Nonnative fish provide
exotic fishing alternatives

By Bob Wattendorf,
with Vance Crain and Kelly Gestring
© Sept. 2, 2014

     FLORIDA -- Florida freshwater anglers target at least 25 species of native fishes. Most are within a 45-minute drive of anyone wanting to wet a line.
     In addition to those, the free Florida Big Catch angler recognition program ( features six species of exotic fishes from other countries and several fish species that expanded their ranges from farther north.
     Of those nonnative fishes, only butterfly peacock bass were stocked intentionally by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) predecessor, during the early 1980s. At the time, expansion of numerous nonnative fish species in south Florida was causing concern. Walking catfish and several types of tilapia were well established. Species, such as piranha, electric eels and freshwater stingray had the potential to be imported by the aquarium industry and posed a threat to native species and a concern to people. Accidental introductions were largely attributed to the aquaculture industry or to individual aquarists.
     To safeguard native resources, restrictions on introduction of nonnative species into the state had been passed.
     Two lists exist for species that require permits for possession. Conditional species require strict adherence to detailed rules intended to prevent escape, primarily from commercial facilities. Prohibited species permits are available only under very stringent conditions for research or public display at secure facilities.
     There are 41 nonnative freshwater fish species that have been observed or are known to reproduce in Florida. Another 14 species have naturally died out or been eliminated by the agency. To see the list, go to, select “Nonnative Species” then “Freshwater Fish.”
     Prior to introducing peacock bass in 1984, discussions were held with leading experts from around the country. The purpose was to convert a large biomass of established nonnative fishes, which were too small to attract anglers, into a valuable recreational fishery. Researchers documented the lower lethal temperature of peacock bass and determined they would be able to overwinter consistently only in a limited area of south Florida. The originally imported fish were not stocked, to prevent introducing foreign parasites or diseases. Instead, they were spawned and their eggs grown to fingerling size prior to stocking the offspring.
     Chris Collins, associate editor of “Florida Sportsman” magazine, just wrote a story about recovery of this multimillion-dollar recreational fishery following the ultra-cold winter of 2010.
     Butch Moser, a local fishing guide on and around the Lake Osborne-Ida chain of lakes in Palm Beach County, targets nonnative fish. He agrees peacock bass are back. Sight-fishing for peacocks using small gold-colored Rapalas or topwater chug baits can be extremely productive. If the water is opaque, try a live minnow. Peacock bass are the only nonnative fish designated by the FWC as a gamefish. The bag limit is two, only one of which may be 17 inches or longer in total length. Any peacock bigger than 18 inches or 4 pounds qualifies for Big Catch recognition.
     Not only peacocks were slammed by the cold and are now recovering, said Moser. In late August, he said he had “never seen the fishing as good as the past few weeks.” Several locks along the canal are open, and running water is attracting sunshine bass, peacock bass, clown knifefish -- the whole gamut.
     One of his favorites, the unique clown knifefish, are running from 3 to 10 pounds. They are often full of shad but aggressively take any 3- to 4-inch minnow. According to Moser, when hooked they back up, then make a quick run and jump like a tarpon. They are tough to net since they back away and jump, so Moser’s tip is to get the net under them when they jump.
     He recommends watching for a round boil and bubbles on the surface. Cast directly to the disturbance or fish a float with a live bait 3- to 4-feet deep and kept down with light weights. In the heat of the day, shade around bridges or pilings is productive. Since clown knifefish are a relatively new (1994) introduction, with a limited range in the Osborne-Ida chain, they are not included in the Big Catch program. Catches should not be transported alive elsewhere.

Mayan Cichlid  
A beautiful mayan cichlid showing the characteristic dark eyespot bordered by turquoise near its tail.
Photo by John Cimbaro, FWC

