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Celebrate Birds–Live Birds of Prey Festival – Saturday, January 30, 2016- First Magnitude Brewery in Gainesville

Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop

Live Birds of Prey Festival – Saturday, January 30 – First Magnitude Brewery

Join Wild Birds Unlimited at First Magni-tude Brewery from 12-4pm on Saturday, January 30 for an afternoon with live birds of prey from the Apopka-based Avi-an Reconditioning Center (ARC). This year’s event will feature a Bald Eagle and four other species of raptor and owl.

In addition to the main feature, there will be a birding fair designed to educate attendees about the hobbies of birding and backyard birdfeeding, opportunities to join local Audubon guides on birding field trips, citizen science initiatives such as eBird, Project Feeder Watch, and more.

Even though First Magnitude is a brewery, families will find plenty for kids to do. You may bring your own food and drink but there will be a food truck with high quality, hot meals in the parking lot in addition to the excellent craft brews that are always on tap in First Magnitude’s tasting room.

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Great Southern Biscuit Company, Mayo, FL–Stop In Soon!

Great Southern Biscuit Company, 152 West Main Street, Mayo

Great Southern Biscuit Company, 152 West Main Street, Mayo

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There’s a really good “meat-and-three” in Mayo, Florida.  You’ll get some great “down home southern cookin'”, including fried chicken, at the Mayo Cafe on the western edge of town, on US27.  However, if you want something a bit more “hip”, stop by the Great Southern Biscuit Company, next to the Lafayette County courthouse, on you next trip through this old Florida town.  Here, Bart Byrd bakes up some serious “cat head” biscuits, and also prepares some nice specialty breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  You’ll find lasagna, soups, cakes and especially great specialty coffees on the menu, too.  And of course–lots of biscuit options!

Bart Byrd with some of his fine biscuits!

Bart Byrd with some of his fine biscuits!

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For some interesting reviews, take a look at Great Southern’s YELP page!

 


Warmer Winter Afternoons Make For Great Fishing in Dixie County’s Horseshoe Cove

Sometimes the best fishing is where it’s hard to go.  That’s especially true of Horseshoe Cove, south of the Horseshoe Beach community in Dixie County.  And when the day starts out cold and warms through the early afternoon, it’s worth a trip to Horseshoe Cove!

Horseshoe Cove Bars, viewed from the west.

Horseshoe Cove Bars, viewed from the west.

Whether you’re launching your boat at Horseshoe Beach (there are two nice boat ramps there) or at secluded Shired Island (between Suwannee and Horseshoe Beach), it can be a tricky voyage to the creek mouths and shell bars that litter Horseshoe Cove.  My recommendation is that if you plan to head into these backwaters that you try to go when the tide is about halfway “full” and leave when it’s halfway “empty”, according to the local tide tables.  That way, you’re less likely to get stranded or hit bottom.  And it goes without saying that you shouldn’t run here on plane, or even at medium speed, until you’ve been there a few times and have marked obstructions on your GPS!  While there are some tried-and-true courses from Shired Island and Horseshoe Beach, I’d recommend you first try Horseshoe Beach.

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If you run out the channel, through the spoil banks, to marker #10, and then slowly head due east (90-degrees magnetic), you’ll find that’s a pretty good course to the mouth of Butler Creek, a good place to start looking for reds and big seatrout.

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Techniques here vary, but a favorite of local anglers is to wade and toss slow-sinking lures off the deep side of the many shell bars.  Favorite lures are the D.O.A. TerrorEyz and 3-inch shrimp.  I’ve found that the TerrorEyz catches mostly redfish here–and the shrimp seems to attract more seatrout.  Bounce the TerrorEyz along the shelly bottom and slowly retrieve the shrimp, midway in the water column.  And depending on whether the outflow of the nearby Suwannee River has the water dark or clear, consider changing lure colors to suit the clarity.  Clear water, light colors; dark water, dark colors!

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If you’re heading to Dixie County, and specifically Horseshoe Beach or Shired Island, and don’t want to camp (at Shired’s County Park or the Horseshoe Boat Ramp Park), rent a condo for the night or an extended stay from Jimmy Butler at Compass Realty in Horseshoe Beach.  All have waterfront views and some even come with boat docks on the canals.

