The Coastal Star

On the Water: Citing boat-wake damage, waterfront resident seeks slow-speed zone in ICW

Rene Gross says wakes from boats have pushed up planks and yanked mooring cleats from the wooden dock where he keeps his boats. His dock is on one of the spur canals perpendicular to the Intracoastal Waterway south of Woolbright Road. Willie Howard/The Coastal Star

By Willie Howard

    Rene Gross says wakes created by boats speeding down the Intracoastal Waterway south of Woolbright Road have sloshed over his sea wall and rolled into the spur canal where he keeps two boats, knocking planks out of his wooden dock and ripping out the mooring cleats used to secure boats to the dock.
    Gross, who lives on the west side of the waterway at 823 Palmer Road, is gathering signatures from other waterfront property owners in support of a slow-speed boating zone in the ICW extending about 1.5 miles south of Woolbright Road — a narrow stretch of the waterway where several residents moor boats in perpendicular canals.
After gathering more support for the slow-speed zone, Gross is expected to present the petition to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and possibly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
    Gross says large boats throw big wakes that roll over his sea wall, washing into his swimming pool and dousing his lawn with salt water, causing it to brown, especially at high tide.
    Gross said wave damage forces him to rebuild his sea wall every other year.
 “Boats speeding by at 30 to 40 mph are creating waves up to 2 to 3 feet,” Gross said in a letter summarizing the problems. “Boats parked in the canals are taking a terrible beating.”
    The existing speed zone allows boats to run up to 30 mph during the summer and 25 mph in the cooler months, but only after they clear the slow-speed zone on both sides of the Woolbright Road bridge.
    Enforcement of the slow-speed zone immediately south of the bridge is a problem, too, said Sandy Turner, general manager at Prime Catch, a restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway just south of Woolbright Road that offers dock space to patrons.
    Turner said some boat owners won’t tie up at Prime Catch because they worry that wakes will damage their boats.
    “We see people go full-tilt right under the bridge,” said Gary Lachman, a charter boat owner who lives just south of the bridge at Ocean Ridge Yacht Club.
    Lachman said a slow-speed zone is needed south of the Woolbright Road bridge, noting that he has seen manatees lingering around the undeveloped shoreline on the west side of the waterway just south of Prime Catch.
    But Lachman said some fellow boaters have resisted the idea of creating a slow-speed zone for 1.5 miles south of the bridge, as suggested in Gross’ petition. Long slow-speed zones increase the time required to reach an inlet or inshore destination by boat.
    Following Hurricane Irma in September, Gross said he suspended his petition drive because many waterfront residents of Briny Breezes, Gulf Stream, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach have been away for the summer. He plans to resume gathering signatures this month.
    Highland Beach residents have long complained about the effects of boats speeding through the 3-mile stretch of the ICW that borders their town, but efforts to create a slow-speed or idle-speed boating zone there have not been successful.

Goliath grouper workshops
    The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold its goliath grouper public workshops Oct. 11 at Flagler Place, 201 SW Flagler Ave. in Stuart, and Oct. 12 at the Old Davie School Historical Museum, 6650 Griffin Road in Davie.
    Hours for both workshops are 5 to 8 p.m.
    The FWC is holding workshops to gather public input on a proposal to allow limited harvest of the slow-growing, long-lived groupers, protected since 1990.
    The FWC’s initial proposal called for anglers to buy tags that would allow the harvest of 100 fish annually.
    Many scuba divers attended a July 31 workshop at the Lantana branch library to oppose the possibility of a limited harvest.
    To submit comments about the possibility of allowing anglers to keep a limited number of goliath grouper, go to or email

New rules for hogfish
    New rules governing the harvest of hogfish, approved last year by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, took effect in August.
    Hogfish are considered overfished in the Florida Keys and on Florida’s east coast. Conservation measures apply in state and federal waters along the state’s east coast.
    New hogfish rules include:
    • A one-fish daily bag limit.
    • A 4-inch increase in the minimum size, to 16 inches, measured to the fork of the tail.
    • A harvest season of May 1 through Oct. 31. (The season is closed in the colder months.)
    For details, go to, then click on saltwater fishing, recreational regulations and hogfish.
Coming events
    Oct. 7: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the headquarters building at Spanish River Park, 3939 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton. Fee $35 for adults or $20 ages 12 to 19. Register at the door. Bring lunch. Call 391-3600 or email
    Oct. 28: Boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the classroom next to the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Fee $20. Discounts for ages 14 to 18 and for family groups. Register at the door. Call 704-7440.

A tarpon leaps out of the water while chasing a school of mullet near the beach on Sept. 18. Large schools of mullet and other baitfish will migrate for the next few weeks. This school was just south of Briny Breezes. Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

Tip of the month
    Walk the beach to witness (and fish) the fall mullet run — the annual migration of small “finger” mullet. Look for dark, underwater clouds of small mullet moving in the surf and the splashing of mullet leaping from the water as they try to escape from predators.
    Surf anglers can pitch a silver casting spoon, a jig or a favorite lure around the mullet to catch jack crevalle, snook, bluefish and possibly tarpon.
    Snook must be between 28 and 32 inches long to be legal to keep. (Others should be handled gently and released promptly.) A Florida saltwater fishing license and snook permit are required to keep legal-sized snook, unless you’re over 65, under 16, or otherwise exempt.

    Willie Howard is a freelance writer and licensed boat captain. Reach him at

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