFWET.COM   25




Winter is a great time to fish Florida Speckled Sea Trout. From December through February, the Speckled Sea Trout (also known as Spotted Sea Trout or “Speck”) catch is rated, not good, but excellent! Specks up to 3.3 feet and 17 pounds can give any angler a challenge. The Florida state record, by the way, is 17lbs, 7oz. Any experienced trout fisherman will tell you that landing one of these spirited fighters is quite a thrill. This sense of excitement intensifies when you fish winter Florida Sea Trout from a kayak. The excitement of kayak fishing is greater than you might think. First, you’re much closer to nature in these light craft and once you’ve hooked a Speck and the chase is on, you’re in for an entirely new experience. Read the tips below and you’ll understand how to be safe and avoid a Tallahassee toboggan ride. Accessibility: If you can’t find ‘em, you ain’t gonna catch ‘em. As you’ll see later in this article, Sea Trout’s’ favorite haunts in the winter include places a lot of boats can’t realistically reach. Kayaks allow you to embark from just about anywhere and to go where the Specks are most abundant and hungriest. Kayaks are quiet. Cruising along on a kayak is




fun and relaxing, but more importantly, you can sneak up on these cagey critters. Specks spook easily, especially in shallow water, so the element of surprise give you an edge over motorboats. It’s an adventure. Just like Louis and Clark did in the 1700s, you’ll be winding your way through the spectacularly scenic Florida waterways for an up close and personal look at wild life that won’t be scared off by a motor’s disruptive din. Kayaking costs are low compared to other craft. Whether you rent or own, setting up a wellrigged kayak can get you on the water for pennies on the dollar. There is comfort also. Modern fishing kayaks are well equipped with cushy seating options so your day will be spent as if you are hanging out in your favorite chair. Now that you have good reason to try kayak trout fishing, here are a few pointers for landing a

passel of these sports fishing favorites. As the winter waters chill, Sea Trout seek the more stable water temperature in deep channels and brackish backwater mangroves and estuaries. In the morning and evening, look for them in the deeper channels, deep holes, near drop-offs and ledges, and around structures below ten feet. Sea Trout metabolism slow significantly during cool winter months, so artificial lures worked at a pace slower than used during the summer months, and live bait a few inches off the bottom, will produce better results. During the middle of the day, Sea Trout will move to shallow areas where water temperatures Continued on page 34



warm. You’ll find them in sea grass meadows and mangrove-fringed shorelines. Black, mud-bottom, inshore areas absorb heat well and make good fishing spots. These areas, in particular, can open up a whole new world when kayak fishing.

more are likely to be around.

Local anglers typically use a seven and a half foot medium-action spinning rod good for long casts to cover a broad area. Match it with a good spinning reel that can handle 15 lb braided line.

Most fishing kayaks run from 10 to 14.5 feet. Different hulls are designed to accommodate open ocean waters or inshore and backwater environments. You can find them rigged and equipped with optional accessories, including rudders, handles, rotating rod mounts, a GPS holder and even coolers. Options are virtually limitless, so you can customize your craft to meet your fishing fancy.

Specks aggressively attack artificial jigs and top water bait-like lures. If you’re a fan of live bait, then shrimp, mullet, porgy and pinfish are popular choices. You might even try a popping cork to attract attention. Bear in mind that Sea Trout run in pretty large schools, so don’t be in a hurry to relocate after landing a few of these beauties; 28   BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016

So, armed with the above tips, you’ll be ready to push off on a kayak to go fight some sturdy Sea Trout. Here’s some information about fishing kayaks to get you “underway”.

One tool you won’t want to economize on is a good paddle. It can make a significant difference in ease of propulsion and maneuverability, so it’s well worth a few extra bucks if you’re purchasing. You might find that gloves come in handy also.


Other gear that are musts in Florida include a life vest, a whistle or horn, and a light if you venture out in the evening. Plenty of local paddle shops offer kayak rentals, so test driving a few different varieties can help you decide what suits your style.

