latest news

  • 07/02/2017 11:44 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Celebrate the Fourth of July with bay scallops. State waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Pasco/Hernando county line will be open for scalloping starting July 1. A span of waters in the middle from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened earlier this month on June 16 and will close on Sept. 10. (See map.)                              

    These new season dates are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons. Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity that the whole family can participate in. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.  

    The scallop season in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County will be July 25 through Sept. 10 and includes all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.  

    All state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County, and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County will be open July 1 through Sept. 24.  

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff worked with local community leaders on selecting these regional 2017 season dates. 

    At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. Staff will host public workshops to gather feedback after the season closes. To submit your feedback now on bay scallop regulations, visit  

    Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.  

    Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.  

    Scallops must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.  

    There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.  

    Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed.  

    Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Participants can email to ask questions or send additional information.  

    Learn more about long-term trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Molluscs,” “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”  

    For more information on the season date changes for 2017, visit and select “Commission Meetings,” then click on “2016” and “Agenda” under the November meeting.  

    For information on bay scallop regulations, visit and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

  • 05/02/2017 7:24 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is launching new programs to encourage people to help remove nonnative Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem and surrounding area. Two new programs and a new Executive Order will provide people with incentives and expanded opportunities to remove these invasive constrictors.

    The Python Pickup Program is a new program designed to encourage the public to remove and report wild Burmese pythons by rewarding participants with valuable prizes. Starting now, anyone can participate in this innovative new program. People who remove pythons simply need to submit photographic evidence of the snake as well as the location from which it was removed. Anyone who submits this information will receive a free Python Pickup T-shirt for submitting their first entry. For every submission received, participants will be entered into a monthly prize drawing as well as a grand prize drawing to be held next year. Monthly prizes include snake hooks, custom engraved Yeti tumblers, Plano sportsman's trunks, GoPro cameras and Badlands backpacks. The grand prize is a Florida Lifetime Sportsman's License. The first drawing will take place in May 2017.

    As part of the Python Pickup, people can submit pythons removed from any property in Florida where they have authorization to do so from the property owner or land manager.

    A recent Executive Order allows people to remove pythons year-round from 22 public lands with no hunting license or wildlife management area permit required.

    "We know many Florida residents and visitors want to help tackle this tough conservation challenge by going after pythons in the wild and removing any they can find," said FWC Executive Director, Nick Wiley. "We want to continue to encourage and support this important citizen conservation effort. This Executive Order clarifies regulatory questions and makes it easier than ever for people to remove Burmese pythons from the wild."

    Earlier this month, the FWC also launched a Python Contractor Program which pays participants for efforts to remove Burmese pythons from the wild. The FWC selected 22 contractors already experienced with capturing wild Burmese pythons. Contractors are paid an hourly wage for their efforts to remove Burmese pythons. The FWC will also pay contractors for each snake removed. The program is similar to one recently implemented by the South Florida Water Management District.

    People interested in training on how to identify and safely remove pythons can take part in a Python Patrol Training. For more information, go to and click on "Python Patrol."

    The FWC will continue to work with the public and partners to explore other projects aimed at removing pythons and other nonnative species in Florida.

    People can also help with efforts to manage Burmese pythons and other nonnative species by reporting sightings to the FWC's Exotic Species Reporting Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), online at, or by downloading the free "IveGot1" smartphone app.

    For more information on Burmese pythons in Florida and the various management programs, visit

  • 03/03/2017 9:26 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    FWC Meeting in Crystal River, Notes and Commentary
    By Capt. Danny R. Guarino

    As many of you know, I spent the day at the FWC commission meeting held in Crystal River on Feb 8, 2017. It was very interesting and I would like to share my notes and commentary with you.

    Quite a bit of time was spent looking at the Federal legislative outlook. I got the impression the commission is optimistic on what the new Trump administration will bring to the table. I think the FGA needs to be prepared to voice our positions in a rapidly changing environment.

    Reading between the lines I think the Commission believes Trump’s administration will bring a positive outcome to business with less concern on environmental issues. It appears the commission is in a wait and see mode as I think we should be.

    What we do know is:

    The last congress did not approve an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017. So, for now it appears that the bills introduced last year that have not been raised or acted upon are in limbo and will have to be re-introduced.

    Included in these bills, but not limited to, are:

    Bills opposing closure of a portion Biscayne National Park S.3099,S.2807,H.R.3310, H.R.5538 .

