Better Off Wet Winter 2016

















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

6000# GVWR

• 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

7000# GVWR

• 2500# Tongue Jack w/Drop Leg on 8600# GVWR

and up

• 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

aluminum trailer.

• Single Axle

• TAndem Axle

• Tri-Axle

Standard torsion bar with quick change

spindle and Vortex ® hub.

Vortex ® hub comes with 100,000 mile, 6

year warranty.



We build them one at a fit.


10105 Cedar Run • Tampa, Florida 33619


Tel: 1-888-272-9838

Jupiter, Florida


The perfect companion to a day on the water!


Benjamin Chewning




Theresa Barzyk



Juan de Leon


Capt. Jimmy Nelson

@extremefishingadventures on Facebook


@FishingWithLuiza on Facebook

Hank Cushard

United States Coast Guard Auxilary, Stuart, FL

Debbie Rivera

Beth Bowere


Better Off Wet

P.O. Box 1096

Palm City FL 34991



1600 East 8th Ave. Tampa, Florida 33605 |

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.











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

Florida waterways.



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













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

humans, okay?

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

shark population.

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

attract fish.

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




Paddle Boarding


in South Florida

Staff Report



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

what’s expected!

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

board safari.

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

to go.




Discounted rooms with

tour reservations

• Manatee/Eco Tours

• Snorkel & Dive

• Scuba Training, Tours

and Trips

• Fishing & Scallop Charters

• Kayak Rentals & Tours

• Boat Ramp & Overnight


• Gift Shop

• Ice, Bait & Tackle


Pet Friendly • WIreless Internet • Denny’s Restaurant • Banquet Facilities • Pool

2380 NW Hwy-19 Crystal River, Fl. 34428 352-795-2111





New Yachts • Brokerage • Marine Accessories • VIP Packages

Exclusive Superyacht Miami Location At Island Gardens Deep Harbour

For tickets and more information visit




Staff Report

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.


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!





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.








Staff Report

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







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

your boots!

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






Personal Tips

and Tricks:

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

great fish.

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 (

in Crystal River, FL.

Trolling Tips:

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 (, 65 or 80

lb TUF-LINE Donin8 line (www.tuf-line.

com), and Yo-Zuri Pink 80lb Fluorocarbon

leader (

Water Depth:

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!

If trolling

is tough

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. on a “knocker” or “sliding

sinker” rig.

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 (

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

chum bags.

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!




Kayak Fish


Staff Report

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

toboggan ride.

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





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.



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.








Staff Report

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





When on the water,

safety first

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

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



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: or

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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in Florida

Staff Report

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

their enthusiasm.”

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


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 Stay

active, eat healthy, and don’t forget, you’re Better

Off Wet.





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:






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,

Information below will give you an idea of what

it all means.

United States Coast Guard Life

Jacket Classifications:

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.

Some other

noteworthy requirements:

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.



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.”


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.


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

you purchase.


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

your agent.


Log on to 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.



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 •

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