There’s not much more to add. Now you know where to find Florida winter Sea Trout, especially those hard to reach spots that a kayak can carry you to and how to catch ‘em, All you have to do now is wander out on the Florida waterways and start snagging some winter Sea Trout for your dinner plate or your trophy wall.

Once you’re outfitted, keep a few tips in mind when kayak fishing. First, be mindful of wind and currents, both of which can take the joy out of your journey. If it is breezy, find a sheltered spot on the leeward side of the wind. An anchor or power pole is a good idea if you want to stay stable and not undergo the experience of a free Uber ride courtesy of a large, powerful fish.

All the ins and outs of navigating, fishing and exploring Florida’s water wonderland are at your fingertips with a free subscription to Better Off Wet Magazine. Sign up today for Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer editions. Each issue includes insightful articles and keeps you in the know about anything marine related. Get yours now and remember you’re Better Off Wet!

Any experienced trout fisherman will tell you that landing one of these spirited fighters is quite a thrill.





Water sports are a way of life on Florida coasts for both locals and vacationers. For families, fun in the Florida sun improves greatly when children are taught to respect the water, understand the potential dangers, and practice safety procedures. Better Off Wet compiled a list of tips to help your children become comfortable, capable, and confident enthusiasts. For a child to embrace his or her parents’ love of water sports, it helps, of course, if they like the water. The process can begin very early. But don’t rush it too soon. Usually benign lake, river and ocean pathogens pose threats to fragile infant immune systems. Continued on page 28





When on the water,

safety first is the rule.

Formal introductions to swimming can begin as early as six months of age. “Water babies” techniques stress basic survival skills such as floating and grabbing the poolside that can save a life. Parents also learn an important lesson—babies can swallow lots of water during these classes. Also, come prepared with extra waterproof pampers. Around 3-4 years of age, swim classes help tots become more comfortable in the water and teach basic swimming skills, but stay within an arm’s length of toddlers when in or near water. It’s likely to take a few more years before they become good swimmers. Sparking kids’ interests in the great outdoor Florida waterways can include a variety of activities that stimulate imagination and foster fascination. Coloring books, toy boats, movies like Finding Nemo, and trips to an aquarium can encourage eager appetites. Books 32   BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016

about marine life that help kids identify specific marine species are instructive which enables them to appreciate native plants and animals and to identify and avoid jellyfish, eels, and other critters. Safety is the first rule when on the water. Life jackets are not only a good idea on the water but are required by law when boating. Learn about how to properly fit children with life vests, critical to their safety, by visiting the U.S. Coast Guard site at While children should wear life vests at all times, it’s a good idea to teach them how to don and secure vests in the event of an unexpected emergency. Any responsible boat skipper knows the potential hazards of boating, so pass knowledge on to your youngsters, and orient them to water sports care-

fully. Set specific rules. Explain the reasons for these rules to help them understand and comply. A young mind absorbs content like a sponge soaking up knowledge. Take the opportunity to teach them safe and responsible behavior on the water. Enlist older children as deck mates. Involvement in activities teaches skills they’ll use later as adults. Let them help with tasks such as dropping boat fenders or “tying off.” Practice safety measures such as “man overboard” drills, and involve kids in drill activities such as tossing a life ring. Teach them to tie knots; a skill that comes in handy for fishing and boating. Speaking of fishing: a great way to introduce kids to fishing is to outfit them with kid-friendly gear. Look for no-tangle rods and reels, plastic safety hooks, and fish and cartoon characters sponge


lures. All are great fun for fledgling fisherman to help avoid the frustration of tangled lines and keeps it safe. Young ones often have little patience for fishing, so plan other activities to make the adventure enjoyable. When it’s time for older children to try their hand at boating, paddle boarding, or kayaking on their own, you’ll be much more confident in their independent abilities if you’ve instilled best practices concerning water safety and common sense. Take the extra step to enroll them in Certified-Instructor training. They will learn a lot about technique and safety, and you’ll enjoy greater peace of mind knowing they’ve received the best training. Before you hand them the wheel of a motorized boat, know that in Florida, any motorboat operator born after January 1, 1988 requires a boating safety class; something everyone can benefit from. There is no minimum age requirement, and anyone, including out-ofstate visitors, can take it online at: or

