Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 4 Collier County Fishing Camp

Today my class and I were back at North Collier Regional Park for some more lake fishing. Before we went outside, my colleague and I had the students take apart and reassemble their rod and reel so they could learn how to manage their own gear. They all did an excellent job at this! We then watched a video on the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program and  discussed the impacts of discarded fishing line in aquatic environments. Each student made his/her own mini-fishing line recycling bin so they'd have a reminder and a place to store their own line.
When it was time to fish, the student were informed they'd be on their own for baiting hooks, retying knots, and dehooking fish since they have had the past three days to practice. Granted, at first they were hesitant to do this on their own, but they ended up doing a great job. I was extremely proud of them. Most of the students were completely self-sufficient while fishing, which is one of the major camp objectives. The kids caught blue gill, red eared sunfish, Mayan cichlids, and  even a few largemouth bass.
The class concluded the day by playing several rounds of Fish Bingo where they gained more practice identifying fish and learning about the state fishing regulations. Based on the amount of stuff we gave away, the students seemed quite happy. Enjoy the pictures!

Do you know how to put together a fishing pole? These guys do!

Dehooking one of many cichlids caught at the lake today

Perhaps the Boca Grip is a little bit of an overkill for this fish but its the experience that counts!

A view from the other side of the lake!

Fish Bingo!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 3 Collier County Fishing Camp

Today I took my fishing class to Barefoot Beach Preserve for a little shoreline fishing. Despite the threat of rain all morning, we didn't get a drop on us! Granted the fishing today wasn't great, but several of the students did land fish. Ladyfish was the main species caught, but we also had a few whitings landed as well. The story of the day, though, was the two 14 inch pompanos one of the students caught. It was the first fish he caught during the camp. Despite the pleas from the other kids to give it to one of them, he decided to release the first one he caught. He was kind enough to give his second fish to one of the students to take home and eat. Ranger Barry showed the group how to fillet the fish, and the students got an impromptu lesson on internal fish anatomy!  Besides fishing, the students also pulled a seine net for a chance to catch some bait. We mainly caught scaled sardines and threadfin herring, but also pulled in whiting and juvenile pompano and permit. Enjoy the pictures!

That's a nice pompano!!

Ranger Barry shows some students how to fillet a fish.

Day 2 Collier County Fishing Camp

Today my students kept me busy by catching lots of fish. In fact, one student caught over 20 fish! We once again fished in fresh water and today's catch included largemouth bass, blue gill, red eared sunfish, Mayan cichlid, and even a gar. Overall I was pleased with the students' progress in tying their own knots and baiting their own hooks. After fishing I had students practice measuring fish and reading the state's fishing regulations to determine if fish were legal to keep or not. The students also participated in a food web activity to illustrate the relationships among critters in our estuary. To further illustrate this point, we did an oyster ecology lesson where the students poked and prodded through oyster clumps to look for various organisms such as crabs, worms, amphipods, snails, sponges, tunicates, bryozoans, and barnacles.
Enjoy the pictures!

Ranger Barry helping a student dehook his catch.

One happy angler!

nice bass!

several students caught Mayan cichlids which made for a good lesson on non-native species.

The first gar ever caught at one of my camps

first catch of the day!

reading the fishing regulations

A student measuring a cut out of a red grouper

A student checks out a gravid female mud crab.

Examining oyster clumps for biodiversity

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lionfish Seem to be the Topic of the Day!

Well, this isn't the kind of news we want to hear, but lionfish don't seem to be going away. The problem seems to be getting worse. I received these headlines and email in the past two days.

Efforts to spear invasive lionfish not likely to curb population, UF researchers say

Invasive lionfish now spotted in Florida's Loxahatchee River

The following was from an email from  I received from John Dodrill who is with FWC's artificial reef program
Lionfish from Recent Seamap Cruise

"FYI- SEAMAP monitoring recently picked up 17 lionfish in a single 30 minute trawl tow between Tampa and Charlotte Harbor. In the last month this office has been receiving isolated reports of individual lionfish observed on artificial reefs off Apalachicola (Franklin County), Bay County, and Okaloosa County.

