With the arrival of spring, many of us have one thing on our minds — fishing.
Unfortunately, development along the coast, additional boat traffic, and prohibitive costs associated with boat ownership have made saltwater fishing more difficult and less convenient for many aspiring anglers.
Fortunately, there is a convenient solution very close to where you live that offers quality fishing, unspoiled scenery and relative peace and quiet.
Anyone living in our area is familiar with Eglin Air Force Base and its surrounding pine forests, which are known as "the reservation." Many may be unaware that the reservation hosts many fishing opportunities accessible by the public.
To access these areas, all that is required is to visit www.isportsman.net, create a user account, watch a seven-minute safety video, and take a short quiz. After passing the quiz, you have the option to purchase a $5 daily recreation-fishing pass or for $20 you can purchase the annual recreation-fishing pass.
The pass is required for anyone over age 16. Of course, you will also need your Florida freshwater fishing license, which can be purchased at www.myfwc.com and many retailers such as Walmart.
The fishing areas can be reached by passenger car; no off-road vehicles are required. Most can be fished from shore and you always have the option to bring a kayak or canoe along. Each area has its own unique features such as docks, boardwalks, picnic tables or restrooms.
Near Crestview, on State Road 85, you can fish on Duck and Anderson ponds for largemouth bass and catfish. On U.S. 285, south of U.S. 90, Speck Pond offers largemouth bass and panfish. And in Niceville, on College Boulevard east of the Northwest Florida State College campus, you can catch panfish, largemouth bass and chain pickerel.
When fishing any of these waters, it is important to read the signs. Some have specific regulations regarding catch and release and size restrictions.
Also, remember that these areas are subject to closure during military operations, so make sure to pay attention to all posted signs.
With so many opportunities available to residents, there is no excuse not to get out there and enjoy all that our area has to offer.
David Boggs is a lifelong Northwest Florida resident. He works in children's ministry at Crosspoint Church on PJ Adams Parkway in Crestview.