Monthly Archives: June 2015

Unmasking Florida’s hogfish

John Stevely with a prize male hogfish

John Stevely enjoying retirement with a prize male hogfish

What’s behind that big brown snout?

Hogfish, often called ‘hog snapper,’ are actually members of the wrasse family. They are harvested in the US from North Carolina to the Florida Keys. Spearing is the most common way to land a hogfish, and getting in the water to shoot one of these beauties sounds great when the temperatures heat up! However, they can also be caught on hook and line, and recently more and more anglers on the west coast of Florida are specifically targeting hogfish with a rod and reel.

Hogfish are protogynous hermaphrodites, which is just a fancy way of saying they all begin life as females and will change sex into a male if they live long enough. They weren’t regulated until 1994, when a minimum size (12” fork length) and recreational bag limit (5 fish) were implemented. The size limit was based on the smallest size that hogfish are able to change sex; however, the majority of individuals actually can not change sex until they are at least 14 – 16 inches long. They form harems, with one male maintaining 5 – 15 females during their spawning season, which lasts for several months and peaks in the spring.

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2015 Great Bay Scallop Search – Volunteers Needed

A Scallop Searcher finds what she's looking for

A Scallop Searcher finds what she’s looking for

Great Bay Scallop Search

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

8:30 am – 2 pm

(Orientation beginning at 9am)

 GASPARILLA MARINA

Register to Participate

Join the University of Florida/Charlotte County Sea Grant Extension program, by participating in the 2015 Great Bay Scallop Search, a resource-monitoring program where volunteers snorkel, looking for scallops in select areas within Gasparilla Sound and lower Lemon Bay.  The purpose of this program is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population.   Reservations are required to participate in the event. Space is limited so reserve your spot today.  This event is designed to be a fun family event.

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Gag Grouper Season starts July 1st for most of Florida’s Gulf Coast

Bryan-holding-Gag-GrouperJuly 1st means recreational gag grouper season for us here in the Gulf (minus Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor, Jefferson and Monroe counties).  Anglers can harvest 2 gags within a 4 grouper aggregate (gag, red, black, rockhind/redhind, scamp, yellowfin/yellow mouth) during the open season, which lasts until December 3rd.  Gag groupers must be at least 22 inches total length to legally harvest.  Don’t forget you need to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, a free add on to your fishing license if you are going to be targeting reef fish in federal or state waters.  This requirement applies to all anglers including Florida residents age 65 or older who otherwise would not need a fishing license.  Visit FWC for more information on specific regulations pertaining to gag grouper.

Speaking of gag grouper, did you know that gag groupers are born females but later can become males?   Scientists believe that this transformation, a process referred as protogyny, is triggered when a grouper is the in an aggregation that are about to spawn and there are too few males in the population.  Once a grouper changes from female to male, it’s permanent.  Adults spawn in February and March in large offshore aggregates.  Juvenile gag utilizes the shallow seagrass beds in high salinity areas within the (Charlotte Harbor) estuary during early stages of growth.  Mangrove lined shorelines, seawalls, and jetties can also be a suitable  habitat.  Some people who have caught the juvenile gag in seagrass beds have called them ‘Grass Grouper’ mistakenly thinking they are a different species.  The state record for a Gag Grouper caught is 80 lbs 6 oz.

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Are you Vibrio Aware?

DSCN0881Summer is here, which means in addition to higher temperatures, there’s a good chance you’ll hear reports of “flesh eating bacteria” in the news. While this phrase may be fear-provoking, some common sense and basic prevention steps can help minimize the likelihood of infection. The first step in this process is educating yourself about this potential culprit. “Flesh eating bacteria” or Vibrio vulnificus as it is better known to the scientific and health community, is a naturally occurring bacterium that is present in the warm marine and estuarine waters of southwest Florida. Vunificus, like other members of Vibrio family are called halophilic because they require salt. While the highest concentration of Vibrio in the U.S. occurs in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it has been found in lower concentrations in every coastal region of the United States including Alaska. It should also be noted that Vibrio can occur in the cleanest of waters and is not related to pollution levels.

Infection from V. vulnificus occurs in two primary ways. Roughly 50% of U.S. cases comes from the consumption of raw seafood, particularly oysters. (Oysters and other molluscan shellfish are filter feeders who actively filter the bacteria out of water and concentrate it in their tissues.) The other 50% of cases are the result of wounds exposed to saltwater. Ingestion of V. vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. While healthier people might experience milder symptoms, those at high risk can develop more life-threatening illnesses. The bacteria enters the bloodstream and can cause gastrointestinal illness, fever, chills, and decreased blood pressure or septic shock. Infected wounds can also develop blistering skin lesions and ulcers. If left untreated, infections can lead to the breakdown of skin tissue (hence the name “flesh eating bacteria”) and surgery and even amputation may be required for recovery.

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