Go Wild Outdoors in the Keys

March 10, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

When most people visit the  Florida Keys, fishing and diving are foremost in mind.  But there is a heck of a lot more to take in on the wild side of this 110-mile long island chain than visitors might think:  four national wildlife refuges with a cornucopia of animals, birds, plants and insects to observe up close.

From March 17-20, families, nature photographers, birders and other outdoors enthusiasts are invited to the inaugural Outdoor Fest–four days of mostly free events showcasing unique flora and fauna from Key Largo to Key West.

Attendees will be able to take a behind-the-scenes kayak tour of the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Key Largo; observe beautiful sea birds at the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge in the Lower Keys; watch miniature endangered Key deer at the refuge named for the species on Big Pine Key; and go birding, sailing, snorkeling and kayaking in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

Other activities include a 12-mile natural history bike hike on Big Pine; geocaching; a 5K “Run with the Deer”; art and photography workshops; art and craft fair; walking tours; and a nighttime ‘moth-whisperer’ event.

The event is presented by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex and its booster organization, the Friends and Volunteers of Refuges (FAVOR).

“There’s so much overlap of government land down here,” said Kristie Killam, a park ranger with the Refuges Complex.  “We wanted to create an identity for ourselves.  We hope this is a way to educate people on how magnificent these four chunks of land are.”

Refuge biologists will introduce visitors to rarely-seen insects, reptiles and birds, including a tour of nest boxes erected for the endangered Key Largo wood rat.  And Killam especially recommends the evening presentations.

“All these night creatures will come in that you never get to see,” she said.  “It’s amazing what you see that you never thought of.”

Additional activities are planned before and after the festival.  For a complete schedule and to register for events, go to:  www.favorfloridakeys.org/outdoor-fest.

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   Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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  Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

Low Key Christmas Boat Parade in Paradise

December 24, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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boatBy Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer

scocking@guyharveyoutpost.com

The parade’s Grand Marshal was a mentalist who performs card tricks in Vegas.  The winning floats featured a western saloon and the Grinch who stole Christmas.  One year, a rescue boat had to be deployed to shore in the middle of the event to fetch a corkscrew for wine guzzling party goers on the lead boat.

Welcome to the Key Largo Holiday Boat Parade– the antithesis of its glitzy counterpart to the north, the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Parade held the same night in Fort Lauderdale.  I was at the Key Largo event, and I bet it was a lot more fun.

For one thing, nobody had to close any bridges or re-route traffic to accommodate the parade route.  There was a lone security guard helping park cars in the Sundowners restaurant lot near the docks where many of the boats staged, and the parade itself just made a big circle through Blackwater Sound.  With only 22 vessels participating, it didn’t take all night.

I got to ride on the lead boat, a 52-foot motoryacht called Kenny’s Kork skippered by Captain Spencer Slate, owner/operator of the Guy Harvey Outpost dive outfitter in Tavernier.  Slate has served as either grand marshal or captain of the lead boat for all 30 years of the event. This year’s grand marshal was Henry Rosenthal– a prominent Keys businessman and self-styled mentalist with the stage name of “Bastille”. (Why he chose the name of a French prison, I never found out.)  The boat was packed with lots of revelers drinking beer and wine and chowing down on a delicious catered buffet prepared by Sundowners.

As the procession chugged slowly along the shoreline, gaggles of spectators cheered from docks, back porches and waterfront restaurants.  Kenny’s Kork was followed by an assortment of lit-up motorboats and a flotilla of kayaks from Florida Bay Outfitters.

One colorfully-lighted kayak carried a paddler with a blow-up penguin standing in the bow.

“Isn’t he festive?” the kayaker called to us.

Another kayak carried Santa Claus; others bore fake palm trees lined with white lights and one double kayak sported a manger scene in the rear seat.

“For me, this parade transforms December into Christmas time,” said Key Largo businesswoman Laurie Scanlon.

The parade ended back at Sundowners where the judges convened to decide which floats should win prizes.  While they deliberated, “Bastille” performed his signature show on the restaurant’s patio stage.  It involved lots of audience participation and shuffling of decks of playing cards.  Kenny’s Kork’s owner was so enthralled that he tipped the performer a C-note.

Finally, it was time for the announcement of the winners by emcee captain Skip Bradeen, a popular veteran charterboat captain and local radio personality.

The award for best overall float went to the Grinch who stole Christmas– one of Slate’s dive boats lovingly decorated over two days by his daughter Sky and ex-wife Annette and  their friends.  The Grinch’s light display was stunning and creative and Sky was compellingly costumed as the Grinch while Annette looked fetching as Cindy Lou Who in her blonde top-knot wig.  Admirers quickly moved in to take selfies with the winning team.

What a hoot.  Hope I get invited back next year!

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Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/.  For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing.  She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit. 

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Share your photos, videos and experiences with Guy Harvey Outpost by hash tagging #OutpostAttitude to all of your social media posts.

Goliath Grouper, Grouper & Snapper Management Meeting Jan 7-9

December 27, 2013 at 9:06 am | Posted in Conservation, Fishing, Florida, Florida Keys, Marine Science, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2013
CONTACT: Kim Iverson
877/SAFMC-10 or 843.571.4366
kim.iverson@safmc.net
Joint Meeting on South Florida Management Issues and the Goliath Grouper Joint Council Steering Committee Scheduled 

A joint committee of the Gulf and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils will meet January 7 – 9, 2014 in Key Largo, FL to discuss South Florida Management Issues. The meeting will be held at the Hilton Key Largo Resort and will begin on Tuesday, January 7th at 8:30 a.m., and conclude on Thursday, January 9th by 12 p.m.

Agenda items for the meeting of the Joint Council Committee on South Florida Management Issues include:

  • Presentation on the South Florida Issues workshops held in July/August 2013;
  • Overview of status and trends for South Florida species; and
  • Discussion of species specific management concerns and next steps for yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, hogfish, mangrove snapper, shallow-water groupers, Nassau grouper, warsaw grouper, and speckled hind.

Additionally, the Ad Hoc Goliath Grouper Joint Council Committee and the Joint Council Committee On South Florida Management Issues will meet to review the last stock assessment for goliath grouper and to hear a presentation on the recent Goliath Grouper Stakeholder Workshops and survey. Other items on the agenda include the review of recommendations from the Ad Hoc Goliath Grouper Joint Science workshop and a review of ongoing goliath grouper research.

Meeting information including the full agenda can be found at: http://safmc.net/meetings/other-meetings.

Photo Courtesy of Capt. Randy Towe

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