    Congressional Bills related to red snapper H.R.3094, S.2837 H.R. 5393,

    Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and management Act H.R. 1335, S.1403,

    Congressional Bills related to Sharks S.3099, S.3095 H.R. 5584

    Recovering Americans Wildlife Act H.R. 5650

    Pittman Roberts Fund for Tomorrows Need Act H.R.4818 S.2690,

    Sportsmen act H.R. 2406 S.405

    It was stated that most if not all these bills will be reintroduced. My questions is if they will be the same bill or will they change. No one knows at this point, so review of the new bills will be prudent.

    Highlights of some of the statewide topics

    Goliath grouper

    In a discussion on goliath grouper, FWC staff reviewed the species’ management history, biology, and stock assessments. Stakeholder input on the management of goliath grouper has varied from interest in opening a harvest to continuing with the current harvest prohibition.

    FWC staff is interested in hearing more from the public on the management of this species, including the possibility of a limited harvest. That was the official statement.

    From what I can understand FWCI would like to have a limited harvest in order to gather more information. If we do in fact get a limited harvest, there will be many restrictions and most likely the harvest would be done with some type of permit that the user will pay for. The harvest would be very small. I was hearing numbers of around 100 to 200 fish per season. Only enough of a kill to satisfy the research. I would not get our hopes up of having an open season on Goliath Grouper.

    Bay Scallop

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed the current status of bay scallops in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County; approved regional changes to the bay scallop season dates in Gulf County and areas surrounding Gulf County; and discussed potential season dates in Dixie County and parts of Taylor County. These changes are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons.

    The jest of the discussions were to establish a scallop season that best fit the economic requirement of the areas that harvest scallops. I believe this is what you will see published for the seasons. A bulletin will be issued by the FWC very soon.

    Gulf County, including all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. July 25 through Sept. 10.

    Dixie County and parts of Taylor County FWC appears to be leaning toward an earlier opening date somewhere near the middle of June. Again, this was and is going to be based on stakeholder input. A final decision will be made in a few days after more input is taken.

    For the rest of the counties that are within the Scallop zone, season will open July 1 and close Sept 24. Bag limits have not changed and bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone will be two gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or one pint of bay scallop meat per person with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or a 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel. Zones for this year have not changed but it looks as though the 2018 season may include Pasco county.

    Final thought

    Here is a comment I just have to make - There was quite a bit of public comment both for and against hand feeding sharks. It appears that some dive business want to be able to do this and some do not. I have to question the validity of a law and those that spend a lot of time, effort and money to make a law to stop anyone from hand feeding sharks. Maybe I'm missing something, but I would just let whoever wants to feed a shark feed the shark. If they do it wrong, they will stop the practice.

    Capt. Danny R. Guarino
    Vice President Florida Guides Association
    Host Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show
    Mercury Pro Team

  • 03/02/2017 6:42 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)
    Florida Lionfish Events for 2017

    Get involved with lionfish removal by attending one of the following derbies or events.
    Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day: First Saturday after Mother's Day each year.

    Become a Reef Ranger: Adopt a Reef and pledge to remove lionfish from it.

    Host a workshop: FWC led lionfish handling and filleting demos. Email name, organization/business name, location and an estimated number of attendees to

    Attention Dive Shop Owners:

    Host a "Become the Predator" workshop and excursion. These FWC led workshops, in partnership with dive shops, teach divers to spear and remove lionfish. Interested in hosting a Become the Predator workshop and lionfish excursion? Contact

    To feature lionfish brochures Adobe PDF in your shop, send your mailing address and how many brochures you want to

    2017 Derby Calendar

    Email the event date, location and address, event name, event website, and event contact information to to get it featured on the calendar.






    Key Largo

    REEF Winter Lionfish Derby

    Emily Stokes



    Northeast Florida Lionfish Blast

    Donny Trauthwein



    4earth Lionfish Derby

    Analisa Duran, Miami Seaquarium



    Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Tournament

    Andy Ross, Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition



    Sebastian Lionfish Fest (LRAD)

    Kendra Cope



    Destin Lionfish Tournament (LRAD)

    Robert Provost



    7th Annual Lionfish Round-Up



    7th Annual Lionfish Bash

    Lucy Foerster

    Other events where you can learn about lionfish:

    2/20 Loggerhead Marinelife Center Invasive Species Awareness, Juno Beach
    4/22-23 The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo, Ft. Lauderdale
    4/22 FSU Marine Lab Open House, St. Teresa
    Upcoming "Become the Predator" workshops:

    Learn about lionfish, their invasion, and how to safely target and remove them from Florida waters.

