Debris And Pollution — 


Education, Stewardship, And Community

NOAA Planet Stewards Program Links:

"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, 
are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day,
listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky,
is by no means a waste of time. 

—  John Lubbock — 

FTC Will Make Changes In South West Florida Catch-And-Release Area —

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will make changes to snook, redfish and spotted seatrout management in the area of southwest Florida where they are currently catch-and-release only.   As a reminder, snook, redfish and spotted sea trout were temporarily made catch-and-release only in this area after these fisheries were impacted by a 2017-2019 severe red tide.  You are responsible for knowing these changes, guaranteed the officers know the current rules.

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HELP SEA TURTLES SURVIVE: FWC OFFERS TIPS ON HELPING HATCHLINGS  —  Sea turtle hatchlings are beginning to appear on beaches throughout the Sunshine State, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking the public to help ensure these tiny turtles reach the ocean by following a few simple guidelines. 

During sea turtle nesting season (March 1 – Oct. 31), it is important to keep your distance from these protected marine reptiles and their nests. You should allow hatchlings to crawl toward the ocean on their own. Any interference or disturbance, including getting too close, can cause hatchlings to become confused and lose their way. 

Bright lights, whether from buildings, phones or cameras, can also cause them to become disoriented, leading the hatchlings to stray away from the waves. If they are unable to reach the ocean quickly, they can become vulnerable to dehydration, exhaustion and predators. 

“Interfering with a sea turtle hatchling’s trek to the ocean can have fatal consequences,” said FWC sea turtle biologist Robbin Trindell. “It’s very important to leave them undisturbed. By keeping beaches dark and giving sea turtles space, we can make sure that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy watching them make this amazing journey.”

There are many ways you can make a difference for Florida’s sea turtles:

  • Keep beaches dark for sea turtles – After sundown, turn off any lights not necessary for human safety. Use long wavelength amber LED lamps for lights that must stay lit and shield lights, so they are not visible from the beach. Remember to close shades or curtains.
  • No flash photos – On the beach at night, don’t take flash photos or use bright cellphones or flashlights. This can cause turtles to become disoriented and crawl away from the ocean, putting them at risk.
  • Remember, sea turtles are protected by law – Stay back and give sea turtles space if you see one on the beach at night. Don’t touch a nesting turtle because it may leave the beach without nesting if disturbed. Remember, it is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles, their nests, eggs or hatchlings.
  • Clear the way at the end of the day – Beach furniture, canopies, boats and toys left behind on the sand can become obstacles that block nesting and hatchling turtles. Fill in any holes dug in the sand. Holes can trap turtles, and can also pose a safety risk for other beachgoers. 
  • Before taking any action, report sea turtles that are sick, injured, dead, entangled or otherwise in danger to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 1-888-404-3922 or text

FWC ANNOUNCES NEW WAY TO REPORT GOPHER TORTOISE SIGHTINGS —  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is launching a new interactive web application designed to provide biologists with thorough and reliable data, and promote science-based gopher tortoise conservation efforts. The new system will replace the Florida Gopher Tortoise smartphone app, which will be decommissioned Sept. 8. 

The new web application is user-friendly and is designed to function on any device. To report a tortoise sighting or notify the FWC of a sick, injured or dead tortoise, simply visit and click on the button that reads “Report Gopher Tortoise Sightings.” There, you can also view an interactive map, which features user-submitted photos and locations of tortoise sightings throughout the state. 

“We appreciate the thousands of citizen scientists who have reported gopher tortoise sightings using our original Florida Gopher Tortoise app over the years,” said Michelina Dziadzio, monitoring coordinator for the Wildlife Diversity Conservation Section of the FWC. “These citizen scientists have helped the FWC enhance gopher tortoise conservation and we’re excited for their continued participation using the new web app.”

The gopher tortoise is a protected species that occurs in all 67 Florida counties. The tortoise is known as a keystone species, and its burrows serve as important refuges for 350 native species including threatened species such as the Eastern indigo snake, the burrowing owl and the gopher frog.   For more information about gopher tortoises, visit

GRAY TRIGGERFISH —  The recreational gray triggerfish season reopens to harvest in Gulf state and federal waters March 1, and will remain open through May 1, closing to harvest May 2, 2020.     If you plan to fish for gray triggerfish in Gulf state or federal waters, excluding Monroe County, from a private recreational vessel, you must sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler (annual renewal is required but it is free). 

