Tag Archives: St. George Island

P1000309

Coastal Roundup August 3rd – August 11th, 2012

We are just a couple of weeks away from our first new In the Grass, On the Reef videos.  This summer, mud crabs and stone crabs seem unusually abundant and are out on the reefs eating and giving us shots like we hadn’t had before.  Dolphins are liking to pass by when we shoot in Alligator Harbor, and Bay Mouth Bar is crawling with large horse conchs and other snails eating each other.  And just this week, we made it to Wakulla Beach for the first time, where the marshes are overstuffed with fiddler crabs and periwinkle snails.  And while it’s been a great summer for wildlife footage, we’ve also been hitting up seafood markets and restaurants and are starting to get up with more people who have a stake in our coastal ecosystems, where the land meets the sea.

Rebecca Wilkerson WFSU-TV

Oyster Appreciation

Alligator Harbor oyster reefAugust 5th is a day that is near and dear to our hearts, National Oyster Day. To add a feast to your celebration, put a twist on a traditional oyster dish by trying this Rockin’ Oyster Rockefeller recipe.

For those interested in getting more involved with oysters, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance will be holding an oyster reef bagging volunteer day on August 17th. Groups should register prior to that day if they plan on attending. Visit the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance site for more information on volunteer opportunities.

Recreational Fishing

A few of the saltwater species that are currently in season include Bay Scallops, Greater Amberjack,  and Grouper. To view a complete list of species that are in season or for more information on regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife page on recreational saltwater fishing.

Helping out coastal critters

In addition to the Crawfordville location, Tallahassee’s LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts is now a drop-off center for donations to the Florida Wild Mammal Association. For more information, including a list of non-perishable items that are needed, visit the Florida Wild Mammal Association website. (Photo copyright Florida Wild Mammal Association)

The Franklin County humane Society will be hosting the 15th Annual St. George Island Sizzler on August 11th. There will be a one mile fun run, a 5k race, plenty of food and a post-race party in the center of the island. Visit the St. George Island Sizzler site for more information. (Photo copyright St. George Island Sizzler)

Seagrass Wrack

seagrass wrack in cordgrassWrack, a phenomenon we’ve covered on this site before, is the dark green or brown grasses on the beach and is often mistaken for dried, dying seaweed. It is very much alive and is very important to the ecosystem. A few of the services wrack provides include bringing various organisms to the beach, feeding the birds, and aiding in the formation of sand dunes. Visit this Florida Fish and Wildlife article to find out more about the importance of wrack.

Silver Spring

Already compromised, Silver Springs is now the subject in a proposal that could bring greater harm to the once-magical Florida icon.  Visit this Audubon Florida opinion piece for more information about the current controversy surrounding the spring. To read about the changes that have already taken place in the Silver Springs water visit this Ocala opinion article.  (Photo copyright Audubon Florida)

Designer Shells for Hermit Crabs

Hermit crab in crown conch shell, next to crown conchsIn this area we’re used to seeing hermit crabs in lightning whelk and crown conch shells, like in the photo to the left. But now Robert DuGrenier, who has been blowing glass for over 30 years, is creating and selling custom glass shells for hermit crabs of all ages and sizes. Each shell is uniquely sculpted and can be colored or fused with precious metals for further customization. Learn more and check out some of the designs here.

Invasive Species

Nonnative LionfishAlthough lionfish are not native to the Gulf of Mexico, arriving around two years ago, the species has reached threateningly high numbers. With no natural predators, lionfish are taking over Florida’s reefs and eating juvenile fish. The invasive species could lead to a larger problem for the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem. Diving groups and hunting programs are being established in order to control the species. Listen to this WFSU-FM story for more information. (Photo copyright Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation)

Creating new habitats

The Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association’s Memorial Reef Program lets loved one’s leave an underwater legacy that will last for hundreds of years. The reefs allow families to construct, personalize, and name a reef for their loved one, adding additions later if they wish. The reefs are an ecological way to do a cremation burial and create a permanent and sustainable ecosystem for marine life. For more information, visit the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association’s page on the Memorial Reef Program. Visit this article from The Star to read about personal experiences with the program.

In the Grass, On the Reef is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation

P1040156

Coastal Roundup July 6th – July 13th, 2012

Welcome to our first Coastal Roundup. Every Friday, we’ll post a combination of local events and links to interesting articles relating to coastal ecology, fishing/ seafood, and tourism- basically everything relating to the ecosystems we cover (salt marsh, oyster reef, and seagrass bed).  Leave a comment below if you’d like us to include your upcoming events.

Rebecca Wilkerson & Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Back in the Grass and on the Reefs

We’re back in full production on new videos that explore our coasts and the coastal way of life through the habitats that feed and employ so many in our area.  The slideshow below takes you through the last couple of weeks as we got wet and muddy with Dr. Randall Hughes and Dr. David Kimbro.

Saltwater Fishing

Bay Scallop in St. Joe BayWe’ve been heading back to St. Joe Bay to cover Randall Hughes’ marsh and seagrass bed studies, and this week we’ve been noticing a lot of people out on the water filling their buckets with scallops.  Bay Scallop Season started July 1, and has just been extended by two weeks to close on September 25th. For more information on licensing and catch limits, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife page on scallop season.