    1/27 6pm CT Dive Pros, Pensacola
    4/28 6pm CT Discovery Dive World, Destin

  • 02/01/2017 9:56 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Subject: truth about sector separation is finally revealed, you do not want IFQs or inter sector trading in the for hire industry

    As more and more word comes from the recent joint ad hoc aps meeting in New Orleans on 1-9 & 10, we are learning the “rest of the story” on the edf/cfa push for sector separation.  The headboat and charter for hire red snapper ad hoc aps met in a joint meeting on 1-9 & 10.  While each sector has its own ad hoc ap to suggest management for its sector, apparently there is a large number of headboats out of the 67 + - that does not meet the criteria to receive any red snapper quota and now those headboat owners want to join the charter for-hire sector.  After much discussion among the 2 sectors near the end of the meeting on the 10th there was a heavy push by the edf/cfa group to combine amendments 41 and 42.  The edf/cfa crowd showed their real colors on sector separation by pushing the ability to trade (inter sector trading) quotas among and between both sectors and eventually with the commercial IFQ owners. 

    The big reason for all this is that the numbers produced by the nmfs on the amount of red snapper, now they want to add red and gag grouper, greater amberjack, and triggerfish to the mix, each boat will receive is nowhere near what the edf/cfa group has told folks and expected under an IFQ program in the charter for-hire and headboat sector.  Imagine that as some of us have been doing the math for over 6 years and apparently true math doesn’t change.  2+2 is still 4 and 100 divided by 10 is still 10.  

    As some of us have discussed over the years, the only way for a small number of charter for-hire and headboats can obtain enough red snapper to have a decent quota and allowing them to fish an adequate number of days is to lease or purchase quota from others meaning a few will be harvesting red snapper and other species while many will not.  Much like the current commercial red snapper IFQ program where 55 people own almost 80% of the total quota, under a for-hire IFQ program where inter sector trading is allowed there will ultimately be a small number of for-hire owners who will own the majority of recreational quota. 

    As some may have heard over the past day or so the U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the U.S. District Court opinion regarding sector separation in favor of the NMFS.  This means that sec sep will remain in effect unless there is Congressional action under the Trump Administration to eliminate the rule that extends the sunset for another 5 years implemented on Jan 3.  There is a little known act, Congressional Review Act, that has been in effect for many years plus new legislation recently passed by the House, Regulatory Review Act, that only becomes law if the Senate also approves it that could eliminate the rule meaning sec sep would end.  Under these acts any rule or regulation, passed by Congress or approved by any fed agency, that becomes effective within 60 days prior to the new administration begins could be eliminated.  The possibility of either act eliminating the sec sep rule is slim but could happen. 

    So assuming the Congressional Acts do not impact the rule then sec sep is here to stay.  There is a big push by the edf/cfa group to have the council approve IFQs and inter sector trading so a few can be big winners while the majority become the losers.  The next Council meeting is in New Orleans the week of 1-30 thru 2-2 with public testimony on Wed 2-1.  The meeting is at the Astor Crown Plaza on the edge of the French Quarter at 739 Canal Street.  The public testimony begins at 2:30.  Other ways to comment, not nearly as effective, are by email to  If you do not care if the for-hire fishery ends up in the hands of a few then don’t do anything.  If you are concerned about your future in the for-hire fishery then I strongly suggest you get involved NOW.  Your future and your ability to continue in your for-hire business is at stake. 

    Feel free to share this with anyone you know, especially in the for-hire fishery. 


    Capt. Bob Zales, II

    PH 850-763-7249

    Fax 850-763-3558 

    "Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom."  Thomas Jefferson

  • 12/16/2016 8:34 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    For-hire pilot project underway; measures approved for mutton snapper; 
    scoping options for red snapper 

    Federally permitted charter vessels in the snapper grouper, dolphin wahoo, and coastal migratory pelagic (mackerel and cobia) fisheries along the Atlantic Coast will have the opportunity to electronically report their fishing activities, including landings and discards, beginning in mid-2017. Mandatory reporting for the federally permitted charter vessels will begin in 2018. That's the intent of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council after it approved measures to implement the reporting program during its meeting this week in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the reporting requirements proposed in the For-Hire Electronic Reporting Amendment are expected to improve the accuracy and timeliness of data available for management and stock assessments, allow better monitoring of landings and discards, and allow managers to more accurately assess the impacts of regulations on the for-hire industry in federal waters.

