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  • 02/28/2018 8:25 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)
    Crystal anniversary for sawfish in the U.S.

    April 1, 2018, will mark a milestone for smalltooth sawfish of the United States.  Fifteen years ago, the species was listed as an endangered species because scientists determined that the population was at risk of extinction.  The listing was the result of information that indicated the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish had dramatically declined due to
    overfishing, habitat loss, and the species’ limited reproductive potential.  And on April 1, 2003, the smalltooth sawfish became the first fully-marine fish and first elasmobranch (sharks, skates, and rays) protected by U.S. Endangered Species Act. 

    After the listing, NOAA Fisheries convened the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team to develop a plan to recover the U.S. smalltooth sawfish population.  Recovery plans serve as road maps for species recovery—they lay out where we need to go and how best to get there.  The team worked several years to build additional knowledge of the species and to identify the most severe threats to the population.  The recovery plan was published in 2009 and recommends specific steps to recover the population, focusing on (1) educating the public to minimize human interactions with sawfish and any associated injury and mortality, (2) protecting and/or restoring important sawfish habitats, and (3) ensuring sawfish abundance and distribution increase.  Once the plan was published NOAA Fisheries convened a team to begin implementing the Recovery Plan with the ultimate goal of protecting and expanding the remaining sawfish population in the U.S.  (Sawfish News author Tonya Wiley is an appointed member of the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Implementation Team)   

     Guidance for recreational anglers to follow to release any sawfish caught while fishing. Remember, due to their protected status it is illegal to target, harm, harass, or handle sawfish in any way.  Any sawfish caught while fishing must be released as quickly as possible.  When handling and releasing a sawfish, leave it in the water at all times.  Do not lift it out of the water on to your boat or a pier, and do not drag it on shore. Credit Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

    At the time of the listing in 2003 scientists knew very little about the biology, ecology, and population dynamics of smalltooth sawfish.  The Recovery Plan identified actions and research goals aimed at gaining a better understanding of the species and the population.  And over the last 15 years, scientists from multiple agencies, universities, and organizations have collaborated to research the smalltooth sawfish population in the United States.  We now know more about their size and age at maturity, the number of young they give birth to, the food they eat, their large- and small-scale movement patterns and habitat use, and their response to a variety of stressors.  These research results greatly improved our understanding of the species and made it clear that we needed to update the Recovery Plan.  The team began the revision in 2016, and the new plan will update the state of knowledge of the species, identify our next research goals, and prioritize the actions needed to reach recovery as quickly as possible.    

    Credit Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

    The ultimate goal of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve listed species to the point they are recovered and no longer need the protections afforded by the Act.  Developing recovery and implementation teams is just one tool used in the conservation of listed (threatened or endangered) species.  The sawfish team has been an excellent example of collaboration and dedication by multiple partners for the good of the species, and the sawfish population is already showing some positive signs of recovery.  Continued proper management and protections of the species and its habitats will ensure that sawfish numbers increase and their range expands.  

    One of the best methods of monitoring the population and tracking recovery progress is the use of public sawfish encounters.  If you catch or see a sawfish please share the information with scientists by calling 1-844-4-SAWFISH (1-844-472-9347) or emailing

    For more information about endangered sawfish, visit: or

    or call 1-844-4SAWFISH

  • 02/01/2018 11:18 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Cold Threatens Florida Snook Again
    by Brett Fitzgerald, SGF Executive Director

    It's chilly out there. In fact, it's downright cold in some of Florida's typically balmy coastal regions. Whether you appreciate the break from the heat or you are suddenly longing for our typically warm weather, it is worth taking a minute to think about how the weather impacts our snook and other tropical fish.

    For many, the current dip in weather immediately reminds us of how badly snook were impacted back in 2010. Luckily, the current weather event is not projected to be nearly as impactful. Back then, we had freakishly cold temperatures for over a week, with drizzling rain and consistent wind. That led to a lot of 'cold kill' fish deaths.

    So far, this event is shaping up to be less severe for a few reasons. First, it shouldn't last nearly as long. Water cools much slower than the air, so a couple days of chilly nights and cloudy days is far less damaging than a week or more. It also has been a little cooler for a few days, which might have provided a signal for snook up in shallower waters to skedaddle to deeper, safer waters before the chill sets in.

