Gulf sturgeon is one of three sturgeon species to live inFlorida waters. It can be found in coastal rivers alongFlorida’s Gulf coast from the Suwannee River north tothe Florida-Alabama border. Sturgeon are characterizedby bony plates (also called “scutes”) along their sides andback, as well as an asymmetrical tail. They also have along snout, whickers (or barbels), and a tube-like mouth.Gulf sturgeon are light to dark brown on the top andsides and pale underneath. They can grow to a lengthof eight feet, weigh as much as 200 pounds, and live aslong as 28 years. They are also known to jump as highas six feet in the air. It is believed jumping is a form of communication.Gulf sturgeon are anadromous ﬁsh, spending most of the year in coastal rivers and the rest of the year in theestuarine waters of the Gulf. Apparently, sturgeon only feed while in the estuarine waters where their tube-like mouths “vacuum” bottom-dwelling invertebrates,crustaceans, and worms.Pollution, poaching, habitat loss (especially spawninghabitat), and dams have all led to a decline of the gulf sturgeon population in Florida. Gulf sturgeon are now protected throughout their range.
Glenn H. Clemmer
Birds of the Bay
Despite the environmental pressuresfrom growth and development in theregion, Pensacola Bay continues toattract a remarkable variety andnumber of birds. Beaches, and someinland causeways, provide nestingareas for many imperilledspecies. Mudﬂats andseagrass meadows inshallow sections of thebay provide a bountifulfeeding ground for resident,migrant, and winteringshorebirds. Open waters arehabitat for loons, grebes,and ducks. Nesting ospreysand bald eagles can be foundthroughout the Pensacola Bay System.Maintaining these bird populations in growingmetropolitan areas is challenging. Many speciespopulations are declining, and some have virtually disappeared due to loss and disruption of habitat.
YOU CAN HELP:
• Observe posted signs that identify breeding colonies.• Don’t let dogs run loose in posted breeding areas.• Between May and August, gulls, terns, and skimmers may
nest at unmarked sites. If you discover a cloud of birdscircling noisily above your picnic, you may be in a colony.Carefully pick up your belongings and leave, watching wherethe birds settle. Choose a spot 100 yards away and enjoy theview.
• If a bird becomes entangled in ﬁshing gear, carefully remove
the hook and monoﬁlament line. Or while walking alongthe beach, pick up any stray ﬁshing line and dispose of itproperly. Birds and other animals that ingest or becomeentangled in
ﬁshing line may die.
• Report injured seabirds that require assistance. Consultthe Boating and Angling Guide Resource Directory forappropriate listings.• Stay clear of areas that may harbor nesting coloniesand of areas where ﬂocks of feeding birds are visible.Operators of personal watercraft, wave-runners, andairboats should be aware that the noise and prop-washfrom their vessels disturb wildlife and may disruptnesting and feeding.
Remember: The best way to observe and enjoy wildlife is by being quiet and moving slowly. A few extra minutes can pay rare dividends.
Kenny Wilder Kenny Wilder Larry Lynch
(Fish images courtesy of Diane Rome Peebles)
Inshore within baysnear or within grass ﬂats duringspring and summer; in the Gulf beginning in the fall with the onsetof colder weather
REDFISH (Red Drum):
Inshorenear grass beds, oyster bars, anddocks and pilings; deeper channelsduring the warmest and coolestmonths.
Inshore aroundoyster beds, bridges and pilings;nearshore in winter; and early spring over bottom structure andartiﬁcial reefs.
SPOTTED SEATROUT(Speckled Seatrout):
Inshore overgrass beds, sand, and sandy/mudbottoms; deeper water during warmest and coolest months.
Both inshore andnearshore around pilings, buoys,and wrecks; along beaches duringspring and early summer.
Inshore,nearshore, and offshore over grassbeds and reefs. Absent from NorthFlorida waters in winter.In many cases, a license is required for saltwater ﬁshing. Logon to
for up-to-date informationabout license requirements, bag limits and seasonal closures.
Angler’s Catch-and-Release Guide
Most anglers are careful to release many of the ﬁsh they catch.This helps maintain healthy ﬁsh populations and ensures thatthere will be plenty of ﬁsh for the future. However, many ﬁshcaught and released may die because of the stress of captureand handling. A set of simple steps may be taken to greatly increase the chance of survival for released ﬁsh.
How to Begin
• Try to set the hook quickly to prevent the ﬁsh from
swallowing the bait.
• Use hooks that are barbless and made from metals that rust
• Keep release tools handy.• Use circle hooks when ﬁshing with live or cut bait.
Handling Your Catch
• Try to keep the ﬁsh in the water while removing the hook.• If the ﬁsh must be handled, use only wet hands.• Get the ﬁsh back in the water as quickly as possible.• When handling ﬁsh, support weight of the ﬁsh horizontally
with both hands.
Removing the Hook
• Back the hook out the opposite way it went in.• Cut the leader as close to the hook as possible if it cannot
be quickly removed.
• Using a release tool is safer for the ﬁsh and for you.
• Gently place the ﬁsh head ﬁrst in the water, supporting its
body until it swims away.
• A ﬁsh that has been stressed by the ﬁght or handling should
be revived by moving it forward in the water to promote water ﬂow over the gills.
• If a released ﬁsh does not swim away, recover it and try again.
