One of the most unique and memorable experiences that a local or visitor to Cape San Blas can have is to watch a sea turtle make its way to nest and lay its eggs on the beach and, in time, watching the hatchlings make their way to the water and venture out on their own.
As the attached chart explains, provided by the Florida Coastal Conservancy, for a small peninsula, Cape San Blas had an active 2015 Sea Turtle season. It is not uncommon for vacationers and locals alike to have the exciting opportunity to observe mother sea turtles and baby sea turtles during the year. After all, sea turtles nest along all the beaches of Gulf County, including Indian Pass, St. Joe Beach and also Mexico Beach (which is actually the end of Bay County).
But, as a person can imagine, both adult and baby sea turtles while on shore are pretty much defenseless and vulnerable to nearly every possible obstacle. That being the case, here are a few tips that help make the sea turtles onshore trek a little bit easier.
Sea Turtle Season Tips and Facts:
1.) “Don’t Go Near The Light!”—Beach Front Lighting.
Instinctively wise, sea turtles are born with internal instructions to move toward the brightest object on the beach. Thus, in a purely natural setting, the light emanating from the moon or the stars would reflect off the water and should direct the sea turtles to the sea. However, the bright beachfront lights can overshadow the natural lighting of the moon and the stars and disorientate the sea turtles.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission “suggested alternatives to decrease artificial lighting include use of motion sensors for safety, dark window tinting and curtains to cover inside light, and yellow incandescent light bulbs (“bug lights”). Studies have also shown that light from low pressure sodium vapor sources don’t attract turtles as much as high pressure sodium lights. Avoid fluorescent, mercury vapor, metal halide, and white incandescent lighting.”
In addition to the lighting from beachfront homes or businesses, if while walking on the beach, a person does get to experience sea turtles hatching and flopping their way to the water one evening, as tempting as it may be, please do not use cell phone lights to shine on and view the turtles.
2.) “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”—Fill In Sand Holes After Playing.
After a fun-filled day on the beach and digging around in the sand, please remember to fill in the holes when everyone retires for the night. Remember, sea turtles are vulnerable to everything on the beach, including falling into holes.
3.) “It’s Like I Was Never There.”—Leave No Trace.
Gulf County has a Leave No Trace Ordinance in place and is enforced by the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office. By removing items off the beach, sea turtles will not run into or get wedged in them. It has been observed, for example, that sea turtles will get stuck under lounge chairs left on the beach.
4.) “Please Do Not Disturb.”
If there is a marked sea turtle nest on the beach, please do not disturb it or allow a pet to explore the nest.
Interesting Facts About Sea Turtles:
1.) Sea Turtles can live as long as humans: 40-60 years or longer.
2.) In Florida, where 90% of sea turtles nest, each year roughly between 40,000 and 84,000 sea turtle nests are documented.
3.) Female sea turtles lay between 80-120 eggs each nest they create. They nest every 2-to-3 years.
4.) Depending on the type of sea turtle, sea turtles can weigh between 75 to 1,300 pounds.
5.) Florida has 5 nesting sea turtles, all of which are either an endangered or threatened species and are protected by Florida Statues. The five types are:
Scallop Season! No other words seem to get people more excited to get in the water. Scalloping is one of the most anticipated activities during the summer months in St. Joseph Bay. Thousands of people from across the United States purposely plan their vacations to Cape San Blas specifically during this exciting season. Whether a person is a beginner or a veteran, here are some useful tips for scalloping.
Scalloping Essentials and Equipment:
Scallop Season: Scallop Season opens the Saturday before July 1st, unless July 1st falls on a Saturday, then the opening date would be July 1st.
Fishing License:A Fishing License is required for people who are swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving to scallop. Those scalloping by wading (feet that do not leave the bottom to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive) are not required to possess a fishing license. However, the good news is that there are a few days designated Free Fishing Days. With regard to Scallop Season, a free fishing day would kick-in on the first Saturday in September–meaning a person can scallop either by swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving without being required to purchase a fishing license on that day.
Mask, Snorkel and Sometimes Water Shoes and Fins: Make sure the seals on the mask are not dried out or cracked. A leaking mask while scalloping is no fun! For those who prefer to wade while scalloping, investing in a pair of water shoes would protect the feet from stepping on urchins or other sharp or pointy objects.
