Be Safe on the Water This Summer

By: Bill Mahan, Florida Sea Grant Agent – UF IFAS Extension Bay County

It’s that time of the year when our beaches and waters fill up with folks who want to enjoy their time soaking up some rays and playing in the water! However, the water can be a dangerous place, so be alert to things around you!

General Water Safety Tips

  • Take swimming lessons and become a stronger swimmer.

  • Protect children from dangerous currents and breaking waves by having them wear life jackets.

  • Swim in designated beach areas and stay 150 feet away from piers and breakwaters.

  • Check the beach forecast before heading out and pay attention to warning flags throughout the day.

  • Recognize the signs of drowning and learn CPR (Red Cross, American Heart Association). Drowning may not look like you think. When drowning is portrayed in the movies, it often involves the drowning person splashing and making noise, calling out for help. However, in most real situations, drowning can be a quiet affair with people nearby not recognizing that a person is in trouble.

Tips for Swimmers

  • Always enter the water feet first. Don’t dive in head first.

  • If you become tired, switch between swimming and floating until you reach shore.

  • Stay calm: Fear, panic and exhaustion can be a deadly combination. Focus on breathing and keeping your head above water.

  • If in danger: Face the shore and call for help.

Tips for Walkers/ Waders

  • Do the stingray shuffle: When you are walking or wading in the water, shuffle your feet along the bottom to chase off stingrays. This gives the ray an opportunity to swim away.

Parents: Take the Pledge and Be a Water Watcher

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Be a Water Watcher! Take the pledge to keep an eye on members of your group when they are in or near the water! Credit – Be Current Smart

Carefully Watch People in Your Group — Learn How to Help Someone Else

Many people have died while trying to rescue others caught in rip currents. Don’t become a victim yourself. The most effective defense against drowning is closely watching people in your party.

  • Throw anything that floats to the person in trouble, like a life ring or cooler.

  • Depending on where you are, seek help from park staff, friends or others.

  • Wear a life jacket if you must go in the water — it can save you and the person in trouble

  • Ask others to stay away from piers and breakwaters..

  • Pay attention to warning flags.

    • Green = Low Hazard. However, stay aware of changing conditions.

    • Yellow = Medium Hazard. Watch for rip currents.

    • Single Red = High Hazard. Stay on the beach and out of the water. A red flag means that swimmers are in danger of drowning due to rip currents or other hazards. Dangerous currents are often present near structures, regardless of weather conditions.

    • Double Red = Water closed to public.

    • Purple = Dangerous Marine Life. Jellyfish, stingray, shark, etc.

Rip Current Photo credit NOAA Be Safe on the Water This Summer

Keep an eye out for Rip Currents – Photo by NOAA

Rip Currents

Rip currents can be killers. They account for more than 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards. Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore that quickly pull swimmers out to sea. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. The best way to stay safe is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards. For more information about rip currents, visit NOAA’s Rip Current Safety Website and/or UF IFAS Solutions for your Life Website. To view a rip current video.


In the United States, an average of 62 people are killed each year by lightning. Already in 2008, 24 people have died due to lightning strikes. In 2007, lightning killed 45 people in the U.S, hundreds of others were injured. When thunder roars, go indoors! The safest place during lightning activity is a large enclosed building, not a picnic shelter or shed. The second safest place is an enclosed metal vehicle, car, truck, van, etc., but NOT a convertible, bike or other topless or soft-top vehicle. Wait 30 minutes until after the last thunder crack before going back to the beach. For more information about lightning safety, visit NOAA’s Lightning Safety Website.

lightning across the sky Photo credit NOAA Be Safe on the Water This Summer

When at the beach, if you see lightening approaching head for good cover – Photo by NOAA


Shark attacks, though rare, are most likely to occur near shore, typically inshore of a sandbar or between sandbars, where sharks can become trapped by low tide, and near steep drop offs where shark’s prey gather. The relative risk of a shark attack is very small, but the risks should always be minimized whenever possible. To reduce your risk:

  • Don’t swim too far from shore

  • Stay in groups – sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual

  • Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight when sharks are most active

  • Don’t go in the water if bleeding from a wound – sharks have a very acute sense of smell

  • Leave the shiny jewelry at home – the reflected light resembles fish scales

    Cruising Shark Photo credit NOAA 1024x680 Be Safe on the Water This Summer

    Cruising shark – Photo by NOAA

  • Avoid brightly-colored swimwear – sharks see contrast particularly well

To learn more about sharks, visit NOAA’s Shark Website.


