& TROLLING TIPS
WATER SAFETY TIPS
TWENTY FIVE YEARS
Kodiak Disc Brake, Vortex Hub and
Torsion Axle Assembly
Standard LOADMASTER Features
• Aluminum I-Beam Construction w/Tongue Wrap
• Aluminum Cross Members
• Aluminum Bunk Brackets on Trailers up to
• Stainless Bolts/Nuts in Main Frame
• Zinc Plated U-Bolts
• Adjustable Cypress Bunks w/Marine Carpet
• Blue U.V. Protected Bow Roller and Keel Pads
• Front V-Bar
• Galvanized Tongue
• Galvanized Winch Stand
• 2000# 2-Speed Winch w/DOT Approved Strap
• 1200# Tongue Jack w/Castor Wheel up to
• 2500# Tongue Jack w/Drop Leg on 8600# GVWR
• Galvanized Torsion Axles w/Hubs
• High Performance Vortex Hubs – 5 Lug & 6 Lug
• Hot Dipped Galvanized Posi Lube Hubs – 8 Lug
• Radial Tires w/Galvanized Spoke Wheels
• Durable H/D Diamond Plate Step on Fenders
• Guide-Ons w/PVC
• Submersible Lights and Wiring
• All LED Lights
Standard LED lights.
(tail, side marker, 3 Bar ID)
Optional — Kodiak Dacromet or stainless
steel disc brakes with life time
warranted ceramic pads
Optional — Stainless steel u-bolts, bolts
and lock nuts for your
• Single Axle
• TAndem Axle
Standard torsion bar with quick change
spindle and Vortex ® hub.
Vortex ® hub comes with 100,000 mile, 6
We build them one at a time...to fit.
10105 Cedar Run • Tampa, Florida 33619 www.loadmastertrailer.com
The perfect companion to a day on the water!
SALES & DISTRIBUTION
Juan de Leon
Capt. Jimmy Nelson
@extremefishingadventures on Facebook
@FishingWithLuiza on Facebook
United States Coast Guard Auxilary, Stuart, FL
Better Off Wet
P.O. Box 1096
Palm City FL 34991
CENTRO YBOR • YBOR CITY
1600 East 8th Ave. Tampa, Florida 33605
TampaBayBrewingCompany.com | DraftBeerToYourFace.com
Better Off Wet, all rights reserved.
No part of this magazine or any of its
contents may be reproduced, copied,
modified or adapted without the express
written consent of the Publisher.
4 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Want to swim with sharks...just kidding. But,
check out why folks want to communicate
with them and how current technology allows
us to do just that!
Have you tried SUP? Stand Up Paddle
boarding is great exercise, fun, and provides
you with a unique perspective of the wonderful
Get out and catch some Sea Trout this
winter from your kayak. Don’t have a kayak?
Learn about some basic rules of the road
and how you can get started in this fun
Let’s get more of our children outside and on
the water! Read great tips on how to get kids
comfortable in, on, and around the water.
Have a dog that likes to head out on the water
with you? Check out some tips on how to keep
your 4 legged friend happy and safe.
Better Off Wet always promotes safety on the
water. Here are some smart tips from our
friends at Clubtails.
On the Cover - Capt. Jimmy Nelson and Luiza.
Captain Jimmy shares some tips on trolling for
those nice Wintertime Grouper!
Ever hunted a Florida lion? Better Off Wet
believes more of us should get out and do
just that. Hunt Lionfish! Learn why this
invasive species needs to go.
Make sure you and your boat are “up to
snuff” before heading out for a day on the
KEY TO PRESERVING
6 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
of Blacktip sharks at any time from a desktop
computer. The sharks basically call home and
announce their arrival with the “shark phone.”
We now know that the Blacktip, a popular area
shark, migrates to Florida coastal waters each
year during the winter months.
Now before you get overly excited, understand
that the Blacktip averages about 5 feet in length
and is not a great white like Jaws. They feed on
small fish such as herring, not large prey like
by Beth Bowers
Snowbirds flocking South to Florida to escape
the cold and enjoy our warm climate have some
interesting company; sharks. A ton of articles
have appeared in the press recently. This article
goes beyond that sensationalism to give you
the facts about our very typical and important
Before scientists began tracking sharks, more
known’s than unkown’s existed about this sea
creature. Recent efforts, however, give us new
insight into shark migration.
One of the leaders in this field of research is our
own Stephen Kajiura; a professor at Florida
Atlantic University and head of its shark study.
Kajiura spends time in the air spotting shark
populations in the Atlantic, off Florida’s coast.
Then, accompanied by a group of University
students, he catches sharks, logs types, sizes
and sex to learn more about this ocean predator.
A unique part of this undertaking is inserting
tiny transmitters into the sharks’ bellies as a
way of tracking their movements.