    Currently for-hire charter vessels, commonly referred to as "6-pack" vessels for the number of customers they are allowed to carry, are considered part of the recreational fishery for data collection purposes and there are no logbook reporting requirements. Getting a handle on the amount of fish harvested and sometimes even more importantly, the number of fish released by offshore recreational fishermen is a daunting task. Estimates are made using data collected through a combination of dockside intercepts, telephone surveys and most recently, mail surveys - all conducted through NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). Data from federally permitted charter vessels are currently included as part of the MRIP along with data estimates for private recreational anglers.

    The new reporting requirements are expected to affect approximately 2,000 charter vessels with Federal For-Hire Permits. Federally permitted headboats or "party boats" that carry more than six customers are currently required to submit weekly electronic reports through the Southeast Region Headboat Survey. The For-Hire Reporting Amendment would also change reporting deadlines for headboats to improve timeliness of reporting.

    "We realize that implementing a reporting program affecting nearly 2,000 charter vessels will take time," said Mel Bell, Chair of the Council's Data Collection Committee and representative for the SC Department of Natural Resources' Marine Resources Division. "Having a voluntary program in place for next year will provide an opportunity for NOAA Fisheries to address any reporting system issues and allow charter captains the chance to become familiar with the reporting system," explained Bell. "We intend to keep reporting as simple as possible by providing a platform that will allow captains to complete electronic reports while offshore or at home on their computers and avoiding duplicative reporting requirements."

    The Council received an update on a pilot electronic reporting project currently being conducted in partnership with the Atlantic Coast Cooperative Statistics Program and the States of SC, GA, and FL. A total of 24 charter vessels from North Carolina to the Florida Keys are participating, using onboard tablets to test software and ease of reporting. The project also involves testing a dockside validation mobile app, an electronic measuring board, and a mobile app for law enforcement. The Council is pursuing additional program funding for outreach and training relative to implementation of the for-hire reporting requirement.

    After reviewing public comment and much discussion, the Council requested that staff develop a white paper to begin outlining information on limited entry options for federal for-hire permits in the snapper grouper fishery. The Council's Snapper Grouper Committee will continue discussions during its 2017 meetings. The Council decided not to pursue limited entry for Dolphin Wahoo and Coastal Migratory Pelagic for-hire permits at this time.

    Mutton Snapper, Red Snapper, and Other Actions  

    The Council approved Snapper Grouper Amendment 41 for review by the Secretary of Commerce. The amendment addresses management measures for mutton snapper and includes regulations to designate April through June as spawning months, retain mutton snapper in the 10-snapper aggregate bag limit and set the mutton snapper bag limit at 5 per person per day year round, specify a commercial trip limit during the spawning months of 5 per person per day with a trip limit of 500 pounds during the "regular season" (non-spawning season months), and increase the minimum size limit for mutton snapper from 16 inches to 18 inches total length. 

    Discussions continued on options for the red snapper fishery. The fishery remains closed in federal waters. Additional management measures or modifications to current management measures are needed to reduce the large number of dead discards contributing to the stock's overfishing status as the stock continues to rebuild. The Council will solicit public input during a series of in-person scoping meetings scheduled for January and February 2017.

    Public hearings will be held in conjunction with the January/February scoping meetings on allocation measures for yellowtail snapper. The Council had initially included both yellowtail snapper and dolphin in a joint amendment to address allocations after the commercial fishery was closed for both species in 2015. The Council will continue to address allocation measures for dolphin during its March 2017 meeting. In addition, the Council approved Visioning Amendments for public scoping with measures for both commercial and recreational snapper grouper fisheries as a part of the Council Vision Blueprint for the Snapper Grouper Fishery. Scoping for the Visioning Amendments will be held via webinar. Schedules for the public hearings and scoping meetings will be publicized as they are finalized.

    The Council decided not to move forward with a proposed change to the fishing year for Atlantic cobia, noting the efforts of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to develop a complementary management plan to allow additional flexibility for state management considerations. The fishing year change may be addressed at a later date if necessary. The ASMFC is currently soliciting public input on proposed measures.

    The next Council meeting is scheduled for March 6-10, 2017 at the Westin Jekyll Island, Jekyll Island, Georgia. Final committee reports and other materials from this week's meeting are available from the Council's website.  Read further details and see images and other related meeting links by viewing the December 2016 Council Meeting Round-up Story Map.

    The December 2016 Meeting Report is also available from the website.

  • 11/03/2016 12:39 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    A Time for Thanks
    by Captain Charlie Phillips

    November is a month that revolves around several big dates, Election Day (which can’t get here and be gone soon enough) Veterans Day and of course Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the last one, I wanted to strike a different tone for this months From the Crow’s Nest piece and give thanks.             

