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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Tag: big bend

2017 bay scallop season in Dixie/Taylor counties set

by on Feb.11, 2017, under Hernando and Pasco Gulf Coast, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Ozello to Crystal River, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and St. Joseph Bay, Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina, Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

The 2017 bay scallop season for Dixie County and parts of Taylor County will be open from June 16 through Sept. 10. This includes all state waters from the Suwannee River through the Fenholloway River. These changes are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons.

These changes were discussed at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting on Feb. 8, where staff was directed to work with local community leaders on selecting potential 2017 season dates and to adopt changes by executive order.

At the Feb. 8 meeting, staff also updated the Commission on the status of bay scallops in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County, and set a July 25 through Sept. 10 recreational bay scallop season off Gulf County, including all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

A prolonged red tide event in late 2015 negatively impacted the scallop population in St. Joseph Bay, which led to modified local scallop regulations for 2016 that included a shortened season and reduced bag limits. FWC researchers conducted a scallop restoration project last year within St. Joseph Bay to help speed the recovery of the scallop population. These efforts have been going well and the scallop population has shown signs of improvement. Staff will conduct similar restoration efforts in 2017.

All other portions of the bay scallop harvest zone will be open from July 1 through Sept. 24. This includes all state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.

Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone will be 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.

At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. To submit your feedback on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

For more information on these changes, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings,” then click on the link below “Next Meeting.”

For information on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

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Snook On The Upper Big Bend? You Bet–Provided We Have a Warm Winter!

by on Aug.28, 2015, under Cedar Key, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Ozello to Crystal River, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa

Warmer winters mean the habitat for snook has moved north, into Levy and Dixie counties.

Warmer winters mean the habitat for snook has moved north, into Levy and Dixie counties.

Snook are probably the most fun and abundant gamefish in Florida.  They run, they jump, and if you want to keep one for dinner during open season, they’re delicious to eat.  However, they’re also highly susceptible to cold water temperatures and are some of the first fish to be found floating dead after a hard winter freeze.  Warm winters in recent years have allowed snook to migrate north from Pinellas and Pasco counties (Tarpon Springs’ Anclote Key was the northern edge of their range for many years.)  Now, with our recent warm winters, snook are regularly being caught well north of the Withlacoochee River in Waccasassa Bay and even as far north at Suwannee’s Salt Creek.

snook-1

A Yankeetown snook.

Snook are ambush feeders, and prey on small fish (mullet, pinfish and sardines) as well as crustaceans (crabs and shrimp).  They will also readily attack artificial lures like the D.O.A. shrimp or slow-sinking MirrOlure Catch 2000s.  Rigging is important, with stealthy knots (Homer Rhode or Uni Knots work well) and tough, invisible fluorocarbon leader (24-30#) a “must”.  An interesting fact about snook is that they are picky about their prey.  If you’re using live fish for bait, don’t rig them like you do for redfish (through the back or tail) but hook them through their lips.  Snook attack from behind!    And they prefer fast-moving water, especially when it’s washing baits off shallow flats or bars into deeper troughs.

In 2015/2016, Gulf Snook “season” runs from September 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016 and from May 1 to August 31, 2016.  While you’re allowed to keep one snook per day, anglers are urged to have fun and release fish they catch.  Just remember–one cold winter and the snook will again head south and away from our Big Bend waters!

Complete information about snook and other saltwater gamefish species can be found at www.myfwc.com/fishing

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Tips For Successful Scalloping During Rainy Season on Florida’s Big Bend, 2015

by on Aug.17, 2015, under Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Ozello to Crystal River, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach and St. Joseph Bay, Steinhatchee

In the late summer, water visibility can hinder and slow the harvest of bay scallops.  This year, they’re plentiful along our big Bend coastline, but are often hard to see.

You may not catch thousands of scallops in murky water, but if you work hard, you'll come home with a nice dinner!

You may not catch thousands of scallops in murky water, but if you work hard, you’ll come home with a nice dinner!