    Another difference between this snap and 2010 is the wind direction, which has a bigger impact on the fish along the west coast. Waters from the Everglades up through the Tampa area are a lot more shallow than on the east coast, where deeper waters - warmed from the tropical Gulf Stream - are right next door to many fish hang-outs.

    If you'll recall, the 2010 freeze featured consistent NE winds which blew the west coast tides out and never let them come back in. That trapped a lot of snook in the shallow back country, where they froze by the tens of thousands. If the current winds hold, there might be enough water in the cuts and runs for snook to head to the safety of warmer, deeper waters for a few days.

    All that said, there will be cold related fish kills over the next week or so, and many of them will be snook. As usual, you can expect to see more of that along the northern fringes of the snook populations.

    Usually, as the trapped snook start to chill, they will slow down and start to swim erratically near the surface, then eventually roll on their side or back and lay still in a stunned state. If it is only a short cold snap and the sun warms water right away, they might survive - at least for a while. But more than likely this leads to death.

    As retired FWC snook guru Ron Taylor has pointed out to me many times in the past, many snook that survive the initial cold blast end up dying within a few weeks because their slime coating and/or immune system is damaged, and they are more susceptible to parasites and diseases.

    If you are on the water a lot, you will probably see some stunned or dead snook. Here's what you should do.

    First, don't touch them. If they look dead, they might not be and bothering them in their severely stunned state won't be doing them any favors. And if they are dead and an FWC officer happens to find out you are grabbing them up, you won't be doing yourself any favors either.

    Speaking of FWC, I was recently reminded that the winter closure in Florida is directly related to weather events just like this. SGF member Capt. Danny Barrow called me after he filmed an episode of "XGEN Fishing Show" with owner Andy Alvarez, and they were talking about snook closed seasons on the show ( A question arose as to exactly why there is a winter closure. A quick call to Jim Whittington at FWC reminded us that the closure was originally put in place because of weather events just like the one we are experiencing. It is illegal to harvest cold-stunned or killed snook, for a variety of reasons (which we hope are obvious to you). To keep FWC officers from having to investigate every snook they encounter in a cooler during an extreme cold snap, it was agreed that the most prudent move would be to eliminate any harvest, making life better for our officers, our snook, and in the long run us snook anglers too.

    Back to What-To-Do: Your second move should be to report the killed fish to FWC's Fish Kill hotline. You can do this by phone (800-636-0511) or online at This is actually better than calling your regional FWC office, even if you know there are snook researchers there. The reason is, the hotline is where the information is consolidated across the state, and that is the source of info that will tell the regional offices where to look for issues.

    • 1.      Finally, this little snap needs to serve us all as a reminder of the importance of logging all of our catches in iAngler, using the app or website (  The 2010 snap is what started the iAngler program in the first place. Since then, the data has been used in stock assessments for a variety of species in Florida, and has branched out to help other fisheries better their understanding of the fisheries (most recently Atlantic Red Snapper). But it only works if we log our catches. It's free, and it is a superior personal log book for you. Visit your app store and download the free app, iAngler, and start logging ASAP. This will help across all facets of fishery conservation, including how best to respond after a cold episode like this one.

    In summary: Keep your eyes open for stunned or killed fish for the next couple weeks. Report fish kills to FWC. And log your catch in iAngler!

    Brett Fitzgerald served as Chairman from 2009-2011, and as Regional Director (SouthEast) for three years prior.  He is a contributing editor to Florida Sportsman Magazine, and a special education instructor at in the Palm Beach County school system for 16 years where he promotes an academic curriculum through environmentalism and resource conservation. Brett served in the United States Army in both Intelligence and as a Paratrooper with Special Forces Operations. He attended University of South Florida and holds a Bachelor's and a Masters degree in Communications Sciences and Disorders. He is an avid guitar player, fly tyer, photographer and fisherman. Brett was chosen as Snook and Gamefish Foundation's 2009 Person on the Year for his accomplishments on behalf of inshore fishing, and in that year he also completed the book, Sportsman's Best: Snook.

