(Dec. 07, 2012)...
Holiday season is upon us. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or simply enjoy having a few days off to celebrate with family and friends, coming up with appropriate gifts is a challenge for all of us.
The key to gift giving is matching the present to the individual, while making sure it is something they’ll enjoy, is hopefully good for them and not too expensive. And if it helps Mother Nature too, maybe that’s the perfect gift. With that in mind, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has several suggestions for last-minute gift giving.
How about an offering guaranteed to create a happier, healthier and more productive lifestyle? Richard Louv, chairman emeritus of the Children & Nature Network and author of "The Nature Principle" and "Last Child in the Woods," has made a solid case, supported by years of research, that connecting with nature results in those benefits. Whatever your age, being able to spend time in nature brings us back to our true roots - the ones that connect us with the earth and nurture us.
In a time when frantic schedules, enclosed spaces and constant noise tend to drive us a little crazy, it is a real gift to take some time to commune with nature and relax. Getting outdoors with family and friends not only gets you moving and burning off some of those excess holiday calories but can open the door to better communications.
So the trick is how to give the gift of the great outdoors to yourself, your family and friends. Fun and recreation sounds like a good place to start, so how about planning a fishing trip or nature hike? The Outdoor Foundation published a special research report this year that stated:
"Perhaps more than any other form of recreation, fishing and boating are critical to the health and well-being of America’s outdoor heritage. By boat and on land, the first outdoor experience for many Americans is fishing, introducing tens of millions of people each year to the wonders of nature. Fishing also serves as an important bridge and top ?gateway’ activity that leads participants to other outdoor passions."
So why not invite your family and friends on a fun fishing trip, right here in Florida - the Fishing Capital of the World (FishingCapital.com)? An annual resident fishing license is easy to obtain. Simply go to license.myfwc.com, call 888-Fish-Florida, or visit a local retailer that sells fishing tackle and licenses. A five-year freshwater fishing license makes an especially great gift. While you are purchasing the license, you will also have the opportunity to make a donation to the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network to help the FWC with "Creating the next generation that cares."
An annual freshwater fishing license costs just $17, but because the average angler fishes 17 times a year (U.S. Census Bureau research) and enjoys four to five hours on a typical trip, the cost is less than a quarter per hour of fun and healthy recreation. When you purchase a license you are also providing a gift to nature and future generations of anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. For 75 years, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program has guaranteed that all across the country fishing license fees are protected by law so that they can only be used within the state where they are sold for fish and wildlife conservation. Moreover, fees collected by the federal government on fishing tackle, pleasure boats and motor boat fuels provide additional funding for recreational fishing and conservation based on how many anglers buy fishing licenses in each state.
While putting a fishing-related gift pack together, you can find lots of information about fishing tips and gear at MyFWC.com/fishing and find fishing sites and up-to-date forecasts. One of the most fun tips is to have everyone register for Florida’s freshwater angler recognition programs, including TrophyCatch and Big Catch at TrophyCatchFlorida.com. Just for registering, people are eligible for a Phoenix 619 Pro bass boat and trailer, with a Mercury outboard and Motor Guide trolling motor. That drawing will be in October 2013.
Big Catch recognizes anglers with certificates and discounts for catching fish from any of 33 different freshwater species in Florida that simply exceed a specified length or weight. The program has reduced sizes for youth under 16 to help them get recognized for their developing prowess as anglers. For those seeking additional challenges, there are specialist (five Big Catches of the same species), master (five Big Catches of different species) and elite angler (10 Big Catches of different species) certificate levels. There are even black bass, bream and exotic slams for catching multiple species within a specific time frame.
However, for the hard core freshwater anglers who travel from all across the world to fish Florida’s fresh water, the penultimate catch is a trophy largemouth bass. The FWC and corporate partners are now rewarding anglers for reporting those fish and then releasing them to challenge another angler and keep the fishery thriving.
TrophyCatch includes three tiers to encourage reporting and live-releasing bass heavier than 8 pounds that are caught in Florida waters. Bass 8 to 9.9 pounds (Lunker Club) or those 10 to 12.9 pounds (Trophy Club) that are caught, documented and released can be reported online at TrophyCatchFlorida.com any time of the year. All that is required to qualify for prizes is a photo of the fish on a scale with the weight visible, and one on a tape measure or ruler showing the length. Bass heavier than 13 pounds that are caught between Oct. 1 and April 30 each year must be checked by FWC staff to enter them into the Hall of Fame Club.
The angler who enters the biggest bass of the year into TrophyCatch will earn a Super Bowl-like ring, from the American Outdoors Fund. If it is caught in Osceola County, the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) will award the angler $10,000. In addition, if the angler is on a guided fishing trip, the guide will receive $2,500 from the CVB. This challenge is heating up with several great bass already reported from Osceola County. To keep informed, please "like" us at Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida.
Another great gift for anglers that will help them boast about their sport while supporting the future of conservation is to buy a "Go Fishing" Largemouth Bass license plate, which can be displayed on vehicles or trailers. Simply go to Buyaplate.com, or a gift certificate may now be purchased at an authorized motor vehicle office.
Enjoy your holidays and a lifetime of active nature-based recreation: Get Outdoors Florida!
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Tip@MyFWC.com. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select "more news," or scr.bi/Fish-busters for more Fish Busters’ Bulletins.