To top off your day of scalloping with a quick and delicious meal, try Bay Scallop Scampi paired perfectly with a crusty bread or steamed veggies.

Red snapperRed Snapper Season has been extended six days in the Gulf of  Mexico. Due to bad weather in June and loss of fishing opportunities, the NOAA Fisheries decided to extend the last day of harvest until July 16th. For more information, including the recent changes, read the full Florida Fish and Wildlife update on Red Snapper Season. (photo copyright Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

While the red snapper has been extended, Snook Season in the Gulf of Mexico will remain closed for another year and is now expected to reopen September 1, 2013.  However, catch-and-release of snook will be allowed during the closure with proper technique, and the Atlantic season will remain unchanged. To learn more about the closure or the proper catch-and-release technique, read Florida Fish and Wildlife’s news release.

FSU Coastal and Marine Lab

FSUCML_chipThe FSUCML Conservation Lecture Series presents Auburn University’s Dr. Mark Albis.  He will share his findings on the effects of invasive Pacific Red Lionfish on Atlantic coral-reef fish communities. The lectures are open to the public. To find out more about the presentation or upcoming lectures, visit the FSU Coastal and Marine Lab page.

“Sopchoppy Stop” Eco-Heritage Tour

P1000534 This tour will take place on July 14, beginning with a stroll through historical Sopchoppy and continuing via guided cruise along the Sopchoppy River. Learn more about the tour here.

The C-Quarters Marina’s 8th Annual Youth Fishing Tournament July 21st

Child with BluegillThe tournament is open to all kids 16 years old and younger, who can fish along the Carrabelle River to Dog Island.  All participants must be registered prior to the tournament. Entrants must also attend a Fishing Clinic on the evening before Saturday’s tournament. To learn more including regulations and what will be provided to the kids, visit the C-Quarters Marina’s page on the tournament. (photo copyright Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Oyster News

Oyster reef, Alligator HarborWe first met Alicia Brown just after her arrival at the FSU Coastal and Marine Lab, when she helped Dr. David Kimbro with his October 2010 “Oyster Push” experiment. Alicia, along with Dr. Laura Petes and fellow grad student Carley Knight, have published a paper in the journal Ecology and Evolution.  The study looks at how low freshwater input affects the survival of the Apalachicola oyster population. Read their full paper here.

Tropical Storm Debby

Shorebirds gather in Tower Pool.Many of us are still drying off from Tropical Storm Debby, and while life is getting back to normal, our coastal ecosystems are still dealing with the upheaval of the storm. Those most harshly affected were the animals that make their homes along our shores. Audubon of Florida reports that shorebird nesting areas and colonies were washed away during the storm.

Sea turtle nests were also affected by the storm. Alligator Point has been having a productive nesting season so far, but as The Tallahassee Democrat reports, the storm washed away many nests or left them inundated for days.

P1000151One of our least heralded defenses against the effects of storms are our coastal wetlands.  For instance, one of the services provided by salt marshes is reducing tidal surge during storms.  This Gainesville Sun editorial looks to remind us of the importance of coastal wetlands during weather events.

Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, it is important to know who to contact for information in case of an emergency, such as the recent storm. To view Emergency Management contact information for each county in Florida visit the Florida Disaster page for contact listings.

Clean Beaches

When you visit a beach with your family and friends, you don’t want to worry about dirty water.  NPR’s health blog reports on ratings released by the Natural Resources Defense Council on the cleanliness of beaches nationwide.  Florida did not boast any 5-star ratings, though our own St. George Island did receive a 4-star rating.

Video: Paddling the Forgotten Coast

If you missed it on dimensions, here is our video on the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.

If you have an eco-adventure you’d like to share or have covered, leave a comment on our Ecotourism North Florida page.

Happy Ours kayaksFor more information on the trail, visit the trail web site.

The Path Less Paddled

Take a photo tour of the Forgotten Coast segment of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.  Watch a video on the trail on Wednesday, September 14 at 7:30 PM/ ET on WFSU-TV.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

IGOR chip- human appreciation 150IGOR chip- habitat 150IGOR chip- gastronomy 150It all happened in about five minutes. The gull swooped down and grabbed a soft-shell blue crab about half its size, abandoned it to a swarm of small fish, whose activity may or may not have attracted a shark coming in from Apalachicola Bay.  I was standing at Sugar Hill, a beach campsite in the St. George Island State Park, the last campsite along the Forgotten Coast segment of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.  You can see this video on tomorrow’s dimensions.

(watch a video on the making of a blue crab molting its shell)

Were a kayaker to try to make the five or six day paddle from Cape San Blas to St. George Island, they would likely see a few of these little dramas play out.  As Doug Alderson (Paddling Trails Coordinator for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails)  says in the piece, it’s one of the wildest stretches of the statewide trail.  That means it has a lot of nice scenery of coastal habitats.  Much more interesting, though, is that they are functioning habitats.