Keep an eye out for jellyfish. All jellies sting, but not all jellies have poison that hurts humans. Of the 2,000 species of jellyfish, only about 70 seriously harm or occasionally kill people.

  • Take note of a purple flag flying at the beach, it could indicate that jellyfish are present. Be careful around jellies washed up on the sand. Some still sting if their tentacles are wet. Tentacles torn off a jelly can sting, too.

  • If you are stung, wash the wound with vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Or sprinkle meat tenderizer or put a baking soda and water paste on the sting. Don’t rinse with water, which could release more poison. Lifeguards usually give first aid for stings. See a doctor if you have an allergic reaction.

Jellyfish Photo credit NASS 1024x790 Be Safe on the Water This Summer

There are several species of jellyfish that can cause problems for swimmers – Photo by NOAA.


Too much sun can spoil a vacation. And it can take up to 24 hours before the full damage is visible. The two most common types of burns are first degree and second degree burns.

  • First degree sunburns cause redness and will heal, possibly with some peeling, within a few days. These can be painful and are best treated with cool baths and bland moisturizers or over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams.

  • Second degree sunburns blister and can be considered a medical emergency if a large area is affected. When a burn is severe, accompanied by a headache, chills or a fever, seek medical help right away. Be sure to protect your skin from the sun while it heals.

Common sense and a few simple precautions can help you and your family have a safe and healthy day at the beach. For the US Lifesaving Association’s top ten beach and water safety tips please visit their website.

2015 Scallop Harvest Tops Predictions on Florida’s Natural North Florida Gulf Coast!

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2015 scallop 19 173x300 2015 Scallop Harvest Tops Predictions on Floridas Natural North Florida Gulf Coast!Photos are worth thousands of words!

Yep, this is the year folks on Florida’s Natural North Florida Gulf coastline have been waiting for.  Opening day of recreational bay scallop season at Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach and St. Marks have exceeded everyone’s expectations.  It’s busy, the water’s clear, and the scallops are easy to harvest.


Bay Scallop Abundance Survey Results, June 21, 2015

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Expect big crowds on Florida’s Big Bend when the bay scallop harvest begins on June 27, 2015

The “Bay Scallop Abundance Survey” results from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is always wildly-anticipated by folks hoping to catch their limit of these tasty bivalves during the summer harvest.  The 2015 season begins on June 27 and ends on September 25.  There’s plenty of information about the “how-to” of gathering your own scallops (see: http://www.saltwateranglersguide.com/?page_id=2215, for example) but everyone wants to know if the current year’s “crop” is good.

The FWC has just released the 2015 numbers, and they look very good for Natural North Florida/Big Bend waters.  In fact, numbers for Taylor/Dixie counties (Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach) and Wakulla/Franklin counties (St. Marks and Panacea) are significantly better than last year.  abundance Bay Scallop Abundance Survey Results, June 21, 2015


Catch Fish, Not Birds, When Fishing Natural North Florida’s Coastal Waters

birds 1 300x225 Catch Fish, Not Birds, When Fishing Natural North Floridas Coastal Waters

When you find striking fish in Florida’s Gulf waters, you can expect to find birds!

Birds that become entangled in fishing line almost always die a slow, agonizing and painful death. To avoid hooking or tangling sea birds, use the following techniques:

  • Cast away from birds, especially if you’re fishing with topwater lures or baits
  • If dock fishing, let the current take you line towards the fish rather than casting
  • Use sufficient weight to keep your live or cut bait below the surface, especially when birds are present
  • Use a slow retrieve to keep bait below the surface

If you accidentally hook a sea bird, here’s what to do:

  • Do not cut the line
  • Seek assistance, as 4 hands are better than 2 when it comes to subduing a frightened bird
  • Reel the bird in slowly
  • Use a net to bring the bird to the dock or onto the boat
  • Calm the bird by putting a cloth or towel over its eyes
  • Hold the bird’s wings close to its body and locate the hook or tangle
  • Cut the line near the hook, if tangled
  • If the bird is hooked, use pliers or cutter to remove the barbed point of the hook, and pull the hook from the bird
  • Double check for any line that might still be around the bird
  • Release the bird into the water

World Sea Turtle Day Celebration, Gainesville, FL–June 20, 2015

World Sea Turtle Day Celebration

Jun 20th 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Florida Museum – 3215 Hull Road, SW 34th Street and Hull Road Gainesville, FL 32611       GET DIRECTIONS

e73f703fcdf5f52926de39bf89a098bd f7278 World Sea Turtle Day Celebration, Gainesville, FL  June 20, 2015Celebrate World Sea Turtle Day with the Sea Turtle Conservancy! Children and families are invited to tour the Museum’s sea turtle exhibit with staff from the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The free event features sea turtle specimens, a turtle library and stickers and bookmarks for all kids. Children also may create fun crafts to take home, meet sea turtle scientists and play turtle trivia for a chance to win a cool prize.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to speak with researchers from the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at UF about sea turtle conservation and careers in marine biology.

