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FREE

Northwest Florida’s Premier Outdoors Magazine

FISHING

Winter warriors are trolling

HUNTING

Don’t get stuck in the rut JAN/FEB 2018


5

TABLE OF CONTENTS

8 12

20

5

STIRRING UP THE GAME

12

TROPHY WALL

6

SNACK ATTACK

16

DON’T FEAR THE WEATHER

7

HUNTING SEASON CHART

18

GO WITH THE FLOW

8

GETTING FIRED UP

20

BALANCE IN THE BAY

10

ON PATROL

22

DENIZENS OF THE LONGLEAF FOREST

11

PLATED: WILD RECIPES

Hook and Trigger’s Ernie Martin encourages hunters to get out of the tree and find your deer When the thermometer dips and food becomes scarce, deer turn to your pricey landscaping Stay in-the-know with Northwest Florida Zone D game season dates Prescribed forest fires can improve wildlife habitat, but require good timing and preparation Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement Reports for Northwest Florida Lemon Butter Amberjack Fish

2 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Hook and Trigger readers share their hunting and fishing trophy photos and stories – submit yours! Spurred by conditions, die-hard anglers are on the hunt for crappie and bass this season Tide chart information helps anglers of all kinds The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance tests and restores water quality to ensure good fishing

Fox squirrels are an indicator species for a healthy longleaf pine forest habitat

ON THE COVER

Mike Lemley of Crestview took this 12-point whitetail buck Nov. 3 while hunting in northeast Missouri. See more on page 12.


PUBLISHER’S LETTER

GETTING HOOKED Happy new year to you and your family. I hope Christmas came with lots of gifts for the fishermen and hunters on your list. The year 2018 is already in full-swing here at Hook and Trigger Magazine. We have expanded our distribution footprint across Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties. Hook and Trigger can now be found in a number of Walmart stores across our region (located in the sporting goods/outdoors department), as well as locations off the exits on I-10 and Highway 98 along the Emerald Coast. As always, this issue will feature my favorite part: trophy photos! You can send us your hunting or fishing pictures with details – just complete the online form at http://bit.ly/2vcmSUI – and we will select the best ones to run here in the magazine. If we use your photo, we will send you some cool Hook and Trigger gear. If we used your snapshot in one of the past two issues, be on the lookout. In the coming weeks, your Hook and Trigger gear will land in your mailbox. Here’s to a great start for the new year. And remember: we value your feedback. If you have any suggestions or ideas for a story, please don’t hesitate to contact me at phil@hookandtrigger.com.

Phil Heppding

Publisher

HNH Media Holdings, LLC

Explore the great outdoors

Hook and Trigger Magazine is Northwest Florida’s guide to hunting, fishing, and conservation. Read up on your favorite sport, learn about upcoming events, find a new outdoor activity, and share your triumphs on our Trophy Wall. Follow us online at www.hookandtrigger.com, or on Facebook at facebook.com/hookandtrigger/ JANUARY 2018 • 3


Owner/Publisher Phil Heppding phil@hookandtrigger.com

EDITORIAL Managing Editor Michelle Farnham editor@hookandtrigger.com Contributing Writers: Don Buchanan, Arlo Kane, Ernie Martin, Darryl Williams

DESIGN Creative Director Michelle Farnham

SALES Sales Director Phil Heppding, Alton Nixon phil@hookandtrigger.com

HOOK AND TRIGGER MAGAZINE HNH Media Holdings, LLC P.O. Box 1441, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 850-687-3776

Copyright January 2018, HNH Media Holdings, LLC All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Web: www.hookandtrigger.com Facebook: facebook.com/hookandtrigger/ Twitter: @hookandtrigger Instagram: hookandtrigger

4 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Hook and Trigger is a free, bimonthly outdoors magazine serving Northwest Florida. For advertising information and rates, call Publisher Phil Heppding at 850-687-3776 or email phil@hookandtrigger.com. To submit stories, information, or photographs, email phil@hookandtrigger.com or mail to P.O. Box 1441, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 34259. Once content is received, it becomes the shared property of Hook and Trigger, unless alternate arrangements are agreed upon.


HUNTING

STIRRING UP GAME DURING THE RUT Get out of the tree and find your deer BY ERNIE MARTIN Hook and Trigger I begin this article while enjoying some fresh-smoked venison that I harvested on my first trip to the shooting house. The good Lord blessed me with a nice doe that I gladly shared with my cousin Steve, who helped me clean the deer. I must give a shout out to Chef Tingle, the culinary instructor at Crestview High School. He took a ham from the deer and smoked it to perfection! On the last day of school before Christmas break we had a feast. We had fresh collards from the garden, provided by Deputy Joiner, cornbread, and smoked venison smothered in gravy. Very little made it home to my fridge. I thoroughly enjoy sharing good food with friends and family. Before any eating can begin, you have to harvest the food. So what technique did I use to harvest the doe? I used the shooting house for a couple of reasons. First, it is located on private land that I have antlerless deer tags for. Secondly, the cold wind was blowing from the North and this stand requires a North wind for the deer to feel comfortable in coming to the food plot. I had reached the shooting house by 3:15 p.m. Around 4:45 p.m., three deer walked out. I picked out the oldest doe and brought her home. STUCK IN A RUT Now for this article, the question on the minds of deer hunters is when the mating season will begin. Mating season – commonly known as the rut – typically starts around the winter solstice, which begins on Dec. 21. By the time you read this article the pre-rut season will be over, and the mating season will be in full swing. What is the pre-rut and how do you know that it has started? First, you look for the signs. The bucks are rubbing small trees (also known as hooking) and making scrapes. Bucks will start setting the stage and marking their territory before the does are ready to mate. This is called the pre-rut. My hunting party has found these signs in the woods where we hunt. In order for me to have acquired this information, we needed to have boots on the ground and in the woods. I have read and heard that there are certain things that you don’t do during the rut. 1. Never neglect the pre-rut. Bucks moving will lend a pattern that you can stick to until mating season starts. 2. Don’t overuse your deer calls. The best technique that I have witnessed was during the rut. The hunter used a doe bleat with a young buck grunt. Big Daddy was not about to let the young buck mate one of his does. It worked perfectly and the hunter harvested a nice big 9-point. 3. Pay attention to the does. When I harvested my doe, she was cautious but by no means was she nervous. She never stopped and looked back into the woods from where she came. She was not be-

Photo: Ernie Martin

Tommy Harvell brought down this nice buck in November.

ing chased by any bucks. The does will let you know by their mannerisms if there are bucks in the area. 4. When the rut starts, look for places that are normally passed See “Rut” on page 17

The Rusty Nail & Sharp Hook Shiners, Minnows, Worms, Crickets & Tackle

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DEER TURN TO YOUR PRICEY PLANTS Prevention is your best bet over winter

Deer can cause major damage to yards in any season, but in winter they can be downright deadly to some of the most expensive backyard landscape plants. When regular foods like leaves, grass and annuals become scarce, deer turn their attention to woody plants, shrubs and trees that stay green in winter, like rhododendron, arborvitaes, yew, holly, and those that lose their leaves, like oak, willow and dogwood trees. Deer will tear away at the lower leaves and branches of these shrubs and trees, which won’t grow back evenly and may be permanently damaged, in need of replacement, come springtime. Arborvitaes and other landscape shrubs and trees can take years to grow to maturity. They’re also the foundation of your backyard’s beauty. Deer damage in winter can add up to a big budget-busting bill to replace plants, not to mention negatively affecting the beautiful aesthetics of your yard and garden. Because food is scarce, and high deer populations mean more competition for food, deer are likely to be more resistant to efforts to evacuate them. They’ll return to areas where they found plentiful pickings in warm weather, and be more inclined to stay put until an area is stripped clean of all possible food sources. A single adult deer eats about 12 pounds of foliage a day, and does usually occupy the same 3- to 4-square-mile area for their entire lives. During her lifetime, a doe will procreate every year, having as many as two or three fawns at a time. If you’ve had deer in your yard before, it is more than likely your yard is on their list to forage and is at risk this winter. DETERRING DEER Homeowners need to be proactive and prevent deer damage during winter. No one wants to be faced with the expense of replacing deer-damaged shrubs or trees. Fencing can be effective if the fence is higher than deer can jump (at least 8 feet), but many suburban areas limit fence heights. Even if your neighborhood allows a high fence, building one is ex6 • HOOK & TRIGGER

pensive and can be unsightly. Some homeowners turn to a range of “home remedies” intended to be harmless to deer, people and pets. However, remedies like pepper spray, soap or predator urine may be harmless but rarely deliver reliable results for deterring deer. Commercial repellents may not have been third-party tested for efficacy, or they rely on harsh chemicals that may be harmful to the environment, pets and other landscape plants. To be most effective in winter, when deer are desperate, repellents should be applied in fall, and continually reapplied as needed, throughout the cold months. Using a repellent all year, conditioning deer to skip your yard, is always your best bet. REPELLENT SOLUTIONS The Connecticut Department of Forestry tested deer repellents (including Bobbex, Hinder, Liquid Fence, Chew-Not, Big Game, Deer Off, Plantskydd, coyote urine) and concluded Bobbex Deer Repellent is 93 percent effective in repelling deer, only second to a physical barrier. Bobbex is a topical, all-natural foliar spray which prevents deer, moose and elk from browsing and damaging ornamental plantings, shrubs and trees. Bobbex’s active ingredients are a series of proteins that make the product safe for the environment and for use on even the most sensitive foliage. Active ingredients include; putrescent eggs, garlic, fish oil, meat meal, clove oil, and other natural, safe ingredients. The product mimics predator scents that deer have an aversion to and is classified as a fear repellent, but it also tastes bad, adding another layer of protection for plants. Because it contains effective sticking agents, the repellent won’t wash off, even in harsh winter weather. Left undeterred, deer can strip bare your landscape’s most expensive and susceptible plantings, leaving you with an unattractive yard and high repair bills when warm weather arrives. Taking preventive steps can help ensure deer learn to leave your yard alone throughout the winter, and with continued use, keep them at bay, all year long. (BPT)