Beth Bowers, a doctoral student at Florida Atlantic
University studying shark migration explains
how it works. The acoustic transmitters
emit a signature ping that uniquely identifies
each individual shark. When these sharks
swim within range of one of the acoustic
listening stations deployed along
the Florida Eastern seaboard, their
presence is recorded.
Previously, the listening
stations were standalone
receivers that required retrieval
by a SCUBA diver,
a data download via Bluetooth
technology on the
boat and subsequent
laboratory analysis; a
process lagging by a few
months in determining
the presence of a shark.
Recently, Beth deployed
a cabled receiver; a “shark
phone” that delivers real-time
data to an IP address enabling
her to check for the presence
Continued on page 8
Read more articles like this with a free subscription
to Better Off Wet Magazine. Learn
about all sorts of marine related facts in Florida.
You can also place and access free classified ads
and learn about events and places to see. To
subscribe to Better Off Wet Magazine, just click
HERE. And don’t forget, you’re Better Off Wet.
The good news, according to marine biologists,
is that the shark population is important to
Florida’s marine ecosystem, so they deserve a
vote of thanks for helping to preserve our pristine
waters that offer a great waterway lifestyle
to locals and tourists.
Like New Yorkers and Canadians, sharks don’t
like the cold. Their survival depends on southward
migration. They seem to prefer water
that’s about 73 degrees, according to Professor
Kajiura, which is typical of South Florida in the
Sharks like to eat, so they track food. Since
many other fish follow similar migration patterns
as sharks, sharks can stay on their “tails”.
Ask any avid Florida angler about the abundance
of fish in our coastal waters during winter
and you’ll be assured that sharks have a full
menu filled with a great variety of cuisine.
Don’t wear shiny jewelry in the water. Leave
this to fishermen who like to use shiny lures to
Be observant. A big school of fish such as mullets,
herring, or squads of diving seabirds is
indicative that larger predators will soon be attracted
to the area for a delicious lunch.
Okay, now you’ve decreased your odds of a
shark encounter, so you can confidently enjoy
great water sports all winter long.
Winter is one of the best times to enjoy South
Florida, so don’t be alarmed if you read one of
the recent many articles about shark migration.
It’s part of nature’s way of keeping our locale
such an attraction. So get moving! Get outside
and get wet!
Now think about how attractive 73-degree
water and a sun-filled sky can be during frigid
winter months. Again, don’t worry about the
sharks. However, if you want to remain extra
safe, follow these tips:
Try to avoid swimming between sand bars.
These are not the safest places to swim even
without sharks present. Sharks tend to hang
out between sand bars to feed.
Don’t swim around jetties or openings from the
ocean into a bay. Water moves fast in those areas
posing a threat to even the strongest swimmer
and also carries lots of food for awaiting
8 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
TITLE PADDLE HERE BOARDING
in South Florida
10 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Sup? SUP: Stand Up Paddle Boarding. It’s
what’s up in South Florida, and it’s up in a big
way. Get in on the fun and join the fastest growing
water sport in the area. Outdoor sunshine,
exercise, and awesome sights are at least of
If you’re not familiar with paddle boarding, it’s a
simple activity that combines surfing (it’s similar
to a surf board) with kayaking (a paddle). You
can cruise the calm South Florida waters for a
fun-filled, eye-popping excursion. Paddle boarding
opens up a new and exciting world as you
explore some of the most spectacular sites South
Florida has to offer.
There are hundreds of waterway miles to satisfy
your sense of adventure. The mangrove forest is
one of the more popular spots. Much of the area
is a protected ecosystem, so it’s teeming with sea
life. Stingrays gliding gracefully are seen regularly;
crab, sea stars, and sea cucumbers abound.
Great White Heron and Green Heron can be
observed on these fishing expeditions. The occasional
Manatee can be spotted. Or, you can
mingle with sea turtles and an abundant number
of saltwater fish as your paddle board meanders
Continued on page 12
along the South Florida coast. This route also
gives you the opportunity to absorb the beach
scenery filled with bikinis and six-pack abs during
the warm, winter months. You’re guaranteed
to get an eyeful.
Winter couldn’t be a better time for paddle
boarding in this locale. While we boast the
warmest winter temperatures in the country, it’s
not too hot or too humid to enjoy.
New to paddle boarding? No worries. All it takes
is a board, a paddle, and the willingness to experience
fun. You can get outfitted with local rentals
and trained by certified professionals. You’ll
be an expert South Florida paddle boarder ready
to navigate the South Florida winter wonderland.
You won’t have to look far to find gear, tours,
and services. Rates are low. Paddle boards are
likely your least expensive rental option for water
Mastering paddle boarding is simple, and it
doesn’t require the physical conditioning of a
pro-athlete. Cruising along the water is easy
and effortless and provides a cardio work out
at the same time.
Experienced guides who know the best spots
for paddle boarding serve as your personal
Sherpa to take you on a fantastic journey.