Marine Fisheries Management Workshop, Steinhatchee, July 16, 2015

Steinhatchee – Steinhatchee Community Center, 1013 Riverside Drive

Do you have ideas about how Florida’s marine fisheries should be managed? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants to hear from you.

Whether you are a seafood aficionado who wants priority placed on getting fish to the dinner plate or a recreational fisher who prefers to catch and release, we want to know what marine fisheries issues you are concerned about. This is your chance to let us know what we are doing right, where you see opportunities for improvement, and what your top priorities for marine fisheries management are.

To gather this input and develop a better understanding of the public’s views on marine fisheries, the FWC will host several workshops across the state throughout the month of July 2015.

All are invited and we hope you will be able to attend.

Groups that might be interested in participating include commercial and recreational fishers, wholesale dealers, those in the tourism industry, fishing guides, divers and concerned citizens.

At the meetings, staff will provide a brief presentation about statewide and regional fisheries management issues that are currently being worked on and other potential issues that have been brought to our attention. Then it will be your turn to fill in any gaps and let us know where you think the FWC should focus its efforts in the coming years.

Workshops are from 6 to 8 p.m. local time.


Free Fishing Weekends In Florida, June 2015

Governor Rick Scott announced four license-free fishing days in June for Florida residents and visitors. The license-free fishing weekends are: Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7, saltwater recreational fishing license requirement will be waived. Saturday and Sunday, June 13-14, freshwater recreational fishing license requirement will be waived. Governor Scott said, “This summer, we’re excited to make it easier for families to enjoy the world class fishing our state has to offer. Florida is the fishing capital of the world and one of the many reasons we welcomed a record 98.9 million visitors to the Sunshine State last year. I look forward to fishing with my grandsons this summer, and I hope everyone takes advantage of license-free fishing this month.” “We hope new anglers, including residents and visitors, are inspired to join in the excitement with those who already enjoy fishing,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “This is an excellent way for the entire family to get out and enjoy all of the great fishing opportunities we have to offer in Florida: the Fishing Capital of the World!” The four days in June are a part of the eight total license-free fishing days the FWC offers each year. All bag limits, seasons and size restrictions apply on these dates. To learn more about license-free fishing days, visit MyFWC.com/License.

Gulf Anglers–Don’t Forget To Register For CCA-Florida’s 2015 STAR Tournament!

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CCA Florida’s Executive Director, Brian Gorski, prepares to release a tagged redfish on Florida’s Natural North Florida coastline.

Just a reminder for everyone to register for the CCA STAR Tournament. The Tournament runs until Labor Day 2015 and still has some fabulous prizes, valued at about $500,000. That’s a bunch of money and with more than 120 tagged redfish distributed along the Gulf coast, everyone has a chance to win. And there are prizes for fish other than reds. Simply download the smartphone app and register any fish/any species throughout the Tournament to be eligible for a drawing.

As of June 1, six tagged redfish have been caught. Four anglers called after catching tagged fish but were disappointed to miss the free truck, as they hadn’t entered. And one cleaned the fish before finding the tag! However, one angler, Jerry Bergeron, caught a tagged fish in Cockroach Bay, south of Tampa, and is the winner of the 2015 GMC 1500 Crew Cab truck from Conley Buick/GMC!  There are still plenty of fish between Yankeetown and Panacea, just waiting for someone in our area to cash in!

Prizes still include boats, motors, trailers as well as about $100,000 in scholarships for winners in the kids’ category. BUT FAIR WARNING—if you don’t enter, you can’t win. Don’t be the poor soul who shows up at the dock with a winning, tagged, redfish and didn’t winner. If you’re already a CCA member, your entry costs only $30. If you’re not a member, your $60 entry fee gets you a one-year CCA membership along with Tournament eligibility. For completer information, rules, prize lists and registration information, go online to CCA Florida’s STAR website.

2015 Scallop Season Solutions (For Hook and Liners)!

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Hook and Liners–forget the flats if the water’s clear and the scallopers are out in force.

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Follow Meghan’s lead and catch some big fish close to shore!

