Bad Cat Classic 2022 -Catfishing and Bream Tournament

Bad Cat Classic 2022 -Catfishing and Bream Tournament

Father and son team in 2021 Bad Cat Classic.

The Bad Cat Classic will be hosted on August 27, 2022 by the Holmes County by UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County. The Bad Cat Classic is a bream and catfishing tournament with the mission to get youth on the water, spending time with positive adult mentors, while learning about the natural resources in our county. Fishing will take place in the Choctawhatchee River, with the team meetings/headquarters being at the Caryville Boat Landing.

All kids 16 years of age or younger who fish in the tournament will be entered in a drawing for a Florida Lifetime Fishing License. This is sponsored by Holmes County Sherriff John Tate, Sam Bailey- Holmes County Clerk of Courts and First Federal Bank of Bonifay. The lifetime hunting license giveaway is a part of the Conservation for Generations Program that works teach kids about natural resource conservation through recreationally actives and gifts lifetime hunting/fishing licenses in memory of Randy Adams. To learn how you can contribute to this effort reach out to Kalyn Waters at 850-547-1108.

This years tournament will add a bream fishing tournament that will start on Saturday morning. Following will be the overnight catfishing tournament.

All the details for the tournament details and rules go to: Bad Cat Classic

This event is a part of a program that offers a series of outdoor recreation events with the dual purpose of getting youth involved natural resource management and encouraging adults to spend time with youth in the outdoors. Revenue enhancement that is generated from these events is used to purchase lifetime hunting license for youth in the county as a scholarship program that promotes natural resources conversation and involvement.

For information call Kalyn Waters at 850-547-1108 and follow Panhandle Outdoor Connection for details on the Bad Cat Classic and other programs coming up.

Panhandle Outdoors Live! at St. Joseph Bay Rescheduled for September 28th

Panhandle Outdoors Live! at St. Joseph Bay Rescheduled for September 28th

The University of Florida/IFAS Extension faculty are reintroducing their acclaimed “Panhandle Outdoors LIVE!” series. Conservation lands and aquatic systems have vulnerabilities and face future threats to their ecological integrity.  Come learn about the important role of these ecosystems.

The St. Joseph Bay and Buffer Preserve Ecosystems are home to some of the one richest concentrations of flora and fauna along the Northern Gulf Coast. This area supports an amazing diversity of fish, aquatic invertebrates, turtles, salt marshes and pine flatwoods uplands.

This one-day educational adventure is based at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve near the coastal town of Port. St. Joe, Florida. It includes field tours of the unique coastal uplands and shoreline as well as presentations by area Extension Agents.

Details:

Registration fee is $45.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, drinks & snacks provided (you may bring your own)

Attire: outdoor wear, water shoes, bug spray and sun screen

*if afternoon rain is in forecast, outdoor activities may be switched to the morning schedule

Space is limited! Register now! See below.

Tentative schedule:

All Times Eastern

8:00 – 8:30 am  Welcome! Breakfast & Overview with Ray Bodrey, Gulf County Extension

8:30 – 9:35 am Diamondback Terrapin Ecology, with Rick O’Connor, Escambia County Extension

9:35 – 9:45 am  Q&A

9:45- 10:20 am The Bay Scallop & Habitat, with Ray Bodrey, Gulf County Extension

10:20 – 10:30 am Q&A

10:30 – 10:45 am Break

10:45 – 11:20 am The Hard Structures: Artificial Reefs & Marine Debris, with Scott Jackson, Bay County Extension

11:20 – 11:30 am Q&A

11:30 – 12:05 am The Apalachicola Oyster, Then, Now and What’s Next, with Erik Lovestrand, Franklin County Extension

12:05 – 12:15 pm Q&A

12:15 – 1:00 pm Lunch

1:00 – 2:30 pm Tram Tour of the Buffer Preserve (St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Staff)

2:30 – 2:40 pm Break

2:40 – 3:20 pm A Walk Among the Black Mangroves (All Extension Agents)

3:20 – 3:30 pm Wrap Up

To attend, you must register for the event at this site: 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/panhandle-outdoors-live-at-st-joseph-bay-tickets-404236802157

For more information please contact Ray Bodrey at 850-639-3200 or rbodrey@ufl.edu

Bluefish of the Florida Panhandle

Bluefish of the Florida Panhandle

“Bluefish!” … “It’s just a school of bluefish!”  So yelled the lifeguard in Jaws II when Chief Brody had mistaken a school of bluefish for the rogue great white shark that was plaguing the town.  He would not have been the first to mistake these large schools for a larger fish, particularly a predatory shark, but as some know, bluefish are quite predatory themselves.