They’ll share their passion and enthusiasm for
the unsurpassed Florida nature explorations
and lead you on a must-see South Florida paddle
Whether you’re a local looking for a new and
exciting experience or vacationing to take a
break from cold weather and snow, winter
Florida paddle boarding is the
easy, fun, and inexpensive way
12 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Discounted rooms with
• Manatee/Eco Tours
• Snorkel & Dive
• Scuba Training, Tours
• Fishing & Scallop Charters
• Kayak Rentals & Tours
• Boat Ramp & Overnight
• Gift Shop
• Ice, Bait & Tackle
Pet Friendly • WIreless Internet • Denny’s Restaurant • Banquet Facilities • Pool
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For tickets and more information visit yachtsmiamibeach.com
Enjoying Florida’s waterways is best with
friends. For many of us, man’s best friend comes
along. But too often, failure to heed water safety
tips for dogs can lead to complications. Take
a look at these water safety tips to ensure your
pooch is safe when spending time on the water.
Don’t assume your dog is a good swimmer—or
even knows how to swim. It’s best to gradually
introduce dogs to the water at a young age until
they learn how to swim and become comfortable.
Keep in mind that some dogs aren’t built
to swim. Bulldogs, for example, who have large
chests and comparatively small hindquarters,
aren’t good swimmers. Other breeds that have
a tough time emulating Olympic swimmers include
those with short muzzles and those with
short legs, like Pugs.
So, be prepared when “Spot’s” ready to splash in
the water. Buy a pet water-safety life vest especially
when on a boat. Many affordable vests are
available for pets of all sizes and shapes. Learn
basic pet first aid such as CPR and how to treat
cuts and injuries, from your local veterinarian.
Read more to learn why.
16 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Continued on page 18
Even if your furry companion is a water dog
with a protective coat and webbed paws built
for swimming, there are hazards that can present
risks. Before letting “Rover” go for a romp
in the water, check for strong currents, rip tides
and choppy seas. All of which can be challenging
for even the strongest athletic swimmers.
Other water safety tips to look for include algae
or dead fish, that can make “Fido” sick, and
underwater branches that can cause canine injuries.
Speaking of underwater branches, it’s a good
idea to remove your canine’s collar to avoid
potential snagging. Take flea/tick collars off as
well, so the protective ingredients don’t wash
Remember: when fishing, the idea is to snag
some fish; not your four-legged friend. So keep
your gear stowed safely and keep your dog away
from sharp hooks that may cause harm. One
injury veterinarians see is dogs chasing lures or
hooks. Be mindful when casting and stowing
your finishing poles.
Heat from the sun intensifies on water, even
on relatively cool days. Keep a supply of fresh
water on hand to keep your pup hydrated and
to curb his/her desire to drink ocean, lake or
stream water which may not be good for him/
her. One product that can help keep your dog
cool is a simple slip-on, evaporative, water vest.
And, believe it or not, dogs can sunburn too,
especially ones with shorthaired, light-colored
coats. The ears and nose are especially susceptible
to sunburn . Avoid overexposure to the sun,
and add a little extra protection with sunscreen
made just for pets.
When your outing is over, bathe “Old Blue” to
rid his/her skin and fur of any potentially irritating
minerals or algae. Be sure to completely
dry ears to guard against infections.
So, follow these basic water safety tips to make
your time on the water fun, safe, and remember
to enjoy your Pooch’s companionship.
Sign up today for Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer
editions of Better Off Wet Magazine! Each
issue includes insightful articles, and keeps you
in the know about anything marine related. Get
yours now and remember you’re Better Off Wet!
18 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
20 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Booze and Boating Don’t Always Mix
A day on the water with a cold drink... Sounds appealing? Better Off Wet doesn’t want
ruin your boating bash, but we do want to share our top three tips for alcohol and
Florida water sports: health, safety, and, uh oh, here it comes, the law.
Health. Even Florida winters present the possibility of dehydration. Risks range
from mild headaches and cramps to life-altering conditions. Alcohol increases dehydration.
Drink lots of water. Try drinks that include hydrating juices like Clubtails’
tasty tropical mixtures.
Safety first. Reaction time, judgment, and vision are all affected. Water adds more
variables—currents and underwater hazards to name a couple. Cut back, or assign
a designated driver, and PLEEASE NO GLASS! Use cans. Glass is bad for bare feet,
marine life and the environment.
Florida laws. Only some beaches allow alcohol. Check before visiting the beach bar.
Most people know DUI but many may now know BUI: “Boating Under the Influence.”
Florida treats them the same—drink and drive, boat and drive. Assigned fines,
suspended licensing, an impounded vessel, and jail time are all possible penalties.
Fun on the water? You’re Better Off Wet. Adult beverages? You’re better off consuming
moderately. Enjoy your winter fun in sunny Florida safely and responsibly.
Ever notice how every fisherman you ever
met is an expert? Well, we cut through
the “fish tales” and the fish bait to bring you
the real deal from Captain Jimmy Nelson
known for his fishing adventures on television.