Natural North Florida’s recreational scallop season isn’t necessarily a bad thing for fishermen. However, if you fish from Keaton Beach, St. Marks, Panacea, Econfina, Horseshoe Beach or Steinhatchee it can be aggravating. Those of you wishing to use launching ramps at these locations will probably find large, untrained crowds and those of you needing a motel room will find lots of “NO VACANCY” signs, or inflated “seasonal” room rates. Even beer, gas and sunscreen prices will be available only at premium prices.

So—what can you do if you want to fish during “the season”?

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Expect crowded waterways…

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…as well as busy boat ramps and marinas!

First, try fishing somewhere new. Bay scallops don’t usually appear at Yankeetown, Waccasassa, Cedar Key and Suwannee. These waters are not as clear or as salty as scallops prefer. And these are pretty good areas to fish between July 1 and September 10—with less-crowded facilities. The inshore fisheries in Waccasassa Bay (north of Yankeetown), the Cedar Key to Suwannee area and Horseshoe Cove (between Suwannee and Horseshoe Beach) are all excellent for trout and redfish, particularly in the early mornings. These areas also offer some great wade-fishing opportunities. Consider a pre-dawn run, getting your feet wet and then throwing topwater plugs as the sun rises. Or, bouncing soft plastics off the bar edges up until mid-morning.   If you’re used to fishing the crystal-clear waters on some Big Bend flats you may have to change your tactics and baits in these locations. I prefer darker lures in darker waters, particularly if I’m tossing soft plastics. D.O.A.’s Terror-Eyz in “root beer” color is an excellent choice for fishing oyster and rock bars. Also, these soft plastic lures are less likely to snag up on rough bottom, as they have upwards-oriented hooks. If you don’t want to try anything totally new, at least try out a new port and investigate some new flats. The flats to the east of Atsena Otie Island at Cedar Key, Red Bank and Hedemon Reefs at Suwannee and the flats to the southwest of the mouth of the Waccasassa River are all good areas to drift and fish for trout, Spanish mackerel and maybe a stray cobia or tarpon.

Second, fish around the scallopers. If you’re lucky enough to keep your boat at a “scalloping port,” get on the inshore waters early or just head offshore. You’ll likely not find scallopers in waters shallower than 3 feet or deeper than 8-feet. And there are even some inshore waters that are not usually “scalloped” on a regular basis. Time will tell as the season goes one—just look for the “flotilla” and avoid it. I’ve even got some spots that are on the regular route to some of the scalloping areas north of Steinhatchee that produce lots of fish—before the scallopers get out of bed! As for offshore, it’s 70-feet or better now for keeper grouper and reef fish.

Finally—just give in and go scalloping. We’re going to have a banner scallop season this year, and there’s almost nothing better to eat than a fresh scallop—cooked or raw. And we’re lucky that the Big Bend is one of the few places where scallops can be harvested recreationally. They’re easy to catch, and scalloping is a great way to please the non-hook-and-line members of the family. But, be sure to check out your boat’s safety gear before you go (the FWC and USCG WILL be out in force!), be sure all is ship-shape with your motor, hull and trailer, and be sure that you have the necessary licenses, flags, flippers and masks you need. See www.myfwc.com for all the “rules.”

Scallop season doesn’t have to be depressing as resourceful anglers will always find a way to have a good time. Even if it means getting overboard!



Head East From Gainesville to Blue Water Bay Restaurant in Melrose

bwbay 5 300x207 Head East From Gainesville to Blue Water Bay Restaurant in Melrose

Now that the intersection of US301 and SR26 has been “passed over” by the new overpass, the 20-mile trip east from Gainesville to Blue Water Bay is pretty easy. And when you get there, the food’s pretty good, too!

bwbaymap 300x225 Head East From Gainesville to Blue Water Bay Restaurant in Melrose

Blue Water Bay is open for lunch Monday-Friday, 11AM – 3PM; dinner Monday-Thursday 5PM – 9PM. On Friday and Saturday, dinner hours are 5PM – 9PM and the feature is their buffet at $23.95.  On Sunday, Blue Water Bay serves Brunch from 9:30AM – 3PM and Dinner from 5PM – 9PM.

CLICK HERE to see the Lunch Menu   CLICK HERE to see the Dinner Menu  CLICK HERE to see the Sunday Brunch Menu

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Eat in the dining room, but expect to wait for your table during prime hours or on weekends.

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Or try the less-crowded (sometimes!) bar adjacent to the main dining room.

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And don’t miss the gourmet buffet on Friday and Saturday nights!

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