Termite awareness month?
We get a lot of press releases at The Islander and, unfortunately, most of them are pretty dull. The following was a good one, though, from Jane Morse at the extension office.
"The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has declared February as 'Termite Awareness Month.' So please make an attempt next month to be a little kinder to these poor little creatures who live in the dirt and dark and ...
"Oh, wait a minute. After re-reading the press release, I see now that wasn't the intent. The FDACS wants Florida residents to be more aware of the vast damage these despicable little #$%^& cause every year, and also provide information on how to make structures safer against them."
And you thought that February was all hearts and flowers and candy and Valentines Day.
Month of festivals coming up
February promises to be a busy month for marine enthusiasts.
The Florida Fishing College will be held from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto. Cost is $2, and there will be loads of talks on fishing, boating, and demonstrations on everything from casting lines to casting nets. There will also be lots of door prizes given out.
The Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival is Feb. 21-22 in the village of Cortez. Cost of this event is also $2, and there will be live music, lots and lots of food, games for the kids and exhibits about local marine life. Don't miss it.
Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
John Stevely, the marine agent with the University of Florida's Manatee County Cooperative Extension Service, mentioned a neat service offered by National Weather Service.
"Dial-A-Buoy" is offered by the National Data Buoy Center. Basically, you call 228-688-1948, and scroll your way through the menu to get real-time weather from any one of hundreds of buoys in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, Pacific, Great Lakes or Caribbean. You can get wind direction, water temperature, wind speed, gusts, wave high, air temperature, atmospheric pressure and probably more information than you would ever want.
The info is also available on-line at www.ndbc.noaa.gov/.
The point behind all this is to check what's going on offshore before you go offshore.
I checked on a few of the buoys Ñ there is also a station at the Rod & Reel Pier Ñ and found that some of the data were pretty interesting. Water temps at a site in the middle of the Gulf were registering 73 degrees, when we had 61-degree water closer to shore. It was also warmer by several degrees way out there than it was on land.
Anyway, the Dial-a-Buoy information is just one more tool you can add to your tackle box before you go out on the water.
Out a cool $2 million
Two guys in Boynton Beach walked away from $2 million earlier this month. The money was in the form of cocaine, though, and if they hadn't strolled off they'd probably be pacing behind bars right now.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer noticed the two coming into a boat ramp and decided to do a routine safety inspection. Before he could get his boat tied up, though, the guys had docked their boat.
"They started to walk away from the boat while one talked into a cell phone," the water cop said in his report. They proceeded at a "fast walk," and headed to the highway. The cop followed, but a pickup truck "appeared out of nowhere" and picked-up the suspects before heading north.
Other law enforcement officers were contacted, a drug-sniffing dog alerted on the boat, and officers eventually unloaded 220 pounds of coke from the boat.
The suspects are being sought.
The bust, by the way, was called "one of the most significant made by the FWC in recent years."
Water deal flushed for this year
A statewide water distribution plan floated by a business group earlier this year doesn't seem to have much support in Tallahassee and appears to have tanked.
The proposal, by the Florida Council of 100, called for piping water from North Florida to more developed parts of the state like Orlando or Miami-Dade. Sort of spreading the water wealth which, on the surface, seemed to make sense.
The problem with the proposal apparently revolved around the lack of details for the plan, including such little things like cost. Critics also didn't like the proposal's additional layer of bureaucracy, wherein a seven-member board would identify water sources and water receptors above and beyond the water management district parameters.
And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that buying water from the Panhandle for a song and selling it in tony parts of South Florida or Orange County would spur pricey development there and hamstring any growth or development in the currently rural north.
Gov. Jeb Bush, who at one point was a point-man for the project, backed off on the matter last week. "I don't see the water issues being a big topic for this year," he told the St. Petersburg Times.
Or, as Senate President Jim King put it, "We're not going to get into that."
Vanity plate winners for 2003
Florida has 88 vanity license plates, ranging from designs of turtles to manatees to state universities to sports teams.
In 2003, the top sellers were the panther plate, the manatee plate, wild dolphins, University of Florida, Florida State University and the turtle tag.
The specialty plates cost an additional $17 to $27 for drivers, with the funds mostly going toward whatever cause the plate touts.
Colleges were a big winner in the plate war last year, with 21 of the total of 32 new plates for 2003 going to benefit independent state colleges or universities. A special bill by Sarasota Sen. Lisa Carlton exempted colleges from the petition requirement of getting 15,000 signatures and paying $60,000 as a deposit. Everybody jumped on the plate drive.
Plates are retired if 8,000 aren't sold in five years. So far, plates advocating Girl Scouts, the Tampa Bay Storm and the Orlando Predators, both of the latter Arena Football League teams.
So pick a plate when you renew your tag and spiffy up your car a bit.
Duck hunting in Sarasota Bay?
My colleague Bob Ardren reported in a recent edition of the Pelican Press newspaper that he's hearing reports of duck hunting off Sister Keys, that island group off the northeast shore of Longboat Key.
He referenced a Sarasota County official as saying its legal as long as steel shot is used and a valid duck stamp is retained from the state.
I checked with the gang at the Bradenton Beach police department, who told me it was not legal, since discharging a firearm is a no-no in Manatee County.
Anybody heard any shooting out on the water?
According to John Stevely, who got the information from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Sunshine State is the Number One recreational fishing destination in the United State, and economic impact to the state amounts to $8 billion a year.
That's a lot of hooks and line.