Better Off Wet had an opportunity to
pick the Captain’s brain about one of the favorite
sports’ fish in Florida; the Grouper
Before we get to the expert tips, here’s a thing
to know about fishing for Grouper in Florida.
Cooling waters coax grouper to move close
to shore and even into inland waterways
where they enjoy the warmer temperatures..
Continued on page 26
22 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Favorite Groupers for sport fishing include
the Gag Grouper that averages 30 pounds,
and the Black Grouper is a much heftier
species that can top 100 pounds. The Red
Grouper is a moderately sized yet robust.
The Florida state record catch for a Red is 42
pounds 4 ounces. They all hit hard and dive
to the bottom fast. Stay secure on your boat
or these warriors will pull you right out of
The Goliath Grouper, true to its name, can
weigh in at over 800 pounds with a length
of eight feet or more. These heavy weights
put up quite a battle if you hook one, but understand
that the Goliath is a protected species,
so catch and release is a must. You can
spot them by their brown or yellow mottling
(small black spots on the head and fins and
rounded tail). Younger Goliaths show dark
stripes on their bodies.
If you haven’t eaten it, fresh Grouper is a
lean, moist flaky fish with a firm texture and
a mild, but unique flavor. The Red Grouper
is slightly sweeter and milder than the Black
Grouper. Some chefs prefer the taste and texture
of Red Grouper while both are tasty. If
you like Bass and Halibut, you’re sure to enjoy
Grouper; fried, baked, and grilled.
One interesting side note about Grouper—
they may change sex when mature—but that
has nothing to do with fishing, so let’s get on
with the tips of the day from Captain Jimmy
24 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
According to the Captain, November-December
and March-May are the best times
to fish for Florida’s West Coast Grouper.
December is Capt. Jimmy’s favorite over all
month to seek out these tasty game fish. The
water temperatures are to their liking, about
68-72 degrees, maybe even a little cooler
with a higher oxygen concentration. Both
combine to put a little more fight in these
The Central and North Central waters of
Florida’s West coast are hotbeds for Grouper;
a favorite spot for Capt.ain Jimmy to
head out from is at Plantation (www.plantationoncrystalriver.com)
in Crystal River, FL.
When trolling, keep your speed to about
4.5 to 5 mph. Troll over wrecks, specific rock
piles, and structure in a figure 8 pattern.
Otherwise, troll over areas of good structure
or straight from one spot to the next when in
an area that has good bottom structure.
Capt. Jimmy recommends using the Shimano
Tallus Trolling Series 20-40 class rod
paired with a Shimano Tekota 700 Convential
Reel (www.fish.shimano.com), 65 or 80
lb TUF-LINE Donin8 line (www.tuf-line.
com), and Yo-Zuri Pink 80lb Fluorocarbon
In 10-20 ft water depth Capt. Jimmy recommends
Yo-Zuri 3D Crystal Minnow Deep
Diver (Luiza’s favorite is the pink Crystal
In 25-40 feet of water depth, Capt. Jimmy
says go with Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnum lures.
In 40 feet maximum depth, Capt. Jimmy likes
to troll for Grouper when he heads out of Crystal
River. A good rule of thumb when heading
offshore is a foot of depth per mile offshore
when thinking about trolling for Grouper.
These tips will also lure a wide variety of
by-catch fish which, of course, just adds to
the great fun of a day out on the water!
due to sea
Anglers can use the same rod and reel setup
mentioned above, with the Yo-Zuri Pink
80 lb Fluorocarbon leader, sinker, and Mustad
Demon 8/0 Perfect Circle hook (www.
mustad-fishing.com) on a “knocker” or “sliding
Set your boat up, up-current of the structure
where you plan to fish, and leave yourself
plenty of room to fish over the structure.
Capt. Jimmy also recommends using The
Chum Buddy (www.thechumbuddy.com)
with threadfins. It is the same kind of bait he
uses, and it helps keep the scent in the water
along with being cleaner than traditional
Okay, you got the straight scoop from a great
fisherman. Many thanks to Capt. Jimmy
from Better Off Wet. So what are you waiting
for? It’s December. So plan to get your Grouper
this winter in sunny Florida. Tantalizing
tastes and trophy treasures await you.
Get all the latest tips and tricks you’ll need
for fishing and catching on Florida’s fabulous
waterways with a free subscription to Better
Off Wet Magazine. Reel in your free subscription
now by signing up here. And remember,
you’re Better Off Wet! Take the time to get
out on the water and have some fun!
FOR FLORIDA SPECKLED SEA TROUT
Winter is a great time to fish Florida Speckled Sea
Trout. From December through February, the
Speckled Sea Trout (also known as Spotted Sea
Trout or “Speck”) catch is rated, not good, but
excellent! Specks up to 3.3 feet and 17 pounds
can give any angler a challenge. The Florida state
record, by the way, is 17lbs, 7oz.