Gloves and Dip Net: Most individuals gather scallops using their bare hands. However, some prefer to put on a par of gloves or use a small dip net to scoop up the scallops. When scalloping, sometimes the scallops try to swim away using jet propulsion. Don’t worry, they do not swim fast though.
Drawstring Mesh Bag: This is recommended as it will allow a person to keep the scallops secure while gathering them and the bag provides the least resistance to swimmers as they are wading or snorkeling for scallops.
Scallop Knife: Scalloping has two components: Gathering and Cleaning. Using a scallop knife, as opposed to a butter knife, will make cleaning the scallops both more efficient and effective.
Tip: Cleaning the scallops on the boat and tossing the remains back into the bay saves time, energy and a not-so-pleasant smell on shore because the scallop remains are left in the woods, in the trashcan or elsewhere where the smell travels and becomes a stench.
Good Scalloping Spot: While some people prefer to wade along the bayshore or near it to gather scallops, others enjoy taking a boat, canoe or kayak into the bay and look for nice scalloping spots.
Locating the Perfect Scalloping Spot
The best scalloping spots are normally where the water is 4 to 8 feet deep in the bay. Also, look for sea-grass beds. Why? Because often, scallops are located in the sea-grass beds or near the edges of sandy-spots. They are usually easiest to see in the areas where the sand bottom meets the edge of the sea-grasses.
Dive Flag: Whether a person is swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving or wading for scallops, a dive flag is required.
Dive Flag Requirements
Displayed On The Boat: A dive flag must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches. A stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. It must be displayed above the highest point of the boat and taken down when divers are out of the water.
Displayed on float attached to snorkeler: The dive flag must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches.
Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters (all waterways other than rivers, inlets or navigation channels) and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags on rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels must slow to idle speed.
Cooler and Ice: As the scallops are gathered, it best to put them on ice to preserve the freshness. In addition, the ice will cause the scallops to open up. Thus, cleaning the scallops becomes much easier and faster.
Bag Limit: 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell, or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person. Maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.
We hope that these tips will prove helpful during the upcoming Scallop Season! Enjoy!
So, its time for the annual camping trip to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Everything is packed and ready to go. Or, while renting a home on Cape San Blas, family or friends decide to go visit St. Joseph Peninsula State Park for a day. Either way, whether camping in the park or just making it a day’s event, it’s time to explore and make some great memories. So, what are some of the activities that campers can enjoy while visiting St. Joseph Peninsula State Park? Here are a few…
Hiking Nature Trails
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park taunts 3 different trails for people to explore: The Maritime Hammock Trail, the Bay View Nature Trail and the Wilderness Preserve Trail. Each trail brings the hiker into contact with a different, but pristine, aspect of nature.
Along the hiking trails, why not keep the mind as active as the body by playing a little game of plant IDing? This no doubt will keep the conversations active and informative as well. Occasionally, along the hiking trails, markers are posted that identify certain types of botany.
From the majestic Bald Eagle to the Wise Owl, the shear variety of birds is fascinating. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is documented as being the most documented shorebird nesting beach in the Panhandle of Florida.
OK, so this one is a no brainer. Still, the variety of tasty fish that can be caught are abundant. These include Speckled Trout, Red Drum, Flounder, Mullet, Bluefish, Whiting and Shark, just to name a few. Whether these are fried, grilled, baked or blackened, dinner is sure to be delicious!
Canoeing and Kayaking
Explore the waters as much as the nature trails! St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has plenty of areas in which canoes and kayaks can be launched into the Bay or the Gulf. The easiest way is to just take the canoe or kayak straight to the Gulf or the Bay and go from there. Or, a person can launch the vessel from Eagle Harbor, the Bay View Picnic area, etc.
Boating is a very popular activity at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Boats can be launched at Eagle Harbor.
There is awesome scuba diving off-shore. There are many artificial reefs and wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico. A person can spear fish, lobster, etc.
Truly one of the most coveted and exciting activities to do in the Bay is scalloping! Between July 1-around the 3rd week of September, Scallop Season is in full swing. This should be on the must do list for campers! Glide through the waters and observe some of the most beautiful and fascinating underwater species. Comb through the sea grass and find Rays, Sea Horses, Spider Crabs, Puffer Fish, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. There is not limit to the sea life that is located in the Bay or Gulf.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park can be a shell pickers paradise! Literally, tons of shells can be washed onto the shore. Comb through the shells to find the perfect one!