Predatory snails on Sugar Hill Beach at St. George Island State Park

Large predatory snails congregating on a tree stump at Sugar Hill camp site.

For instance, Doug loves to catch redfish when he camps on St. George; and they’re always there for him.  But why are these fish so abundant in Apalachicola Bay?  The answer is in those tasty oysters that put the name Apalachicola on the map.  Oyster reefs are a refuge for all kinds of animals like stone crabs, blue crabs, and various predatory snails and small fish.  It’s an all you can eat buffet for larger fish looking for those small fish and little mud crabs.  The action I described above happened by a seagrass bed not far offshore.  Those beds thrive in water that oysters filter clean, and so they provide another habitat for marine life in the bay.  I ate Apalachicola oysters for years without realizing just how much they give, and give, and give…

Rob and Debbie by kayak

Rob photographs small fish and crabs that Debbie scooped out of St. Joe Bay.

At the other end of the trail, In Saint Joseph Bay, we caught up with Dan and Debbie VanVleet of Happy Ours Kayak and Canoe Outpost.  When WFSU first started the In the Grass, On the Reef project, we rented our kayaks from Dan and Debbie.  Debbie’s been wanting to take us snorkeling for a while, to get some video of some of the critters living in seagrass beds in St. Joe Bay.  Kayaking over the shallow waters in the bay, you can see the turtlegrass from where you’re sitting, as well as rays, horseshoe crabs, and snails making their way about the sandy bottom.  To see the creatures living in the seagrass beds, you have to get out of the kayak.  This is where you have to be careful.

It is illegal to remove shells from St. Joseph BayWhen I say be careful, I’m not just talking about your safety, though you should shuffle your feet to alert stingrays that you’re coming, or if you kayak to St. Vincent Island, definitely stay out of the way of charging boars.  You also have to be careful with these habitats, and the marine life within them.  Dan and Debbie (and local law enforcement) are very big on people not taking seashells out of the bay.  Taking a bunch of whelks and crown conchs out of the bay means taking out critical predators, removing a top layer in the local food web.  And, as the sign implies, even a dead shell has a role to play (any hermit crab would agree).  It’s called the “leave no trace” approach, and there are tips on how to best accomplish this on the trail website.  There are also safety tips and maps.  If you’re attempting anything more than a day trip along this trail, it’s a pretty comprehensive resource.

Doug has put a lot of work into mapping the trail- it took three years- and assembling resources so that people could best enjoy it.  You can hear the love he has for paddling when he reads from his book, Wild Florida Waters.  You’ll hear a couple of passages in the show tomorrow.  Even hearing him read about paddling in a strong wind kind of gets me excited about going out again.  It reminds me of paddling to safety in St. Joe Bay after a sudden thunderstorm erupts, or paddling in December when the cold water numbed my hands.  It’s not as predicable a form of recreation as visiting a beach resort.  But it’s never boring.

Doug and Josh

Thanks to Doug (L) for talking to us, and Park Ranger Josh Hodson for driving us around St. George Island State Park.

Dan and Debbie from Happy Ours

Thanks to Debbie and Dan for taking us out.

Have fun out there.  And share your stories with us!  Click on the Ecotourism North Florida link above if you have an eco-adventure you’d like to see us cover.

Kayaking, anyone?

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

IGOR chip- human appreciation 150

Here’s a vacation idea for you.

If you had the time, didn’t mind camping for months on end, and were physically up to paddling fifteen hundred miles, you could paddle around the entire state of Florida using trails mapped out by Doug Alderson.  He coordinates the Florida Circumnavigational Paddling Trail for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Visit the trail’s web site).  You would pass by major urban centers like Tampa and Miami.  You would make your way through the entirety of the Florida keys.  And you would see a lot of amazing coastal habitats.

Ready to go?

_DSC2580

The Forgotten Coast segment of the trail starts in St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.

I’m guessing the vast majority of people reading this are saying no, though we would certainly want to hear from you if you were doing this.  Luckily, the trail breaks down into twenty six segments, and over one hundred individual day trips.  The one I’m interested in is Segment 4: The Forgotten Coast.  It takes you through some of my favorite places.  St. Joseph Bay has clear water and lively seagrass beds and salt marshes.  Many of St. Vincent Island’s most interesting animals aren’t aquatic, but if you look over as you paddle past you might see wild hogs running or even one of those elusive red wolves (not likely, but it doesn’t hurt to look).  Once you pass there, you could choose to either go along St. George Island or stick to the mainland and pass by Apalachicola, where you can try to find a place to land your kayak while you pick up some oysters.

We’ll be kayaking part of this trail for September 14 episode, and talking to Mr. Alderson about it.  Have any of you done this?  Are any of you attempting this, or any section of it, any time in the next month?  We want to know.  We want to see your photos.  We want to watch your videos. Leave a comment below, with links to any videos or photos if you like.  If you’ll be out that way in the next couple of weeks, we may want to interview you.

Leave your comments!

And we want to keep hearing from you.  If you have any ideas for stories we might do related to coastal ecotourism, leave a comment on our Ecotourism North Florida page.