At 8 years old her father said she is the youngest girl to have a record in 2 lb line class! The Better Off Wet Crew had the pleasure of going fishing with her father Mike. We commend the Shramko family for sharing the beautiful Florida outdoors with us! Better Off Wet Magazine regularly brings you updated information about boating, fishing, safety, local events, classified sales, and all things marine for your Florida waterways’ enjoyment. Stay current with your free subscription. Get it today and don’t forget: you’re Better Off Wet.

Water sports, like other activities, require certain skill sets that develop with guidance, coaching, and, of course, the added element of safety instruction. Keep your expectations aligned with your kids’ physical capabilities and maturity levels. Keep them actively involved to learn how to safely enjoy a lifetime of enjoyment on Florida waterways’ wonderland. Photos courtesy of: Patrice Shramko Even though Lauren Shramko is only 8 years old, she currently holds 5 IGFA Women’s Line Class World Records (Butterfly Peacock 2 lb, 4 lb, 6 lb, 16 lb, and 20 lb Line Class). BETTEROFFWET.COM   33

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UNTING in Florida Staff Report

Belying its beauty, the lionfish is an ugly menace that threatens the Florida water fauna and flora. Left unchecked, this invasive species possesses the capability to completely upset the local ecosystem, including both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Thought to have been introduced to the area by aquarium enthusiasts who unwittingly released them in local waters, a handful of these creatures soon turned into an invasion. The rapid spread of these native Indo-Pacific ingrates is attributable to their booming, breeding habits. Lionfish reach sexual maturity 2-4 years earlier than native fish. Females lay millions of eggs over the course of a year and can reproduce every four days making the productivity of a rabbit appear more like that of an elephant. Compounding the problem, Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and Gulf waters to “curb their enthusiasm.”

Not only are Lionfish conquering native species in numbers, these voracious carnivores eat just about everything devouring more than 70 species of fish as well as shrimp and crab. Lionfish can eat up to 30 times their stomach volume and 90 % of their body weight daily. The impact on local fish populations can be devastating. Although beautiful, Lionfish can reduce young fish populations on a reef by nearly 90% in as little as five weeks and the overall population by 65 % in just over two years. With the potential to wreck havoc on Florida reefs and saltwater wildlife, this insatiable species does appear to have one weakness; they taste great! A flaky white fish with a texture described as somewhere between Mahi Mahi and Grouper, Lionfish is a healthy choice. It’s high in heart healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats and mercury. Culinary consumption has led to the coastal battle cry: “Eat ‘Em To Beat ‘Em!” Lurking around reefs, wrecks, and rocky overhangs, the most effective way to catch Lionfish is Continued on page 38


DIVING cially harvested Lionfish. You can now enjoy this delicacy in many local restaurants. Wholesale dealers are offering cash for these carnivores. Last year the total commercial Lionfish market topped 72,000 pounds representing a hefty profit for those in the market. Harvesting Lionfish for sale does require a Saltwater Products license. One word of caution if you dare to catch some of these critters: armed with up to 18 venomous spines for self defense, stings can be quite painful, and may cause swelling, blistering, and nausea. So be advised, and protect yourself accordingly. If you enjoy diving, suit up and join the effort to eradicate these Lionfish. You can enjoy the beauty of the Great Florida Reef; the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S., and pocket a few bucks while you’re at it. If diving is not you’re thing, you can still sign up for the cause by treatby using SCUBA. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has enacted fisherman-friendly regulation to help this cause. Divers using spears and handheld nets do not require a fishing license, and the season is open year round. Lionfish hunting popularity has grown with the introduction of Lionfish Derby’s all across Florida and throughout the year. This Lionfish hunting attracts an abundance of divers who enjoy the camaraderie of fellow dive aficionados while helping to rid the environment of these pesky predators. The Derby’s, also named Roundups and Rodeos by some, is usually a daylong competition with cash prizes awarded for quantity and size. You can learn more about these events at fishing/saltwater/recreational/lionfish/events/. Another factor increasing successful dives and the decline of Lionfish is the sale of commering yourself to a tasty plate of Lionfish at a local restaurant. Either way, you’re helping the environment and helping Florida “Eat ‘Em To Beat ‘Em!” Stay current on Florida events, sports fishing, pleasure boating, and all things marine with a free subscription to Better Off Wet Magazine. It’s just a click away at BetterOff Stay active, eat healthy, and don’t forget, you’re Better Off Wet.