We’ve had more than our fair share of rain on the Big Bend, too. Mornings have been calm, but with high humidity and high air temperatures, thunderstorms have been building up every afternoon. Usually they form on shore, but some can eventually drift off the coast in the late afternoon, depending on the strength of the east coast sea breezes. What that means for you, the scalloper, is that you need to take your trips early, watch the radar (use the Weather Bug app on your smartphone!), and try to get back to port by mid-afternoon at the latest.

Snorkeling for bay scallops is a fun, family adventure!

Snorkeling for bay scallops is a fun, family adventure!

Despite the amount of rainwater we’ve seen in ditches and pastures miles from the coast, the visibility of the Gulf waters isn’t as bad as I expected.   Scallopers north of Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach are doing well, especially off Piney Point and off Dekle Beach.  The only thing I can’t predict is just how long the visibility will be good. It usually takes several weeks for the leaching cycle to complete.

Don't let thunderstorms like this one come between you and your home port!

Don’t let thunderstorms like this one come between you and your home port!

 

 

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Kevin’s Redtrout Shootout, Wakulla County, May 30, 2015

by on May.12, 2015, under Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Shell Point to Lanark, Ochlockonee Bay, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina

redtrout

It’s back! The Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel Redtrout Shootout will take place May 30, 2015.

Cash rewards will be paid out to the top 10 teams weighing in the heaviest combined weight of (1) redfish and (1) spotted seatrout. With an entry fee of $75.00 per angler and a guaranteed cash purse, you and your crew will want to get registered today!

This unique inshore fishing tournament allows teams to launch their boat at any boat ramp, fish their favorite holes and then weigh their catch in at Jerry’s Bait & Tackle located at 664 Woodville Highway, Crawfordville, FL. Click here for map!

If all that sounds good wait till you hear the rest. We have everything from Banquets & Kick Off parties featuring live music. So be sure to take a few minutes and navigate the website to see what else we have in store for this years edition of the RedTrout Shootout.

Click here today to register!

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A Plague of Puffers, May 2015

by on May.11, 2015, under FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Most times, especially in these spring months, anglers fishing close to shore along the Big Bend are plagued with swarms of flies and/or no-see-ums, gnawing at any bit of exposed flesh they can find. They’re there this year too, but have been joined by yet another pest, the smooth pufferfish. We’ve never seen these big voracious puffers in our inshore waters, and many of us are wondering just what sins we’ve committed to bring this “plague of puffers” upon us! I had never seen one of these fish before, so here’s a description so you’ll know just what chewed your bait in half:

Blowfish, Smoothback Puffer Lagocephalus inermis, Family:Tetrodontidae (Puffers) Commonly known as smooth-backed blowfish. Covered in tiny, sandpaper spines. Olive green to dark grey above with silvery yellow sides, belly white. Smooth sides, rough belly. Eyes are large and high on the head. Young fish have 3-4 brown patches and/or spots on the back. Grows up to 3 ft in length. Puff up to 2 times normal size when on the defensive. Two front teeth are fused to cut and crush. Feeds on foods like bits of worm, small shrimp, crabs, clams, etc. Found in shallow bay areas during summer, wintering in deeper waters in the south.

During the past week, my clients and I landed over a dozen of these fish, most in the 16-20-inch size range. They’re ferocious, attacking jigs, subsurface plugs and even topwater lures. And there was no particular structure involved. We caught them from one to six feet of water, over rocks and grass and even mud bottom.

I’m curious if my readers have experienced any catches of these pests. They’re not the usual “porcupine blowfish” that take chunks out of soft baits and I’m concerned that people will try to eat them. There’s a danger of saxitoxin poisoning from them, so don’t take a chance. In fact, it’s illegal to keep puffers in some SE Florida counties. Freezing or cooking will not kill this toxin, and it may kill you!

 

Please give me a holler if you’ve been catching any of these fish in your area. Email me at:  capttommy@me.com

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Four Florida Counties Open April 1, 2015 for Gag Grouper Harvest

by on Mar.25, 2015, under Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, St. Marks, Aucilla and Econfina, Steinhatchee

From:  The Fishing Wire

State waters off the coast of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will open to recreational harvest of gag grouper starting April 1.

This regional season will remain open through June 30, with the first day of the closure being July 1. The season also includes all waters of Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass, including those in Gulf County, and all waters of the Steinhatchee River, including those in Dixie County.

