EXTENSION CONNECTION: Winter recreation for the whole family

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 04:51 PM.

The winter season is here, and with this time of year comes breezy days and clear, beautiful skies. Temperatures can be mild or chilly, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the outdoors.

We have some beautiful natural resources in Northwest Florida, and there is no reason why the winter season should keep us indoors. Many activities can be enjoyed year round right in our backyard. Hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, camping, birding, fishing and walking are such pastimes.

We have access to public parks, state forests and Eglin Air Force Base Reservation, which you can access with a recreation pass from Jackson Guard in Niceville. Hiking, in particular, is lovely and there are many trails available. Check out a local hiking group if you are looking for ideas or starting out.

Water resources can still be utilized this time of year. North winds bring calmer waves on the beach and the bright, clear skies make winter walks quite enjoyable. Our many estuaries, rivers and lakes are also great to enjoy from a boat, canoe or kayak, or just enjoy them from a pier or a boat ramp.

Winter fishing is another option. Local fishing reports can update you on what to catch and where. Typically, redfish and black drum are great to fish for this time of year. Responsible angling practices are non-negotiable, so recycle your fishing line in monofilament recycling bins. You can find these bins at your local marinas and fishing piers, but if an area needs one, contact the county extension office. Know your size and catch limits for the fish you target and check the state and federal water fishing regulations when heading offshore. These regulations appear at MyFWC.com.

Want to take a more active role and do a service project or volunteer during the winter months? There are many opportunities. One example is the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. For the first time, participation is free. See http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count for a site near you and full details.

Getting outside for a nice walk, long hike, camping trip or many of the other possibilities can keep you and your family active.

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