Category Archives: Agency News

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Catch a Florida Memory with 10-Year-Old Katlyn Paul

By Jill Christoferson

Summer may be coming to a close, but for 10-year-old Katlyn Paul, this summer was one she’ll never forget. Katlyn submitted 10 different species to the 71-species Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List, one of three of our Catch a Florida Memory Saltwater Recognition programs. This qualified her for the first tier of the Saltwater Fish Life List Club.

Katlyn Triggerfish

Katlyn with her Saltwater Reel Big Fish qualifying gray triggerfish.

Shortly after, she also submitted a gray triggerfish to the Saltwater Reel Big Fish program, becoming the first angler to qualify for this species. In recognition of her efforts, she received FWC Catch a Florida Memory prize packs including T-shirts and certificates for each achievement. She will also receive two entries into a quarterly raffle drawing for fishing gear such as rods, reels and landing nets.

Katlyn’s love of the water runs deep, and working on her life list is more about the experience than the recognition.

“It’s really cool to go out with friends and see what’s out there,” Katlyn said.  “It’s fun to see the water react,” referring to the varying sea conditions and changes in water coloration of nearby St. Andrews Bay and Gulf of Mexico.


Katlyn has crossed a number of fish off her life list including this ladyfish.

Katlyn caught her first fish, a gag grouper, when she was just three, and she was hooked. Today, she is still going strong, enjoying quality time with her dad, Devin, and getting to explore the marine environment around her. She’s even expressed an interest in pursuing a career in marine biology, following her passion to explore the unknown creatures of the deep.

The Saltwater Fish Life List was developed as one way to encourage anglers to target a diversity of species, and according to Devin, that’s exactly what the life list has done for his family.

“We’re chasing species that we wouldn’t go for otherwise; species that I haven’t fished for in years,” he said.

To date, Katlyn has crossed spotted seatrout, ladyfish, dolphinfish, black sea bass, gag grouper, gray snapper, red drum, red snapper, Spanish mackerel and hardhead catfish off of her life list. Since she submitted her 10-fish application to the Saltwater Angler Recognition Program, she has also added a lane snapper, greater amberjack and her Saltwater Reel Big Fish qualifying gray triggerfish to her list of accomplishments.

Can you catch up with Katlyn? Join her in participating not only in the Saltwater Fish Life List Club program, but also the FWC’s two other Saltwater Angler Recognition programs: Saltwater Reel Big Fish, which celebrates memorable-sized catches, and Saltwater Grand Slams, which awards anglers for catching three different specified species within a 24-hour period.

You can also keep track of Katlyn’s pursuits on the Catch a Florida Memory Facebook page, External Website

Katlyn -snapper

Katlyn holding up a red snapper she caught.

Expand Participation in Conservation

Expanding partnerships and FWC programs to encourage diverse youth and families to be more involved in the future of conservation.

Today’s children are increasingly disconnected from nature, devoting nearly eight hours a day to digital media. This is a problem! Kids who don’t experience the outdoors now are less likely to become our next generation of natural resource stewards. Overcoming this challenge is mission critical, which is why the FWC launched a public-private partnership initiative called the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN). This statewide network provides opportunities for youth and their families to safely engage in traditional outdoor activities and develop an understanding about fish and wildlife conservation.

By leveraging the FWC’s passionate staff, successful programs and existing partnerships, the FYCCN will continue to increase the number and diversity of youth and families and the partners who serve them. Through our outreach to these many diverse partners, we are Creating the Next Generation that Cares.


Celebrating Florida’s Wildlife Management Areas

by Peter Kleinhenz

This year, Florida’s Wildlife Management Areas turn 75. The fact that Florida has more conservation land now than it had in 1941 is remarkable, and a just cause for celebration.

Florida was a much different state when the seeds of today’s WMA system started to grow. Just under two million people lived in the state and, in the face of widespread logging and development, few land parcels were safe. This changed with a forward-thinking move by Florida Governor Spessard Holland.

In late 1941, Governor Holland successfully persuaded the Florida Legislature to enable Florida to accept federal funds for conservation land acquisition.

Governor Holland

The state purchased a huge tract of land just north of Fort Myers, and the wildlife management area system was born with what is now known as Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb WMA. Governor Holland tasked the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, today’s FWC, with the management of this new property. Little did they know how much their workload would grow over the ensuing 75 years.

What began as one 19,200-acre property in south Florida evolved into an almost six-million-acre, statewide assemblage of natural habitat. The areas play a critical role in helping FWC accomplish their mission: managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. Carrying out this mission requires foresight and creativity as Florida continues to change. Today, over 20 million people call Florida home with about 1,000 new arrivals each day.

The pressures on our remaining natural heritage grow in step with that of the population. Increasingly, wildlife management areas exist as islands surrounded by a sea of urbanization. Their size and the complexity of the natural ecosystems they preserve maintain important populations of many imperiled species. Without them, several species would likely cease to exist.

But it isn’t just species that would go away. Many of the opportunities to hunt, fish and have a true Florida adventure would vanish if WMAs ceased to exist. In some parts of Florida, where nature must be sought out, wildlife management areas serve as an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts.

“Our philosophy with wildlife management areas is that we provide a more wild experience,” states David Johnson, section leader for FWC’s Wildlife and Habitat Management Section. “It’s just nature, in all its wildness.”

Due to the wisdom of past generations, millions of Florida residents have been able to experience this “wildness” over the past 75 years and will continue to do so into the future.

“Most people just don’t realize that there is likely a WMA close to them,” David says emphatically. “We want to reach out to the public of today and let them know what opportunities we have. And if they are interested in nature, we probably have something that they might enjoy.”

Whether you want to view wildlife in natural surroundings, experience premier hunting and fishing opportunities or simply escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, a WMA probably exists within an hour of you.

If the founders of the WMA system could look forward 75 years, they’d surely be celebrating right along side us.

Help Us Celebrate!
The 75th anniversary celebration will feature a number of events throughout the year. These include citizen science bioblitzes, a statewide geocaching challenge and many other events that cater to all ages and interests.