Gag grouper caught in state Gulf waters (from shore to 9 nautical miles out) off the four counties can be landed on the Gulf County side of Indian Pass and the Dixie County side of the Steinhatchee River, but may not be taken ashore in other areas that are closed to harvest. For example, a gag grouper caught April 1 in state waters off Jefferson County cannot be taken ashore in Levy County or parts of Dixie County outside of the Steinhatchee River. To see maps of these areas, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Grouper.”

In the remainder of Gulf of Mexico state waters, anglers will be able to keep gag grouper from July 1 through Dec. 3, with the season closing Dec. 4. State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will not be open during the July-through-December season. Monroe County state waters follow Atlantic grouper rules.

The season in all federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico also opens July 1 but closes Dec. 3, with the last day of harvest being Dec. 2.

In the Gulf, the gag grouper recreational harvest minimum size limit is 22 inches total length and the bag limit is two gag grouper per person. Recreational anglers targeting groupers in the Gulf may harvest no more than four grouper per person per day (within this four-fish limit, anglers may keep only two gag grouper).

To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Grouper.”

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Be On The Lookout For Ling–Spring Cobia Are On The Loose On Florida’s Nature Coast!

by on May.28, 2014, under FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST

B.O.L.O. For Ling (Cobia, Crab Eaters)

Our Big Bend channel markers provide good cover for predators.  Proof comes in the springtime when visitors to our coastline question the appearance of boats circling almost every marker along either of the major channels at Cedar Key.  Spring is “cobia time” and lots of anglers are on the lookout for ling, crab-eaters, or lemon fish–as they’re called by many old-timers.  But finding these hard fighters usually isn’t as hard as getting them to eat or getting them to the boat.

Successful cobia hunters make a point of idling around every channel marker they encounter.  Big tripod-style markers are few and far between, but often hold more cobia than single markers.  If you’re on your way offshore and don’t have time to stop at every channel marker, be sure not to miss the tripods.  On bright days, and if the water’s clear, you’ll likely see cobia hanging close to the marker on slack or slow-running tides.  If the water’s moving quickly, expect them to hang back away from the turbulence caused by the structure.  In any case, their “game” is to ambush small baits like pinfish, white bait, eels or crabs that pass.  And don’t worry about noise.  Keep your motor running, as cobia are curious and will often come boatside just to see what’s going on.

As I said, finding cobia is sometime the easy part of your trip.  Getting these picky eaters to take a bait can be frustrating.  If I spot one, I anchor up (or use the Spot Lock feature on my Minn Kota iPilot), positioning the boat where I can cast my bait towards the marker.  I recommend leaving your outboard running and out of gear, as you’ll sometimes need to pull a big fish away from the structure once it’s hooked up.  Cobia are notorious for wrapping line around markers.  Crabs and live pinfish make excellent bait for cobia, however eels are like candy to them.  If you can find live eels, take them with you; otherwise Gulp! and Hogy make excellent plastic imitations.  Often, if the water’s dirty or dark, you’ll need to fish a marker where cobia don’t show themselves.  In those cases, and if you’re lucky enough to have a crew (two to fish and one to captain the boat), float one bait under a cork and put another on the bottom using a slip-sinker rig.

Landing a cobia can be an ordeal.  First, use appropriate tackle.  Big spinning outfits, spooled with 30 to 50-pound braided line and almost-invisible 80-pound fluorocarbon leaders will give you a chance against a big fish.  Second, when a cobia strikes, get any other lines back to the boat and clear the decks.  Fighting one fish at a time is about all any boat crew can handle.  And finally, NEVER bring a “green” cobia into the boat.  They’ve been known to break rods, gaffs, and even anglers’ arms. Get them covered by a towel, or better yet, into a cooler and locked down as soon as possible.

Fishing for cobia can be exhausting, in the hunt and in the fight, but if you bring home a keeper, expect some of the best eating of the spring.  Prepare some cobia steaks by broiling, grilling or smoking and you’ll certainly keep your crew happy.

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Scalloping 101

by on Feb.13, 2014, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Recipes and Food

Anna Patterson, Chiefland Watermelon Queen, with a fresh-caught bag of scallops.