     Moser also enjoys catching Mayan cichlids on poppers or minnows. You’ll find them in shallow water. They provide a great fight and meal. As with all nonnative fish, other than peacock bass and triploid grass carp, there is no size or bag limit; take all you catch. Those longer than 11 inches or heavier than 1 pound are eligible for a Big Catch certificate.
     Vance Crain, an FWC fisheries biologist in the South Region, has observed increased catch rates for oscars. You can catch oscars throughout the L67A, as well as Alligator Alley, Miami Canal, Tamiami and WCA II. Cane pole anglers do well with crickets and worms, but beetle spins, small Rapalas or topwater poppers all work. Oscars have been in Florida waters since at least 1969 and are recognized in the Big Catch program. To qualify, submit a photo of one 11 inches long or longer, or 1.25 pounds or heavier.
     Brightly colored Midas cichlids shine in Miami-Homestead canals; look for clear water and sight-fish for them with little jigheads and a worm, using ultralight gear. Crain describes them as “bluegill on steroids.”
     Although these species have not caused major disruptions in native ecosystems or reduced harvest of native sport fishes, you should not release them (except peacock bass and triploid grass carp). Releasing fish from aquariums or moving them between water systems could produce detrimental effects and is illegal.
     Check current fisheries forecasts, because conditions can vary drastically. Go to, select “Freshwater Fishing” then “Sites and Forecasts.”

Huntin’ season is here
Outta’ the Woods
TonyYoungMugBy Tony Young
     FLORIDA -- Even though you can hardly tell, summer is almost over. Kids have returned to school, football is back on TV, and hunting season has already been going on for a month now in south Florida. Finally, the time of year we’ve been waiting for is here. And although some of us still have to wait just a bit longer for our season to come in, most of us have already finished our preseason scouting, and we’ve hung our tree stands along well-traveled deer trails, next to a mature oak that’ll soon begin dropping acorns. I don’t know about y’all, but I got a bad case a BUCK FEVER!
     Hunting season always comes in first in Zone A in south Florida. Archery and crossbow seasons there started Aug. 2. But the boundary line between zones A and C has changed this year.
     The new line now begins at the Gulf of Mexico and runs northeast through Charlotte Harbor and up the Peace River until it intersects with State Road 70. The line then follows S.R. 70, running east until it meets U.S. 441 north of Lake Okeechobee. It then follows U.S. 441 south, where it proceeds around the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. The line then turns off U.S. 441 and onto S.R. 80 and runs just a few miles before turning east and following County Road 880, running just a few miles before joining back up with U.S. 98/441/S.R. 80/Southern Boulevard until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean.
     Zone B, which makes up part of the Green Swamp Basin, lies south of S.R. 50, west of U.S. 441 and the Kissimmee Waterway, north of S.R. 60 and east of the Gulf of Mexico. This year, archery and crossbow seasons there start Oct. 18.
     The line that divides zones C and D begins at U.S. 27 at the Florida-Georgia state line (in Gadsden County) and runs south on U.S. 27 until it meets S.R. 61 in Tallahassee. From there, it follows S.R. 61, running south until it hits U.S. 319. There, the line follows U.S. 319, continuing south to U.S. 98. It then runs east along U.S. 98 until it gets to the Wakulla River, where the river becomes the line, heading south until it meets the St. Marks River and continues going downriver until it meets the Gulf.
     If you hunt west of that line, you’re in Zone D, where archery and crossbow seasons begin on Oct. 25 this year. In Zone C (east of that line), archery and crossbow seasons open Sept. 13.
     To hunt during archery season, you’ll need a Florida hunting license and an archery permit. During crossbow season, you’ll need a hunting license and crossbow permit. If you’re a Florida resident, an annual hunting license will cost $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for 12 months. Archery and crossbow permits cost just $5 each, and all deer hunters must have the $5 deer permit. Anyone planning on hunting one of Florida’s many WMAs must purchase a management area permit for $26.50.
     And don’t forget to pick up the WMA brochure for the area you wish to hunt, because hunting season dates on many of the areas often differ from zonal dates. You can pick up a copy of WMA brochures at your local tax collector’s office or read them at
     During archery season and that part of crossbow season that runs concurrent with archery, you can take both legal bucks and antlerless deer (except for spotted fawns). But after archery ends, during the remaining portion of the crossbow season, only legal bucks may be taken. The daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits for deer on WMAs can differ, so check the specifics of the area before you hunt.
     You can hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. On most WMAs, there’s also no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few WMAs though, bag and size limits do apply, so be sure to check the brochure for the specific area to be certain.
     It’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys during archery and crossbow seasons, assuming you have a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents). You can now take two turkeys in a single day on private lands, but the two-bird fall-season limit still applies, and the daily bag limit for turkeys is still one on WMAs. It’s against the law to hunt turkeys in Holmes County in the fall, and it’s illegal to shoot them while they’re on the roost, over bait, when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when bait is present or with the aid of recorded turkey calls.
     The archery permit allows you to bow hunt during the archery season. On private property, a crossbow permit enables you to hunt during the crossbow season with either a crossbow or a bow. On WMAs, only hunters with a disabled crossbow permit are allowed to use crossbows during archery season. All bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds, and hand-held releases are permitted. For hunting deer, hogs and turkeys, broadheads must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum width of 7/8 inch.
     PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Tony Young is the media relations coordinator for the FWC’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. He can be reached with questions about hunting at