    I am first and foremost thankful to live in the greatest nation this world has ever known. During my time in the service, I had countless opportunities to travel abroad to different lands, seeing new cultures and meeting new folks. While I did see some beautiful and amazing sights, and encountered some wonderful people along the way, there is no place like home.

    Growing up in rural Silk Hope, North Carolina, my folks gave me a 22 rifle, a fishing pole, a four wheeler and the freedom to roam the dirt roads, terrorizing the squirrels and fishing every pond that was in our zip code. I was given the ability to learn life’s lessons in a wonderful community full of hard working Americans who were the definition of the quote, “It takes a village to raise a child.” To me this time was the groundwork of where I learned what hard work, work ethic and community meant. It’s the gold standard for me still today and I am so very thankful for this foundation as I get older and a bit wiser. 

    I am thankful that I had the opportunity to serve our great nation, to be in the company of heroes, and to learn what selfless service, discipline, and warrior spirit really mean. I am thankful I was able to return home when my time was done, with the freedom to live where I chose, worship how I felt best, and work in the field I wanted. These freedoms are so many times taken for granted as they are so basic to us in this country, but we should never forget there are millions in this world that will never have an inkling of what we have today.

    I am thankful for meeting my wife Laura, who helped, encouraged and pushed me to fulfill my dreams of obtaining my USCG Masters license and opening our own charter fishing business down in the Everglades National Park. I started my business off in the crème de la crème of the fishing world, living in Everglades City in the heart of the Everglades, knowing now the passion and mystique that so many others feel when they think of the Everglades and 10,000 islands I realize how sacred a place this is and am thankful to call it home. I am grateful to have a good fishery that still challenges me each day. Great customers who are loyal to our business and feel much more like fishing with a friend than with clients and a community that embraces the importance of guides, fishing and tourism.

    I am thankful to the founders of the FGA who over 25 years ago had the vision to see the importance of joining voices and coming together for a greater good. Ensuring the resources we all love and cherish are available long after we are gone. I am thankful for Captain Pat Kelly welcoming me into the Florida Guides Association in 2008 when I first come to work a show booth. He and Mrs. Pat have worked tirelessly the past 20 years to ensure the FGA stayed viable and relevant so that we, the next generation of leaders can steer the ship into the future and continue the legacy of the best professional guide and captains group there has ever been. I am thankful that he, and the other leaders, had the faith and belief  to invite me to step into a leadership position when I first was honored to join the board.

    I am thankful to all of you that support the mission of the Florida Guides Association. Our captain and guide members each are here for their own reason, but your membership provides the opportunity for the FGA to represent not only our industry, but also our recreational friends, neighbors and customers as well.

    I am thankful of your faith in your leadership to represent you, and your patience as we grow the FGA into the future. In the past few years we have come from 80 guide members to over 200, a wonderful achievement that’s totally due to your faith, loyalty and belief in the mission of the FGA. We still have miles to go though, as we all know, that 200 guides is barely scratching the surface of those who carry the title Capt. in the Sunshine State. With your help, I hope one day see that number soar well over the one thousand member mark.

    I am thankful for the current leadership and active members of the FGA who selflessly volunteer their time to attend meetings, work shows, help teach kids and take the time to spread the word of who the Florida Guides Association is and what we do. You are the best commercial the FGA could ever have, and the fact that you give your time freely shows that what we are doing here is worthwhile. 

    I am thankful to have had and have the pleasure of steering this great ship we call the FGA. It’s an honor I do not take lightly and lose sleep wondering if I am doing all I can to serve our members, protect our resources and ensure our ability to enjoy the fisheries we all love continues into the future. 

    I am thankful for those of you that take the time to read this editorial each month, and even more for those that send feedback, positive or negative as it helps me get the pulse of who you are, and what you find important. Every month as I search for inspiration on what to write, its knowing so many out there see the importance in what the FGA is doing that inspire the idea to write the next sentence. You, are the backbone, the heart and soul of the Florida Guides Association and for that we are all so very thankful.

    And finally, I am thankful, and always a little amazed, that we get to take people fishing for a living. We pay our bills, keep the lights on taking strangers in search of a fish each day. If that’s not something you can be thankful for, then I don’t know what to say!! 

    I wish you all a wonderful month. Remember to thank a veteran on the 11th and save some turkey for me on Thanksgiving. Hope to see you on the water.

