Gulf Coast

Everything You Need to Know About the Deep-Sea Fishing Excursion

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Deep-sea fishing is one of the most popular activities for Gulf Coast tourists, but it isn’t always a common activity for people who actually live here. If heading out after some monster fish is something that you have always wanted to try, the Citrus HIlls Vacationers Club has the perfect day trip planned for you in October.

The club is planning an exciting deep sea fishing excursion out of Tarpon Springs that will be the perfect experience for all skill levels ranging from novice fishermen up to semi-professional anglers.

Gulfstar Fishing Charters

This particular trip will be a half-day trip with Gulfstar Fishing Charters, which is one of the most popular charter companies operating out of Tarpon Springs.

One of the best things about deep sea fishing on a chartered excursion is that you don’t have to worry about bringing any fishing gear with you. The captain will provide you with everything you need from rods and reels to bait and hooks. You don’t even need to purchase a fishing license.

The only thing that you will want to bring on this adventure is a cooler full of food and drinks for the day, which will then double as transportation home for all of the fish that you catch.

And as for what to wear, the only requirement is that you plan on being comfortable. It is often about five degrees cooler out on the water, so make sure to dress accordingly.

The Sundance II

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The boat we will be boarding is the Sundance II, which was built by hand 1970. After surviving more than 40 years of cod fishing in New England, the Sundance II has found a new life operating charters here in Florida.

While the boat definitely has a rich history, it also boasts plenty of new technology.

Since its relocation to Florida in 2014, the Sundance II has been fitted with new electronics, a Furuno radar, and a digital fish finder.

What About the Fish?

After cruising for a little over an hour and getting about nine miles away from the shore, we will spend 2-3 hours fishing in water that is between 25 and 40 feet deep.

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Once the captain drops anchor and we start casting our lines baited with squid, there is a good chance that we will see Key West Snapper, Black Seabass, Porgies, and Grouper coming onto the boat.

Another perk that comes with a deep sea fishing charter is that the crew will be happy to clean all of the fish that you catch so that you can take them home in your cooler and cook them up however you like.

Our Trip Details

The Citrus Hills Vacationers Club is planning this deep-sea fishing excursion for Thursday, October 3. Tickets are on sale now, and the cost is $105 for members and $110 for guests.

Tickets include round-trip transportation from the Activity Center and everything that comes with the fishing charter, as well as ice to pack your catch for the ride home.

The plan is to leave the Activity Center at 7:30 am and return sometime around 6 pm.

No matter how passionate you are about fishing, this is going to be an amazing experience for everyone who participates. Don’t miss out on the fun, and don’t forget to invite your friends and family over for the cookout when you return!

 

Florida Scalloping Season Starts July 1st!

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Throughout most of the country, the weeks leading up to the 4th of July are filled with fireworks and cookouts. But here along the Gulf Coast, we’re also focused on one of our favorite seafood items: SCALLOPS! 

That’s right! Scalloping season is right around the corner. This year, the season kicks off on Monday, July 1 and runs all the way through Tuesday, September 24.

And whether you enjoy eating scallops or not, spending a day catching them is one of the most exciting things you can do in Citrus County.  

Bay scallops are a type of shellfish that live in shallow waters along the Gulf Coast of Florida just minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills.

They tend to be found living in sea grass areas, where they can blend in well except for their bright blue eyes. If startled, you will see the scallops attempt to make their getaway by quickly opening and closing their shells to propel them backwards.

Scalloping Rules & Regulations 

If you are planning on heading out on your own scalloping adventure this year, you will want to be aware of the rules and regulations that you are going to be expected to follow. First and foremost, anyone out scalloping on their own must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License.

In addition to having a license, there is a limit to how many scallops you are allowed to harvest on any given day. Just as it has been in previous years, the limit in 2019 is two gallons of whole scallops or one pint of scallop meat per person.  

There is also a maximum of 10 gallons permitted for each vessel out in the water. On top of that, the vessel you are using to scallop must leave from and return to a dock that is located within an area where scalloping is permitted.  

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There are only three acceptable ways to harvest scallops; you must either catch them by hand, landing, or dip net. The most popular method is by hand, which is usually done while snorkeling with a mesh bag to hold your catch. You’re also required to utilize diving flags to alert any other boats in the area to your presence.

One particular rule that might seem confusing at first is that any boat that catches scallops in the legal area to do so, must also dock in the same area. It is illegal to catch scallops in the legal area and then unload them outside of the legal area.

The following link will bring you to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with all the official information.

https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

Scheduling a Scalloping Charter

If all of those rules and regulations are making your head spin, you are not alone. Luckily, there is another option. By scheduling a private scalloping charter with one of the many tour companies throughout Citrus County, you can enjoy harvesting your scallops without having to worry about remembering the rules.  