  • 02/01/2018 10:29 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Tracking Endangered Smalltooth Sawfish
    by guest author Andrea Kroetz, NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center

    Acoustic tagging has become increasingly important for science.  Scientists are using this amazing technology to track critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in south Florida to better understand their movement patterns and habitat use. Telemetry data are helpful to fishery managers who are designing plans to recover and conserve this endangered species. 

    Photo 1: Map of tagging (gold star) and detection locations (blue balloons) of an adult female smalltooth sawfish tagged and tracked in 2017.  Credit: Andrea Kroetz, NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center.

    Scientists place stationary acoustic receivers in key locations to collect and archive data remotely from tagged sawfish as they pass within range of the receiver. Each acoustic tag has a unique identification number and transmit information on the date and time at which the animal passes near a receiver. Although data collection by the acoustic receivers is limited by the number and location of receivers in place (e.g., an animal must past near a receiver for the data to be collected), large acoustic sharing networks are in place to allow multiple institutions with active acoustic arrays to collect and share data with colleagues tagging and tracking animals (e.g., iTAG and FACT networks, > 1000 receivers).

    Photo 2: Andrea Kroetz, NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, surgically implants an acoustic tag into a juvenile smalltooth sawfish. All research conducted under permits ESA 17787 and EVER-2017-SCI-0022. Photo credit: Desirée Gardner Photography.

    So far over 30 smalltooth sawfish have been tagged with long-term acoustic tags and these tags have already provided invaluable data on the movements of both juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish. Here is an exciting example of how the technology works.

    In April of 2017, an adult female smalltooth sawfish was tagged offshore of the Florida Keys. The sawfish traveled up the west coast of Florida, and then a month later she was detected near the Charlotte Harbor Estuary. She spent the next several months swimming up and down the west coast of south Florida before she was detected in the backcountry waters of Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park. This is the first documented case of an adult smalltooth sawfish moving into the Charlotte Harbor Estuary and into backcountry waters. This also highlights the importance of protecting smalltooth sawfish critical habitat and the value of protected areas such as the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and Eve

    rglades National Park.  

    Photo 3: An adult smalltooth sawfish captured offshore of the Florida Keys during Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory research.  All research conducted under ESA permit 17787.  Photo credit: Blair Witherington, Disney.  

    As collaborative acoustic networks continue to expand, and the technology improves, the opportunities to gather vital information on smalltooth sawfish will increase and improve our ability to manage and protect the population to recovery.

    All research is conducted under Endangered Species Act permit #17787 and Everglades National Park permit #EVER-2017-SCI-0022.  To learn more, or if you have questions about ongoing sawfish research or management, please call 1-844-4SAWFISH.  

    Tonya Wiley, President, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

    Tonya can be reached at 941-201-2685 or
    You can follow Havenworth Coastal Conservation:

  • 12/31/2017 9:58 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Science to Save the Endangered Smalltooth Sawfish
    by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

    Several research partners conduct various research activities on the biology, behavior, and ecology of the endangered smalltooth sawfish population in the United States. These partners include state and federal governments, universities, nonprofits, and international organizations.  The results of these research projects are used to inform management decisions and enhance recovery efforts for this endangered species.

    Collecting Sawfish Data

    Researchers collect sawfish data using a variety of methods: (1) carcasses that are found and collected, (2) sawfish incidentally caught in federal fisheries, and (3) sawfish that are collected during research field surveys for the species.  Necropsies of sawfish carcasses provide the opportunity to collect data necessary for understanding age, growth, maturity, and reproduction.  Carcass recoveries provide valuable opportunities because these data are especially important and can only be collected through dissection, and researchers are not interested in sacrificing any individuals from the wild of a critically endangered species.     

    Fisheries observers aboard commercial fishing vessels are trained to sample any sawfish incidentally captured in federal fisheries.  These chance opportunities provide valuable insight in to where fisheries overlap with sawfish and the condition of sawfish upon release.

    Research field surveys for smalltooth sawfish are the most important method for collecting data.  A variety of survey methods are used to capture live sawfish for scientific purposes, including longline, rod-and-reel, and gillnets. Once captured, measurements and samples are taken from each sawfish prior to tagging and release.  These surveys are instrumental in monitoring trends in the abundance of the population.