    Capt. Charlie Phillips

  • 10/03/2016 3:28 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    I am at my best, at my happiest when I am on the water. It’s the place that never fails to amaze me, never fails to show me something new, lets me experience something fresh. Taking guest out each day is a blessing that can hardly be expressed in words. How lucky are we that get to do this… and get paid for it on top of that? It’s the dream of so many, the reality for a very small few. But the life of a charter captain is not all monster fish, happy customers and generous tips. Nope more often its long days, broken stuff, and internal panic as you try to find fish that were just here yesterday!!

    For this months “From the Crow’s Nest” piece, I wanted to touch on the topic of the “romantic” title of being called a Charter Captain and Professional Guide and what we can do to make our businesses and the FGA even stronger.

    Up at 0400, out the door by 0430. Boat launched and in the water by 0515, gear placed, everything wiped down and ready for guest 0545. At the bait shop by 0600, back at the dock and waiting for my guest by 0630. Guest arrive 0645 and we depart, back to the dock at 1500, clean fish and shake hands with everyone. Guest depart by 1600, wash the boat, gas the boat, rig tomorrows gear and load back on trailer and back home about 1730. Only a 13.5 hour day.

    I am going to bet, that this is pretty typical for most of our FGA Guide Members out there. Of course there are some variations to the schedule as many are running double trips, net bait before the guest arrive etc. etc. but the basics are pretty much the same. The days are long, the work is hard and the rewards are earned each and every trip. But for a great many of us, there is nothing we think is better in this world. We love the work, we love the challenge, we love the guest and we love pursuing the fish. It’s a primal thing I think, our desire to hunt, to out-think, to outsmart a wild creature, and add to that, taking someone with us who has never even been on a boat or held a fishing rod in their life and with our guidance and experience is able to have a shot at success, man that’s as good as it gets!!

    But every day is not roses and sunshine and unless you are running someone else’s boat, the price to play is high and going up each and every year. From filling the gas tank, to icing the box, new rods and reels, boat registrations, CPR and First Aid classes, outboard repairs, charter insurance, slip fees the list goes on and on and on. And going back to that 13.5 hour day and just using a random average full day rate of $700 divided by those 13.5 long hours’ converts to $51.85 per hour.

    Now to the average person that may seem like some very high wages for simply taking folks fishing but that’s gross not net of course, and all that stuff I just mentioned has to be taken out and paid for. Fuel is usually the biggest daily expense, followed by bait and ice and gear and on and on. If you cut that $700 in half for expenses and divide again by the 13.5 hour day now we are at $25.92 per hour. Again to someone working a 9 to 5 on the hill a pretty high rate for taking folks fishing each day, but don’t forget guides don’t get sick days, they don’t get pension plans and benefits packages. AND even the best of the best will have days where no one books a trip.

    Carrying the title of Captain/Guide for those that run their own charters, means being CEO and chief toilet scrubber all at the same time. It’s a lifestyle, and not for everyone. Only a small majority make it in the industry for a variety of reasons. Great fisherman are not always great guides as it’s not what you can catch, but what you can teach you guest how to catch. Those that don’t know their cost, don’t usually make it, and those that don’t save up for slow times don’t make it. Also I have found those that don’t constantly find an edge that separates themselves and their business from the pack will struggle.

    When I started my charter business years back, I joined the Florida Guides Association solely for more visibility and exposure. Over the years that has changed, but at the time the website listing was a big help in getting my name out. From there I started attending every show the FGA set the booth up at. While it cost me in gas and a day off the water, I quickly found that booking trips with folks that stopped by a show was far easier than over the phone or via an email.

    These are easy ways that every FGA member can utilize their FGA membership to try and work on increasing their trip count. If we have a booth, as a member you can participate and represent the FGA and pass out your business cards and talk with attendees about your fishery and business. You also are encouraged to send us fishing reports to showcase what’s the hot bite in your area, again an easy and free way to present yourself to all the readers of this newsletter. Our Facebook page is another, for all you social media gurus, post of video of a happy customer, send us a picture and we will share it and help you promote yourself.

    Few ever take advantage of these opportunities and I find that a puzzling thing. All of us catch fish, have boats and fishing rods, again it’s what you can do to increase your charter business a little ahead of your competitor. For me, I will never turn down an opportunity that presents itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never at a good time, and will often result in lost sleep and extra work, but I want to be here 20 years from now and nothing good is ever easy. If I have an opportunity to write an article, assist with a show or attend an event, I am your guy.