Any experienced trout fisherman will tell you
that landing one of these spirited fighters is quite
a thrill. This sense of excitement intensifies when
you fish winter Florida Sea Trout from a kayak.
The excitement of kayak fishing is greater than
you might think. First, you’re much closer to nature
in these light craft and once you’ve hooked
a Speck and the chase is on, you’re in for an entirely
new experience. Read the tips below and
you’ll understand how to be safe and avoid a Tallahassee
Accessibility: If you can’t find ‘em, you ain’t
gonna catch ‘em. As you’ll see later in this article,
Sea Trout’s’ favorite haunts in the winter include
places a lot of boats can’t realistically reach.
Kayaks allow you to embark from just about
anywhere and to go where the Specks are most
abundant and hungriest.
Kayaks are quiet. Cruising along on a kayak is
26 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
and relaxing, but more importantly, you can
sneak up on these cagey critters. Specks spook
easily, especially in shallow water, so the element
of surprise give you an edge over motorboats. It’s
an adventure. Just like Louis and Clark did in the
1700s, you’ll be winding your way through the
spectacularly scenic Florida waterways for an up
close and personal look at wild life that won’t be
scared off by a motor’s disruptive din.
Kayaking costs are low compared to other craft.
Whether you rent or own, setting up a wellrigged
kayak can get you on the water for pennies
on the dollar.
There is comfort also. Modern fishing kayaks
are well equipped with cushy seating options so
your day will be spent as if you are hanging out in
your favorite chair.
Now that you have good reason to try kayak
trout fishing, here are a few pointers for landing a
passel of these sports fishing favorites.
As the winter waters chill, Sea Trout seek the
more stable water temperature in deep channels
and brackish backwater mangroves and estuaries.
In the morning and evening, look for them in the
deeper channels, deep holes, near drop-offs and
ledges, and around structures below ten feet.
Sea Trout metabolism slow significantly during
cool winter months, so artificial lures worked
at a pace slower than used during the summer
months, and live bait a few inches off the bottom,
will produce better results.
During the middle of the day, Sea Trout will
move to shallow areas where water temperatures
Continued on page 34
warm. You’ll find them in sea grass meadows
and mangrove-fringed shorelines. Black,
mud-bottom, inshore areas absorb heat well
and make good fishing spots. These areas, in
particular, can open up a whole new world
when kayak fishing.
Local anglers typically use a seven and a half
foot medium-action spinning rod good for
long casts to cover a broad area. Match it
with a good spinning reel that can handle 15
lb braided line.
Specks aggressively attack artificial jigs and
top water bait-like lures. If you’re a fan of live
bait, then shrimp, mullet, porgy and pinfish
are popular choices. You might even try a
popping cork to attract attention.
Bear in mind that Sea Trout run in pretty
large schools, so don’t be in a hurry to relocate
after landing a few of these beauties;
more are likely to be around.
So, armed with the above tips, you’ll be ready to
push off on a kayak to go fight some sturdy Sea
Trout. Here’s some information about fishing
kayaks to get you “underway”.
Most fishing kayaks run from 10 to 14.5 feet. Different
hulls are designed to accommodate open
ocean waters or inshore and backwater environments.
You can find them rigged and equipped
with optional accessories, including rudders,
handles, rotating rod mounts, a GPS holder and
even coolers. Options are virtually limitless, so
you can customize your craft to meet your fishing
One tool you won’t want to economize on is a
good paddle. It can make a significant difference
in ease of propulsion and maneuverability, so it’s
well worth a few extra bucks if you’re purchasing.
You might find that gloves come in handy also.
28 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Other gear that are musts in Florida include a life
vest, a whistle or horn, and a light if you venture
out in the evening.
Plenty of local paddle shops offer kayak rentals,
so test driving a few different varieties can help
you decide what suits your style.
Once you’re outfitted, keep a few tips in mind
when kayak fishing. First, be mindful of wind
and currents, both of which can take the joy out
of your journey. If it is breezy, find a sheltered
spot on the leeward side of the wind. An anchor
or power pole is a good idea if you want to stay
stable and not undergo the experience of a free
Uber ride courtesy of a large, powerful fish.
There’s not much more to add. Now you know
where to find Florida winter Sea Trout, especially
those hard to reach spots that a kayak can carry
you to and how to catch ‘em, All you have to do
now is wander out on the Florida waterways and
start snagging some winter Sea Trout for your
dinner plate or your trophy wall.
All the ins and outs of navigating, fishing and
exploring Florida’s water wonderland are at
your fingertips with a free subscription to Better
Off Wet Magazine. Sign up today for Fall,
Winter, Spring and Summer editions. Each issue
includes insightful articles and keeps you in the
know about anything marine related. Get yours
now and remember you’re Better Off Wet!
Any experienced trout
fisherman will tell
you that landing one of
these spirited fighters
is quite a thrill.