2017-18 Northwest Florida Resident: Zone D

HUNTING SEASONS • Seasons do not apply to wildlife management areas •

Deer

Archery Crossbow I Crossbow II Muzzleloader I Muzzleloader II General Gun I General Gun II Deer-Dog Train

Oct. 21-Nov. 22 Oct. 21-Nov. 22 Nov. 27-Dec. 1 Dec. 2-8 Feb. 19-25 Nov. 23-26 Dec. 9-Feb. 18 Oct. 28-Nov. 16

Antlered or antler-less deer by bow or crossbow Antlered or antler-less deer by crossbow or bow Antlered deer only by crossbow or bow Antlered deer by muzzleloader, crossbow or bow Antlered deer by muzzleloader, crossbow or bow Antlered deer Antlered deer Daylight, after registering land with the FWC

Oct. 21-Nov. 22 Oct. 21-Nov. 22 Nov. 27-Dec. 1 Dec. 2-8 Nov. 23-26 Dec. 9-Jan. 14

Gobblers/bearded turkeys by bow or crossbow Gobblers/bearded turkeys by crossbow or bow Gobblers/bearded turkeys by crossbow or bow Gobblers/bearded: muzzleloader, crossbow or bow Rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, cross/bows, pistols Rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, cross/bows, pistols

Oct. 14-Mar. 4

Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloaders cross/bow, pistol, air gun

Oct. 21-Nov. 10 Oct. 21-Nov. 10 Nov. 11-Mar. 4

By bow or crossbow By crossbow or bow Rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, cross/bows, pistols

Mar. 10-11 Mar. 17-Apr. 22

Rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, cross/bows, pistols Rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, cross/bows, pistols

Year-round

Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloaders, cross/bow, pistol, air gun

Year-round

Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloaders, cross/bow, pistol, air gun

Dec. 1-Mar. 31

Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloaders, cross/bow, pistol, air gun

Dec. 1-Mar. 1

Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloaders, cross/bow, pistol, air gun

Turkey

Archery Crossbow I Crossbow II Muzzleloader General Gun I General Gun II

Gray Squirrel

General Gun

Quail

Archery Crossbow General Gun

Spring Turkey

Youth Hunt Spring Hunt

Rabbit

Statewide

Wild Hog

Statewide

Bobcat

Statewide

Otter

Statewide

Raccoon/Opossum/Coyote/Beaver/Skunk/Nutria

Statewide

Year-round

Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloaders, cross/bow, pistol, air gun

Florida Hunting Zone D: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington counties JANUARY 2018 • 7


CONSERVATION

BURNING FOR BETTER WILDLIFE Prescribed fires require good timing, prep BY DARRYL WILLIAMS District Conservationist USDA NRCS, Crestview If you want to rejuvenate understory plants in a pine forest, get more ground-level food and access for birds in a native grass planting, or bring more variety plants to bloom, you might want to consider a prescribed burn. Prescribed burning is using fire to improve vegetation on your land. It may nurture some plants for a while but it may harm others. It stimulates growth of new plants, particularly legumes that offer food for wildlife. Fire won’t always improve wildlife, but it will if it’s done at the right time in the right situation. SET A GOAL FOR YOUR LAND You can set back existing vegetation, remove litter, control woody plants and “release more desirable species” by burning. Which grass or other plants you stimulate depends on the time of year you burn. For instance, April and May grassland burns will stimulate the dormant warm season grasses and forbs more than cool season species. It can destroy nests, though, so don’t burn all your grassland at one time. Late winter burns generally stimulate cool season grasses. Fall burns control woody vegetation. BURN IN ROTATION Burning a third of the area you want to improve for wildlife each year is a good idea. By burning in rotation, your ground wildlife can exist on the same land within the grass and shrubs that haven’t been burned. This is a recommended practice by most wildlife biologists. FIRE SAFETY FIRST AND FOREMOST Safe prescribed burns have to be planned out in advance. Common sense is important, but experience and training are called for because a fire can get away from even the most experienced people. Before you burn, you should make a fire plan that includes fire8 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Photos: Forest Service

Prescribed burning can solve a myriad of problems, including setting back existing vegetation, removing litter, controlling woody plants and releasing certain animal species.

breaks, equipment needed, weather and forecasts, local permits, notifications and other approvals needed, potential impacts of fire or smoke spread, fences, and other details. It’s essential to establish safe firebreaks or fire lines. Streams or roads are good firebreaks if they are wide enough to contain the fire. The common way to establish firebreaks is to clear disk strips at least 10 feet wide. The firebreak has to completely surround the area being burned. Your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office staff can get you preliminary information. Also, another great source for assistance are your state agencies, such as the Florida Forest Service (FFS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Various workshops have been and will be hosted in the future, so take advantage and attend one or more to learn the techniques and regulations for prescribed burning. Keep in touch with your local conservation office or your local news outlet for any upcoming workshops. For information, call or stop by your local NRCS office.


USDA NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE OFFICES WALTON COUNTY DeFuniak Springs Service Center Address: 239 John Baldwin Road, DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433 Phone: 850-892-3712, ext. 3 Fax: 855-463-8618 District Conservationist: Jason Hayford Email: Jason.Hayford@fl.usda.gov OKALOOSA COUNTY Crestview Service Center Address: 3070 Adora Teal Way, Suite A, Crestview, FL 32539 Phone: 850-409-3370 Fax: 855-463-8618 District Conservationist: Darryl Williams Email: darryl.williams@fl.usda.gov

SAFETY FIRST

Photos: Darryl Williams

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently completed its final hunter safety class for 2017 in Okaloosa County. With 48 students, it was a record-setting turnout, assisted by Darryl Williams and other FWC volunteers. The FWC offers four hunter safety courses, plus additional options like bowhunter education and youth hunting. Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, and 16 years or older, must pass a hunter safety course before purchasing a hunting license, unless using the Hunter Safety Mentoring Exemption and hunting under the supervision of a qualified hunter. The next round of classes begins in the early spring; visit http://myfwc.com/hunting/safety-education/ for more information, including dates and locations.

SANTA ROSA COUNTY Jay Service Center Address: 3927 Highway 4, Suite 102, Jay, FL 32565-1752 Phone: 850-675-6696 Fax: 855-463-8618 District Conservationist: Trent Mathews Email: Trent.Mathews@fl.usda.gov

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ON PATROL

DEER BAITING AGAINST THE GRAIN OKALOOSA COUNTY PLEASE ABSTAIN FROM GRAIN – Officer Wilkenson received information regarding three subjects possibly placing corn on the Eglin Wildlife Management Area before the opening of archery season. The subjects were identified and on opening day, Wilkenson located one of the subjects walking out of the woods returning from hunting. The subject admitted that he and a friend had placed corn on the management area prior to the season starting. He was issued a citation for placing grains on the management area and a warning for attempting to hunt over an area where grains were placed. His friend was interviewed later by Wilkenson and Investigator Hughes. He also admitted to placing corn on Eglin WMA and was charged with placing grains on a management area. OKALOOSA COUNTY PUP PATROL – Officers Pifer and Rockwell were on land patrol conducting resource protection on the Eglin WMA. They observed two parked vehicles with both drivers exiting their vehicles. One of the drivers was in possession of a dog. The area where the hunters were located is designated as stalk hunting only. The hunter explained that he had shot a deer earlier in the day, but lost the blood trail. He asked a friend to bring a dog to try to locate the deer. Pifer determined the area where the hunter shot the deer was closed by Eglin. The officers provided assistance in locating the deer and observed a baited field next to the tree stand where the hunter shot the deer. A resource citation was issued to the hunter for hunting in a closed area and a warning for hunting over a baited area. GARBAGE IS A REAL BEAR – Officers Nichols and Jarvis responded to two different communities regarding complaints of bears getting in garbage. Both officers contacted the homeowners. Nichols observed two garbage cans that were knocked over with the contents spread out on the lawn. Both cans were modified with latches to secure the lids, but the latches were not used. Three homeowners were educated about the importance of securing their garbage cans and were issued non-compliance notification letters. SCHOOLED – Officer Maltais presented the laws and ethics portion of the Hunter Education program with 39 students in attendance. One student attended the course to meet the requirements for the Florida Concealed Carry Weapon Permit. ROUGH SEAS, ROUGHER DAY – Officer Jarvis responded to a capsized vessel in the Destin East Pass. A Good Samaritan vessel removed six people from the waters. The Good Samaritan vessel delivered them to the United States Coast Guard Station. The investigation revealed that the boat was at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico when the outboard motor died. After the motor died, large waves started hitting the boat, causing the boat to capsize. All occupants were ejected into the water but clung to the upside-down boat. The seas were rough, approximately 3 to 4 feet with 10 to 14 mph winds. No one was injured. The vessel was brought to shore and removed the following day. LETTER OF THE LAW – Officer Maltais taught the law portion 10 • HOOK & TRIGGER

of the Hunters Education program to 32 Eglin Range Patrol personnel. A LITTLE HELP HERE? – Officer Ramos was notified in the early morning that three men were stranded on Yellow River WMA. The men were cold and thirsty after spending the night stuck in the woods with very limited cell phone service. Ramos located the men, and with the assistance of Officers Rockwell and Tolbert, got their vehicle running so that the men could return home. SANTA ROSA COUNTY WRONG KIND OF WEED – Officer Hutchinson was patrolling the Blackwater State Forest when he observed a couple of vehicles pulled over on the side of a forest road. He stopped to check on the subjects inside of the vehicles. While speaking with them, he could smell the strong odor of cannabis coming from the vehicles. After questioning the two drivers, he discovered cannabis inside both vehicles. Both men were issued notices to appear for possession of not more than 20 grams of cannabis. DOUBLE TROUBLE – Officer Hutchinson contacted the Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) and informed them about an illegal moonshine still that he and Lieutenant Hahr located while investigating a deer poaching case. After speaking with an investigator and passing along the information to them, they drove to the suspect’s residence where the still was located. They contacted the suspect who admitted to possessing the still and making moonshine. While speaking with the suspect, the officers observed two more whiskey stills near his shed. They gained consent to search the property and with the help of two other ABT investigators, they located other items used to make moonshine. A felony warrant was later issued for the suspect’s arrest for the possession of the illegal moonshine stills. DON’T SHOOT – Officer Ramos concluded an investigation leading to the arrest of a Navarre resident for the unlawful taking of a black bear shot in a resident’s yard in October. A thorough investigation of evidence and statements provided by witnesses and involved parties was reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office. The presiding judge concurred with the arrest affidavit and approved the arrest warrant. The suspect was booked into the county jail for the unlawful taking of a black bear. STACKING THE DECK – Officer Jernigan was patrolling in Blackwater WMA when he located a baited area. He returned to the area on the opening day of archery season and found a hunter hunting over the bait. He issued the man a notice to appear for hunting over bait in a wildlife management area. WALTON COUNTY BOAT BLOAT – Officers Tison, White and Letcher completed investigations on five vessels that had been identified as derelict, all partially submerged in various locations in the Choctawhatchee Bay. Two of the owners were located and charged for failing to remove them from state waters. Lieutenant Hollinhead is working with the County Public Works Department on their removal from the bay. – Courtesy of FWC Division of Law Enforcement: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties


PLATED WILD RECIPES FROM HOOK & TRIGGER

LEMON BUTTER AMBERJACK FISH Yield: 6 servings Total time: 10 minutes INGREDIENTS 6 amberjack fillets (about 2.5 pounds) 1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges 12 thyme sprigs sea salt black pepper DIRECTIONS Lightly salt and pepper the fillets. Bring a large non-stick pan to medium high heat and add butter (enough to coat the bottom of the pan). When hot, lay fish skin-side down in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan. Squeeze a wedge of lemon over each piece and toss in six thyme sprigs (reserve the other 6 for garnish). Cook the fish 3 to 4 minutes uncovered and flip. The fish should have a brown, buttery color to it before you flip it. Add more butter if necessary. Cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until fish is flaky. Add sea salt to taste and garnish with the remaining thyme.

FWC APPROVES CHANGES TO GULF COBIA MANAGEMENT

At its December 2017 meeting in Gainesville, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) took final action to approve several changes to the management of cobia in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These changes are based on stakeholder input and concerns from anglers, and will further promote sustainable management of this fishery. Approved changes will go into effect Feb. 1, 2018, and include: • Creating a Gulf/Atlantic management boundary defining all state waters north of the Monroe-Collier county line as “Gulf state waters” for purposes of managing cobia. • Making the recreational and commercial bag limits for cobia in Gulf state waters the same by reducing the commercial limit from two to one fish per person. • Reducing the recreational and commercial vessel limit in Gulf state waters from six to two cobia per vessel, per day. The current 33-inch minimum size limit will not change. – Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Northwest Florida’s Premier Outdoors Magazine Follow the revamped Hook and Trigger Magazine for the latest on local hunting, fishing, conservation, and the great outdoors. Find upcoming events, trophy photos and everything in between, for free!

facebook.com/hookandtrigger @hookandtrigger hookandtrigger www.HookAndTrigger.com JANUARY 2018 • 11


TROPHY

WALL

While fishing with her dad and her uncle, Capt. PJ Sykes, Lauren Tucker of Baker hooked this 9-pound sheepshead. They enjoyed a good day of fishing March 4, 2017, near the Panama City pass.

While fishing offshore near the Mississippi Canyon, Gary Tennant Jr. of Niceville reeled in these 28- to 30-inch red snappers. He caught both of them Oct. 20 using a 6-inch Got-Cha Curltail Grub in 150 feet of water.

It was just 35 degrees out when Mike Lemley of Crestview took this 12-point whitetail buck the morning of Nov. 3. He used a Mathews ZXT Bow on a ladder stand in a hardwoods ridge between crop fields in northeast Missouri.

12 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Taylor Baggett killed her first buck – a 6-pointer – on Thanksgiving afternoon in Santa Rosa County.


Angela Smith of Youngstown snagged this redfish in the East Bay at the Tyndall bridge using live shrimp. The 30-inch fish was out of slot, so it lived to see another day.

A Dec. 13, 2017, hunting outing in Butler County, Ky., proved successful for Kevin Casey of Crestview. Late in the 2017 muzzleloader season, Casey brought down an 11-point whitetail buck that scored 155-2/8.

Something’s missing here... While bottom-fishing in the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 11, a shark decided to munch on the red snapper Josh Cooper of Crestview had on the line. Cooper was able to reel in the other half.

CATCH A REAL

WHOPPER?

Submit your hunting/fishing trophy photo and appear in Hook and Trigger for free! Using a .270 rifle, Madisen Casey of Crestview brought down this maiden whitetail doe on Nov. 26, 2017. She was hunting on private land in Laurel Hill.

Complete the online form: http://bit.ly/2vcmSUI JANUARY 2018 • 13


TROPHY

WALL

It took a perfect 200-yard shot from Connor Prince of Baker to bring down this whitetail deer. Prince was hunting in Holt Nov. 26, 2017, during the antlerless weekend.

In just her first hunting outing, Gracie Grant, age 12, shot her first buck. She took down the 3-pointer while hunting with her Uncle Bryan Rogers on his farm in Laurel Hill. She said she is already planning their next hunt.

Paul Lightfoot Jr. of Crestview caught a 28-inch, 13-pound bass on Kennedy Lakes on Oct. 1, 2017. Using a watermelon worm, this fish is “the next to see Bobby Meyers!”

14 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Caught just 60 yards off the beaches of Destin, Josh Cooper of Crestview snagged this 68-pound cobia on April 11.


2018 Recreational Seasons - AT-A-GLANCE Gulf of Mexico State Waters Click on theFish species for up-to-date closures and regulations. © Florida & Wildlife Conservation Commission – 2018 SPECIES

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

Amberjack, Greater

2018 Bay Scallops at-a-glance coming in February Bay Scallops

Closes May 16

Opens Oct. 15

Crab, Stone

Gag Grouper Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson & Taylor counties Gag Grouper All counties excluding Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor & Monroe counties

Special Permit Zone (SPZ) Changes Pending Permit

2018 season to be determined Snapper, Red

Snook Including Monroe County & Everglades National Park Sport season open July 25-26

Spiny Lobster

Opens Aug. 6

Triggerfish, Gray KEY

Open

Closed

Open for portion of month (see open/close dates)

JANUARY 2018 • 15


FISHING

CRAPPIE AND BASS: LET’S ROLL Die-hard anglers don’t fear cold fronts BY ERNIE MARTIN Hook & Trigger Bass and crappie seem to be all anglers talk about these days, and there is a good reason for the interest in these two species during this time of the year. In this article I will discuss each species and why all the chatter about them. IT’S CRAPPIE TIME The cold fronts mark the beginning of the crappie fishing season. The die-hard crappie hunters are getting their jig poles out and charging up the trolling motor batteries. Whether you chase crappie in the man-made lakes or fancy the river systems, crappie season is in full swing. The two main techniques used in crappie fishing are sitting over structure or slow trolling through areas that have structure. Either way, the bottom line is structure. Find the structure and crappie will be stacked around it. Crappie use structure for two reasons, the first is that the structure provides a haven for them to elude predator fish like bass and stripers. Secondly, it provides a food source as minnows will hold close to the structure. Crappie fishermen have two main methods of catching their targeted species. Small live minnows under a cork, set at the proper depth so the minnow can’t retreat into the structure, is one method. The other method requires the use of small lightweight jigs with soft plastics attached. When using the artificial baits, most fishing is done by slow trolling over and around the structure. There are usually some by-catches of large bream, large-mouth bass, hybrids, and the occasional gar. Due to the small line test and hook size the by-catch usually wins! Sometimes the fisherman wins after a lengthy battle. There is plenty of freshwater in our area that has the tasty crappie. You just need to pick a spot and give it a try. You never know what you might catch. SAVING THE BASS FOR LAST Now to the bass fishers in the area. First, I will examine what to do in January and February and then I will discuss the spawning season. If you are a die-hard large-mouth bass fisher and you want to catch fish in these two months, I have two words for you: grass and holes. Find the grass and you have found the bass. Find the holes and you have found the bass. If I wanted to catch large numbers of bass but not large-sized bass, then I would stay in the deltas of our local rivers. Areas like Freeport, Milton, Pensacola and Mobile would be my main areas of concentration. Spinner baits and jerk baits would be my main choices. Make certain that you are in the water when the tide is moving! No flow, no fish. I would stake my reputation as a fisherman on that statement because I have had a great deal of success when bass 16 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Photo: Ernie Martin

This sizable bass of mass is stacked up against a size 14 shoe, but fishing expert Ernie Martin says he’s never reached his goal of reeling in a 12-pounder!

fishing in the delta during this time of year and it all hinges on tide movement. Find the grass lines and fish them thoroughly with spinners and soft plastics. Fish the edge of the grass with your jerk bait and even some top water baits. One of my favorite baits for fishing the delta for bass would be the Snagless Sally. It will cost you extra for the skirt color and trailer. It is not uncommon for a fishing excursion to the delta to end up with 30 bass being caught and released. Most bass will be from 10 inches to 16 inches in length. I have caught a few that tipped the scales around 6 pounds, but most catches will be on the smaller size. Now if you want to catch some 4- to 6-pound fish in the delta, you must brave the cold temperatures and know exactly where to go. Stack holes are places in the delta that are deep enough to hold warmer water during freezing temperatures. Some stack holes that I have found are no wider than a big dining room table and 10 to 12 feet deep. When the temperature is below freezing, the bass will congregate in the deep-water holes in the delta. My bait of choice changes exclusively to a crankbait. I have seen an aggregate catch of five bass that weighed 18 pounds, 6 ounces that came out of a stack hole in the delta. It took all of 15 minutes to catch those fish and we caught 14 more out of the same hole! That See “Roll” on page 17