 


Eat At Cilantro Tacos–A Genuine Tacqueria in Downtown Newberry, Florida

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Genuine Tacquerias are not supposed to be romantic.  And I’ve found over the years that there’s a difference in decor (and food) between them and “Mexican restaurants”.  Cilantro Tacos, located at 25740 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry (west of Gainesville) fits the bill.  It’s fluorescent lights leave no darkened corners in which to hide, sneaking smooches with your date between bites of tacos or burritos.  It’s bright, but clean and the staff is friendly and efficient.  But best of all, the food is excellent, fresh–and relatively inexpensive.

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Don't miss the barbacoa tacos at Cilantro Tacos!

Don’t miss the barbacoa tacos at Cilantro Tacos!

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I’m always a sucker for carnitas, and the tacos that include them are excellent.  And, a plate of 3 makes a nice dinner or a filling lunch.  My friend, Capt. Rick Davidson is a fan of their burritos, usually eating the “kiddie” sized one rather than the grownup version.  And then there’s the barbacoa.  It’s the favorite of the family that runs the place–for good reason.

Cilantro Tacos has recently joined the Gainesville food truck craze, offering tacos at local breweries.  The locations change frequently, but if you “like” them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Cilantro-Tacos-189831677867101/info/), you’ll be able to keep up with the locations.


Santa Fe River Fest and Songwriters’ Festival, April 17, 2016, Sponsored by Rum138

RiverFest-2-Cathy1-900x550This annual fundraising event, now in its sixth year, will include the songwriting contest, music by Terraplane Rhythm & Blues, a great silent auction (art, jewelry, vacations, etc.), Kid’s Corner, 50/50 raffle, music jam session, grilled burgers and dogs, delectable desserts, beer and drinks. Proceeds go to educational and advocacy activitiesof Our Santa Fe River, all designed to protect the aquifer, springs and waters in this area.

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The Festival will be held at Rum138 , west of High Springs (at the corner of CR138 and Rum Island Terrace) and will be hosted by WKTK celebrity Storm Roberts

Songwriters application at http://oursantaferiver.org/wp/osfr-song-contest-entry-form/ – entry deadline March 1st, 2016.

SCHEDULE – Sunday, April 17th 2 pm to 8 pm

Kids Corner with fun activities.
Silent Auction that includes original art pieces, vacation stays, services and much more.
Grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie food by Bambi, sodas, beer, and homemade desserts will be available for purchase.

2 pm to 4 pm
6th annual song writing contest. Song writers will present their original compositions before the audience and a panel of judges for a $300 cash prize.

4:30 to 7 pm
Terraplane Rhythm & Blues

7 pm to 8 pm
Jam Session


If You Fish or Boat on Natural North Florida’s Big Bend– Know Your Weather!

Yes, Florida is warm.  And in winter months, it’s typically warmer than the rest of the country and most of Europe.  But there are times when cold fronts appear and the temperatures get to freezing or just a few degrees below.  For many of us “natives” 60-degrees F is cold!

When it comes to boating and fishing Florida’s Big Bend (from Yankeetown in Levy County to Panacea in Wakulla County), it’s important to know what the weather’s going to do.

In summer months, we can almost always count on late-afternoon thunderstorms that build up just inland of the coast.  While these storms generate some wind, the big danger is lightning. And it’s important to know that lightning can strike well away from any clouds, especially in the spring or fall, when the air is relatively dry.  If you hear thunder, it’s usually prudent to head back to port!

Don't get caught by sudden summertime thunderstorms!

Don’t get caught by sudden summertime thunderstorms!

In fall, winter and spring, our cold fronts bring rain, and sometimes thunderstorms .  You also need to watch out for springtime waterspouts, which can ruin your day if you don’t get out of their way!  But for the most part, careful boaters can view live radar from their boats using smartphone apps like Weather Bug or Intellicast.  There’s even a Marine Weather app from Weather Underground that is handy. These apps work wherever there’s phone service, so that’s almost everywhere in the Natural North Florida region.  Just check the “app store” for your particular device.  Cold/cool fronts usually appear in cycles, with about three days between them.  And most fishermen believe that the fishing on “bluebird days” that follow cold fronts isn’t as good as the day just before the front arrives.