WELCOME WATER SPORTS?
Water sports are a way of life on Florida coasts for both locals and vacationers. For
families, fun in the Florida sun improves greatly when children are taught to respect
the water, understand the potential dangers, and practice safety procedures. Better
Off Wet compiled a list of tips to help your children become comfortable, capable,
and confident enthusiasts.
For a child to embrace his or her parents’ love of water sports, it helps, of course,
if they like the water. The process can begin very early. But don’t rush it too soon.
Usually benign lake, river and ocean pathogens pose threats to fragile infant immune
Continued on page 28
30 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
When on the water,
is the rule.
Formal introductions to swimming
can begin as early as six months of age.
“Water babies” techniques stress basic
survival skills such as floating and
grabbing the poolside that can save a
life. Parents also learn an important lesson—babies
can swallow lots of water
during these classes. Also, come prepared
with extra waterproof pampers.
Around 3-4 years of age, swim classes
help tots become more comfortable in
the water and teach basic swimming
skills, but stay within an arm’s length of
toddlers when in or near water. It’s likely
to take a few more years before they
become good swimmers.
Sparking kids’ interests in the great
outdoor Florida waterways can include
a variety of activities that stimulate
imagination and foster fascination.
Coloring books, toy boats, movies like
Finding Nemo, and trips to an aquarium
can encourage eager appetites. Books
about marine life that help kids identify
specific marine species are instructive
which enables them to appreciate native
plants and animals and to identify
and avoid jellyfish, eels, and other critters.
Safety is the first rule when on the water.
Life jackets are not only a good
idea on the water but are required by
law when boating. Learn about how to
properly fit children with life vests, critical
to their safety, by visiting the U.S.
Coast Guard site at www.coastguardfoundation.org.
While children should
wear life vests at all times, it’s a good
idea to teach them how to don and secure
vests in the event of an unexpected
Any responsible boat skipper knows
the potential hazards of boating, so
pass knowledge on to your youngsters,
and orient them to water sports carefully.
Set specific rules. Explain the
reasons for these rules to help them
understand and comply. A young mind
absorbs content like a sponge soaking
up knowledge. Take the opportunity to
teach them safe and responsible behavior
on the water.
Enlist older children as deck mates.
Involvement in activities teaches skills
they’ll use later as adults. Let them help
with tasks such as dropping boat fenders
or “tying off.” Practice safety measures
such as “man overboard” drills,
and involve kids in drill activities such
as tossing a life ring. Teach them to tie
knots; a skill that comes in handy for
fishing and boating.
Speaking of fishing: a great way to introduce
kids to fishing is to outfit them
with kid-friendly gear. Look for no-tangle
rods and reels, plastic safety hooks,
and fish and cartoon characters sponge
32 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
lures. All are great fun for fledgling
fisherman to help avoid the frustration
of tangled lines and keeps it safe.
Young ones often have little patience
for fishing, so plan other activities to
make the adventure enjoyable.
When it’s time for older children
to try their hand at boating, paddle
boarding, or kayaking on their own,
you’ll be much more confident in
their independent abilities if you’ve
instilled best practices concerning
water safety and common sense.
Take the extra step to enroll them in
Certified-Instructor training. They
will learn a lot about technique and
safety, and you’ll enjoy greater peace
of mind knowing they’ve received
the best training. Before you hand
them the wheel of a motorized boat,
know that in Florida, any motorboat
operator born after January 1, 1988
requires a boating safety class; something
everyone can benefit from.
There is no minimum age requirement,
and anyone, including out-ofstate
visitors, can take it online at:
At 8 years old her father said she is
the youngest girl to have a record in 2
lb line class! The Better Off Wet Crew
had the pleasure of going fishing with
her father Mike. We commend the Shramko
family for sharing the beautiful
Florida outdoors with us!
Better Off Wet Magazine regularly brings
you updated information about boating,
fishing, safety, local events, classified
sales, and all things marine for your
Florida waterways’ enjoyment. Stay
current with your free subscription.
Get it today and don’t forget: you’re
Better Off Wet.
Water sports, like other activities,
require certain skill sets that develop
with guidance, coaching, and, of
course, the added element of safety
instruction. Keep your expectations
aligned with your kids’ physical capabilities
and maturity levels. Keep
them actively involved to learn how
to safely enjoy a lifetime of enjoyment
on Florida waterways’ wonderland.
Photos courtesy of: Patrice Shramko
Even though Lauren Shramko is
only 8 years old, she currently holds
5 IGFA Women’s Line Class World
Records (Butterfly Peacock 2 lb, 4
lb, 6 lb, 16 lb, and 20 lb Line Class).
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36 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Belying its beauty, the lionfish is an ugly menace
that threatens the Florida water fauna and flora.
Left unchecked, this invasive species possesses
the capability to completely upset the local ecosystem,
including both the Atlantic and Gulf
coasts. Thought to have been introduced to the
area by aquarium enthusiasts who unwittingly
released them in local waters, a handful of these
creatures soon turned into an invasion.