Bluefish
Image: University of South Florida

Growing up along the Florida panhandle we heard little about this species.  We had heard stories of large bluefish schooling along the Atlantic coast killing prey with their razor-sharp teeth and, at times, biting humans.  But not much was mentioned about them swimming along our shores.  But they do, and I have caught some.

Bluefish are one of several in a group Hoese and Moore refer to as “mackerel-like fish” in Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. They differ in that they lack the finlets found along the dorsal and ventral sides of the mackerel body and mackerels lack scales having a smoother skin.  Bluefish are the only members of the family Pomatomidae.  They can reach three feet in length and up to 30 pounds.  They travel in large schools viciously feeding on just about anything they can catch and seem to really like menhaden.  They move inshore for feeding and protection from larger ocean predators but do move offshore for breeding.

Bluefish landed from the Gulf of Mexico are much smaller than their Atlantic cousins, rarely weighing in more than three pounds.  They do have a deep blue-green color to them and thin caudal peduncle and forked tail giving them the resemblance of a mackerel or jack.  Some say they are bit too oily to eat while others enjoy them quite a bit.  There is a commercial fishery for them in Florida and, as you would expect, it is a larger fishery along the east coast.  Most of the panhandle counties have had commercial landings, albeit small ones.

Biogeographically, the blue fish are found all along the Atlantic seaboard and into the Gulf of Mexico.  It is listed as worldwide but seems to be absent from the Caribbean and other tropical seas.  This could be due to a distaste of warmer waters, or the lack of their prey targets.

They are an interesting and less known fish in our region.  Swimming in a school of them should be done with caution, there are reports of nips and bites from these voracious predators.

Tilefish of the Florida Panhandle

Tilefish of the Florida Panhandle

I am going to be honest and say that I know very little about this fish.  I did not know they even existed until I attended college.  Shortly afterwards, my father-in-law asked “hey, have you ever heard of a tilefish?” – to which I responded yes… He was having lunch at a restaurant in Apalachicola, and it was on the menu.  My father-in-law was an avid fisherman and knew most of the edible species, but he had not heard of this one.  The rumor was that it was pretty good, though my father-in-law chose not to eat it that day.

Tilefish
Photo: NOAA

I have never seen it on a menu, and only a few times in the local seafood markets, but according to Hoese and Moore1 by the late 1970s there was a small commercial fishery for this fish emerging in Louisiana, as was a small recreational fishery.  In Florida, since 2000, there have been 15,435 commercial trips for this fish with an average of 321 each year.  The value of this fishery over that time is $33,118,554 with an average of $689,969.90 each year.  The average price for the fishermen was $2.62 per pound with the highest being $5.14/lb. on the east coast and that in 2022; the Gulf fishermen are getting $4.16/lb. right now.

 

The highest number of landings per county since 2000 was 340 in Palm Beach County in 2000.  Only eight times has there been more than 200 landings in a single year over the last 22 years.  Five of those were in Monroe County (Florida Keys) and three were again in Palm Beach County.  The vast majority were less than 100 landings in a single year, this is not a large fishery in Florida either.

 

Are they harvested here in the Florida panhandle?

Yes… Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Okaloosa, Wakulla, and Gulf Counties all reported landings.  Bay County seems to be the hot spot for panhandle with landings between 50-100 each year since 2000.  Most of the other counties report less than 10 a year and several only reported one.  Again, this is not a large fishery, but it was sold at a restaurant in Apalachicola and is said to be good.  Hence, I decided to include in this series.

 

Hoese and Moore report four species of tilefish in the Gulf of Mexico.  The sand tilefish (Malacanthus plumeri) is a more tropical species.  The tilefish (Lopholatilus cheamaeleonticeps) and the gray tilefish (Caulalatilus microps) seem to be the target ones for fishermen.  Both are reported from deep cold water near the edge of the continental shelf.  FWC reports them from 250 – 1500 feet of water where the temperatures are between 50 – 60°F.  Because of their tolerance to cold water, their geographic range is quite large; extending across the Gulf, up the east coast to Labrador.  They live in burrows on hard sandy bottoms and feed on crustaceans.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration2 reports this as a slow growing – long lived fish, up to 50 years of age.  In their cold environment, this makes sense.

 

This is not a well-known fish along the Florida Panhandle but maybe one day you will see it on the menu, remember this article, and take a chance to see if you like it.

 

References

 

1 Hoese, H.D., Moore, R.H. 1977. Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico; Texas, Louisiana and Adjacent Waters.  Texas A&M Press.  College Station TX. Pp. 327.