Typical Weather Bug radar showing a front ready to hit our Gulf coast.

Typical Weather Bug radar showing a front ready to hit our Gulf coast.

 

Clear skies--and sailing--ahead!

Clear skies–for fishing and boating–ahead!

Finally, a word about hurricanes.  We’ve not had one hit our area in 10 years, but that’s not saying we’re safe from them, or from lesser tropical depressions and tropical storms.  These can be dangerous weather events, and it’s important to get away from the water should one appear.  Luckily, the NOAA Tropical Hurricane Center tracks these storms and we’re given plenty of advance notice of their arrival.  We just keep our fingers crossed and are, like the Boy Scouts, always prepared!


Hungry For A Trout Dinner–Fish Suwannee’s Barnett and Dan May Creeks This Winter!

Barnett and Dan May Creeks are easy to reach from the town of Suwannee, in Dixie County.  They're at the southern end of East Pass

Barnett and Dan May Creeks are easy to reach from the town of Suwannee, in Dixie County. They’re at the southern end of East Pass

There are lots of deep holes in creeks and rivers all along our Natural North Florida Gulf coastline, but few are as easily accessed as Dan May and Barnett Creeks.  These creeks are big–as big as many of our coastal rivers–and hold swarms of fat spotted seatrout during cold winter days.   There are several excellent marinas in Suwannee, each with a first-class boat ramp.  And if you call Miller’s or Suwannee Marina, they’ll likely let you know the best times to fish the creeks!

A typical fat seatrout at Barnett Creek!

A typical fat seatrout at Barnett Creek!

One reason trout get into the deep rivers and creeks of the Big Bend is that they’re seeking warmer water.  That comes in two forms–deep water or, in the case of these two creeks, dark bottoms that soak up lots of the Sun’s radiation.  That being the case, the best time to fish both Barnett and Dan May creeks is on a rising tide following a very low morning tide.

Barnett Creek Entrance

Barnett Creek Entrance

Tactics for successful trout limits vary.  Many anglers prefer to slowly troll MirrOlure 52M or TT plugs until they get a strike.  Then, they anchor up and cast to what is usually a school of trout.  Other prefer drifting and tossing slow-sinking Paul Brown Devils or simple popping cork rigs with live shrimp and jig heads.  No matter your technique, once you find the trout in either of these creeks, you’ll soon have a limit–and a tasty dinner!

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If you’re looking for a good trout recipe, try my Trout Piccata.  It’s guaranteed to have your guests asking for seconds!

 


Florida’s O’Leno State Park–A Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps

One of Florida’s first state parks, O’Leno State Park was first developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park is located along the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River, and features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps and sandhills. As the river courses through the park, it disappears underground and reemerges over three miles away in River Rise Preserve State Park.

This statue commemorates the service of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

This statue commemorates the service of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

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O’Leno State Park offers visitors the opportunity to unwind in a natural setting. Visitors can enjoy a day of hiking or biking on the park’s shaded trails. The Santa Fe River is a beautiful spot to launch a canoe or try your hand at fishing along its banks. Pavilions are located along the river’s edge, providing a serene backdrop for picnicking and relaxing. The shady, full-facility campground is the perfect place for a relaxing overnight stay. O’Leno State Park is located on U.S. 441, six miles north of High Springs

Take a short hike to the "sink", where the Santa Fe River heads underground towards River Rise

Take a short hike to the “sink”, where the Santa Fe River heads underground towards River Rise

 

Pets and bicycles are welcome on many of the trails at O'Leno State Park

Pets and bicycles are welcome on many of the trails at O’Leno State Park

The Museum/Interpretative display is housed in this original CCC building

The museum/Interpretative display is housed in this original CCC building

The bridge over the Santa Fe River is an example of the original "look" of the park

The bridge over the Santa Fe River is an example of the original “look” of the park

Directions to O’Leno State Park

Northbound — O’Leno is located on US 441, 8 miles north of High Springs.