The rapid spread of these native Indo-Pacific ingrates
is attributable to their booming, breeding
habits. Lionfish reach sexual maturity 2-4 years
earlier than native fish. Females lay millions of
eggs over the course of a year and can reproduce
every four days making the productivity of a rabbit
appear more like that of an elephant. Compounding
the problem, Lionfish have no natural
predators in the Atlantic and Gulf waters to “curb
Not only are Lionfish conquering native species
in numbers, these voracious carnivores eat just
about everything devouring more than 70 species
of fish as well as shrimp and crab. Lionfish
can eat up to 30 times their stomach volume and
90 % of their body weight daily. The impact on
local fish populations can be devastating. Although
beautiful, Lionfish can reduce young fish
populations on a reef by nearly 90% in as little as
five weeks and the overall population by 65 % in
just over two years.
With the potential to wreck havoc on Florida
reefs and saltwater wildlife, this insatiable species
does appear to have one weakness; they taste
great! A flaky white fish with a texture described
as somewhere between Mahi Mahi and Grouper,
Lionfish is a healthy choice. It’s high in heart
healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and low in saturated
fats and mercury. Culinary consumption has led
to the coastal battle cry: “Eat ‘Em To Beat ‘Em!”
Lurking around reefs, wrecks, and rocky overhangs,
the most effective way to catch Lionfish is
Continued on page 38
cially harvested Lionfish. You can now enjoy this
delicacy in many local restaurants. Wholesale
dealers are offering cash for these carnivores.
Last year the total commercial Lionfish market
topped 72,000 pounds representing a hefty profit
for those in the market. Harvesting Lionfish
for sale does require a Saltwater Products license.
One word of caution if you dare to catch some
of these critters: armed with up to 18 venomous
spines for self defense, stings can be quite
painful, and may cause swelling, blistering, and
nausea. So be advised, and protect yourself accordingly.
by using SCUBA. The Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission has enacted fisherman-friendly
regulation to help this cause. Divers
using spears and handheld nets do not require a
fishing license, and the season is open year round.
Lionfish hunting popularity has grown with the
introduction of Lionfish Derby’s all across Florida
and throughout the year. This Lionfish hunting attracts
an abundance of divers who enjoy the camaraderie
of fellow dive aficionados while helping to
rid the environment of these pesky predators. The
Derby’s, also named Roundups and Rodeos by
some, is usually a daylong competition with cash
prizes awarded for quantity and size. You can learn
more about these events at http://myfwc.com/
Another factor increasing successful dives and
the decline of Lionfish is the sale of commer-
If you enjoy diving, suit up and join the effort to
eradicate these Lionfish. You can enjoy the beauty
of the Great Florida Reef; the only living coral
barrier reef in the continental U.S., and pocket a
few bucks while you’re at it. If diving is not you’re
thing, you can still sign up for the cause by treating
yourself to a tasty plate of Lionfish at a local
restaurant. Either way, you’re helping the environment
and helping Florida “Eat ‘Em To Beat
Stay current on Florida events, sports fishing,
pleasure boating, and all things marine with a
free subscription to Better Off Wet Magazine.
It’s just a click away at BetterOff Wet.com. Stay
active, eat healthy, and don’t forget, you’re Better
38 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
DIVERS 4 HEROES
By: Debbie Rivera
How do you feel when you see a wounded warrior?
The sight provokes many emotions, but for some
they feel called to action. Which is exactly what inspired
the founders of Divers 4 Heroes (D4H).
While on vacation in the Florida Keys, the founders
of the organization did such a thing. Debbie Rivera
saw these young men and women and decided to
take action…“Let’s teach them how to SCUBA
Dive!” Now 9 years later, D4H is still serving wounded
veterans continuously in many ways, with SCU-
BA Discoveries every month, quarterly Open Water
Certification, Lionfish roundups, shark tagging,
turtle releases, sea cleanups, continuing monthly education,
fun dives and several international trips annually
to Bonaire, Bimini, Caymans, Bonaire, Roatan,
Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Fiji in 2017!
We have wonderful volunteers with collaborative
partners, that allow us to serve the veterans who have
served and been injured prior to and after 9/11, from
all branches of our military.
“I want you to know that being involved has become
an important part of my life, and recovery. The different
levels and certificates for diving achievements
have allowed me to set attainable goals, and successfully
achieve them despite my injuries. I always
look forward to the knowledge, laughter, experience
and the comradery that I share with the other Veterans
whenever I participate in any D4H’s events.”
Wounded Warrior Damon Zeigler
SCUBA is an opportunity to be free. Many injuries
are visible, however, so many are not. Our goal
is freedom, free from crutches, prosthetics, wheel
chairs, and all the cares that life brings, not leaving
anyone behind. Water is truly the great equalizer.