    Small tissue samples are collected during field capture of live sawfish and from old rostra for genetic analysis.  Genetics are useful in understanding population structure, diversity within the population, and both the size and health of the current population in comparison to the historical one.  Scientists are using genetics to determine whether there is significant movement and genetic exchange between the U.S. and Bahamas populations of smalltooth sawfish.

    Blood samples are collected from sawfish to measure reproductive status and stress physiology.  Hormones within the blood are used to assess reproductive cycling and periodicity.  Blood samples for stress physiology can be used to assess post-release mortality risk from a variety of fisheries and gears.

    Acoustic Tracking  

    Scientists are using the most recent technology to track the movements of smalltooth sawfish. This tracking involves capturing the animals, equipping them with acoustic transmitters, and releasing them.  Depending on the objectives of the project, scientists may track them from a boat using hydrophones to determine short-term microhabitat use or set up a network of in-water receivers (acoustic listening stations) to track longer-term broad-scale movements. Acoustic transmitters can be active for up to 10 years.  

    Satellite Tagging

    Larger juvenile and adult sawfish caught during surveys are also often fitted with GPS satellite tags.  Because far less is known about these larger animals, researchers hope that satellite tags can reveal important adult habitats.  Satellite tagging studies to date have shown that larger sawfish spent a large portion of their time in shallow coastal waters with periodic excursions to deeper waters off the shelf edge.

    Population Monitoring Through Encounter Reports

    If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of the sawfish, estimate its size, note your location, and please share the details with scientists.  The details of your sightings or catches of sawfish help to monitor the population and track the recovery progress.  You can share your information by calling 1-844-4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or emailing  

    In upcoming “Sawfish News” articles this year I will provide more details about the organizations working on each of these important components of the sawfish research projects. 

    For more information about endangered sawfish, visit:


    or call 1-844-4SAWFISH

  • 11/29/2017 5:27 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Decline and Recovery of Sawfish in the United States
    by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation  

    Their odd appearance and awesome size made them a prized catch for recreational fishermen.  Their unique elongated, blade-like snouts, studded with teeth on both sides, were often kept as trophies.  Net fishermen on the other hand considered them a nuisance because of the damage they would cause to their gear. 

    Two species of sawfish were once found in the US:  the largetooth sawfish, Pristis pristis, and the smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata.  The largetooth sawfish was found throughout the Gulf of Mexico but was more common in western Gulf waters of Texas and Mexico.  The smalltooth sawfish ranged from Texas to New York and was most plentiful in the eastern Gulf waters of Florida.  Both sawfish species were considered “abundant” and “common” in the early 1900’s.  Numerous postcards, photographs, and newspaper articles from that era bear the scene of fishermen hauling in countless sawfish to boats, docks, and beaches across the country. 

    Photo 1: The Florida state record was caught by William Bloyd in Florida Bay in 1961, a 648 pound smalltooth sawfish measuring 15 feet 4 inches.

    Unfortunately the largetooth sawfish has not been seen in the United States since the last confirmed record in 1943.  The smalltooth sawfish has fared better and still remains in US waters, though at greatly reduced numbers and geographic range.  Today the smalltooth sawfish is found predominately in southwest Florida, notably including Everglades National Park (ENP).  The vast expanse of natural habitat within ENP, and limited fishing pressure, likely served as a refuge for sawfish as the population was under constant pressure. 

    What happened to these grand fish?  What caused them to vanish from much of our coastal waters?  The decline was due to a combination of three primary factors: (1) overfishing, (2) low reproductive potential, and (3) habitat loss. 

    Photo 2: The Texas state record was caught by Gus Pangarakis off the Galveston north jetty in 1939, a 736 pound largetooth sawfish measuring 14 feet 7 inches.

    Fishing mortality contributed significantly to the decline of sawfish in the US.  Many sawfish caught recreationally were landed and displayed for photographs.  Others were killed as anglers removed their saws for trophies.  Commercial fishermen killed sawfish to save their gear, not wanting to cut their valuable nets to remove captured sawfish.  And sawfish were over-exploited for a variety of other reasons.  Their meat was used for food, their skin for leather, and their liver oil used in lamps and as a source of vitamin A.  Their fins are valued for shark fin soup, their rostral teeth used as artificial spurs in cock-fighting, their cartilage ground-up for traditional medicines, and their saws sold as curios and ceremonial weapons.