Southbound — O’Leno is located 8 miles south of I-75 at Exit 414 (Ellisville) on US 441.

 


2016 Olustee Battle Reenactment and Festival, in Natural North Florida’s Columbia County

2016 Olustee Battle Reenactment

An annual re-enactment of a Civil War Batte between the North and the South. Hundreds of re-enactors come from miles around to participate in this historical event.

The Annual Olustee Battle Reenactment will be held February 13th & 14th, 2016 at the Olustee Battlefield State Park. This is the famous site of Florida’s Largest Civil War Battle. For more information including times and attractions please visit The Battle of Olustee website or call (386) 758-1312.

Shuttle rides are available to the Battle Site at Olustee from the Lake City Airport and Baker County Prison Center. Both sites are located on US 90 East & West of the Olustee Battle Site. Minimum bus charge is $2.00 for Adults and $1.00 for Students; Preschool children are free.

 

 

 

 

 

Festival and Reenactment Schedule

 

 

Friday, February 12, 2016
9:00am – Civil War Memorial
Program (Oaklawn Cemetary)
9:00am – Arts & Crafts,
Entertainment and Food
Booths Open
12:00pm – Official Opening
Ceremonies
(Main Stage, Olustee Park)
5:00pm – Battle of the Iron
Clads and Skirmish
(Lake Desoto)
Saturday, February 13, 2016
7:00am – 5K Run and Fun Run
9:00am – Arts & Crafts,
Entertainment and Food
Booths Open
10:00am – Annual Olustee
Festival Parade (Marion Ave)
12:00pm – Main Stage Program
(Olustee Park)
3:00pm – Tactical Battle
Reenactment
(Olustee Battlefield)
Sunday, February 14, 2016
1:00pm – 40th Annual
Reenactment of the Battle of
Olustee

Taylor County’s Dallus Creek Is On Fire–With Spotted Seatrout, January 2016

All the trout in Dallus Creek are not necessarily "keepers", but even catching small ones is lots of fun!

All the trout in Dallus Creek are not necessarily “keepers”, but even catching small ones is lots of fun!

Almost like clockwork, and on yearly basis, seatrout seem to head into Dallus Creek and the “trout holes” there.  It’s usually after the first few days of cold weather, and no one seems to understand the dynamics of this excellent fishing spot.  For the most part, Dallus Creek is shallow, but there are a couple of deep holes, rumored to be spring-fed, that attract hordes of spotted seatrout and sometimes legions of anglers.

The Gulf entrance to Dallus Creek is about 5 miles northwest of the Steinhatchee River

The Gulf entrance to Dallus Creek is about 5 miles northwest of the Steinhatchee River in Taylor County

There are two ways to access Dallus Creek.  One, if you have a small boat, paddlecraft or airboat, is to launch at the Dallus Creek Landing ramp, just of CR361 north of Steinhatchee.  This is an excellent place to launch, but lower-to-the-water boaters (canoeists and kayakers) need to be careful as faster airboats often move fast inside the creek.  The other option is to enter the creek from the Gulf after launching at either Steinhatchee or Keaton Beach.  Anglers using this approach should be aware that low tides may stand them inside the creek holes and that there are many sandbars fronting the creek’s entrance.

All sorts of anglers and all sorts of boats appear in Dallus Creek during the seatrout run.

All sorts of anglers and all sorts of boats appear in Dallus Creek during the seatrout run.

 

If you’re new to the area, you can often find the holes by simply looking for a ring of boats fishing.  Otherwise, use your depth finder and look for water that’s 7 to 10-feet deep.  The best baits vary, day-to-day, but the tried-and-true method is a live shrimp or Berkley Gulp! pinned to a 1/8-ounce jig head, slowly retrieved across the bottom.  Other choices might include Paul Brown Devils or MirrOlure TTR plugs.  In either case, be sure bring your ruler to measure your fish.  There have been many “shorts” (under 15″) early this season, so careful culling and careful fish-handling is necessary.