Recently, someone asked me if I could “teach him how to catch scallops”.   A more understandable request would have been asking me how to safely operate a boat in crowded waters, review with them the FWC’s rules and regulations regarding scalloping—or even show them how to clean and cook the tasty critters.  In a nutshell (or a scallop shell, for that matter), scalloping isn’t difficult, but there are a few basic things to know before you head out searching for them this summer.

Florida’s 2014 recreational scallop season begins on June 28 and lasts until September 24.  You may scallop in waters from the Hernando/Pasco County line, at the southern end of the Big Bend, to the Mexico Beach Canal, west of Cape San Blas.  Your catch must be landed, cleaned or intact, at ports within these boundaries.  Simply put, don’t run north from Hudson, in Pasco County, to the waters off Hernando Beach, catch a limit of scallops, and then land them back in Hudson.  The FWC knows all the tricks!  There are no size limits that apply to scallops, but there are bag limits.  Anglers may keep two gallons of unshucked scallops each (1 pint shucked), up to a boat limit of ten gallons (1/2-gallon shucked).  A shucked two-gallon limit works out to about a pint of those small white morsels which are actually the muscles that allow the scallop to open and close its shell.  Other rules that apply include the need for a recreational saltwater fishing license for everyone participating who would normally need a license, and a dive flag requirement for letting other boaters know you’ve got divers in the water.  It’s probably a good idea, even for scalloping veterans, to carefully review the rules and regulations, found online at: www.myfwc.com/RULESANDREGS/Saltwater_Regulations_bayscallops.htm

Bay scallops can be found all along the Gulf coast of Florida, including some areas that are well outside the harvest boundaries.  In fact, there have even been sightings of scallops in Tampa Bay in recent summers.  While scallops are likely to be found Gulf-wide at depths that are not practical for harvest by hand or with a dip net, it’s certain that what attracts them towards shore in certain areas, to spawn, is a combination of water salinity and clarity.  In some areas where darker water is the norm, particularly Yankeetown, Cedar Key, Suwannee and much of Apalachicola Bay, scalloping isn’t considered a worthwhile effort.   On the other hand, at Hernando Beach, Bayport, Homosassa, Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach, St. Marks, Lanark Village, Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach, coastal economies rely on visiting scallopers to make up for slow times and cold winters.  And to confuse matters, any of the places within the boundaries might have ‘off-and-on’ scallop harvests, depending upon rainfall, tropical storms or even abnormal river flows.

If you’re new to scalloping you might skip the first week of July—for a couple of good reasons.  First, despite attempts by many marinas and editorial outlets to have their spies (usually local fishing guides) pinpoint the largest concentration of scallops, the best information normally follows a week or two of the actual harvest.  You’ll find that you’ll do a lot less running around once the best area is found.    Word travels fast and a simple visual scan of the horizon will quickly spot the ‘fleet’ anchored over the best areas.  And second, the first weekend of scallop season is usually the 4th of July weekend and a time when partying (on and off the water) sometimes trumps safety and good common sense.

However, if your Type-A personality requires that you be the first on the water on the first day of the season, keep in mind that scallops are likely to be found near the grassy edges of sandy potholes, and that they tend to come to the top of the grass when the sun’s shining brightly.  Early risers should consider using the rosy dawn to catch a close-to-shore gator trout or redfish, and then wait for the sun to get high into the sky before undertaking the search for scallops.  Start your scallop hunt by running your boat at idle speed in water that’s three to four feet deep, using polarized sunglasses or a 5-gallon bucket fitted with a clear bottom to carefully scan the bottom.  Once you see reasonable numbers of scallops nestled in the grass, anchor up, hoist your mandatory dive flag, and get your crew overboard.