    The reproductive strategy of sawfish doesn’t help them withstand these threats.  Sawfish bear live young, take many years to reach sexual maturity, and produce very few offspring per reproductive cycle.  This doesn’t allow sawfish to replenish the population very quickly.  This was especially problematic historically as they were being removed far more quickly than they were able to reproduce.  And it’s why now it is crucial to keep fishing mortality low in order to recover this endangered species.    

    Born at about 2 feet in length, juvenile sawfish rely on very shallow, coastal and estuarine waters close to shore for safety from predators, such as sharks, during the first years of their life.  However, these shallow coastal waters are the same areas that have been converted to waterfront development.  Now much of the natural shoreline vegetation has been developed into seawalls, beaches, marinas, roads, canals, and docks.  Therefore the natural vegetation and shallow habitats previously used by sawfish as important protective nursery areas have been greatly reduced in quantity and all but eliminated in some areas.

    Due to the dramatic decline of the sawfish populations, The Ocean Conservancy petitioned National Marine Fisheries Service in 1999 to protect both species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The smalltooth sawfish was classified as Endangered in 2003, making it the first fully marine fish and first elasmobranch (sharks, skates, and rays) protected by the ESA.  The largetooth sawfish was listed as Endangered in 2011.      

    Will sawfish in the United States recover?  Unfortunately, the largetooth sawfish is probably locally extinct and gone for good from US waters.  The smalltooth sawfish just might make a comeback; the population is already showing promising signs following protective measures.  Information on smalltooth sawfish recovery planning can be found at

    One of the best methods of monitoring the population as it recovers is the use of public sawfish encounters.  If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of it, estimate its size, note your location, and share the information with scientists.  The details of your sightings or catches help to track recovery progress.  You can share your information by calling 1-844-4-SAWFISH (1-844-472-9347) or emailing  Information about historic catches or the location of any old sawfish saws is also appreciated. 

    Remember, due to their protected status it is illegal to target, harm, harass, or handle sawfish in any way.  While it is technically illegal to catch a sawfish (except with a research permit or in a fishery where incidental take has been authorized) captures do occur while fishing for other species.  Any sawfish caught while fishing must be released as quickly as possible.  The number one rule to remember when handling and releasing a sawfish is to leave it in the water at all times.  Do not lift it out of the water on to your boat or a pier, and do not drag it on shore.  

  • 11/01/2017 11:26 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    What Does the Smalltooth Sawfish Critical Habitat Designation Mean?
    by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation 

    Following a listing as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the US population of smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in 2003, NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) designated critical habitat for the species in 2009.  But what exactly does that mean and what does that do?

    The primary reason for the decline of the smalltooth sawfish population in the United States was mortality following capture in various commercial and recreational fisheries.  The secondary reason for the decline was habitat loss largely associated with coastal development and degradation.  So the preservation of habitat is an important consideration for conserving the species.

    Photo Credit: Juan Valadez, Two juvenile smalltooth sawfish swim in very shallow water near a river mouth in Everglades National Park.

    For the purpose of the ESA, critical habitat is defined as the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, that contain physical or biological features (1) essential to conservation, and (2) which may require special management considerations or protection.  The definition also includes a provision for specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation.

    A critical habitat designation protects certain features, particular attributes, of an area that are necessary to ensure the species does not go extinct and can recover to the point that protections of the ESA are no longer necessary.  For smalltooth sawfish the features determined to be essential to the conservation of the species are red mangroves and shallow, euryhaline habitats characterized by water depths between the Mean High Water line and 3 feet measured at Mean Lower Low Water.  Euryhaline means the area can have a wide range of salt content, or salinity, due to tidal fluctuations and freshwater input as occurs in estuaries, bays, and lower reaches of rivers.  These features were determined to be essential because they provide nursery habitat for small, young sawfish providing both shelter from predators and an abundant source of prey.