    The FGA wants to see you succeed, for with your success comes your continued support of the FGA mission. We cannot do what we do without you, and we are working very hard to be a help in running your business. All the shows and events the FGA attends are to not only promote the FGA to new guides and captains but also to let the recreational sector know that when they seek a guide, it should be a FGA guide. And in 2017 we will start for the first time attending shows in other states for the sole purpose of telling the recreational sector who we are and why they should seek out an FGA guide for their next trip.

    As the President of the Florida Guides Association, I never forget that it is OUR association. As a guy who has personally struggled, scratched and clawed to secure his personal business a secure footing for the future, it’s very important to me that as a large professional association we do all we can to help in any way we can our members be successful in their business. Quoting a favorite song lyric, “when you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around, and help the next one in line” is one of the best examples the responsibility we all have in guaranteeing the next string of Captains and Guides have the opportunities we do today. You old salts teaching the rookies, and you rookies taking the time to listen.

    The job we have is a tough one, very few of us will ever be rich, very few will ever be famous or a household name. But my gosh, doesn’t it seem like a dream sometimes when the seas are calm, the fish are chewing and clients are smiling? As a matter of fact, “living the dream” is my unofficial motto.. As long as people are calling you Captain and Guide, the FGA will be here to support you. For 25 years we have been the leader of the industry and with your continued support we will only grow.

    Thank you for all you do out there each and every day. Thank you for the hard work, thank you for taking guest out each day and doing all you can to help them find success, and getting them back to the dock safely and responsibly. Thank you for your support of the Florida Guides Association. As always any feedback is always welcomed and if I can assist with anything, don’t hesitate to ask.

  • 10/01/2016 3:40 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    We are often asked, “What is the role of NOAA Fisheries (NOAA) in managing protected species?” The answer is complex as NOAA participates in a variety of management activities. Here, we will take a look at how the agency protects endangered smalltooth sawfish while working towards its recovery.

    NOAA listed the smalltooth sawfish as an endangered species in April 2003, after scientists determined that the species was at risk of extinction. The main reasons for the decline of this species were bycatch mortality and habitat loss. The listing triggered several required actions for NOAA under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including designating critical habitat and developing a recovery plan. A recovery plan was published in January 2009, after years of development and input from the public. It was then followed by a final rule to designate critical habitat in September of that same year. The combination of these three documents (listing rule, critical habitat rule, and recovery plan) provides the groundwork for the conservation of this species.

    NOAA has a two-pronged approach to conservation under the Act, (1) stop further declines in abundance (protect), and (2) increase abundance to historical numbers (recover). The first objective (protection) is largely conducted under Section 7 of the ESA. This section tells federal agencies to use their authorities to promote conservation and to find out whether any action they authorize, fund, or carry out has the potential to affect protected species. This includes federal activities like issuing in-water construction permits for docks or marinas (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), setting water quality criteria (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), and developing management plans for public lands (National Park Service). If any federal action has the potential to affect smalltooth sawfish (or any other ESA-listed species) or its critical habitat, that agency is required to consult with NOAA before any action moves forward. These consultation periods can last from several weeks to several months depending on the complexity of the action. Through this process, NOAA is able to work with federal agencies to minimize and avoid negative effects to protected species. If impacts are unavoidable, the process provides a way for the agency to monitor any critical habitat loss or mortality associated with individual projects.

    An example of the Section 7 process can be observed in the waters you might fish around Everglades National Park. In this case, the National Park Service drafted a management plan to care for the park and its resources, including the chickees. Because in-water construction activities associated with building chickees could affect smalltooth sawfish, the National Park Service entered into consultation with NOAA. During the assessment we agreed with the park’s decision that although the actions associated with the management plan could affect smalltooth sawfish, that they were not likely to adversely affect the species. With consultation complete the National Park Service put their management plan into action and can now repair chickees without further NOAA approval.

    NOAA is involved in a number of other activities associated with recovering smalltooth sawfish. This started with forming a multi-agency team that developed the recovery plan. The plan has served as a roadmap for sawfish recovery by identifying three main objectives for recovery: (1) minimize injury and mortality from human interaction, (2) protect and/or restore sawfish habitat, and (3) increase abundance.

    NOAA and its partners are engaged in ongoing efforts to minimize injury and mortality from human interaction. These efforts include working with the commercial fishing industry and raising awareness in the recreational fishing community. We have started a variety of outreach programs aimed at reducing injury and mortality, including an assortment of outreach products to encourage safe handling, safe release if caught, and reporting of any sawfish catches. The reports of any encounter (capture or sighting) are crucial for NOAA to track the status of the population and its recovery.