Safety is always a consideration for boaters and fishermen, and scallop season demands special attention and awareness.  It’s important to recognize that you, or others around you, may not be regular boaters or snorkelers, and may not be accustomed to motoring a boat or diving in what are likely to be crowded waters.  Accidents, sometimes tragic, during scalloping season can be avoided by motoring at idle speed within 300-feet of boats flying dive flags or of swimmers and snorkelers.  In recent years, many local marinas have been selling and making recommendations that individual snorkelers tow dive-flagged buoys.  This is not a requirement, but certainly a great idea.   Make sure, too, that your boat’s operator remains alert and tuned-in to his or her task.  Even the slightest distraction, including casual conversation, can be disastrous, so let them concentrate on getting everyone out and back safely.  And while some in your party may wish to partake of an adult beverage while scalloping, boat operators should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES participate, remembering that the FWC and local authorities frown heavily on boating under the influence.  Scallop season also coincides with Florida’s thunderstorm season, and maintaining a visual ‘weather watch’ (or an ear tuned to the WX channel on your VHF radio) is a good practice.  Also, avoid making a decision to run home too late, as some narrow channels and boat ramps get pretty crowded as storms force boats back to port.

In-the-water ‘essentials’ for recreational scallopers are snorkels, masks, swim fins, plus mesh bags for gathering your harvest.  Most folks simply swim along the surface in the clear summer water and dive down only when a scallop is spotted.  Depending on the bottom, you’ll likely see some scallops ‘face up’, looking at you with a row of brilliant blue eyes around the slightly opened shell.  Others will be lying flat, with either the light or dark side of their shell facing upwards.  It doesn’t take much practice to learn to spot them like a pro, and even the kids will become experts after just a few minutes.  If the water’s not in its usual gin-clear state, you may have to dive down and skim the grass tops, swimming into the current, to get a better view of the scallops.   Most scallopers simply pick up their catch bare-handed, but many prefer scooping with small bait nets.  Scallops don’t bite, but will sometimes try to flutter away from an incoming human hand and a net sometimes makes the gathering easier.  Once caught and measured in a bucket, put your catch under ice immediately.  This not only keeps them fresh but also makes the scallops open up for easier cleaning later.

Cleaning a catch of scallops is not nearly as much fun as gathering them.  The ‘goodie’ in a scallop is the white adductor muscle, and the rest of the bivalve critter is discarded.  Scallops, even those iced on board, should be cleaned quickly to ensure freshness.   Some scallopers clean the catch on their boat, but care needs to be taken to not throw the offal (guts and shells) into the water while snorkelers are about, as there have been instances of sharks being attracted to a ‘scallop chum line’.  Cleaning scallops isn’t difficult and simple tools like oyster knives, sharpened tablespoons and garden gloves speed the messy job.  Ashore, most marinas have good stand-up cleaning tables, and some even have professional scallop cleaners standing by who will, for a more-than-reasonable fee, clean, rinse and bag your catch.

So, what’s the big deal about scallops and scalloping on Florida’s Gulf coast?  First, and foremost, if you’ve never eaten a Florida bay scallop, you’ve never really eaten a scallop.  Those bagged, frozen imports from South America that are regularly found in fish markets can’t compare in terms of taste, and store-bought ‘sea scallops’, though bigger, are often textured much like overcooked pork chops.  Our bay scallops are small, tender and best eaten the day they’re caught.  Preparation can range from sautéing in butter and garlic (served over pasta) to deep frying–just be sure not to overcook them.  Actually, they’re pretty darned good right out of the shell, raw, or as the basis for a simple lime and hot-pepper ceviche.   And second, eating your scallops is only half the fun.  A summertime scalloping trip to Florida’s Big Bend coast is an excellent opportunity to get family and friends—even the ‘Moms’– together for a fun day on the water!

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Cross City’s Historic Putnam Lodge to Re-Open in Early 2014

by on Jan.17, 2014, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Horseshoe Beach, Keaton Beach to Fenholloway, Steinhatchee, Suwannee

Ed and Beverly Pivacek are excited about tourism in Dixie County and the Florida Nature Coastline.  As a result, they’re re-opening the historic Putnam Lodge in Cross City.  Licenses have been obtained and it will open its doors for business by early February, with its kitchen and restaurant likely opening by early March.  If you’re heading to Steinhatchee, Horseshoe Beach or Suwannee on a fishing (or summer scalloping) trip, this will be THE place to stay inshore of those ports.  Ed can be contacted at (813) 390-4489.