This past Saturday Co-worker Keith Mille noted a lionfish in 180 ft. of water on a Panamanian freighter sunk by a U-boat during WWII off Volusia County. Lionfish were observed on that central FL east coast wreck as long ago as 2003."


Recording of Florida Scalloping Webinar

Did you know bay scallops typically only live for up to 18 months and are an entirely estuarine dependent?  Want to learn more?

 Last night my colleague Dr. Fred Vose and I delivered the first of three webinars on recreational scalloping in Florida. The webinars are meant to 1) provide useful information on scalloping regulations, safety, and handling practices, 2) increase participant's knowledge of bay scallop life history and biology, and 3) describe how bay scallop populations are monitored and managed in Florida.

To view the webinar recording  click HERE

(You might get a message that blocks you from downloading the webinar; you will need to click on "allow" to let your computer download the presentation)

To make sure your computer is compatible with Elluminate Live, go to: http://www.elluminate.com/support/index.jsp and work through steps 1 and 2.

If you have connection problems, please contact Ron Thomas with F/IFAS distance education at


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To help us improve future webinars, we would greatly appreciate your input by completing a short online evaluation about the presentation.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Seafood fraud occurs up to 70 percent of time with some species, report finds

I recently saw this article from the Sun Sentinel and thought it would be of interest to some of you.

By Peter Franceschina Sun Sentinel
Published Friday, June 17, 2011

LIGHTHOUSE POINT — Veteran South Florida fishmonger Papa Hughie knows what he likes in a fish that is going to end up on a dinner plate – preferably a whole specimen, with clear eyes and vibrant colors.
If it's already filleted, he still wants a colorful sheen to the flesh. Swordfish, mahi mahi and snapper, for example, should have bright red "blood lines," not brown or gray. He lets his nose play detective — there should be no peculiar odors.
He will not tolerate so-called "seafood fraud," the substitution of one species of fish — usually of inferior quality — for another. The deception can be carried out anywhere in the international supply chain, from the boat that hauled the fish aboard in the far reaches of the Pacific to the restaurant down the street that promises that quintessential Florida delicacy — a grouper sandwich.
Seafood fraud is a problem in some parts of the industry, according to a recent report, "Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health," issued by the national conservation group Oceana. The report cites recent studies showing that 25 percent to 70 percent of the time, fish sold in the United States as red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod is actually less desirable, cheaper fish that is more readily available.
"It's a money venture. The false labeling by country, by species or whatever they want to do with the false labeling, it's purely money driven," said Jeff Radonski, who supervises seafood fraud investigations in South Florida for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Mislabeled fish has been a problem in South Florida for at least two decades. When the Sun Sentinel had genetic tests performed on random fish samples purchased from retail markets in the late 1980s, the tests showed 90 percent were mislabeled.
Only two out of 20 samples of red snapper were the real thing. That delectable fish – Lutjanus campechanus, native to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters – is one of the most frequently impersonated by a fake.
After 35 years in the restaurant, retail and wholesale seafood business, Hugh Ganter, called Papa Hughie by almost everyone, knows his fish, and how to sniff out seafood fraud. If he ever has a question about a product he's purchased, he has DNA tests performed by state wildlife officials before he sells it or puts it on the menu of his restaurant, Seafood World.
That's how he once discovered 3,000 pounds of "grouper" he had bought was actually farm-raised catfish from Southeast Asia. There were clues: The fillets were not as thick as they should have been, and the flesh didn't have grouper's characteristic reddish tinge.
"It did not look like grouper to me," Ganter said. "Grouper would be a thicker, firmer fish. If a grouper is very, very small, it will still be reasonably thick. It is a belly fish. It is a fat fish, not like a flounder. When you cook it, it is flaky. It is one of the best fish in the water."
Grouper is expensive, and sometimes unavailable because of conservation rules. Those factors combine to make it one of the most faked fish in Florida. Its impostors include tilapia, king clip and Vietnamese catfish, marketed as swai or basa. Since 2006, state restaurant inspectors have issued more than 250 citations for the mislabeling of another fish as grouper, records show.
When Mahmood Shivji, a Nova Southeastern University professor and director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute who specializes in fish DNA research, first began testing grouper samples in 2007, he found 40 percent to 44 percent was not as advertised.
"Over the years, I found the prevalence dropped down to about 20 percent," he said, adding he believes news accounts about the fish substitutions may have reduced the practice in South Florida. "Once the media started to put these stories out, three or four distributors came to me, 'Can you test our stuff for us?' "
Still, when Shivji's students recently tested fish advertised as white tuna from 10 sushi restaurants in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, they found eight had been improperly labeled. Escolar, an oily fish that can cause diarrhea, is frequently substituted for white tuna on sushi menus, state restaurant inspection records show.
Eva Berman has run a small fish wholesale business in Miami, E & R International Seafood, for 40 years, importing seafood from around the world. She is a member of an industry group, the National Fisheries Institute, which promotes honesty in the trade through its Better Seafood Board.
"It is true in today's world we have substitution, not only in seafood items but many times in other food products," she said. "My commitment is to good seafood and to the consumers."
Fish substitutions can pose health risks, potentially exposing consumers to naturally occurring toxins — such as ciguatera in reef fish — that cause illness, according to the Oceana report. And if a less costly fish is substituted, consumers are paying a higher price for something they are not getting.
To avoid being duped, consumers should educate themselves about the seafood they buy, seek out reputable retailers who have been in business for years, and not be afraid to ask questions, Berman and other experts say.
"The first thing is always let your eyes and your nose be your guide," Ganter said. "If you can see the whole fish and they will cut it in front of you, that would be ideal. Otherwise, look at the color of the fish — the whole fish or the fillet — the colors should be bright."
If you find cheap prices on seafood that is typically more expensive, there could be a good reason — a lesser fish is masquerading as a pricier cousin.
"Given the price of grouper, if someone is pitching you a grouper sandwich for $10, there is a very good chance you're not eating real grouper," Shivji said.
Radonski, the NOAA investigator, sometimes finds himself casting a wary eye at the fish in a seafood case or those listed on a menu. When he's out to dinner with friends, they warn him not to say anything.
"Even as a consumer, I sit there and look," he said. "And even at restaurants, sometimes friends will get upset. You want a grouper sandwich. You don't want any other fish."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Catch of the Day- Sheepshead Minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus)