Roll

16 stringer won the tournament. Remember, if you are bass fishing during the months of January and February, you are already considered by this writer to be a die-hard bass fisher. You might find this hard to believe, but last year I caught my first bass over 6 pounds during the month of February. She was spawning in one of the local ponds. Yes, I took pictures and released her back to spawn. I like bed fishing. It is commonly referred to by the elites as “shopping cart” fishing. You simply ride around the lake until you see the one you want and begin to determine if you have the patience to catch her. I do not eat large bass. I have yet to fulfill my goal. I will not get a fiberglass replica of a large mouth bass unless it weighs over 12 pounds! That’s my goal and I have not reached it yet, as 11 pounds, 6 ounces is my all-time best. Once I break the 12-pound goal I will then take measurements, weigh the fish on a digital scale, and send all the information to the company. The big fish will live to spawn another day! If you want to know some of the tips to finding the biggest bass in the lakes and rivers in our area, just keep reading Hook and Trigger. I’ll share the information gained from over 40 years of research and passion. Until next time, happy fishing and God bless. continued from page

Rut

5 up by hunters. Fence rows, sage fields and unusual topography may make the difference in a successful hunt. continued from page

MAN DRIVES Now to end this article I want to share my favorite technique for hunting deer. It is called, making man drives. Let’s face it: with our busy lives, we go hunting when we have the time. Time shortages aren’t always conducive to sitting in a stand, and running dogs can get rather expensive quickly. Man drives are a great way to learn the lay of the land and to see a lot of wild game. I started making man drives at a very young age with my uncles. My uncles were excellent hunters who grew up in Escambia Farms and they knew every inch of the Blackwater Forest around their farm. I would listen to them and my brother-in-law and would gain knowledge of the next drive we were contemplating. The setup for making drives is quite simple and very effective. You select a section of woods you want to drive and place standers on the perimeter of the section. The pushers or drivers will then enter the section and push the deer out over the standers. I have made man drives with as many as 20 hunters and as few as three. We have been 80 percent successful in seeing deer during the drives. I have always enjoyed walking in the woods and learning my way around the creeks, briar patches, cane breaks, and sage fields. A GPS is great for learning new territory and Google Earth is a big help, but getting in the woods and seeing what is out there with your own eyes is hard to duplicate. Deer, turkey, wild hogs and small game of all shapes and sizes will get moving when you make man drives. If you want to see more game, get out of the tree. Find a great group of hunters who know the woods and start stomping through the forest. Until next time, good luck and God bless.

REPORT VIOLATIONS AND INJURED WILDLIFE TO FWC The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hosts a wildlife alert 24-hour hotline. Outdoors enthusiasts are encouraged to report a suspected crime against Florida’s fish, wildlife, or natural resources. The hotline is also available to report an injured animal. Call 888404-FWCC (3922).

FEEDING FORECAST Northwest Florida Fish • January-March

DATE MAJOR

MINOR

JANUARY 15 10:45A/11:10P 16 11:35A/11:55P 17 12:25P/n.a. 18 12:45A/1:15P 19 1:30A/2:00P 20 2:20A/2:45P 21 3:05A/3:30P 22 6:55P/n.a. 23 5:00P/n.a. 24 5:20A/5:50P 25 6:10A/6:40P 26 7:05A/7:35P 27 8:00A/8:35P 28 9:00A/9:35P 29 10:05A/10:35P 30 11:05A/11:35P 31 12:10P/n.a.

5:30A/4:05PM 6:15A/4:55P 7:00A/5:45P 7:40A/6:45P 8:20A/7:40P 8:55A/8:35P 9:30A/9:30P 3:15A/n.a. 10:40A/11:25P 11:15A/n.a. 12:25A/11:55A 1:30A/12:40P 2:30A/1:30P 3:35A/2:25P 4:40A/3:25P 5:40A/4:35P 6:35A/5:40P

FEBRUARY 1 12:35A/1:10P 2 1:30A/2:05P 3 2:25A/2:55P 4 3:15A/3:45P 5 4:00A/4:30P 6 4:45A/5:15P 7 5:35A/6:00P 8 6:20A/6:45P 9 7:05A/7:30P 10 7:55A/8:20P 11 8:40A/9:05P 12 9:30A/9:55P 13 10:20A/10:40P

7:25A/6:55P 8:10A/8:00P 8:50A/9:00P 9:25A/10:00P 10:00A/11:00P 10:35A/11:55P 11:10A/n.a. 12:45A/11:50A 1:40A/12:30P 2:35A/1:15P 3:25A/2:00P 4:10A/2:50P 4:55A/3:40P

The

DATE MAJOR

MINOR

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

5:40A/4:35P 6:20A/5:30P 6:55A/6:30P 7:35A/7:25P 8:05A/8:20P 8:40A/9:20P 9:15A/10:20P 9:55A/11:20P 10:35A/n.a. 12:20A/11:20 1:25A/12:15P 2:25A/1:10P 3:25A/2:15P 4:25A/3:20P 5:15A/4:25P

11:05A/11:25P 11:55A/n.a. 12:15A/12:45P 1:00A/1:30P 1:45A/2:15P 2:30A/3:00P 3:20A/3:45P 4:05A/4:35P 4:55A/5:30P 5:50A/6:25P 6:50A/7:20P 7:50A/8:20P 8:50A/9:20P 9:50A/10:15P 10:50A/11:15P

MARCH 1 11:45A/n.a. 2 12:10A/12:40P 3 1:00A/1:30P 4 1:50A/2:20P 5 2:40A/3:05P 6 3:25A/3:55P 7 4:10A/4:40P 8 5:00A/5:25P 9 5:45A/6:10P 10 6:35A/7:30P 11 8:25A/8:45P 12 9:10A/9:35P 13 10:00A/10:20P 14 10:50A/11:05P 15 11:35A/11:55P 16 12:10P/n.a.

6:00A/5:35P 6:45A/6:40P 7:20A/7:45P 7:55A/8:45P 8:30A/9:40P 9:10A/10:35P 9:45A/11:30P 10:25A/n.a. 12:25A/11:10A 1:15A/11:55A 3:05A/1:40P 3:50A/2:30P 4:35A/3:25P 5:15A/4:20P 5:55A/5:15P 6:30A/6:10P

Gator Café Mon-Wed: 10:30AM-8:30PM Thurs-Sat: 6:30-9:30PM Sunday: 11AM-3PM 5747 Highway 4 Baker, FL 32531