Putnam Lodge “Then”
Putnam Lodge “Now”

Here’s some history:

Putnam Lodge, built in 1927-28 by the Putnam Lumber Company, is part of a bygone era in Florida’s forestry history. Here, beside the old Dixie Highway, Putnam Lodge, part of the “company town” of Shamrock, accommodated tourists, transients and company executives and clients. The lobby and the dining room of the 36-room lodge were decorated exclusively with the still preserved, artfully stenciled “pecky cypress,” a now virtually extinct lumber product. In its day, the Putnam Lumber Company, founded by William O’Brien, a timber magnate of Irish descent, and associates including E. B. Putnam, employed hundreds at its two state-of-the-art sawmills in Shamrock. The mills annually produced and shipped worldwide millions of feet of “deep swamp tidewater cypress” and “dense Florida longleaf yellow pine” lumber, products that are now rare because the old growth trees are gone. Shamrock provided its residents and employees with comfortable homes, a commissary, a store comparable to “any city department store,” two schools, two hotels, the Shamrock Dairy Farm, and an ice plant producing 18 tons of ice daily. The lodge is representative of a time of local timber supremacy and economic prosperity.

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NOAA’s latest mobile app provides free nautical charts for recreational boating–Public is invited to try beta version of ‘MyNOAACharts’

by on May.20, 2013, under Apalachicola, Carrabelle and St. George Island, Cedar Key, FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Horseshoe Beach, Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Yankeetown and Waccasassa


NOAA’s latest mobile app provides free nautical charts for recreational boating
Public is invited to try beta version of ‘MyNOAACharts’

As recreational boaters gear up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes, NOAA is testing MyNOAACharts, a new mobile application that allows users to download NOAA nautical charts and editions of the U.S. Coast Pilot. The app, which is only designed for Android tablets for the testing period, will be released today.

MyNOAACharts, which can be used on land and on the water, has GPS built-in capabilities that allow users find their positions on a NOAA nautical chart. They can zoom in any specific location with a touch of the finger, or zoom out for the big picture to plan their day of sailing. The Coast Pilot has “geotagged” some of the major locations–embedding geographical information, such as latitude and longitude, directly into the chart so it is readable in the app–and provides links to appropriate federal regulations. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play™ app store.

“Easy and workable access to nautical charts is important for boating safety,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA Office of Coast Survey. “I’ve seen a popular t-shirt that has a ‘definition’ of a nautical chart splayed across the front: ‘chärt, n: a nautical map that shows you what you just hit.’ As creative as that is, a boating accident can kill. Keeping a nautical chart on hand – to avoid hitting something – can save lives.”

The beta test for MyNOAACharts will expire this Labor Day, Sept. 2. Coast Survey will then evaluate usage and user feedback to decide whether to release a finished version of the app.
The NOAA Charts for Florida’s Big Bend and Natural North Florida are:

11404 40,000 Intracoastal Waterway Carrabelle to Apalachicola Bay;Carrabelle River
11405 80,000 Apalachee Bay
11406 15,000 St.Marks River and approaches
11407 80,000 Horseshoe Point to Rock Islands;Horseshoe Beach
11408 80,000 Crystal River to Horseshoe Point;Suwannee River;Cedar Keys

“Expanding the app across a multitude of platforms, ensuring easy accessibility to over a thousand charts and nearly 5,000 pages of U.S. Coast Pilot, will take considerable resources,” Glang said. “We can do it if the boating community likes the app. We truly want the users to let us know if the app meets their needs.”

Boaters without an Android tablet should not despair. The Office of Coast Survey provides free BookletCharts, which are 8 ½” x 11″ PDF versions of NOAA nautical charts that can be downloaded and printed at home. The U.S. Coast Pilot is also available in a free PDF version. Those products, and information for purchasing other nautical products, are available at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.

Important notice for commercial mariners: The mobile app MyNOAACharts and the BookletCharts do not fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, originally formed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, is the nation’s nautical chartmaker. Its hydrographers survey the coastal seafloor, respond to maritime emergencies and search for underwater dangers to navigation. Join Coast Survey on Twitter and check out the NOAA Coast Survey Blog for more in-depth coverage of surveying and charting.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

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