    Photo credit: Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation: A researcher prepares to release a juvenile smalltooth sawfish captured in shallow water along a mangrove shoreline in Florida Bay.  Research conducted under ESA permit #1352.   

    Two specific areas (units) located along the southwest coast of peninsular Florida were included in the critical habitat designation for smalltooth sawfish: the northern Charlotte Harbor Estuary Unit and the southern Ten Thousand Islands/Everglades Unit.     

    Photo credit: NMFS Office of Protected Resources: The two units of designated smalltooth sawfish critical habitat.

    So now that we’ve described why sawfish critical habitat was designated and defined both the areas and features of critical habitat, let’s look at how this affects coastal residents.  How is the designation applied and what does it mean for coastal development or recreational activities?  And how does the designation conserve the species?

    The designation of critical habitat provides a significant regulatory protection—the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation with NOAA Fisheries under section 7of the ESA, that their actions are not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.  The Federal Government, through its role in water management, flood control, regulation of resource extraction and other industries, Federal land management, and the funding, authorization, and implementation of a myriad other activities, may propose actions that are likely to affect critical habitat.  The designation ensures that the Federal Government considers the effects of its actions on critical habitat and avoids or modifies those actions that are likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.   

    Critical habitat can contribute to the conservation of endangered species in several ways.  Designation under the ESA triggers a federal agency’s obligation to use their authorities to further the purposes of the Act which includes proactive conservation efforts.  Designation also helps focus the conservation efforts of other partners, such as State and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals.  

    Photo credit: Dana M. Bethea, NOAA Fisheries: A neonate (newborn) smalltooth sawfish was captured and released on a muddy bank along a mangrove shoreline in Everglades National Park.  Research conducted under ESA permit #1352.

    The critical habitat designation for smalltooth sawfish does not necessarily prevent a homeowner from building a dock or repairing a seawall, result in new slow motor zones, close an area to fishing, or limit access to areas.  What the designation does do is add levels of review to ensure that any project which could alter those essential features is carefully considered before federal permits are authorized or funds are allocated.  In the case of smalltooth sawfish, critical habitat was designated in 2009 and has not resulted in any closed areas or lost recreational opportunities.  But it has led to the protection of shallow, mangrove-lined habitats which are important to the recovery of the smalltooth sawfish population.

    For more information about the designation of critical habitat for smalltooth sawfish visit:

  • 10/12/2017 6:04 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)
    Meet Your Buddies at the Reel Animals Boat Show & Fishing Expo in Tampa

    The new Reel Animals Boat Show & Fishing Expo--known as the Frank Sargeant Outdoors Expo in a previous life--is on course for the Florida State Fairgrounds east of Tampa Nov. 17-19, and all FGA members are welcome to come out and enjoy the fun.

    The show, now skippered by Captain Mike Anderson of Reel Animals Television and radio shows with Sargeant as advisor, follows the same format as the original--for more than two decades Florida's largest fishing show--with continuous educational angling seminars from top pros on multiple stages and lots of family-friendly activities along with all the latest and greatest in fishing boats and angling gear. Plus, dozens of well-known expert anglers and guides are on hand, happy to give fishing tips to those who want them.

    For those of you who have print, radio or social media outlets, if you can find the space to give us a boost, it will be appreciated--and of course we'll be happy to return the favor if you need it down the trail.

    Show hours are 10 to 6 on Friday and Saturday, 10 to 5 on Sunday. There are plenty of on-site food vendors, and if you'd like a draft Bud as happy hour approaches, that's available, too. It's one big party for guides, anglers and their families, and we'd love to see you there. See details at

    Contact show manager Jim Scilligo for details: or call 727-515-5652.

    We'll look forward to seeing you in Tampa.