By Myrtice Scabarozi © Sept. 1, 2014

     LEVY COUNTY -- The Log Cabin Quilters met Thursday (Aug. 28) at the Levy County Quilt Museum -- 11050 N.W. 10th Ave., Chiefland.
     Cynthia from Ellzey came by for a first time visit and helped with the quilting on the quilt in the frame. Joyce wanted to see how her quilt top looked with the hearts that are to be appliquéd. Dorothy from Oak Park Village brought her nephew, Mike from Switzerland in for a visit. He came to celebrate her 90th birthday with her.
     The Levy County Quilt Museum is the only quilt museum in Florida. The museum has things from the past and some interesting old quilts.
      We do have many quilts for sale - some were hand-quilted, some machine-quilted and some hand-tied.
     The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Parking is free and visiting is free. Everyone is welcome.


Joyce is working 0n the finishing touches of her quilt top. She wanted to see how the hearts that are to be appliqued would look before she attached them to the quilt top.

This Welcome Rooster panel was a recent donation and made a great wall hanging.


Doris had finished this penny rug that we'll hang in the Levy County Quilt Museum. Penny rugs were stated in the 1800s when women used whatever was available to make beautiful decorations for their homes. Penny rugs are not rugs but instead are decorative covers for tables, walls, shelves, etc.

Chiefland defeats
Bronson in football 42-14

Head Chiefland Indians Football Coach Aaron Richardson heads toward the center of the field with captains (from left) Austin Vincent (#77), Willie Brannon (#52), Vanden Fehmerling (#25) and G.G. McClendon (#5).
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 30, 2014
     CHIEFLAND -- The first regular season football game happened for all six high schools with teams in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties on Friday night.

The Chiefland Indians Band performs.
Photo by Sharon Hardison (taken with a Motorola smart phone)

     In Chiefland, the Chiefland High School Indians faced the Bronson High School Eagles for a non-district match. Chiefland soundly beat Bronson 42-14. Bronson put up a valiant effort.
     The game opened with an onside kick by Bronson. Chiefland’s Billy Hammond (#44) received.

Chiefland Indians Booster Club members Loran Brookins (foreground) and Rob Alexander cook hotdogs and hamburgers for Chiefland and Bronson fans. There are two concession stands. The one closer to the visitors’ stands helps the band raise money.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison

     Indians’ quarterback Mike Larock (#11) led the team to first down after first down until, with 9:48 remaining in the first quarter, Levi Murray (#3) ran across the goal line for six points, followed by a Point After Touchdown kick by Caleb Bostick (#15), which made the score 7-0, Chiefland’s favor.

The Bronson High School Band performed well as it visited Chiefland. Seen here (front row, from left) are Band Director Michelle Barber, Kayla Regueiro, Aaron Latif, Jessica Cano, Joshua Benge, Chayton Margraf, (middle row, from left) Sasha Dingler, Sara Bulson, Marvin Ramirez, Clay Dean, (back row, from left) Faith McCullors, Victoria Torpey, Destany McCullors, Samantha Bechtold, Michael Florence and Brock Wilson. (not picture, Chris Sanchez, who plays on the football team as well as in the band)
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison

     Bronson followed with a first possession that showed David Dees (#44), Montrez Jackson (#6), and other receivers progressing. Head Eagles Coach Cameron Porch and his assistant coaches switched back and forth between quarterbacks Jason Ranalli (#11) and Zach Needs (#9) who was not listed on the roster provided for the announcer at the press box.