Join us in “giving back to those who gave so much of
There are many ways to help Divers 4 Heroes 501c3.
Please contact us: WWW.Divers4Heroes.org
but ONLY IF YOU WEAR THEM!
by HANK CUSHARD - United States Coast Guard Auxiliary - Flotilla 59
A STUART, Fla. | All recreational vessels must
carry on board at least one approved wearabletype
life jacket for each person on board or being
towed. All life jackets, otherwise known as
PFDs(personal flotation devices), must be the
proper size for the intended wearer, be in good
condition, readily accessible and United States
Coast Guard (USCG)-approved. Furthermore,”
while on Florida waters, any person under six
years of age must wear a PFD of proper size
while on board any vessel less than 26 feet in
length that is underway.” (Florida Fish and Wildlife
Con-servation Commission, MyFWC.com).
Information below will give you an idea of what
it all means.
United States Coast Guard Life
TYPE I: The offshore life jacket provides the
most buoyancy. It is effective for all waters, especially
open, rough or remote waters where rescue
may be delayed. It floats you best but is bulky and
not comfortable for extended wear.
TYPE II: The near-shore vest is intended for
calm, inland water where a quick rescue expectation.
These are the basic orange vests most boaters
have on board.
TYPE III: The flotation type vests are good
for calm, inland water, or where there is a good
chance of quick rescue. These are the most common
jacket used for recreational purposes.They
are light weight and comfortable.
TYPE IV: Throwable devices like a cushion or
a ring and can be thrown to anyone in the water
needing assistance. TYPE V: Special-use devices
are intended for a specific activities and may be
carried instead of another life jacket if used according
to the approved conditions. These include
work vests, board sailing vests, etc.
A Readily accessible means you must be able to
put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time
in an emergency. PFDs should not be stowed in
plastice bags, in locked or closed compartments.
•All vessels 16 feet or greater (except canoes and
kayaks) must carry one Type IV throwable preserver
(i.e., ring or cushion).
A Inflatable PFDs are authorized for persons
over 16 years of age and are not recommended
for use by weak swimmers or non-swimmers.
A Personal watercraft operators and all passengers
must wear a PFD at all times.
Remember this, 90 % of those who drown while
boating were not wear-ing a life jacket. They
work if you wear them.
This information is provided as a guideline and
not to be used for any other purpose. Some information
reprinted from the U.S. Coast Guard
Auxiliary’s About Boating Safety.
40 BETTER OFF WET | WINTER 2016
Is Your Boat
U.S. Coast Guard Compliant?
by HANK CUSHARD - United States Coast Guard Auxiliary - Flotilla 59
A STUART, Fla. | The most cautious boaters can
sometimes experience unexpected problems on
the water. That is why the U.S. Coast Guard “recommends
that all recreational boaters, including
personal watercraft and paddle sport users, take
advantage of the FREE Vessel Safety Check provided
by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.”
WHAT IS IN IT FOR ME?
Boats that pass the examination are awarded a
distinctive Vessel Safety Check (VSC) Decal
that alerts the Coast Guard, Harbor Patrol, Sheriff
and Police, FWC, and other law-enforcement
agencies that your boat was found to be in full
compliance with all Federal and State boating
laws. Frequently, such agencies will not detain or
board boats displaying a current-year decal that
are otherwise boating safely.
WHAT IF I DON’T PASS?
If your boat does not pass, no report is filed. Instead,
you are provided a written report that
aids you in correcting any discrepancies
noted. Often, a quick trip to your local marine
store is all that is necessary to obtain
missing safety items and easily pass a reinspection.
Some companies give you
a discount on the safety equipment
WHY DO THIS?
In a word-safety. You are left with the peace of
mind that your boat meets minimum safety standards
and that in an emergency; you will have
the necessary equipment to save lives and summon
help. Additionally, you will avoid substantial
fines should you ever be boarded by law-enforcement
and found to be in violation. Finally,
your insurance rates may be lowered-check with
WHAT CAN I DO?
Log on to www.CGAUX.org to locate the closest
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel examiner. And
it is FREE! These vessel examiners are trained
specialist and are there to make recommendations
and discuss safety issues that will enhance
your boating experience.
BELOW ARE SOME
ITEMS THAT ARE CHECKED:
A Life Jackets
A Registration and numbering
A Navigation lights
A Fire Extinguishers
A Distress Signals
One aspect of this safety check is that the Coast
Guard requires that all boats over 16 feet carry
visual distress signals, a minimum of 3 approved
signals. Flares have an expiration date and must
be replaced. Failure to have such devices or expired
flares could result in fines and put you in
danger if they are too old. The majority of boaters
that do not pass this inspection are because
their flares have expired.And did I say the inspection
is free? Even experienced boaters need
a Vessel Safety Check!
Roll with the Best!
“Launch and Load like a Pro”
10105 Cedar Run • Tampa, Florida 33619 • www.loadmastertrailer.com