A male sheepshead minnow
One of the fish species my students and I commonly catch during our seine net field trips is the sheepshead minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus). Despite their name, they are not the same as the sheepshead that anglers commonly target. Seeing how they usually don't get bigger than two inches, you can imagine why!

Sheepshed minnows have relative deep bodies, are silver to olive-gray in color, and have irregular dark bands the extend over most of their sides. Males and females can be distinguished from one another as well; the edge of the male's caudal fin is darkened and females have an oscillated spot on their dorsal fin.
 Sheepshead minnows are found along the Atlantic coast throughout the Gulf of Mexico and south along the South American coastline. They are hardy fish and can tolerate a wide range of salinities. They inhabit quiet shallow waters associated with bays, lagoon, marshes, and tidal creeks. In fact, they can also survive in low-to- no oxygen waters by gulping air at the water's surface. Often they are found in schools. Sheepshead minnows are opportunistic feeders. They will feed on plant material, algae, detritus, mosquitoes and smaller fish. They also serve as an important food source for several wading birds as well as many larger fish such as red drum, snook, and spotted sea trout.

Sheepshead minnows are fast growing, short-lived fish. They can reach sexual maturity at three months old, and may only live two or three years (their exact life expectancy is unknown). During breeding the males display iridescent sky blue patches on top of their backs and orange blotches on their bellies. The females, which are smaller bodied than the males can display similar, but muted colors.  The males construct nest pits in bay bottoms to attract females, and will fiercely defend their nests.  Females can spawn several times during the spawning season and deposit several hundred eggs per spawning period. Hatching typically occurs during spring and summer. 
A sheepshed minnow in breeding colors



Sunday, June 12, 2011

West Coast Snook FIshery to Stay Closed until August 31st, 2012

Gulf coast snook anglers will now have to wait until next year to be able to keep one of Florida's most prized sport fish.  