Foot082914B     The failure to provide all of the roster numbers to the announcer was definitely heard by the audience when “Mr. 82” was announced over and over. As it turned out, that was Bronson’s Ryan Ranalli, who is listed on Max Preps as #2.

Coach’s Field
Coach C. Doyle McCall sits in a golf cart on the field named in his honor.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison

     The Chiefland Indians took possession after the Eagles went close to the goal line, which may have been disheartening for the visitors from Bronson.
     Some of Bronson’s success in coming close to scoring the first time resulted from yards that Chiefland gave up in penalties, including a facemask by an Indian against and Eagle in that first offensive drive by Bronson.

Both the Varsity and JV Bronson High Middle School Cheerleader teams are seen in this photo. The JV is in blue and the Varsity is in the black uniforms. Seen here are (front row, from left) Cambria Ronaldo, Emma Harvey, Chelsea Colson, Alexis Couglin, Tessa Brenno, Sabrina Knowles, Sierra Sistrunk, (back row, from left) Caitlin Nickolls, Diamond Sheffield, Norma Herndandez, Jasmine Parker, Kayse Chorvat, Brittany Riley, Brooke Clevinger, Tori Trent, Kristi Hopp and Autumn Boyd. The sponsor for the Varsity Cheerleaders is Stacy Drummond and the sponsor for the JV Cheerleaders is Gloria Petty.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison

     On their own two-yard line, the Indians started a campaign of regaining lost yards, especially with G.G. McClendon (#5) and Jarquez Williams (#21) tacking on yardage with Larock’s work as a quarterback.

The Chiefland Varsity Cheerleaders
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison

     At the end of the first quarter, it was 7-0, Chiefland.
     The Indians capitalized on a fumble relatively early in the second quarter with 8:46 remaining as they scored a touchdown, but missed a PAT kick, taking the score to 13-0, Chiefland.

Chiefland’s G.G. McClendon (#5) is seen covering yards quickly as several Bronson Eagles give chase.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison

    Dees and other Bronson players made some strides but another Eagles’ fumble, led to the Indians having the football for a couple of plays before the Indians fumbled it, and Bronson recovered it.
     A few possessions later, with Williams refusing to be stopped, Chiefland scored again at 2:39 mark of time remaining in the first half. The PAT effort failed, making the score 19-0, Chiefland, and there was no more scoring in the first half.   
CheerHigh     After a series of first downs in the second half, the Bronson Eagles’ drive following its first possession went uninterrupted. The Indians lost yards due to a few penalties – for personal foul, illegal substitution and off-sides during that round, too, which helped the Eagles.

Chiefland Cheerleaders keep the fans cheering for the home team.
Photo by Sharon Hardison (taken with a Motorola smart phone)

     With 7:22 remaining in the third quarter, an Eagle scored a touchdown, but the conversion attempt failed, putting the score at 19-6, in favor of the Indians.
     The Chiefland Indians were quick to counteract with a powerful offense and Jordan Strong (#24) scored a touchdown for the home team with 6:16 remaining in the quarter. A successful two-point conversion attempt added two more points making the score 6-27, in favor of the Indians.
     A little bit of rain started dropping. Lightning was far enough away to not be considered as a danger.
     Lightning is something to consider in football, golf, bull riding, lawn maintenance and whenever a person is outdoors. Among the saddest high school football stories is one from  Sept. 7, 1970 (Labor Day), when during a practice game, a bolt of lightning struck the huddle and knocked everyone on the field to the ground at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg.
     Twenty-three players and coaches were hit. Sixteen players and coaches were treated and released from hospitals. Five others were hospitalized. Players Vincent Williams and Robert Newton died.
     Meanwhile, in the third quarter of the game Friday, Chiefland’s Larock was continuing to work the offense. Chiefland was in a first down and 10 situation at the 14-yard line with 1:40 left in the quarter.
     Within a few plays after that, it was another touchdown for the Indians. This was an amazing comeback for the Indians who had been backed up by the Eagles to be right next to the Eagles’ being able to score, even though the Eagles’ offense did not take them that far.
     A two-point conversion worked again for the Indians, making the score 35-6, in the Indians’ favor, and that’s how the third quarter ended.
     In the fourth quarter, there was more scoring on both sides until the game ended 42-14, with Chiefland winning.
       Chiefland Head Coach Aaron Richardson was helped by
assistant coaches Tommy Sutton, Cody Montgomery, Jim O'Neal, Colby Brock, Chad Brock and Adam Gore (who is also the head JV coach).
Trenton 17, Lafayette County 14
Bell 14, Brookwood (Georgia) 42
Williston 33, P.K. Yonge 14
Dixie County 46, Taylor County 6