(850) 537-4949 JANUARY 2018 • 17


TIDE-SUN-MOON TABLES

Narrows, Choctaw Bay • 30.4083ºN, 86.7317ºW

DAY LOW/HEIGHT HIGH/HEIGHT SUNRISE SUNSET JANUARY 15..............11:13AM/-0.6 ft.................11:32PM/1.2 ft.................. 6:44AM................. 5:08PM 16..............11:49AM/-0.5 ft....................................................... 6:44AM................. 5:09PM 17.....................................................12:08AM/1.2 ft............................ 6:43AM................. 5:10PM .................12:23PM/-0.5 ft 18.....................................................12:43AM/1.2 ft................. 6:43AM................. 5:11PM .................12:54PM/-0.5 ft 19.....................................................1:16AM/1.1 ft................... 6:43AM................. 5:12PM .................1:20PM/-0.4 ft 20....................................................1:49AM/1.0 ft................... 6:43AM................. 5:12PM .................1:41PM/-0.3 ft 21.....................................................2:20AM/0.9 ft................... 6:42AM................. 5:13PM .................1:52PM/-0.2 ft 22....................................................2:49AM/0.7 ft................... 6:42AM................. 5:14PM .................1:46PM/-0.0 ft.................. 23....................................................2:58AM/0.5 ft................... 6:42AM................. 5:15PM .................1:06PM/0.1 ft...................7:55PM/0.4 ft 24.............10:34AM/0.1 ft.................7:25PM/0.6 ft................... 6:41AM................. 5:16PM 25.............7:12AM/-0.1 ft..................7:39PM/0.9 ft................... 6:41AM................. 5:17PM 26.............7:44AM/-0.4 ft..................8:14PM/1.1 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:18PM 27..............8:29AM/-0.6 ft..................8:59PM/1.3 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:19PM 28.............9:19AM/-0.8 ft..................9:50PM/1.4 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:20PM 29.............10:11AM/-0.9 ft.................10:44PM/1.5 ft................. 6:39AM................. 5:20PM 30.............11:04AM/-0.8 ft................11:38PM/1.5 ft................. 6:38AM................. 5:21PM 31..............11:55AM/-0.8 ft....................................................... 6:38AM................. 5:22PM FEBRUARY 1......................................................12:31AM/1.4 ft................. 6:37AM................. 5:23PM .................12:41PM/-0.6 ft 2......................................................1:22AM/1.2 ft................... 6:37AM................. 5:24PM .................1:16PM/-0.4 ft 3......................................................2:10AM/0.9 ft................... 6:36AM................. 5:25PM .................1:31PM/-0.2 ft 4......................................................2:54AM/0.7 ft................... 6:35AM................. 5:26PM .................1:09PM/0.1 ft 5......................................................3:26AM/0.4 ft................... 6:35AM................. 5:26PM .................11:56AM/0.2 ft.................6:12PM/0.5 ft 6...............8:41AM/0.1 ft...................6:19PM/0.7 ft................... 6:34AM................. 5:27PM 7...............6:54AM/-0.1 ft..................6:49PM/0.8 ft................... 6:33AM................. 5:28PM 8...............7:27AM/-0.2 ft..................7:30PM/0.9 ft................... 6:32AM................. 5:29PM 9...............8:06AM/-0.3 ft..................8:15PM/1.0 ft................... 6:32AM................. 5:30PM 10..............8:48AM/-0.4 ft..................9:02PM/1.1 ft................... 6:31AM................. 5:31PM 11..............9:30AM/-0.4 ft..................9:50PM/1.1 ft................... 6:30AM................. 5:31PM 12..............10:12AM/-0.4 ft................10:35PM/1.1 ft................. 6:29AM................. 5:32PM 13..............10:50AM/-0.4 ft................11:17PM/1.1 ft.................. 6:28AM................. 5:33PM 14..............11:25AM/-0.4 ft.................11:57PM/1.1 ft.................. 6:28AM................. 5:34PM 15..............11:55AM/-0.3 ft....................................................... 6:27AM................. 5:35PM 16.....................................................12:35AM/1.0 ft............................ 6:26AM................. 5:36PM .................12:18PM/-0.2 ft 17.....................................................1:15AM/0.9 ft............................... 6:25AM................. 5:36PM .................12:33PM/-0.1 ft 18.....................................................1:57AM/0.8 ft............................... 6:24AM................. 5:37PM .................12:33PM/0.0 ft 19.....................................................2:48AM/0.6 ft.............................. 6:23AM................. 5:38PM .................12:09PM/0.2 ft.................5:03PM/0.3 ft .................11:08PM/0.3 ft 20....................................................4:09AM/0.4 ft................... 6:22AM................. 5:39PM .................10:53AM/0.3 ft.................4:41PM/0.5 ft 21..............2:56AM/0.1 ft..................5:01PM/0.8 ft................... 6:21AM................. 5:39PM 22.............4:51AM/-0.1 ft..................5:40PM/1.0 ft................... 6:20AM................. 5:40PM 23.............6:01AM/-0.3 ft..................6:32PM/1.2 ft................... 6:19AM................. 5:41PM 24.............7:01AM/-0.5 ft..................7:30PM/1.3 ft................... 6:18AM................. 5:42PM 25.............7:59AM/-0.6 ft..................8:32PM/1.4 ft................... 6:17AM................. 5:42PM 26.............8:56AM/-0.6 ft..................9:35PM/1.4 ft................... 6:16AM................. 5:43PM 27..............9:50AM/-0.6 ft..................10:37PM/1.4 ft................. 6:15AM................. 5:44PM 28.............10:41AM/-0.5 ft................11:39PM/1.3 ft................. 6:14AM................. 5:45PM MARCH 1...............11:25AM/-0.3 ft........................................................ 6:13AM................. 5:45PM 2......................................................12:40AM/1.1 ft................. 6:11AM................. 5:46PM .................11:56AM/-0.1 ft 3......................................................1:43AM/0.9 ft................... 6:10AM................. 5:47PM .................11:58AM/0.2 ft.................4:07PM/0.3 ft .................7:30PM/0.3 ft 4......................................................2:57AM/0.6 ft............................... 6:09AM................. 5:47PM .................11:09AM/0.4 ft.................2:57PM/0.5 ft .................11:08PM/0.2 ft 5......................................................5:15AM/0.4 ft............................... 6:08AM................. 5:48PM .................8:49AM/0.4 ft..................3:10PM/0.7 ft 6...............1:48AM/0.1 ft..................3:44PM/0.8 ft................... 6:07AM................. 5:49PM 7...............3:44AM/0.0 ft..................4:27PM/1.0 ft................... 6:06AM................. 5:49PM

18 • HOOK & TRIGGER

MOON

New

First

Full

Last

New

First

Full

Navarre Beach • 30.3767ºN, 86.8650ºW

DAY LOW/HEIGHT HIGH/HEIGHT SUNRISE SUNSET MOON JANUARY 15..............5:49AM/-0.5 ft..................7:11PM/1.1 ft.................... 6:44AM................. 5:09PM 16..............6:12AM/-0.5 ft..................7:49PM/1.1 ft................... New.................... 6:44AM 5:10PM 17..............6:35AM/-0.5 ft..................8:24PM/1.0 ft................... 6:44AM................. 5:10PM 18..............6:52AM/-0.5 ft..................8:56PM/1.0 ft................... 6:44AM................. 5:11PM 19..............6:59AM/-0.4 ft..................9:25PM/1.0 ft................... 6:43AM................. 5:12PM 20.............6:54AM/-0.3 ft..................9:51PM/0.9 ft................... 6:43AM................. 5:13PM 21..............6:53AM/-0.1 ft..................10:13PM/0.7 ft................. 6:43AM................. 5:14PM 22.............6:57AM/-0.0 ft..................3:41PM/0.4 ft................................ 6:43AM................. 5:15PM .................5:27PM/0.4 ft...................10:27PM/0.6 ft 23.............7:01AM/0.1 ft...................3:27PM/0.5 ft................... 6:42AM................. 5:16PM .................8:42PM/0.4 ft...................9:52PM/0.4 ft 24.............6:46AM/0.2 ft..................3:25PM/0.7 ft................... 6:42AM................. 5:17PM First 25.............2:22AM/0.0 ft..................3:31PM/0.9 ft................... 6:41AM................. 5:17PM 26.............2:42AM/-0.2 ft..................3:58PM/1.1 ft................... 6:41AM................. 5:18PM 27..............3:20AM/-0.5 ft..................4:42PM/1.2 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:19PM 28.............4:06AM/-0.6 ft..................5:34PM/1.3 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:20PM 29.............4:57AM/-0.8 ft..................6:30PM/1.3 ft................... 6:39AM................. 5:21PM 30.............5:50AM/-0.8 ft..................7:27PM/1.3 ft................... 6:39AM................. 5:22PM 31..............6:42AM/-0.7 ft..................8:20PM/1.2 ft................... 6:38AM................. 5:23PM Full FEBRUARY 1...............7:31AM/-0.6 ft..................9:07PM/1.0 ft................... 6:38AM................. 5:24PM 2...............8:08AM/-0.4 ft..................9:42PM/0.8 ft................... 6:37AM................. 5:24PM 3...............6:15AM/-0.2 ft..................2:29PM/0.1 ft................... 6:37AM................. 5:25PM .................3:34PM/0.1 ft...................9:58PM/0.6 ft 4...............6:13AM/-0.1 ft..................2:23PM/0.2 ft................... 6:36AM................. 5:26PM .................5:22PM/0.1 ft...................10:03PM/0.4 ft 5...............6:13AM/0.0 ft...................2:25PM/0.4 ft................... 6:35AM................. 5:27PM .................7:31PM/0.2 ft...................9:48PM/0.2 ft 6...............5:49AM/0.0 ft..................2:14PM/0.5 ft................... 6:34AM................. 5:28PM 7...............2:23AM/-0.1 ft..................2:20PM/0.7 ft................... 6:34AM................. 5:29PM Last 8...............2:48AM/-0.2 ft..................2:56PM/0.8 ft................... 6:33AM................. 5:30PM 9...............3:19AM/-0.4 ft..................3:45PM/0.9 ft................... 6:32AM................. 5:30PM 10..............3:51AM/-0.4 ft..................4:37PM/0.9 ft................... 6:31AM................. 5:31PM 11..............4:21AM/-0.5 ft..................5:32PM/0.9 ft................... 6:31AM................. 5:32PM 12..............4:50AM/-0.5 ft..................6:23PM/0.9 ft................... 6:30AM................. 5:33PM 13..............5:15AM/-0.5 ft..................7:10PM/0.9 ft................... 6:29AM................. 5:34PM 14..............5:34AM/-0.4 ft..................7:52PM/0.9 ft................... 6:28AM................. 5:34PM 15..............5:43AM/-0.4 ft..................8:30PM/0.9 ft................... 6:27AM................. 5:35PM New 16..............5:31AM/-0.3 ft..................9:06PM/0.8 ft................... 6:26AM................. 5:36PM 17..............5:21AM/-0.2 ft..................1:16PM/0.1 ft............................... 6:25AM................. 5:37PM .................2:13PM/0.1 ft...................9:41PM/0.7 ft 18..............5:20AM/-0.1 ft..................1:00PM/0.2 ft................... 6:24AM................. 5:38PM .................3:45PM/0.2 ft...................10:16PM/0.6 ft 19..............5:24AM/0.1 ft...................12:58PM/0.4 ft................. 6:23AM................. 5:38PM .................5:09PM/0.2 ft...................10:47PM/0.4 ft 20.............5:27AM/0.2 ft...................12:48PM/0.5 ft................. 6:23AM................. 5:39PM .................6:50PM/0.2 ft...................10:17PM/0.2 ft .................11:43PM/0.2 ft 21.....................................................2:50AM/0.3 ft.............................. 6:22AM................. 5:40PM .................5:08AM/0.2 ft..................12:35PM/0.7 ft 22.............12:25AM/0.0 ft.................1:07PM/0.9 ft................... 6:20AM................. 5:41PM 23.............1:12AM/-0.2 ft..................2:00PM/1.1 ft................... 6:19AM................. 5:41PM First 24.............2:02AM/-0.4 ft..................3:03PM/1.2 ft................... 6:18AM................. 5:42PM 25.............2:54AM/-0.5 ft..................4:12PM/1.2 ft................... 6:17AM................. 5:43PM 26.............3:48AM/-0.6 ft..................5:26PM/1.2 ft................... 6:16AM................. 5:44PM 27..............4:40AM/-0.6 ft..................6:44PM/1.2 ft................... 6:15AM................. 5:44PM 28.............5:31AM/-0.5 ft..................8:00PM/1.1 ft................... 6:14AM................. 5:45PM MARCH 1...............6:18AM/-0.3 ft..................9:09PM/0.9 ft................... 6:13AM................. 5:46PM Full 2...............4:42AM/-0.1 ft..................11:59AM/0.1 ft................. 6:12AM................. 5:47PM .................2:13PM/0.1 ft...................10:14PM/0.7 ft 3...............4:33AM/-0.0 ft..................12:00PM/0.2 ft............................ 6:11AM................. 5:47PM .................3:30PM/0.0 ft...................11:21PM/0.5 ft 4...............4:37AM/0.1 ft...................11:52AM/0.3 ft................. 6:10AM................. 5:48PM .................4:45PM/0.0 ft 5......................................................12:39AM/0.3 ft................. 6:09AM................. 5:49PM .................4:38AM/0.2 ft..................10:24AM/0.5 ft .................6:09PM/0.0 ft 6......................................................2:39AM/0.2 ft................... 6:07AM................. 5:49PM .................4:10AM/0.2 ft...................11:00AM/0.7 ft .................8:18PM/-0.0 ft..................9:18PM/-0.0 ft .................11:46PM/-0.0 ft 7......................................................11:46AM/0.8 ft................. 6:06AM................. 5:50PM 8...............12:39AM/-0.1 ft................12:39PM/0.9 ft................. 6:05AM................. 5:51PM 9...............1:24AM/-0.2 ft..................1:38PM/0.9 ft................... 6:04AM................. 5:51PM Last 10..............2:05AM/-0.3 ft..................2:41PM/0.9 ft................... 6:03AM................. 5:52PM 11..............3:40AM/-0.3 ft..................4:49PM/0.9 ft................... 7:02AM................. 6:53PM 12..............4:12AM/-0.3 ft..................5:58PM/0.9 ft................... 7:00AM................. 6:53PM