  • 09/30/2017 5:50 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    First-ever sawfish birth filmed in the wild
    by Tonya Wiley, Haven Worth Consulting

    (Reprinted with permission from Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory

    Sawfish are creatures of myth and legend, enormous shark-like rays with a huge rostrum bearing a row of formidable teeth protruding from each side. There are five species of sawfish in the world and all are considered Endangered or Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Dr. Dean Grubbs (Associate Director of Research, Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory) and his colleagues have been studying the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in Florida and the Bahamas since 2010, conducting research to aid sawfish conservation efforts. Much of their work has been directed towards using surveys, satellite tagging, and tracking to determine where adult sawfish mate, where the females give birth, where important nurseries are, and to determine where sawfish are most likely to be vulnerable to captures as bycatch in different fisheries. During a recent expedition funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation to the remote island of Andros his team made a discovery that will have major implications for recovery of this charismatic species. To set the stage, in 2003, smalltooth sawfish became the first native marine fish species listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Mangrove lined estuaries from Charlotte Harbor, Florida to Florida Bay in Everglades National Park have been designated as Critical Habitat for the species because these are the only areas where females were known to give birth and are thus critical to recovery of the species. Though sawfish were known to occur in the Bahamas, it was unknown whether these sawfish were born in the Bahamas or perhaps were part of the Florida population.

    Close-up of sawfish pup's rostral blade peeking out. At the embryonic stage, the rostrum is soft and flexible with teeth that are enclosed by a sheath, to protect the mother during birth--documented for the first time.

    On December 7, 2016 Dr. Grubbs’ team, including Dr. Andrea Kroetz (NOAA) and FSUCML graduate research assistants, Bianca Prohaska and Bryan Keller, captured a female sawfish on the west side of Andros, Bahamas that was just over 14-feet in length. During the process of tagging the large sawfish to monitor her movements, the team noticed there were the rostra of two baby sawfish protruding from her vent; she was giving birth. The research team, with the assistance of Field School staff Jake Jerome and Nick Perni, assisted the mother sawfish in the birth of five pups (i.e. baby sawfish) before releasing her to birth the rest on her own (it is believed sawfish give birth to 10-12 pups). This is the first time a live sawfish birth has been documented in the wild. The rostrum of a newborn sawfish emerges from the mother covered in a thick sheath of tissue covering the needle sharp teeth, thus protecting the mother. Dr. Grubbs’ team took genetic samples on both the mother and the five pups, implanted an acoustic transmitter in the mother and attached a satellite tag to her dorsal fin for tracking her movements, and inserted P.I.T. tags on the pups (a process similar to micro-chipping pets and lasts their lifespan). Afterward, the mother and the five pups were set free in the wild.

    Dr. Grubbs assists sawfish give birth to two pups--documented for the first time.

    Not much is known about sawfish reproduction, and while the birth was typical of many sharks and rays, this confirmed “pupping” of sawfish in Andros, Bahamas. Dr. Dean Grubbs has been studying sharks and rays for more than 25 years and describes the recent experience as “the biggest day of my research career.” This indicates there are now two known pupping and nursery areas (southwest Florida and west Andros), increasing the potential for recovery of this endangered species. Importantly, just as much of the critical sawfish habitat in Florida is protected in wildlife refuges and national parks, the area of Andros that the team has shown to be important habitat for adult and juvenile sawfish is within the recently formed West Side National Park. Protecting such areas is critical to recovery of the species.

    Dr. Dean Grubbs holds sawfish pup right after its birth.

    Sponsored by a Keystone Grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation and supported by The Field School and the Flamingo Cay Rod and Gun Club, the purpose of the research is to discover if there is any evidence of exchange between the sawfish population in the U.S. and Bahamas. Currently, sawfish populations are believed to be regionally resident, meaning they do not migrate far from their original habitat.

    To see footage of the expedition and live sawfish birth, check out a video produced by the Field School at

    For more information about endangered sawfish, visit:

  • 07/30/2017 2:23 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly recently presented the 2017 Phil Chapman Conservation Award to Mr. Gil McRae. The occasion was a recent meeting of the FWC in Orlando. 

    Kelly recognized McRae for his passionate commitment to the conservation of Florida’s marine fisheries.

    “I know I speak for many when I say it has been a privilege to have Gil at the top tier of FWC’s leadership. Gil’s dedication to his profession, his work ethic and his stellar career with FWRI make him an example to be followed, and personifies the essence of the Capt. Phil Chapman Award,” said Capt. Pat Kelly, Past President, Florida Guides Association.