Prep time is here for the
for the 2015 Suwannee River Fair

Published Aug. 24, 2014
     FANNING SPRINGS -- It is time to start preparations for the 2015 Suwannee River Fair.
     The General Meeting for the Suwannee River Fair & Livestock Association will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m., in the Suwannee River Fair Pavilion in Fanning Springs. Elections for seats on the Board of Directors will be held at this meeting.
     The Dixie County seats that are to be filled are currently held by: Greg Sanchez and Todd Begue. The Levy County seats that are to be filled are currently held by: Frank Dola and Vadin Barber. The Gilchrist County seats that are to be filled are currently held by: Earl (Peewee) Jones and Hugh Thomas. The Director at Large seat also will be filled and it is currently held by Michelle Walker-Crawford. Nominees must be present. You must be a fair member to vote.
     Membership: Members must be at least 18 years old. Students grade K-12 or home schooled equivalent in Dixie, Levy or Gilchrist counties are not eligible to be members. The annual dues are $5.00 per person, payable to the Suwannee River Fair. Dues can be submitted at the General Meeting or mailed to: P. O. Box 252, Trenton, FL 32693. If you choose to submit your dues by mail, please be sure to include your name, address, telephone and the county in which you live. Only members in good standing will be eligible to vote (dues paid before or at the General Meeting).
     A second meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. to review changes to the fair rules for 2015 and to address questions. This meeting will be held at the fair pavilion. The board would like to encourage FFA Advisors, 4H Leaders and Parents to attend this meeting. The Board of Directors and Show Superintendents will be on hand to answer any questions.
     Please make a note of these important dates:
Weigh in/ Tag in
     * Fat steer – Sept. 27 (7-9 a.m.)
     * Feeder steer – Dec. 5 (3-6 p.m.)
     * Swine – Dec. 6 (7-9:30 a.m.)
     * Heifer – Dec. 6 (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
General Election
Sept. 2, at 7 p.m.
     Parent/Advisor Leader Meeting – to review all new rules and ask questions of the superintendents and board members
     For more information, please contact Marti at 352-262-1829.

Dixie Music has openings
for guitar, keyboard and
vocal students

Published Aug. 7, 2014
DixMus080714     OLD TOWN – Individuals who aspire to play guitar or keyboards, or who want vocal lessons have a golden opportunity now, because Dixie Music Center’s School of Music in Old Town has openings available for lessons.

Dotti and Bob Leichner who are two of the performers in the band known as Dottie South and the Slackers are seen here at a Haven Hospice event from October of 2013.
File Photo

     Dixie Music Center’s School of Music has played a part in the lives of many musicians, and some of the alumni are very talented performers – who gained local, regional and national recognition.
     One local artist who has enjoyed considerable regional success of late, performing from Cedar Key to St Augustine to Jacksonville, is Houston Keen.
     Keen has studied vocal instruction with Bob and Dotti Leichner, the owners of Dixie Music Center.
     Jamey King and Robbie Vanosdol, of the group Steel Bridge and, more recently, Memphis Belle, have been very well received not only throughout the Tri-County Area and Gainesville, but also in Nashville at such noted venues as Tootsie's, Second Fiddle and other "hot spots" on Music City's lower Broadway.
      Both of these fine players began their musical journey with guitar instruction at Dixie Music Center. And then there is the internationally renowned Mercury recording artist whose first two releases went to Number 1 nationwide: Easton Corbin, who also started guitar lessons with Dixie Music Center when he was a teenager.
     The goal need not be to become a famous star. Learning keyboards, guitar and to sing is a fun process in itself. Interested individuals are asked to call Dixie Music Center at 352-542-3001 for more information.

TUE.  SEPT. 2  11:27 a.m.
Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties


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