 

2 Golden Tilefish. 2020. Species Directory. NOAA Fisheries. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/golden-tilefish.

Fish Camp: Pond Health Webinar

Fish Camp: Pond Health Webinar

There are several considerations to be taken in fishpond management. During the first of a three-part webinar series, Dr. Laura Tiu and Daniel Leonard talk about how to manage your pond to optimize its health.

Considerations on liming your pond, fertilizing your aquatic vegetation and how to manage dissolved oxygen are topics address in this recording.

 

The webinar in its entirety can be viewed at: Fish Camp: Pond Health

One of the recommended methods of tracking the health of your pond is enjoyable! As a pond manager you should be gathering simple information about the fish you catch. By tracking the fish that you catch, you can look at presence, size distribution and relative abundance of adult fish populations, which is directly linked to the health of your body of water.

When logging your catch, the following should be considered:

  • Date – You will want to evaluate the catches from the same time of year over several years
  • Weight- not only is the length of the fish important but also collect the weight
  • Type/Species of each fish caught and approximate maturity of that fish

By logging your catches over the years, you will begin to see trends and have more information to make pond management decisions. More helpful information can be found at:

How to Survey the Fish in Your Pond

How to Assess the Fish in Your Farm Pond

 

 

Wildlife Habitat Management – Springtime Reminders

Wildlife Habitat Management – Springtime Reminders

Spring can be a busy time of year for those of us who are interested in improving wildlife habitat on the property we own/manage. Spring is when we start many efforts that will pay-off in the fall. If you are a weekend warrior land manager like me there is always more to do than there are available Saturdays to get it done. The following comments are simple reminders about some habitat management activities that should be moving to the top of your to-do list this time of year.

Aquatic Weed Management – If you had problematic weeds in you pond last summer, chances are you will have them again this summer. NOW (spring) is the time to start controlling aquatic weeds. The later into the summer you wait the worse the weeds will get and the more difficult they will be to control. The risk of a fish-kill associated with aquatic weed control also increases as water temperatures and the total biomass of the weeds go up. Springtime is “Just Right” for Using Aquatic Herbicides

Cogongrass Control – Spring is actually the second-best time of year to treat cogongrass, fall (late September until first frost) is the BEST time. That said, ideally cogongrass will be treated with herbicide every six months, making spring and fall important. When treating spring regrowth make sure that there are green leaves at least one foot long before spraying. Spring is also an excellent time of year to identify cogongrass patches – the cottony, white blooms are easy to spot. Identify Cogongrass Now – Look for the Seedheads; Cogongrass – Now is the Best Time to Start Control

Cogongrass seedheads are easily spotted this time of year.
Photo credit: Mark Mauldin

 

Warm-Season Food Pots – There is a great deal of variation in when warm season food plots can be planted. Assuming warm-season plots will be panted in the same areas as cool-season plots, the simplest timing strategy is to simply wait for the cool-season plots to play out (a warm, dry May is normally the end of even the best cool-season plot) and then begin preparation for the warm-season plots. This transition period is the best time to deal with soil pH issues (get a soil test) and control weeds. Seed for many varieties of warm-season legumes (which should be the bulk of your plantings) can be somewhat hard to find, so start looking now. If you start early you can find what you want, and not just take whatever the feed store has. Warm Season Food Plots for White-tailed Deer

Deer Feeders – Per FWC regulations deer feeders need to be in continual operation for at least six months prior to hunting over them. Archery season in the Panhandle will start in mid-October, meaning deer feeders need to be up and running by mid-April to be legal to hunt opening morning. If you have plans to move or add feeders to your property, you’d better get to it pretty soon. FWC Feeding Game

 

Dove Fields – The first phase of dove season will begin in late September. When you look at the “days to maturity” for the various crops in the chart below you might feel like you’ve got plenty of time. While that may be true, don’t forget that not only do you need time for the crop to mature, but also for seeds to begin to drop and birds to find them all before the first phase begins. Because doves are particularly fond of feeding on clean ground, controlling weeds is a worthwhile endeavor. If you are planting on “new ground”, applying a non-selective herbicide several weeks before you begin tillage is an important first step to a clean field, but it adds more time to the process. As mentioned above, it’s always pertinent to start sourcing seed well in advance of your desired planting date. Timing is Crucial for Successful Dove Fields

 

There are many other projects that may be more time sensitive than the ones listed above. These were just a few that have snuck up on me over the years. The links in each section will provide more detailed information on the topics. If you have questions about anything addressed in the article feel free to contact me or your county’s UF/IFAS Extension Natural Resource Agent.