From a FWC Press Release
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) decided on last week  to maintain a catch-and-release snook fishery in Florida's Gulf waters and reopen the recreational harvest season for snook in Florida's Atlantic waters on Sept. 1.
  Only catch-and-release fishing for snook has been allowed statewide since Dec. 15, 2010 under FWC executive orders to protect snook populations affected by prolonged cold weather in Florida during the winter of 2009-2010.
Commissioners received a staff report regarding the latest information on the status of the snook population, which suggests that snook on Florida's Atlantic coast were less severely impacted by cold weather than Gulf coast snook. Based on this information and public comment it has received, the Commission agreed to reopen the snook harvest season this fall in Atlantic waters.
Snook has been strictly regulated in Florida for more than 50 years. Current regulations include summer and winter closed harvest seasons, a one-fish bag limit during open seasons, restrictive slot-size limits and a prohibition on the sale of snook. The FWC believes these measures helped ensure that snook abundance was healthy enough before the freeze to enable the fishery to rebound and continue to grow in spite of the cold-weather impacts.
Consequently, the Commission determined that the Atlantic stock of snook in Florida's Atlantic coastal and inland waters, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, can return to the regular season opening Sept. 1. The regular daily bag limit of one snook per recreational angler will apply, as will the 28- to 32-inch total length slot limit.
In addition, the current harvest prohibition of snook in all of Florida's Gulf, Everglades National Park and Monroe County state and federal waters will remain in effect until Aug. 31, 2012. This will allow the Gulf snook population additional time to rebound and allow the FWC to complete a full stock assessment that is scheduled to be presented to the Commission in early 2012. Anglers may still catch and release snook during snook harvest closures, and the FWC encourages everyone to handle and release these fish carefully to help ensure their survival upon release.
To learn more about proper catch and release practices visit: catchandrelease.org.

If you would like to see the Snook Cold Kill Report that was presented to FWC Commissioners visit:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Update on Great Goliath Grouper Count Numbers in Collier County

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my colleagues and I participated in the second Great Goliath Grouper Count last week. I wanted to provide you with an update on the numbers we generated in Collier County.
  • Nine divers in two boats sampled a total of 10 sites ranging in depth from 26 to 80 feet. On a positive note, its two more sites than last year. Unfortunately, we were suppose to sample 12 sites, but strong currents and low visibility prevented us from doing the other two.
  • Of the 10 sites sampled, seven of them were in waters 50 feet or less while the remaining three were between 70 and 80 feet.
  • Seven of the 10 sites were barges or shipwrecks; one was a radio tower, and two were concrete pilings and rubble.
  • We counted a minimum number of 128 goliath grouper on the 10 sites (Avg 12.8).
  • Four of the sites had 15 or more goliath on them. All but one of these sites were south of Marco Island.
  • 34 of the goliath were estimated to be three feet or less
  • 63 were estimated to be between three and five feet
  • 31 of the fish were estimated to be over five feet

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Updated State Saltwater Regulations; Changes for Greater Amberjack and Gag

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has updated the state saltwater fishing regulations to reflect the new changes for greater amberjack and gag grouper.
Click here to download the regulations.

Greater Amberjack is closed in state and federal waters June 1 through July 31st.

Gag Grouper is closed in state and federal Gulf waters until September 15th. It will then be open from September 16th through November 15th, and then close November 16th until December 31st.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 2: Great Goliath Grouper Count

Today we wrapped up our surveys for the 2011 Great Goliath Grouper Count in Collier County. Our team split up into two groups to sample three sites each. My group hit the Santa Lucia, 100 Foot Barge, and the Doctors Pass 4.5 Mile Reef. It was a lot windier today than yesterday, and the visibility wasn't great. We had about 20 feet at the 100 Foot Barge, and only about 10 feet at the other two sites, which are closer to shore.  Our numbers seemed a little bit down from last year's count at these sites, but I think the poorer visibility played a  major factor. The other group went further south and surveyed the Kidd, the Caxambas 9 Mile Reef, and the Caxambas 5 Mile Reef. It sounds like their visibility was a little better than ours as well as their numbers. At the Kidd wreck, they counted fifteen goliath grouper. The most we had at any one of our sites was nine fish (Santa Lucia). I still have to tally up all of our numbers, but will let you know when I'm done. Enjoy the pictures.