A RELEASED FISH THAT HAS BEEN HANDLEDPROPERLY HAS AN EXCELLENT CHANCE OFSURVIVAL!
Fishing theSeagrass Flats
• Do not operate your boat in areas that are too
shallow for your equipment.
• Use nautical and tide charts to plan your course.• Never cut through
seagrass beds with apropeller. Watch yourprop wash for mud orplant life which may indicate that you are tooshallow. Remember, propscars take years to recover!
• Pole or use a trolling motor when traveling across or
when ﬁshing ﬂats. Quiet anglers catch more ﬁsh.
• If you run aground, turn off your engine, raise the
motor, and push or pole your way to deeper water.If necessary, wait for high tide to move your boat.
• Do not crowd another boat. If you see another
boat ﬁshing on the ﬂats, do not approach unlessbeckoned.
The Monoﬁlament Recovery and Recycling Program (MRRP)
isa statewide effort to educate thepublic on the problems causedby monoﬁlament line left in theenvironment, toencourage recyclingthrough a network of line-recycling binsand drop-off locations, and to conductvolunteer monoﬁlament line cleanupevents.Place used or old ﬁshing line in outdoorrecycling bins mounted at many piers,boat ramps, and marina throughoutthe state. Indoor recycling bins are alsoavailable at tackles shops.
SHOW YOU CAREABOUT THE MARINEENVIRONMENT
Residents and visitors alike share the waters of Pensacola Bay and coastal beaches with a magniﬁcentarray of birds and marine animals, including speciesthat are threatened or endangered. Boaters should beon the lookout for these creatures and take specialcare to protect them and to preserve their habitats. Always stow trash carefully for disposal on shore, andmake it a policy to pick up plastics and other marinedebris encountered while underway. Carelessly discarded trash can trap and kill birds, ﬁsh, and othermarine animals. When fueling boats, be especially careful not to ‘topoff’ the tank, allowing gas to spill. Small toxic spillsadd up quickly. Sewage from holding tanks shouldbe discarded only at approved pump-out stations andmarinas.
Don’t Release AquariumSpecimens IntoLocal Waters
Many nonnative aquatic species are ﬁnding their way into Florida’s coast waters. When new animals andplants are introduced into an area, they often cannotsurvive there and die. However, if they can survive inthe new area, they can begin to compete with nativespecies and may end up displacing native plants andanimals. This can result in major changes to theenvironment.For more information about marine invasive species,please visit
Protect Wild Dolphins-Admire From ADistance
Watching bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitatcan be an educational and enriching experience if conducted safely and responsibly.To responsibly view wild dolphins and preventharassment, NOAA Fisheries Service provides thefollowing guidelines:
• Remain a respectful distance of 50 yards and a
vessel position slightly behind and parallel to thedolphin’s direction of movement.
• Limit viewing time to 30 minutes or less.• For a better view, use binoculars or telephoto lenses.• Never encircle or trap dolphins between watercraft
or between watercraft and shore.
• If a dolphin approaches, place watercraft’s engine in
neutral and allow the dolphin to pass.
• Avoid any close interactions, such as swimming
with, touching, or petting wild dolphins.
• Avoid separating mother/calf pairs.• Move away cautiously if dolphins show signs of
Remember: It is illegal to feed, attempt to feed, or harass all wild marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
For more information, visit
.To report marine mammal violations, such as feeding wild dolphins or harassment, please contact theNOAA Fisheries Service Enforcement Hotline at
1-800-853-1964. To report a marine mammal indistress, please contact: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
Diving the USS
The Oriskany Reef was deployed on the morning of May
17, 2006 at a depth of 212 feet, approximately 22.5 nauticalmiles southeast of Pensacola Pass (30˚2.6´N, 87˚0.3967´W).
The exact position was selected because it had the water
depth to allow the ship to be reefed and maintain the 55-
foot navigational clearance required by US Army Corps of Engineers permit. Because the ship is wider than it is tall, andthere was no guarantee that the ship would not land on her
side, the ship’s 157-foot beam was used to determine the water
landed on the exact planned coordinates,and is sitting perfectly upright on the seaﬂoor with the bow facing due south. When diving the USS
, please remember several basicsafety issues that are consistent with all scuba training:
• Never dive beyond your training level. Going to the deck
(135 feet) or beyond requires technical
• Divers should have advance training to go beyond 100
feet (however there is plenty to see above 100 feet).
• Divers should have advanced wreck (or cave) training
to penetrate the ship in an overhead environment. Nomodiﬁcations have been made to the ship toaccommodate penetration dives.
• Dive your deepest part of the dive ﬁrst (whatever depth
you plan to do), stay a very short time, the rest of the dive will be decompression and can be done safely.
• Plan your dive and dive your plan.• Plan on a very slow ascent.• Plan on doing a longer safety stop, perhaps 5 minutes at15 feet (normally 3 minutes).• Always stay hydrated.• Always us the buddy system and know your buddy’s gear.
is in deep water and can be affected by strong water currents, diversare strongly encouraged to useextreme caution when divingthis reef. Always begin thedive into the current so youcan go downstream with thecurrent in the later part of the dive. Stay on the lee sideof the island, away from thecurrent for most of the dive,particularly the deeper part of the dive.For more information about the USS