The Coastal Star

On the Water: Gumbo Limbo beachcombing walks offer entertainment, education

Beachcombers enjoy the breeze, sand and surf during a guided outing at Red Reef Park. Photos by Willie Howard/The Coastal Star

By Willie Howard

Scavenging the wrack zone for shells and sea beans can fill collectors’ baskets and pique the curiosity of anyone interested in the origins of things deposited on the sand.

To learn a bit more about the many things that wash ashore, I attended one of the free Beach Treasures outings offered by Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.

Our beach guide and instructor, Debbie Wilson, began our session with a classroom talk at Gumbo Limbo to give us some idea of what to look for before we hit the beach.

Wilson showed us several types of seashells and the marine animals that live in them, as well as corals, sponges, sea stars, volcanic rock, sandstone, sea glass and “sea beans” or seed pods from plants, many from far-away places.

TOP LEFT: The purple sea snail shell is a real find for beachcombers. TOP RIGHT: The lightning whelk gets its name from bolt-like streaks on its shell. BOTTOM LEFT: Walk leader Debbie Wilson displays a bowl containing golf ball beans, tropical almonds and mangrove seedlings. BOTTOM RIGHT: The sea heart, a seed pod from trees growing in South America and Africa, is carried to Florida beaches by current and wind. Photos by Willie Howard/The Coastal Star

After Wilson’s classroom talk, we drove to Red Reef Park — where we did not have to pay for parking — and headed onto the beach, where we found strong wind, piles of decaying Sargasso weed and purple Portuguese men-of-war, which we avoided after being warned about their venomous tentacles.

Our eager group found several golf ball beans — round, brown seed pods — as well as lighter colored tropical almonds. (Check them out on seabean.com.)

A flip-flop on the sand was covered in gooseneck barnacles, a sign that it had been drifting for a while. Some members of our group were rewarded with treasures, such as the shells of the purple sea snail and the lightning whelk.

“It’s really good for the kids to be out here,” said Jennifer Longinos of Delray Beach, whose son found a purple sea snail.
Allison McCarrick, a winter resident of Lake Worth, used a stick to sift through decaying mats of Sargasso weed to find a sea heart — a handsome, dark-brown seed pod shaped like a heart.

Impossible to ignore was the rubbish on the beach, including plastic bags, baby shoes, flip-flops, drink bottles, shards of plastic and a tiny glass ampule containing something, possibly perfume.

We left the beach with bags of trash to throw away and with a few natural treasures to take home.

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center offers free Beach Treasures talks and walks twice a month. This month’s schedule is 3 p.m. March 6 and 20. Find more and sign up online at gumbolimbo.org.

FWC approves shore-based shark fishing rules

Anglers fishing for sharks from Florida beaches will be required to take a class and obtain a free shore-based shark fishing permit under rules approved Feb. 20 by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The new FWC rules, effective July 1, follow months of public workshops held to address growing concerns that shark fishing from the beach endangers swimmers and harms sharks that are sometimes dragged onto beaches for photos before being released.
Some of the new rules apply to anglers targeting sharks from boats as well as from beaches.

In addition to mandatory education to obtain a shore-based shark fishing permit, the new rules will:

• Prohibit chumming from beaches.

• Require the use of non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks when targeting sharks — from land or from a boat.

• Require anglers to cut the leader, line or hook to prevent the delayed release of sharks that are protected from harvest. Twenty-six species of sharks, such as hammerhead, lemon and Caribbean reef sharks, cannot be possessed or harvested in Florida.

• Require anglers to keep protected sharks in the water while releasing them from land or from a boat.

• Require anglers targeting sharks, from land or from a boat, to carry a device that can quickly cut a hook or leader to release a shark.

The shore-based shark fishing permit requirement will apply to anglers younger than 16, unless they are fishing with an adult who holds a permit. Florida anglers older than 65 (who are exempt from the fishing license requirement) also will be required to take a class and obtain the free shore-based shark fishing permit if they plan to fish for sharks from land.

Also on Feb. 20, FWC commissioners banned the harvest of live fish and invertebrates for aquariums from the Blue Heron Bridge dive site near Phil Foster Park, effective April 1.

Jessica McCawley, director of the FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management, said the Blue Heron Bridge dive site north of Peanut Island has become an internationally recognized diving destination.

The ban on live harvest of marine life does not affect hook-and-line fishing, cast netting or the legal harvest of spiny lobster in the Blue Heron Bridge area. Boaters carrying live fish legally taken from other areas will be allowed to transport them through the sanctuary.

Palm Beach boat show set for March 28-31

The 34th annual Palm Beach International Boat show — featuring $1.2 billion worth of boats and accessories on display as well as fishing seminars for adults and children — is set for March 28-31 along Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm Beach.