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is full of wonderful wildlife. There are Deer, Bobcats, Foxes, Otters, Raccoons, Squirrels, Opossum, Coyotes, Armadillo, etc.
There are 4 miles of road in the park for cyclists to enjoy. Plus, there is a 10 mile bike path located long the entire peninsula.
This both satisfies someone’s literal hunger and hunger for competition. Delish!
Located at the Bay View area is a playground for the kids and a picnic shelter for the parents to watch the kids.
There is a large picnic pavilion and smaller picnic pavilions for campers to utilize. The Bay View picnic area provides access to the mile-long Bay View Trail, has a large picnic shelter for family gatherings, a large playground, canoe/kayak launch and restrooms. The picnic area at Eagle Harbor provides small picnic shelters, restrooms, boat ramp and access to the beach and bay.
Cape San Blas is one of the few places where horseback riding is permitted on the beach and a unique feature to add to any camping trip. Contact Broke-A-Toe for details about adding horseback riding to the camping itinerary.
Recently, we have received several inquires as to the Ordinances in Gulf County pertaining to the Leash Law, Leave No Trace, Beach Driving and Golf Carts. Because it would take a considerable amount of time to answer each question individually, we have prepared a note with helpful information that is all public record.
1.) Leash Law:Pets on the Beach, at the Parks, etc.
Gulf County does have a Leash Law in effect and an individual can receive a citation if an officer views a person’s pet unleashed and running on either public property (Parks, the Beaches, etc) and other people’s private property even if the owner is watching his or her pet.
The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2008-20, under Section 1., entitled Definitions, provides the following explanations concerning pets:
At Large is defined as an animal when off the property and not under restraint.
Confined is defined as within a building, pen fenced yard, vehicle, on a leash or on a chain.
Restraint is defined as confined within the real property limits of its owner or secured by a leash or lead.
Gulf County Ordinance No. 2008-20, also covers the topic of pet owners being responsible for cleaning up their pet’s waste on either public property (Parks, the Beaches, etc) and other people’s private property. Under Definitions, Section 1, the definition entitled Public Nuisance or Nuisance Animal specifically addresses the pet owners responsibility of cleaning and disposing their pet’s waste immediately.
Section 10 discusses Citations and Violations.
Gulf County Ordinance No. 2008-20 can be found here.
2.) Leave No Trace.
The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2015-07 pertaining to Leave No Trace can be found here.
As a general rule, all personal property and items must be removed from the beaches. However, there are a few exceptions to this, for example, pertaining to weddings and other beach events. Permits are required for someone needing to make use of these exemptions. This ordinance also discusses such matters as Camping on the beaches, Fires on the beaches, etc.
Recently, Gulf County is becoming increasingly attentive to items and property being left on the beaches. Citations and confiscations are beginning to to enforced. Signs have been created and will be posted along the beaches for the public.
3.) Beach Driving.
The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2015-08 discusses Beach Driving. Driving is permitted on the beaches. However, there are a number of regulations that a person driving a vehicle on the beaches must either be educated on and/or observe, such as Permitting and Fees, Access Points, Speed Limit, Violations and Fines, etc. At the time a permit is purchased, the purchaser is provided with a pamphlet and a copy of this Ordinance.
The Gulf County Ordinance No. 2015-08 can be found here.
4.) Golf Carts
Locals and Visitors alike are commenting on the number Golf Carts that can be regularly seen during the day and in the evening on either the Bike Path on Cape San Blas or on the main road of State Road 30E (Cape San Blas Road).
It has been observed that teenagers are driving these vehicles while friends are holding onto the Golf Cart while riding skateboards.
Gulf County Ordinance No. 2009-05 discusses the Rules and Regulations regarding Golf Carts. This ordinance can be found here.
Other Links to Information Sources in Gulf County. Feel Free to Contact these Sources with any Questions or Concerns.
We sincerely hope that this information will make it much easier and convenient for people to locate important information and provide some clarity regarding these topics. We will update this page as relevant information comes to the fore.