TIDE-SUN-MOON TABLES

Destin, East Pass • 30.3950ºN, 86.5133ºW

Panama City Beach • 30.2133ºN, 85.8800ºW

DAY LOW/HEIGHT HIGH/HEIGHT SUNRISE SUNSET MOON DAY LOW/HEIGHT HIGH/HEIGHT SUNRISE SUNSET JANUARY JANUARY 15..............9:42AM/-0.2 ft..................9:28PM/0.5 ft................... 6:43AM................. 5:07PM 15..............4:37AM/-0.6 ft..................6:51PM/1.1 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:05PM 16..............10:18AM/-0.2 ft................10:04PM/0.5 ft................. 6:43AM................. 5:08PM New 16..............4:59AM/-0.6 ft..................7:26PM/1.1 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:06PM 17..............10:52AM/-0.2 ft................10:39PM/0.5 ft................. 6:43AM................. 5:09PM 17..............5:28AM/-0.6 ft..................8:00PM/1.1 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:07PM 18..............11:23AM/-0.2 ft................11:12PM/0.5 ft.................. 6:42AM................. 5:10PM 18..............5:59AM/-0.5 ft..................8:34PM/1.0 ft................... 6:39AM................. 5:08PM 19..............11:49AM/-0.2 ft................11:45PM/0.4 ft................. 6:42AM................. 5:11PM 19..............6:27AM/-0.4 ft..................9:07PM/0.9 ft................... 6:39AM................. 5:09PM 20.............12:10PM/-0.1 ft....................................................... 6:42AM................. 5:12PM 20.............6:32AM/-0.3 ft..................9:40PM/0.8 ft................... 6:39AM................. 5:09PM 21.....................................................12:16AM/0.4 ft............................ 6:42AM................. 5:13PM 21..............6:14AM/-0.3 ft..................3:18PM/0.2 ft............................... 6:39AM................. 5:10PM .................12:21PM/-0.1 ft .................4:01PM/0.2 ft...................10:11PM/0.6 ft 22....................................................12:45AM/0.3 ft................. 6:41AM................. 5:13PM 22.............6:23AM/-0.2 ft..................3:32PM/0.3 ft............................... 6:38AM................. 5:11PM .................12:15PM/-0.0 ft................. .................5:29PM/0.2 ft...................10:20PM/0.4 ft 23....................................................12:54AM/0.2 ft................. 6:41AM................. 5:14PM 23.............6:40AM/-0.1 ft..................3:51PM/0.4 ft............................... 6:38AM................. 5:12PM .................11:35AM/0.0 ft.................5:51PM/0.2 ft .................7:50PM/0.2 ft...................8:37PM/0.2 ft............................................... 24.............9:03AM/0.1 ft..................5:21PM/0.3 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:15PM First 24.............6:52AM/-0.0 ft..................3:56PM/0.5 ft................... 6:38AM................. 5:13PM 25.............5:41AM/-0.0 ft..................5:35PM/0.4 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:16PM 25.............3:12AM/-0.1 ft..................2:43PM/0.7 ft................... 6:37AM................. 5:14PM 26.............6:13AM/-0.2 ft..................6:10PM/0.5 ft................... 6:40AM................. 5:17PM 26.............3:19AM/-0.4 ft..................3:27PM/0.9 ft................... 6:37AM................. 5:15PM 27..............6:58AM/-0.3 ft..................6:55PM/0.5 ft................... 6:39AM................. 5:18PM 27..............3:35AM/-0.6 ft..................4:25PM/1.1 ft................... 6:36AM................. 5:16PM 28.............7:48AM/-0.3 ft..................7:46PM/0.6 ft................... 6:39AM................. 5:19PM 28.............4:03AM/-0.8 ft..................5:27PM/1.2 ft................... 6:36AM................. 5:16PM 29.............8:40AM/-0.4 ft..................8:40PM/0.6 ft................... 6:38AM................. 5:20PM 29.............4:37AM/-0.8 ft..................6:22PM/1.3 ft................... 6:35AM................. 5:17PM 30.............9:33AM/-0.4 ft..................9:34PM/0.6 ft................... 6:38AM................. 5:20PM 30.............5:18AM/-0.8 ft..................7:10PM/1.3 ft................... 6:35AM................. 5:18PM 31..............10:24AM/-0.3 ft................10:27PM/0.6 ft................. 6:37AM................. 5:21PM Full 31..............6:06AM/-0.7 ft..................7:53PM/1.2 ft................... 6:34AM................. 5:19PM FEBRUARY FEBRUARY 1...............11:10AM/-0.3 ft.................11:18PM/0.5 ft.................. 6:36AM................. 5:22PM 1...............7:51AM/-0.6 ft..................8:34PM/1.1 ft................... 6:34AM................. 5:20PM 2...............11:45AM/-0.2 ft....................................................... 6:36AM................. 5:23PM 2...............6:10AM/-0.4 ft..................7:32AM/-0.4 ft............................. 6:33AM................. 5:21PM 3...............12:00PM/-0.1 ft................12:06AM/0.4 ft................. 6:35AM................. 5:24PM .................9:00AM/-0.4 ft..................1:33PM/-0.0 ft 4...............11:38AM/0.0 ft.................12:50AM/0.3 ft................. 6:34AM................. 5:25PM .................2:35PM/-0.0 ft..................9:11PM/0.9 ft 5......................................................1:22AM/0.2 ft................... 6:34AM................. 5:26PM 3...............6:03AM/-0.2 ft..................8:42AM/-0.1 ft.................. 6:32AM................. 5:22PM .................10:25AM/0.1 ft.................4:08PM/0.2 ft .................9:54AM/-0.2 ft..................1:45PM/0.1 ft 6...............7:10AM/0.1 ft...................4:15PM/0.3 ft................... 6:33AM................. 5:26PM .................3:49PM/0.0 ft...................9:46PM/0.6 ft 7...............5:23AM/-0.0 ft..................4:45PM/0.3 ft................... 6:32AM................. 5:27PM Last 4...............5:54AM/-0.0 ft..................2:05PM/0.2 ft............................... 6:32AM................. 5:22PM 8...............5:56AM/-0.1 ft..................5:26PM/0.4 ft................... 6:32AM................. 5:28PM .................4:58PM/0.1 ft...................10:16PM/0.4 ft 9...............6:35AM/-0.1 ft..................6:11PM/0.4 ft.................... 6:31AM................. 5:29PM 5...............5:47AM/0.0 ft...................2:24PM/0.4 ft............................... 6:31AM................. 5:23PM 10..............7:17AM/-0.2 ft..................6:58PM/0.5 ft................... 6:30AM................. 5:30PM .................6:44PM/0.1 ft...................10:36PM/0.2 ft 11..............7:59AM/-0.2 ft..................7:46PM/0.5 ft................... 6:29AM................. 5:31PM 6...............1:43AM/0.1 ft...................3:09AM/0.1 ft.............................. 6:30AM................. 5:24PM 12..............8:41AM/-0.2 ft..................8:31PM/0.5 ft................... 6:28AM................. 5:31PM .................5:34AM/0.1 ft...................12:35PM/0.5 ft 13..............9:19AM/-0.2 ft..................9:13PM/0.5 ft................... 6:28AM................. 5:32PM 7...............2:21AM/-0.1 ft..................1:16PM/0.7 ft................... 6:30AM................. 5:25PM 14..............9:54AM/-0.2 ft..................9:53PM/0.5 ft................... 6:27AM................. 5:33PM 8...............2:57AM/-0.3 ft..................2:02PM/0.8 ft................... 6:29AM................. 5:26PM 15..............10:24AM/-0.1 ft................10:31PM/0.4 ft................. 6:26AM................. 5:34PM New 9...............3:31AM/-0.4 ft..................2:56PM/0.9 ft................... 6:28AM................. 5:27PM 16..............10:47AM/-0.1 ft................11:11PM/0.4 ft.................. 6:25AM................. 5:35PM 10..............4:01AM/-0.5 ft..................4:00PM/0.9 ft................... 6:27AM................. 5:28PM 17..............11:02AM/-0.0 ft................11:53PM/0.3 ft................. 6:24AM................. 5:35PM 11..............4:24AM/-0.5 ft..................5:12PM/1.0 ft................... 6:26AM................. 5:28PM 18..............11:02AM/0.0 ft........................................................ 6:23AM................. 5:36PM 12..............4:20AM/-0.5 ft..................6:09PM/1.0 ft................... 6:26AM................. 5:29PM 19.....................................................12:44AM/0.3 ft................. 6:22AM................. 5:37PM 13..............4:11AM/-0.5 ft..................6:48PM/1.0 ft................... 6:25AM................. 5:30PM .................10:38AM/0.1 ft.................2:59PM/0.1 ft 14..............4:29AM/-0.4 ft..................7:23PM/1.0 ft................... 6:24AM................. 5:31PM .................9:37PM/0.1 ft 15..............4:50AM/-0.4 ft..................7:56PM/1.0 ft................... 6:23AM................. 5:32PM 20....................................................2:05AM/0.2 ft................... 6:21AM................. 5:38PM 16..............5:04AM/-0.3 ft..................12:43PM/0.1 ft............................ 6:22AM................. 5:32PM .................9:22AM/0.1 ft..................2:37PM/0.2 ft............................................... .................1:43PM/0.1 ft...................8:29PM/0.9 ft 21..............1:25AM/0.1 ft...................2:57PM/0.3 ft................... 6:20AM................. 5:39PM 17..............4:59AM/-0.2 ft..................12:51PM/0.2 ft................. 6:21AM................. 5:33PM 22.............3:20AM/-0.0 ft..................3:36PM/0.4 ft................... 6:19AM................. 5:39PM .................2:53PM/0.1 ft...................9:03PM/0.7 ft 23.............4:30AM/-0.1 ft..................4:28PM/0.5 ft................... 6:18AM................. 5:40PM First 18..............4:52AM/-0.1 ft..................1:07PM/0.2 ft................... 6:20AM................. 5:34PM 24.............5:30AM/-0.2 ft..................5:26PM/0.6 ft................... 6:17AM................. 5:41PM .................3:52PM/0.1 ft...................9:39PM/0.6 ft 25.............6:28AM/-0.3 ft..................6:28PM/0.6 ft................... 6:16AM................. 5:42PM 19..............5:00AM/-0.0 ft..................1:19PM/0.3 ft............................... 6:19AM................. 5:35PM 26.............7:25AM/-0.3 ft..................7:31PM/0.6 ft................... 6:15AM................. 5:42PM .................4:53PM/0.1 ft...................10:20PM/0.4 ft 27..............8:19AM/-0.2 ft..................8:33PM/0.6 ft................... 6:14AM................. 5:43PM 20.............5:13AM/0.1 ft...................12:23PM/0.5 ft............................ 6:19AM................. 5:35PM 28.............9:10AM/-0.2 ft..................9:35PM/0.5 ft................... 6:13AM................. 5:44PM .................6:10PM/0.1 ft...................11:06PM/0.2 ft MARCH 21..............12:51AM/0.2 ft.................2:55AM/0.2 ft................... 6:17AM................. 5:36PM 1...............9:54AM/-0.1 ft..................10:36PM/0.5 ft................. 6:12AM................. 5:44PM Full .................5:20AM/0.1 ft..................12:17PM/0.6 ft 2...............10:25AM/-0.0 ft................11:39PM/0.4 ft................. 6:11AM................. 5:45PM 22.............12:59AM/-0.1 ft................12:54PM/0.8 ft................. 6:16AM................. 5:37PM 3...............10:27AM/0.1 ft.................2:03PM/0.1 ft................... 6:09AM................. 5:46PM 23.............1:37AM/-0.3 ft..................1:40PM/1.0 ft................... 6:15AM................. 5:38PM .................5:59PM/0.1 ft 24.............2:24AM/-0.5 ft..................2:36PM/1.1 ft................... 6:14AM................. 5:38PM 4......................................................12:53AM/0.3 ft................. 6:08AM................. 5:47PM 25.............3:09AM/-0.6 ft..................3:47PM/1.2 ft................... 6:13AM................. 5:39PM .................9:38AM/0.2 ft..................12:53PM/0.2 ft 26.............3:51AM/-0.6 ft..................5:25PM/1.2 ft................... 6:12AM................. 5:40PM .................9:37PM/0.1 ft 27..............4:32AM/-0.6 ft..................7:20PM/1.2 ft................... 6:11AM................. 5:41PM 5......................................................3:11AM/0.2 ft................... 6:07AM................. 5:47PM 28.............5:03AM/-0.5 ft..................8:30PM/1.1 ft................... 6:10AM................. 5:41PM .................7:18AM/0.2 ft...................1:06PM/0.3 ft............................................... MARCH 6...............12:17AM/0.1 ft.................1:40PM/0.3 ft................... 6:06AM................. 5:48PM 1...............4:38AM/-0.3 ft..................11:31AM/0.1 ft............................. 6:09AM................. 5:42PM 7...............2:13AM/0.0 ft...................2:23PM/0.4 ft................... 6:05AM................. 5:49PM .................12:53PM/0.1 ft.................9:42PM/1.0 ft 8...............3:32AM/-0.0 ft..................3:12PM/0.4 ft................... 6:04AM................. 5:49PM 2...............4:31AM/-0.1 ft..................6:59AM/-0.0 ft............................. 6:08AM................. 5:43PM 9...............4:34AM/-0.1 ft..................4:08PM/0.5 ft................... 6:03AM................. 5:50PM Last .................8:06AM/-0.1 ft..................11:43AM/0.2 ft 10..............5:30AM/-0.1 ft..................5:07PM/0.5 ft................... 6:01AM................. 5:51PM .................2:18PM/0.0 ft...................10:54PM/0.8 ft 11..............7:22AM/-0.1 ft..................7:08PM/0.5 ft................... 7:00AM................. 6:51PM 3...............4:28AM/0.1 ft...................7:41AM/0.2 ft............................... 6:07AM................. 5:43PM 12..............8:09AM/-0.1 ft..................8:06PM/0.5 ft................... 6:59AM................. 6:52PM .................9:23AM/0.2 ft..................12:02PM/0.3 ft 13..............8:53AM/-0.1 ft..................9:01PM/0.5 ft................... 6:58AM................. 6:53PM .................3:24PM/0.0 ft 14..............9:29AM/-0.0 ft..................9:53PM/0.4 ft................... 6:57AM................. 6:53PM 4......................................................12:00AM/0.7 ft................. 6:06AM................. 5:44PM 15..............9:58AM/-0.0 ft..................10:43PM/0.4 ft................. 6:55AM................. 6:54PM .................4:26AM/0.2 ft..................8:30AM/0.4 ft 16..............10:17AM/0.0 ft.................11:38PM/0.4 ft................. 6:54AM................. 6:55PM .................10:36AM/0.4 ft.................12:17PM/0.4 ft 17..............10:19AM/0.1 ft.................2:00PM/0.1 ft................... 6:53AM................. 6:55PM New .................4:26PM/0.0 ft 5......................................................1:04AM/0.5 ft................... 6:05AM................. 5:45PM Note: The information contained in these charts is not intended to be used for navigation. Hook .................4:25AM/0.2 ft...................9:26AM/0.6 ft & Trigger assumes no liability for damages arising from use of this information. Storms, environmental .................5:35PM/0.0 ft...................10:10PM/0.2 ft changes and other phenomenon can impact these predictions without notice.

