Nine-foot python cozies up to water quality monitoring platform

Grouper regulation: 10 species have to be released until May 1

Burmese python sightings are commonplace in southeast Florida, especially in the Everglades, but not so typically on water quality monitoring platforms at sea in Biscayne Bay.

A kayak paddler in Biscayne National Park looked up in November to see a 9-footer curled up, looking snug and cozy, on such a platform, which collects data for the South Florida Water Management District. It was about 6 feet above the water surface.

The paddler reeled off some photos of the snake and passed them on to Vanessa McDonough, the park’s fishery and wildlife biologist. She notified Water Management, which sent one of its snake specialists to capture the python.

The site is a short distance east of Mowry Canal, which pours into the park about a third of a mile north of its headquarters and visitor center.

Last February, a python was found in the branches of a buttonwood tree growing on the Convoy Point jetty. It was 6-1/2 feet long.

If you see a python at sea, or anyplace else, you’re supposed to notify park rangers or Florida Fish and Wildlife. The notification website is

Everglades programs to begin

A new season of ranger-conducted programs is about to begin in Everglades and Biscayne National Parks and in Big Cypress National Preserve. You’ll be able to find the details soon, if not already, on the parks’ individual websites or all in one place at the website of the South Florida National Parks Trust:

The Trust is a friend-of-nature outfit, formed with a bank account that was started with a fine that a shipping line was made to pay for polluting. It supports the local national parks in a variety of ways, including financial contributions for projects that the parks haven’t enough money to pay for.

It’s a record Mayan

Florida freshwater fishing-doers respect the Mayan cichlid for its fighting qualities and its good taste. Now their state has shown respect by certifying the first Florida record catch of a Mayan — a 2.37 pounder caught with lipless crank bait in a Collier County canal by Jonathan Johnson of Fort Myers.

Are you not impressed? We asked Marty Arostegui, who holds or has held 400-plus IGFA world records. He was impressed: “That’s a big Mayan,” he said.

If you fish mostly for bass or butterfly peacock, you’re likely to get a batch of Mayans as bycatch. They are ubiquitous in the lakes and urban canals of South Florida. An FWC biologist once nicknamed them “atomic sunfish.”

That might be mistaken for excessive flattery, but not when you remember that the sport of fishing deplores exaggeration. The Mayan strikes hard enough and fights hard enough to deserve game fish status. Until you bring one to hand, you can’t be sure it isn’t a peacock — which is also a cichlid, not a bass.

Johnson’s record-setter wasn’t bycatch. He was after it.

“I looked up the record about six months ago and saw that it was vacant,” he told FWC. “I have caught hundreds, but only a couple that I thought were large enough. I was targeting them specifically that day and caught about 25 — this being the largest one by about half a pound.”

He took the fish home to weigh it and called FWC the next morning to arrange for verification.

Mayans have been eligible for state records since 2012, but Johnson was either the first to catch one bigger than the two-pound minimum or the first to submit his catch for recognition.

The species is native to Honduras, known to swim in Florida waters since the 1980s. Mayans took a knockout blow from double-header cold snaps in January 2010, but came back strong.

New fishing regulations

Snook season for keepers was closed Dec. 15 in Atlantic waters, which include Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, and Dec. 1 in Gulf waters including Monroe County (Keys) and Everglades National Park. The Atlantic season will reopen on Feb. 1, the Gulf season on March 1. Catch and release fishing is allowed during closed seasons.

These other new Florida fishing regulations are effective Jan. 1:

Mutton snapper: Minimum keeper size 18 inches, daily bag limit five.

Barracuda: There is a slot limit of 15 to 36 inches, fork length. One barracuda longer than 36 inches can be kept per boat, no matter how many people are fishing. Daily bag limit two fish per person, six fish per boat. These rules apply only in waters off Collier, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties. There is no closed season for barracuda.

Apalachicola Bay oysters: Harvest is forbidden on Fridays now, in addition to Saturdays and Sundays, until June 1. Commercial harvesters must bring their catch to either the Patton Street boat ramp in Eastpoint or Lombardi’s Landing in Apalachicola, to be checked for compliance with size and bag limits.

Grouper: Ten species have to be released until May 1. They are gag, black, red, yellowmouth, yellowfin, scamp, red hind rock hind, coney and graysby. This rule covers state waters, to 3 miles offshore, and covers the entire Atlantic coast including the Keys.