Hook the Future will present free fishing clinics for kids on March 30 and 31.

Experts with the IGFA School of Sportfishing will offer adult fishing seminars, free with admission, throughout the show.

Admission: $28 for adults and $18 for ages 6-15. There’s no admission charge for children younger than 6.

For information on tickets, parking and transportation maps, visit PBBoatshow.com.

Fishing tournament to benefit Navy SEALs

The Naked Warrior Project and 26 North Yachts will host a fishing tournament March 9 to raise money to memorialize fallen Navy SEALs and to help injured SEALs and their families.

The inaugural Naked Warrior Project Fishing Tournament for kingfish, dolphin, wahoo, tuna and cobia will be based at Sands Harbor Resort and Marina, 125 N. Riverside Drive, Pompano Beach. The captains meeting and kickoff party is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 7 at Sands Harbor Resort and Marina.

The entry fee is $500 per boat. Fishing teams can register and pay online at nakedwarriorproject.org or at 26 North Yachts, 2525 Marina Bay Drive in Fort Lauderdale.

The nonprofit Naked Warrior Project was founded by John Owens, whose brother, Ryan, a Navy SEAL, was killed in action in 2017.

Report encounters with diseased lionfish, FWC asks
Invasive lionfish with ulcers have been found in Florida waters as far south as Fort Pierce, and state researchers are asking anyone who encounters a diseased lionfish to report it.

Lionfish have been found with ulcers that expose muscle tissue. Anyone who finds such a lionfish is being asked to note the number of fish affected and the location. Take photographs if possible.

Reports can be submitted through the FWC Reporter smartphone app or by calling the Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511.

Coming events

March 2: 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 ($5 for ages 12-19). Register at the door. Bring lunch. Call 391-3600 and leave a message.

March 5: Boynton Beach Fishing Club meets, 7 p.m. at classroom building next to the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Free. bifc.org.

March 23: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the classroom building next to the boat ramps, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, 2010 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Fee $20. Register at the door. Call 704-7440.

March 29-30: REEF’s Winter Lionfish Derby. Final registration and captains meeting 5:30 p.m., March 29, at REEF headquarters, 98300 Overseas Highway, Key Largo. Lionfish diving March 30. Lionfish will be taken to the docks at Sharkey’s Pub for scoring. Entry fee $120 per team of two to four divers. Call 305-852-0030 or visit reef.org.

Nearly 100-pound kingfish caught off Fort Lauderdale

The Happy Day Today crew, including honeymooning couple Mike and Brooke Hayes of Indiana, celebrates the 97.8-pound kingsh that Mike Hayes caught while fishing off Fort Lauderdale Jan. 20. Toasting with the couple are Capt. J.B. Sirgany, in yellow coveralls, and mate Troy McDonald. Photo provided

Nearly 100-pound kingfish caught off Fort Lauderdale

Mike and Brooke Hayes were visiting Fort Lauderdale during their honeymoon in January when they decided to take a half-day fishing trip aboard the Happy Day Today charter boat.

Fishing with Capt. J.B. Sirgany and mate Troy McDonald, Mike Hayes caught a kingfish so big it could have broken a 20-year-old world record — if it had been caught on different tackle.

Jack Vitek, chief of staff for the International Game Fish Association, which verifies world records, said the IGFA would not consider the kingfish for world-record status because IGFA rules prohibit the use of treble hooks when fishing with live bait.

The owner of the charter boat, Capt. Thomas Zsak, said Mike Hayes caught the kingfish using 30-pound-test tackle after it hit a small, live “bullet” bonito.

The Happy Day Today crew was fishing a drop-off along the coast of Fort Lauderdale. Mike Hayes fought the fish for an hour and 53 minutes.

The kingfish weighed 97.8 pounds. It measured 67 inches to the fork of the tail and had a girth of 31.75 inches.

The all-tackle world record for king mackerel, better known as kingfish, is 93 pounds. Steve Graulau caught that kingfish in April 1999 off San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Florida record kingfish — 90 pounds — was caught in 1976 by Norton Thomton off Key West.

Tip of the month

Want to fish spring tournaments for kingfish, dolphin and wahoo? If so, start planning. The KDW tournament season kicks off April 6 with the Boynton Beach Firefighters Fishing Tournament and Firehouse Chili Cookoff. (Visit boyntonbeachfirefighters.com). The Lantana Fishing Derby is set for May 4. (Visit lantanafishingderby.com). Discounts apply for early entry.

Willie Howard is a freelance writer and licensed boat captain. Reach him at tiowillie@bellsouth.net.

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