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JANUARY 2018 • 19


CONSERVATION

KEEPING BALANCE IN THE BAY CBA tests, restores water quality BY ERIKA ZAMBELLO Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance On an early fall morning, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) Director Alison McDowell and her CBA colleagues waded into a Choctawhatchee Bay bayou with seine nets. Moving slowly through the cool water, they scooped up minnows in small dip nets before depositing them into waiting tanks. Crouching at the edge of the shoreline, they peered through the brackish water to count species. In addition to Mojarras, Silversides, and oyster toadfish, a juvenile Mangrove snapper darted from corner to corner before taking cover beneath oyster shell clusters and floating seagrass. At a nearby launch, local fisherman Brian Whalen pulled his boat up to the ramp, cooler filled with an adult mangrove snapper he had caught offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Casting cigar minnows over the side toward an artificial reef, Whalen reeled up a few inches before letting his rig float in the currents. A brief tug pulled his line down, and Whalen rapidly reeled up the snapper, now sporting reddish hues across its shining scales. Whalen had been fishing in a completely different environment than where the tiny snapper had been seined in the bayou. Instead of sheltered, shallow waters rimmed with smooth cordgrass plants, the mature snapper had been part of a large reef school – potential prey for sharks, larger fish, and, of course, anglers. Estuaries – where freshwater from rivers meets the saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico – play a critical role in the life cycles not only of Mangrove snapper, but of most commercial and recreational fish species. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Estuaries provide habitat for more than 75 percent of the U.S. commercial fish catch, and an even greater percentage of the “In order to protect recreational fish catch.” these important habitats, Across the country, people can use proper over 180 million Americans visit estuaries to boating precautions and explore, fish, swim, and trim up their motors in more. In our region, the shallow waters.” Choctawhatchee Bay is – BRANDY FOLEY essential to our economy, CBA monitoring coordinator generating $2.9 billion from bay-related businesses each and every year. To maintain the health of our fisheries, it is equally critical to improve the health of our bay. “The Choctawhatchee faces a host of stressors,” said McDowell. “From sediment runoff from dirt roads to plastic pollution, there are a lot of human development pressures to carefully monitor.” To combat these issues and promote swimmable, fishable waters throughout the Choctawhatchee watershed, CBA both tests water quality and actively works to restore it. By building living shorelines 20 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Photo: Erika Zambello

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance Director Alison McDowell (left) and Brandy Foley, CBA monitoring coordinator, collect fish to assess water quality in the Choctawhatchee Bay habitat. By building living shorelines and oyster reefs, CBA creates and enhances the very habitat that juvenile fish species need to survive.

and oyster reefs, CBA creates and enhances the very habitat that juvenile fish species – like the Mangrove snapper – need to survive. These living shorelines and reef combinations reduce erosion while holding the banks in place with the roots of smooth cordgrass plants, providing a natural alternative to rip-rap and seawalls. Additionally, juvenile fish species thrive in seagrass beds that protect them from predators while providing abundant food sources. Healthy seagrass is dependent on water quality, and CBA monitors grasses throughout the bay using snorkel surveys to sound the alarm if massive die-offs occur, as well as pinpoint management practices that can help seagrass beds thrive. “Seagrass beds play a critical role in the life cycles of a variety of species,” explained Brandy Foley, CBA’s Monitoring Coordinator, “They act as nurseries for juvenile fish species, including sports fish, and as a source of food and protection for other species such as shrimp and crabs. “In order to protect these important habitats, people can use proper boating precautions and trim up their motors in shallow waters. In addition, maintaining a vegetated buffer along shoreline property can help to filter out pollutants and improve water quality.” CBA staff released the finger-length Mangrove snapper back into the Walton County bayou, where it quickly swam out of sight. The little minnow is a living connection between our Choctawhatchee Bay estuary and the immense Gulf of Mexico, and a critical indicator of the health of our water system as a whole. For more information on CBA’s work to improve water quality in the bay, check out Facebook.com/basinalliance.