When you go scalloping with a reputable charter company, you will be provided with all the gear and licenses you need, plus a guide who knows all of the details about how much you can harvest.  

There are dozens of local tour companies that would be happy to host your next scalloping adventure. The following link will bring you to a wonderful website, Discover Crystal River, with a few charter companies to consider.

https://www.discovercrystalriverfl.com/play/scalloping/ 

Shucking & Cooking Your Scallops 

After spending a fun afternoon out in the water grabbing scallops and shoving them into your mesh bag, the next step is to get them ready for dinner. But don’t worry, that process isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.  

If you have the benefit of being on a scalloping charter, there is a good chance that shucking your scallops is included in the price. If not, get out your knife and dig in! Here is a great video that breaks down the process for you. 

https://www.saveur.com/video-how-shuck-scallop 

Once you get your scallops shucked and cleaned, it’s time to figure out how to cook them!

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However, scallops are actually incredibly easy to cook. All you need to do is pan-sear them with a little bit of oil over very high heat. Just cooking them for about one minute on each side is all you have to do. There is actually a better chance of you overcooking them than undercooking them.  

Some recommended approaches to cooking scallops include seasoning with salt and pepper, lemon pepper, or blackened Cajun seasoning before you sear them. Many recipes also recommend basting them with butter while cooking.  

While most people prefer their scallops fried in butter with a bit of their favorite seasoning, this article from Coastal Living Magazine offers up 34 delicious scallop recipes for anyone who is looking for something a bit different. The Scallop and Avocado Tostadas sound delicious. 

www.coastalliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/scallops-recipes 

No matter how you like your scallops prepared, there is no denying that spending a day out on the boat harvesting them is one of the biggest benefits to living along The Nature Coast.

This recreational fishing activity combines all of the excitement of the catch that comes with traditional fishing without the worms. If you have ever enjoyed delicious scallops at a local restaurant, this is your chance to get out and catch your own.  

Because some of the best scallops in the world are basically sitting in our backyard, we would all be crazy to not go out scalloping at least a few times each year. The fact that there are so many great charter operations in our area makes it even easier. 

Even if you don’t care for seafood, the treasure hunt feeling you get from scalloping is a blast. Make sure that you don’t let this year’s scalloping season pass you by without filling a few mesh bags of your own!

Exploring the Big Bend Shellfish Trail

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Seafood is extremely popular across the state of Florida, and shellfish is practically a way of life along the Gulf Coast. Here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, we have the luxury of being located right next to the Big Bend Shellfish Trail, which is where you will find one of the best sources of fresh shellfish in the entire country.  

Whether your preference is for clams, oysters, blue crabs, shrimp, or stone crabs, you can find all of them as you make your way up and down the trail. But with so many options to choose from, figuring out how to best enjoy the trail can be a bit overwhelming.  

Let's take a closer look at what exactly the Big Bend Shellfish Trail has to offer! 

About the Trail 

The Big Bend Shellfish Trail is comprised of the working waterfront communities in Dixie, Levy, Jefferson, and Taylor Counties ranging from Steinhatchee to Yankeetown.  

At one time, this area was better known for its fishing boats, but a 1995 ban on gill net fishing forced the local workers to evolve into shellfish harvesters. Today, you will find large piles of crab traps sitting on docks the entire way up the coast, and it isn't too hard to find the shellfish that make their way into those traps either! 

Types of Shellfish 

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Scallops and Stone Crabs are probably the most sought-after shellfish you will find along the Big Bend Shellfish Trail. Both are limited in terms of fishing season and restricted to certain catch limits, which means that supplies are almost always limited, making them rather expensive.  

On the flip side, you will find all of the clams, shrimp, and blue crabs you could ever want throughout the salty marsh waters of the Big Bend Shellfish Trail.  

Big Bend Destinations 

Because the entire Big Bend Shellfish Trail is located within a short driving distance of the Villages of Citrus Hills, each of the popular stops along the trail would be an excellent day trip for our residents.  

Cedar Key is probably the most popular tourist destination along the trail, and it is also a favorite day trip spot for local residents. In addition to being a beautiful island, this is also a prime spot for oysters and clams, and there are also a number of farm-to-table shellfish restaurants on the island.  

If you are looking for a scalloping adventure, Steinhatchee is the place to find your charter service. And that won't be hard here considering the area is filled with working shellfish boats.  

Another excellent destination for a Big Bend Shellfish Trail day trip is Suwannee, where you will find some of the best stone crab fishing of the entire Gulf Coast. This is also a great place to track down clams, oysters, and blue crabs as well.  