  • To learn more, visit and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Reef Fish Survey” under “Reef Fish.”    Sign up today at  
  • The recreational gray triggerfish season reopens to harvest in Gulf state and federal waters March 1, and will remain open through May 1, closing to harvest May 2, 2020.  
  • If you plan to fish for gray triggerfish in Gulf state or federal waters, excluding Monroe County, from a private recreational vessel, you must sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler (annual renewal is required). To learn more, visit and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Reef Fish Survey” under “Reef Fish.” Sign up today at 
  • Learn more about gray triggerfish regulations at by clicking on “Recreational Regulations” and “Triggerfish,” which is under the “Reef Fish” tab. 
  • NOAA Fisheries recently announced that the Gulf recreational gray triggerfish fishery is estimated to meet its quota in early May, prompting an early quota closure in federal waters of May 2. At its February meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved also closing recreational harvest of gray triggerfish in state waters when Gulf federal waters close.

Greater Amberjack, Gray Triggerfish Reopen To Harvest In Gulf Waters Aug. 1 — 

The recreational harvest of greater amberjack and gray triggerfish will reopen in Gulf state and federal waters Aug. 1.  Greater amberjack is scheduled to remain open through Oct. 31 in Gulf state and federal waters. Gray triggerfish is scheduled to remain open through Dec. 31 in Gulf state and federal waters but an early quota closure is possible for either species. 

Big Bend Blue Crab Trap Closure To End Early   —  The Big Bend recreational and commercial blue crab trap closure previously scheduled for July 20-29 will end early because efforts to remove lost and abandoned traps in this region will have been completed. Starting July 25, blue crab traps may be placed back in state waters from Hernando through Wakulla counties, including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay.

Snook — The recreational harvest season for snook opens March 1 in some Gulf waters, including Escambia through Hernando counties, and waters south of Gordon Pass in Collier County through Monroe County (also includes Everglades National Park). 

Snook remains catch-and-release only in state waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County (includes all of Pasco County, Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County) through May 31, 2021, in response to the impacts of a prolonged red tide that occurred in late 2017 through early 2019. Because snook has a May 1-Aug. 31 annual season closure, this species would reopen Sept. 1, 2021. 

Unique to the region, snook are one of the many reasons Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. Seasonal harvest closures and anglers using proper handling methods when practicing catch-and-release help conserve Florida’s valuable snook populations and can ensure the species’ abundance for anglers today and generations to come.

Where to Fish in Tampa Bay  — Easy Access and Parking  —  

Whether you want to fish the flats, mangrove shorelines, or even find a prime freshwater destination, there are plenty of Tampa Bay fishing hot spots to choose from. Use this list to plan your mid-summer Tampa Bay fishing adventures.

1. Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier State Park

If you are looking for good fishing spots in Tampa Bay, head to the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier. There are two miles of fishing pier (the St. Petersburg side is a half-mile long, and the Palmetto side is 1½ miles long) that offer opportunities to catch species such as snook, tarpon, grouper, Spanish mackerel, cobia, sheepshead, and pompano. What's one of the best things about this Tampa Bay fishing spot? That would be the fact that the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. There are daily admission fees that apply, so be sure to check the Florida State Park website in advance of your visit.

2. Fort Desoto County Park  —  Fort DeSoto County Park has long been one of the top Tampa Bay fishing hot spots due in large part to the two easily accessible fishing piers on the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. The Gulf Pier offers open-water access, which means fishing in stronger current with heavier tackle for species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and sharks. The Bay Pier, on the other hand, is a more sheltered spot where families can try light tackle fishing for species such as redfish, snook, and trout.

3. Bishop’s Harbor  —  Located along the mouth of Tampa Bay, you'll find some of the best fishing in Tampa for redfish, snook, and trout. Bishop's Harbor contains mangrove shorelines and shallow flats that serve as prime habitat for these popular saltwater inshore species. Don't forget to check a local tide chart for Bishop's Harbor when planning your trip. You may find this spot to be the most productive when fishing the last few hours of an incoming tide. Access to Bishop's Harbor is provided by a sand boat ramp located off of Bishop Harbor Road in the city of Palmetto.

4. Edward Medard Reservoir — 
 In addition to the saltwater Tampa Bay fishing hot spots mentioned, don't forget that there are freshwater hot spots in the Tampa Bay area as well. Don't pass up the chance to fish the Edward Medard Reservoir in Hillsborough County for largemouth bass and sunshine bass. Since the reservoir is a reclaimed phosphate mine, the bottom contours of the lake are irregular, with some areas reaching depths close to 33 feet. The depth changes and bottom irregularities make this one of the best spots to try freshwater fishing in Florida.

5. Lake Tarpon  —  If you want to know where to fish for trophy bass in the Tampa Bay area, consider Lake Tarpon. As far as good fishing spots in Tampa Bay for freshwater anglers, Lake Tarpon always ranks. In fact, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists rate the lake as one of the top 10 bass lakes in the state of Florida. Try fishing the points and offshore structure on Lake Tarpon during the warmest periods of the day throughout the summer months.

Since you now know about a few saltwater and freshwater Tampa Bay hot spots, be sure you have the right gear and tackle for the location and species you plan to target.