By: Debbie Rivera

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). While on vacation in the Florida Keys, the founders of the organization did such a thing. Debbie Rivera saw these young men and women and decided to take action…“Let’s teach them how to SCUBA Dive!” Now 9 years later, D4H is still serving wounded veterans continuously in many ways, with SCUBA Discoveries every month, quarterly Open Water Certification, Lionfish roundups, shark tagging, turtle releases, sea cleanups, continuing monthly education, fun dives and several international trips annually to Bonaire, Bimini, Caymans, Bonaire, Roatan, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Fiji in 2017! We have wonderful volunteers with collaborative partners, that allow us to serve the veterans who have served and been injured prior to and after 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 achievements 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.” 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”. There are many ways to help Divers 4 Heroes 501c3. Please contact us:





but ONLY IF YOU WEAR THEM! by HANK CUSHARD - United States Coast Guard Auxiliary - Flotilla 59

A STUART, Fla. | All recreational vessels must carry on board at least one approved wearabletype 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 Con-servation Commission, 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: A 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). A Inflatable PFDs are authorized for persons over 16 years of age and are not recommended for use by weak swimmers or non-swimmers. A Personal watercraft operators and all passengers must wear a PFD at all times.


Remember this, 90 % of those who drown while boating were not wear-ing 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.


Is Your Boat U.S. Coast Guard Compliant? by HANK CUSHARD - United States Coast Guard Auxiliary - Flotilla 59

A STUART, Fla. | The most cautious boaters can sometimes experience unexpected problems on the water. That is why the U.S. Coast Guard “recommends that all recreational boaters, including personal watercraft and paddle sport users, take advantage of the FREE Vessel Safety Check provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.”

WHAT IS IN IT FOR ME? Boats that pass the examination are awarded a distinctive Vessel Safety Check (VSC) Decal that alerts the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, Sheriff and Police, FWC, and other law-enforcement agencies that your boat was found to be in full compliance with all Federal and State boating laws. Frequently, such agencies will not detain or board boats displaying a current-year decal that are otherwise boating safely.

WHAT IF I DON’T PASS? If your boat does not pass, no report is filed. Instead, you are provided a written report that aids you in correcting any discrepancies noted. Often, a quick trip to your local marine store is all that is necessary to obtain missing safety items and easily pass a reinspection. Some companies give you a discount on the safety equipment you purchase.

WHY DO THIS? In a word-safety. You are left with the peace of mind that your boat meets minimum safety standards and that in an emergency; you will have the necessary equipment to save lives and summon help. Additionally, you will avoid substantial fines should you ever be boarded by law-enforcement and found to be in violation. Finally, your insurance rates may be lowered-check with your agent.


One aspect of this safety check is that the Coast Guard requires that all boats over 16 feet carry visual distress signals, a minimum of 3 approved signals. Flares have an expiration date and must be replaced. Failure to have such devices or expired flares could result in fines and put you in danger if they are too old. The majority of boaters that do not pass this inspection are because their flares have expired.And did I say the inspection is free? Even experienced boaters need a Vessel Safety Check!

Log on to to locate the closest U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel examiner. And it is FREE! These vessel examiners are trained specialist and are there to make recommendations and discuss safety issues that will enhance your boating experience.

BELOW ARE SOME ITEMS THAT ARE CHECKED: A Life Jackets A Registration and numbering A Navigation lights A Fire Extinguishers A Distress Signals


Roll with the Best! “Launch and Load like a Pro”


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