    To track progress in achieving recovery objectives 2 and 3, NOAA supports and participates in a number of research projects. These projects provide information on habitat needs, population abundance, and the response of sawfish to recovery actions. Some research projects are conducted by NOAA personnel while others are led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or universities. All agencies conducting research on sawfish must go through a rigorous application process to secure the necessary permits to sample and handle a protected species. The information collected from these projects is used in monitoring the status of the population as well as making management and recovery decisions.

    Now that we’ve presented a brief overview of how NOAA protects smalltooth sawfish, you might find yourself asking “how can I become involved?” First, if you capture a sawfish, leave it in the water and release it as quickly as possible. To safely release sawfish we encourage fishermen to cut the line as close to the hook as possible. This reduces the possibility of injury to both themselves and the animal. Before release, estimate the length of the sawfish and look for tags on the dorsal fins. Then, we ask fishermen to report their encounters (1-941-255-7403 or—both sightings and incidental captures. We use your reports to help track recovery progress.

    Some fishermen have expressed concern that reporting encounters will result in the closure of favorite fishing locations. NOAA has already listed the species and designated critical habitat and neither of these actions has resulted in any closed fishing areas for recreational anglers. Your encounter reports will only be used to track recovery and steer research efforts, which will ultimately benefit the species and the areas in which you fish. We are confident that NOAA and recreational anglers can work together to recover smalltooth sawfish so future generations can experience the thrill of encountering such a unique animal.

    For further information about the biology of sawfish, safe release guidance, and reporting please see our website at sawfish.

  • 10/01/2016 2:06 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    September 26, 2016 For Immediate Release (Tampa, FL) For the 24th year, the Florida Sportsman Magazine will host the Florida Sportsman Expo at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, October 8th and 9th, 2016. 

    Previous attendees to the Florida Sportsman Expo will find many changes, as well as exciting additions to the show: - Concealed Carry Permits for $39.95 in advance and $49.95 at the door. Register in advance at 

    - The DEMA "Be a Diver" pool will be at the show. Attendees may try out SCUBA diving with certified instructors. Participants must bring their own swim suits, but dressing rooms, towels and all the newest diving equipment (including wetsuits and fins) are provided. Guests can try out diving for Free. 

    - National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP®) style Tournament for school age students - Free kids’ Fishing Derby with the FWC 

    - Indoor Mobile Archery Range and Inflatable BB Gun Range New to the Florida Sportsman Expo will be a seminar stage for Ladies in the Outdoors, featuring top names from around the state, including: Brittney Novalsky; Capt. Alissa Vinoski; World Record Holder and Diver, Cheyenne Lee; Female Bowfishing sensation, Brooke Thomas; Chasten Whitfield; Pam Wirth; Christina Weber; Meli Brock; Sydney Sewell and more. 

    Back on the list of activities is the popular " Riggin’ it Right Academy" presented by SeaTow with room for up to 60 anglers at a time while Florida Sportsman staff give hands-on instruction on properly rigging baits and lures. For those interested in Fly Fishing, free fly casting and fly-tying instruction will be presented on a stocked pond. 

    Celebrities and guides, such as Reel Time’s Capt. George Gozdz and Florida Sportsman’s, “Rick Rylis, along with Host Dave East” from Best Boat, take the stage to offer tips on trophy fish and game. Enjoy seminars from Capt. Chris O’neill, Capt. Sergio Atanes, Larry “Fishman” Finch, Trophy Taker Outdoors’ Lee Cepero and Pete Petriw, D.O.A’s, Capt. Mark Nichols and more great speakers. Guns will also be available to buy, sell, or trade. 

    Attendees can learn how to effectively throw a cast net or fish from a Kayak or spend time with Manufacturers like Shimano, Fin-Nor, Daiwa, Temple Fork, Quantum, and others and learn what new products and features to expect in 2017 on the New Manufacturer’s stage. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will display exhibits of interest to boaters and hunters as well as the Florida Sportsman Grand Slam Tank, a 500-gallon mobile saltwater aquarium. Kids will be kept busy and can win free prizes with the FWC’s “Fish ID” contest. 

    “We’ve re-vamped our seminars and stages this year, and have a lot of new presenters,” said Dave East, Host of Best Boat, “From an introduction to Bowfishing for women, to fishing from a kayak, to spearfishing from a World Record Holder, we have speakers on topics for just about everyone.” 

    Tickets at the Florida State Fairgrounds box office are $8 for adults. Kids 12 and under with a parent are free. Show hours run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8th and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9th. For a discount coupon and more details visit 

    Press Contact & Interviews: Dave East, Host of Best Boat, 772 828-1358 cell #

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