CONSERVATION

THE IMPORTANCE OF NATURAL AREAS ‘Sustainable interventionism’ begins in our own backyards BY KRISTAL WALSH Biological Scientist IV, Office of Conservation Planning Services Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Many of us know that an abandoned field will become a forest over time. The land’s ability to recover, however, is linked to its state of disturbance, human pressures, over-browsing by white-tailed deer, competition by non-native plant species and nearby native plant seed sources. I recently read about “sustainable interventionism.” Sounds like a new political party, right? It refers to a level of human involvement in a natural environment that leads to a more desirable result – as opposed to just doing nothing. Today there is likely no part of our world untouched by humans, and the generations who recognized a truly natural landscape are gone. In fact, I realized that many of us have that highway view our forests, not realizing that the dense thickets of understory vegetation are the result of fire suppression and land use change. This is not natural. Over one-half of Florida’s land area is now managed as agriculture or urban land uses. In 2015, 47,300 commercial farms and ranches accounted for 9.45 million acres. According to a Florida Department of Transportation population growth report, Florida’s population is anticipated to grow by approximately 12 percent over the next 15 years. We cannot deny that associated development is inevitable, but we do have a choice on how to manage our lands – whether public or private – by design or by default. Our natural areas which contain unique habitats supporting a rich species diversity have become a fragmented reservoir of our ecological history. Protection and sustainment of native habitats are important at every scale, from the tiniest aquatic bottom feeder to the quality and quantity of water in our aquifers. Among the biggest threats to our natural areas are non-native invasive plant species which readily colonize and take over native habitats. Some of the worst invaders in Northwest Florida – such as cogongrass and Chinese tallow (popcorn tree) – have invaded our forests, wetlands, pastures, and roadsides, some to the point that entire ecosystems and the fish and wildlife species dependent upon them no longer exist. Non-native invasive plants are self-sustaining and ecologically impact native plant communities, altering natural processes such as fire and water flow. Many non-native invasive plants are also introduced into our yards as ornamentals and 39 percent of the worst invasive plant species are still commercially available for sale. Spores and seeds can be spread by birds, wind, or lawn maintenance into nearby natural areas. Invasive plant species have been found to be so harmful to fish and wildlife resources, that from 1997 to 2014, over $129 million was spent to control these species in upland habitats alone.

Photo: Kristal Walsh

Conservationists believe protection and sustainment of native habitats are important at every scale, from the tiniest aquatic bottom feeder to the quality and quantity of water in our aquifers.

WHERE DO WE BEGIN? Sustainable interventionism is understanding there is no possible way to preserve all of nature as it is or even to possibly return it to what it once was. It means combining approaches, learning to adapt to environmental change, and it starts in our own backyard. It requires commitment so that the value is returned to us and for our future generations. To borrow from author Renee Askins, “The wild is where you find it ... we are of that nature, not apart from it. We survive because of it, not instead of it.” A FEW TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED Protect nature where it is. Leave buffers between your property and natural areas to which you may be adjacent. Learn to identify any invasives on your property and remove them. Make your local extension office or Florida Fish and Wildlife Landowner Assistance Program your first step in learning more about managing invasive species and implementing measures on your property to restore natural areas, conserving wildlife, and habitat. Watch for more articles on pollinators and host plants, native gardening, and management of invasive species in Northwest Florida. JANUARY 2018 • 21


CONSERVATION

FOX SQUIRRELS

DENIZENS OF THE LONGLEAF FOREST BY ARLO KANE Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Landowner Assistance Program

I don’t know about you, but I never tire of seeing fox squirrels. I must admit: it does not happen as often as I would like. Southeastern fox squirrels are declining because over the years, 97 percent of the mature longleaf pine forests have been lost. Like many other denizens of the longleaf forest, fox squirrels prefer widely spaced mature pines with a few scattered large oaks with both an open understory and mid-story. This is their ideal habitat. Fox squirrels occur over most of the central and eastern United States, with the exception of the states northeast of New York. Their color phases range from gray to black to red. Fox squirrels are the largest but least arboreal tree squirrel species in North America. BATTLEGROUND: SQUIRREL The fox squirrel is about twice as large as the more common gray squirrel. Its larger size is probably an adaption to living in an open savanna-like habitat with widely spaced trees. The fox squirrel’s larger size is an advantage for traveling over land – as opposed to gray squirrels that travel through the canopy of dense forests where they can move from tree to tree without having to go to the ground. Fox squirrels’ larger size also gives them the strength to crack open green longleaf pine cones – a feat that the average gray squirrel cannot achieve. Wildlife researchers have found the most important feature influencing southeastern fox squirrel habitat is tree canopy cover. Too much canopy results in reduced occurrences of fox squirrels. This can happen for several reasons, but the most likely is increased competition with gray squirrels. As hardwoods encroach into the longleaf forest, gray squirrels move in and fox squirrels move out. While too many hardwoods can favor gray squirrel habitat over fox squirrel habitat, a few clumps of oaks and scattered large oaks are important features of fox squirrel habitat. The oaks provide acorns for fox squirrels’ food and large hardwoods are preferred for daytime refuge. It is not the hardwoods that are the problem, but their density. Too many hardwoods seem to make the habitat unsuitable for fox squirrels and they will move out. SQUIRREL SMÖRGÅSBORD The typical diet for fox squirrels includes acorns, longleaf pine seeds, fruits, insects and fungi. It is the fungi that are their most interesting food source and it may indicate an important relationship between fox squirrels and the longleaf pine forest. Researchers in the 1970s found evidence of subterranean fungi in the fecal samples of southeastern fox squirrels. They confirmed that small pits in the sandhills had been dug by fox squirrels looking for the fruiting bodies of underground fungi. Fungi are eaten by many species of wildlife because they supply sufficient amounts of sodium and phosphorous to the diet. But in the case of these underground fungi, they also are used by tree roots to help provide nutrients to the 22 • HOOK & TRIGGER

Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fox squirrels can be thought of as an indicator species for a healthy longleaf pine forest.

growing tree. Because spores of the fungi pass through the digestive tract unharmed, fox squirrels are important for moving the fungal spores around the forest and helping newly planted longleaf pines gain important nutrients from the soil. Fox squirrels then can be thought of as an indicator species for a healthy longleaf pine forest. A forest with fox squirrels is healthier than one without. LAND MANAGEMENT Managing a longleaf forest generally means using prescribed fire. Prescribed burning on a 2- to 3-year rotation is important for maintaining that open understory and mid-story habitat. In the absence of fire, hardwoods will encroach and eventually make the habitat unsuitable for fox squirrels. Certain oaks such as turkey oaks and southern red oak are tolerant of frequent fire to a degree. They are fine at low density, but what you don’t want is a hardwood forest. Thinning your pine forest to lower densities as soon as feasible is also important to creating good habitat. As landowners harvest and replant their forest, picking the species to replant is important. Often economics is the driving force and may lead landowners to favor slash or loblolly pines over longleaf. If interested in fox squirrels, you may want to add in some other considerations. Slash and loblolly pines are not usually burned until the trees are around 12 years of age, allowing a lot of hardwood encroachment. Also these pines are usually planted at higher densities, which eliminates the open canopy, open understory habitat favored by fox squirrels. Most slash and loblolly pines are planted on short rotations, which means the pines are harvested before they reach the larger size of a mature timber stand. As tree height and diameter increase, preference by fox squirrels increase. So, short rotations may not allow the trees to reach a size that attracts fox squirrels. Cost share programs through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service programs can help offset the cost of conducting habitat restoration. Contact your Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Landowner Assistance Program biologist or local NRCS district conservationist for more information.


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Premier Outdoo

rs Magazine

HUNTING FISHING

Winter warriors are trolling

Let the games begin

HUNTING

FISHING

TROPHY WALL Cooler t get Don’ Readin er temps equal s k ucar stsh e t hotter fishing ru e th photos NOV/DEC 2017 /FEB 2018 JAN

GAME ON

Getting ready for deer season SEPT/OCT 2017

NEXT PUBLISH DATE:

MARCH 15, 2018

For more information or to reserve your ad spot, contact

Publisher Phil Heppding 850-687-3776 phil@hookandtrigger.com

facebook.com/hookandtrigger Instagram: hookandtrigger www.hookandtrigger.com JANUARY 2018 • 23


O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is Your name in all the earth! Und

Psalm 8:1

e rsta

n din g

Your R ec

reational, Residentia

s R ea l a nd B usin es

l E st

ee N e t a

ds

FOR SALE = SOLD Hunt/Fish/Fresh and Salt

BRETT HOUSE AL & FL Real Estate Broker/Associate

YourHouseTeam.com

RE/MAX Agency One, Inc.

850-305-0556

Tools, Experience, Passion & Faith! Hebrews 3:4

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January Issue of Hook & Trigger  

THE latest issue pf Northwest Florida's Premier Outdoors Magazine

January Issue of Hook & Trigger  

THE latest issue pf Northwest Florida's Premier Outdoors Magazine

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