    For 15 years McRae has lead FWRI, which provides the scientific foundation for the management of Florida’s fish and wildlife resources. He oversees more than 30 FWRI offices across the state, which encompass programs such as the impacts of red tides, freshwater flows and levels, the research that guides the conservation and management actions for many of Florida’s important and unique species, as well as data collection for all of Florida’s saltwater commercial and recreational fisheries.

    “We truly appreciate Gil’s expertise and leadership. Our scientists and researchers are the guiding force behind what we do,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski.

    McRae received a Bachelor of Science degree in aquatic ecology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science degree in fisheries science with a minor in statistics from the University of Minnesota. He has worked for the FWC since 1995 and has been the director of FWRI since 2002.

    FGA is extremely proud to present Gil McRae with the Phil Chapman Conservation Award. 

  • 07/30/2017 1:56 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly was on hand at the recent FWC meeting in Orlando to present awards to two deserving FWC officers. They were each chosen through a process of nomination. Officer Michael Bibeau has been an FWC officer for seven years. Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been with FWC since 2013. The FGA Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher Officer of the Year Award is given for outstanding service to the state of Florida and its fishery.

    Officer Michael Bibeau

    Officer Michael Bibeau is married to Kara Bibeau and they live happily in Pinellas County. Mike was born and raised in Pinellas and attended USF in Tampa before being accepted to the academy. He started his career with the FWC in Collier County and we were lucky enough as a region to have him transfer back roughly three years ago. He enjoys the outdoors and loves to golf, fish and spend time with his wife on the beach.

    Like all Pinellas County officer’s, Mike does his fair share of outreach events throughout the year. He is a true ambassador for the FWC and represents all law enforcement officers in a positive light. His attitude and professionalism is why he has been a Field Training Officer six times and he takes that responsibility very seriously.

    Mike has a true knack for finding, and catching, those who break our resource laws. Florida’s resource protection is his passion, and time after time you’ll see him waiting and watching and then catching these violators. His patience, dedication, and knowledge make him such an asset to the agency that there is rarely a time you won’t see his name in the weekly report. Mike continues his excellence in resource protection by sharing his knowledge with other officers on the ins and outs of making quality resource cases.

    In 2016 Mike made 54 misdemeanor arrests, 6 warrant arrests, 2 felony arrests. He also wrote 37 uniform boating citations and 215 written warnings. He documented 400 hours of water patrol. He participated in multiple search and rescues and was nominated for a life-saving award.

    FGA is very proud to name Mike as co-recipient of this prestigious award.

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been assigned to Pinellas County for the entire length of his service. Sean is a native Floridian and has lived in the Tampa Bay area for most of his life, after moving from Broward County at a young age. Sean is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman with a true passion for protecting Florida’s resources.

    Sean has always had a competitive nature that became evident when he received a scholarship to play football at UCF in Orlando. He participated in that program from 1999-2003. This competiveness and drive to succeed is also displayed in his daily work routine. Sean truly cares about making a positive impact on the citizens and resources of Florida. Sean has a wife, Brittney and a 1 year old daughter, Hazel. Sean is passionate about his job but his family is his true passion in his life.

    Sean is a team player that rarely takes full credit for his accomplishments. He networks with other officers and community members to organize efforts to stop major violations. He has organized multiple details targeting misdemeanor and felony resource violations. Sean submitted an operational detail report to target illegal net fishing activity that resulted in 27 misdemeanor arrests, 9 felony arrests and 12 warnings. He also submitted a detail, still on-going, to target a wide range of crab trap violations that has resulted in 4 misdemeanor and 3 felony arrests.

    Sean always comes to work with a positive attitude which inspires and motivates others. He sets the example for new officers and exemplifies the fact that hard work is rewarded. Sean uses discretion when dealing with the public. He educates violators with warnings when possible and charges individuals when necessary.

    In 2016, Sean made 47 misdemeanor and 9 felony resource-related arrests. Many of Sean’s cases involved working late nights into early mornings. He worked long shifts in harsh conditions that many officers were not willing to work. He accomplished this success while responding to SAR missions, multiple calls for service and being a member of the Southwest Special Operations Group (SOG). His SOG responsibilities included monthly training and responding to two hurricanes for multiple days at a time.

    FGA is proud to name Sean as co-recipient of the 2017 FGA “Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher” Officer of the year award.

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