Whether you are looking to get out on the water and catch your own shellfish or stay on dry land and enjoy a fantastic seafood experience at a locally owned restaurant, the Big Bend Shellfish Trail can help you out either way. So if you are passionate about your shellfish, it's time to get out and start exploring the trail!

Weekend Getaway: New Smyrna Beach

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Residents here at the Villages of Citrus Hills typically feel that the Gulf Coast offers the best version of the Florida retirement lifestyle, but that doesn't mean that a weekend trip to the Atlantic Coast isn't warranted every once in a while.  

With its crashing waves and laid-back atmosphere, New Smyrna Beach is the perfect destination for Gulf Coast beach bums looking to head east for a relaxing weekend getaway. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, this is our best advice for making the most out of your trip.  

Places to Stay in New Smyrna Beach

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TripAdvisor.com doesn't always get it right in their rankings of the best hotels in a particular area, but we think they are right on the money in having The Black Dolphin Inn ranked at the top of their list for New Smyrna Beach. This stunning bed and breakfast will cater to your every need and have you staying right near all of the action downtown.

If staying on the beach is more of a priority for you, then the Atlantic Plaza comes highly recommended in New Smyrna Beach. These oceanfront condos will have you sleeping within steps of those famous Atlantic Ocean waves.  

Things to Do in New Smyrna Beach 

The beach is one of the popular tourist attractions in New Smyrna Beach, and we highly recommend planning to spend the bulk of your weekend enjoying the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. You will find that surfing, boogie boarding, and body surfing are all popular here, but strolling through the sand looking for shells can be just as enjoyable if you don't want to get wet.

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In between beach sessions, you will also want to check out some of the many local art galleries that you will find around town. New Smyrna Beach is known as a "small art town," which means that there are lots of independent local artists that have come together to create a very unique cultural community.

 

Places to Eat in New Smyrna 

In keeping with the theme of everything else, you will find the restaurant scene offers a fantastic selection of casual restaurants serving up world-class food paired with some truly outstanding wine lists.  One of the popular restaurants is SoNapa Grille, which is known for their Lobster Bisque and their wine list, but won't disappoint you with anything in between those either.  

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Other popular restaurants include The Garlic, which has a special approach to all of your favorite garlic-forward dishes, and Norwood's Eatery & Treehouse Bar, which is definitely one of the coolest destinations in town.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the fantastic dining you will find in New Smyrna Beach, which makes this a perfect destination to revisit.  

With fantastic restaurants, first-class lodging, and one of the best beaches you will find along the Atlantic Coast, there is no reason not to make the two-hour drive for a weekend getaway as often as you can. When are you going to be taking your next trip?

Gulf vs. Atlantic: Which Florida Coast is the Best Retirement Location?

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The decision to enjoy your retirement years here in Florida is one of the best ones you will ever make, but it is actually only the first in a series of choices that become more and more essential to finding the ideal retirement destination for you.  

After choosing to pursue a Florida retirement, the next question that you are going to have to answer is which of the two coasts you would prefer to enjoy here in the Sunshine State. And while you really can't go wrong with either option, everyone seems to have their own preferences depending on how they rank different factors.  

To help you make that second decision with a little more confidence, we have collected some of the biggest advantages that each Florida coast has to offer and put them all in one place for you to process.

 Atlantic Coast Advantages 

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One of the most significant advantages that comes with choosing the Atlantic Coast side of Florida is that you are going to be able to enjoy the waves that crash on those beaches. If you are passionate about surfing, boogie boarding, or body surfing, this is a huge plus.  

In addition to having bigger waves, the Atlantic Coast is also home to several places with larger city-style amenities. With destinations like Jacksonville, Daytona, and Miami up and down the coast, there is no shortage of exciting things to see and do along the Atlantic Coast side of Florida.  

Gulf Coast Advantages

They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure, and we have found that for everyone who prefers the bigger waves of the Atlantic Coast, there is also someone who prefers the calmer waters over on the Gulf Coast. If a relaxing morning of standup paddle boarding is what gets you going, this is the place to make it happen.  

Another huge selling point for the Gulf Coast side is the fact that all of the beaches along the west side of Florida are absolutely stunning. You won't find white sand beaches anywhere in the world that are nicer than the ones right here along the Gulf Coast.  

Because there are fewer major cities and tourist attractions along the Gulf Coast, you will find that the communities on that side have less tourists and more reasonable housing, which makes the Gulf Coast a more appealing destination for many retirees.  

Based on the fact that the Villages of Citrus Hills is located on the Gulf Coast side of Florida, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that we feel it is the better retirement destination.  

But with all of the advantages of both sides right in front of you, we think you are probably going to do just fine making your own decision.  

And no matter where you might prefer to end up, there is no arguing that just about everyone who makes the decision to move to Florida ends up being happy with their decision.