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APALACHICOLA, FL — Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer has announced the newest Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship will be named USNS Apalachicola (T-EPF 13). Spencer travelled to Apalachicola to make the announcement personally at Apalachicola Main Street’s Independence Eve Celebration on July 3rd.
“The city of Apalachicola is one of the most historic cities in Florida, with foundations rooted in the maritime industry and support for a strong Navy and Marine Corps team,” said Spencer. “I am pleased that the history, culture, and spirit of this city will live on in the future USNS Apalachicola (T-EPF-13).”
The Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) is a shallow draft, all aluminum, commercial-based catamaran that is designed for High Speed Intra-Theater Surface Lift and serves in a variety of roles for the military branches to include support of overseas contingency operations, conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and supporting special operations forces.
“I am both grateful and honored that the City of Apalachicola, a small, rural costal community along Florida’s Forgotten Coast has been chosen to receive such a distinct recognition by the United States Navy,” said the Hon. Van W. Johnson, mayor of Apalachicola. “This recognition speaks volumes about Apalachicola’s significance as an historic port City and its hardworking, dedicated and resilient residents.”
“I am proud of our community and sincerely pray that when called into action to provide assistance, relief and support to those in need, that the USNS Apalachicola and its crew will rise to the occasion and exemplify the true essence of the people who live and work in this unique and historic port City.”
The future USNS Apalachicola is the second ship named in honor of the city of Apalachicola, Fla: the first, a large harbor tug (YTB-767), served from 1965-2002. The most recent naming is part of a program designed to honor small cities throughout the nation. “This ship and its class is to be named after smaller communities, but as I like to say, smaller communities with bigger hearts,” said Spencer. “This ship will sail around the world…and people around the world will know where Apalachicola is.”
Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, is
under contract to build the new EPF, which will be 338 feet in length, have a
waterline beam of 93.5 feet, displace approximately 2,362 tons and can operate
at speeds of 35-plus knots.
Secretary Spencer, his wife Polly, security, and staff attended Apalachicola’s award-winning Independence Eve Celebration known for its fireworks display over the Apalachicola River. Spencer made the announcement to a crowd of 7,000 gathered downtown for the festivities which included live music, a parade, Veteran’s Tribute, remarks from the newly elected State Representative Jason Shoaf, and performances of patriotic songs culminating in the National Anthem.
“It was an honor to host Secretary and Mrs. Spencer as well as the Secretary’s staff for this exciting announcement,” said Apalachicola Main Street’s Executive Director Augusta West, who worked with Spencer’s staff to coordinate logistics.
Apalachicola’s “Independence Eve” celebration attracts locals and visitors from all over the Forgotten Coast and beyond. Named one of the Top 12 Independence Events in Florida, this family-friendly event is held each year on July 3rd at Riverfront Park in downtown Apalachicola from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.
The celebration includes live music, food trucks, a parade, kids’ activities, a free ice cream social, arts and crafts vendors, a veterans’ tribute, and the singing of the National Anthem– all leading up to a spectacular fireworks show reflected in the waters of the Apalachicola River.
Our featured entertainment is the Bo Spring Band from Port St. Joe whose Rock, Soul, Country, Funk and Bluegrass influences blend to create their popular sound. “This year’s set list is focused on upbeat tunes that audiences love. We’re so excited to be playing this event. It’s just so much fun,” says vocalist Lauren Spring. The band released their debut album in 2017 and has a large following in the area. Our opening band is the local rock group Southern Flood. They will get the party started with their all-American rock and roll.
Food trucks, both local and from throughout the region, will be offering a delicious selection of American and international favorites. In addition, we are welcoming arts and crafts vendors as a new component of the event.
The Center for History, Culture, and Art will be offering free kids’ art activities in its facility across the street from Riverfront Park from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. Director Merrill Livingston will have a fun collection of red, white, and blue art materials for kids to create projects they can take home. You can also enjoy perusing the Anna Feil exhibit “Paradise Found” that will be on display in the gallery.
We are honored that U.S. Navy Commander Elizabeth Zingarelli Milliken will give the Veterans’ Tribute speech this year. Her theme centers on the history of veterans from Apalachicola and the concept that there are many ways to serve. This will be followed by a performance of the National Anthem by local youth. Just after the sun sets and darkness settles over the crowd, pyrotechnics will be launched from a barge on the river, lighting up the night sky with the Forgotten Coast’s best fireworks show.
Admission is always free, and lawn chairs and picnic blankets are welcome. For an upscale experience and fantastic seats for the fireworks, you can reserve a table in our VIP section on the docks where you can enjoy complimentary beverages and snacks from a private bar.
This celebration is the winner of a Florida Secretary of State’s Main Street award for Outstanding Special Event. An event of this caliber is only possible because of the financial support of many businesses and residents across the Forgotten Coast community. Our sincere thanks go out to all of our supporters.
For more information please visit www.july3fireworks.com.
Actually, more than just redfish—a lot more. Read on.
See all the boats in town? See all the trailers under the bridge? The Apalachicola Bay is one of the world’s best fishing holes. There is good fishing here the year around but some months are much better than others. And October through November is the best time of year for redfish and speckled trout. Done right, they are yours for the taking.
Sure, offshore fishing (20 – 30 miles out in the Gulf) for big game fish has its fans, but let’s keep it local and talk about inshore fishing. Inshore fishing is done in shallow waters with land in sight.
We talked to Tom Morgan about the equipment you need, the styles of fishing, and the species of fish. Tom and his wife Sharon own Apalach Outfitters, a very busy store in the heart of downtown Apalachicola. A store with gear and wear for fishing and lots, lots more.
Tom is a lifelong fisherman who still hunts and fishes with hometown buddies from as far back as the 6th grade. Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, he tells of the time when he was just 15. With no boat and no car, they would fish in the reservoir spillway runoff after heavy rains. The thrill of catching lots of big largemouth bass on artificial lures hooked him for a lifetime. After college he did a lot of inshore fishing in the Louisiana bayous. His love of inshore fishing grew, and with is own skiff now, he never misses a chance to get out on the bay.
Going over the equipment, Tom explains the basics of inshore fishing. Both fly and spinning rods and reels are used. Spinning rods can be used with either live bait or lures.
Tom has a great selection of spinning rods and reels, fly rods and reels, and artificial lures. The price range is from reasonable to, well, let’s just say pricey. Explaining the difference, Tom points out that higher priced reels have a superior drag system and better materials are used in their construction. Higher priced rods have more and higher-quality graphite, they are stronger, and provide the angler more distance and casting accuracy.
Looking at some of the price tags, you have to ask: do people really buy these things!? Oh, yes! During tarpon season, Tom get customers from as far away as California, Australia, and South Africa. These kinds of fishermen generally want the best.
Speaking of tarpon, the three most popular Apalachicola Bay fish, judging by Tom”s customers, are redfish, speckled trout and tarpon. Tarpon is seasonal and is “catch and release” only, by law. So if you want to keep your catch, redfish and trout are for you.
With this equipement, there are two basic styles of fishing—flats and bay. For fly fishing on the flats, one angler stands at the bow while an experienced guide or friend poles the boat through shallow water. They sight the fish ahead and the angler then casts directly at it. Flats fly fishing is mostly “catch and release”.
Bay fishing uses a bigger boat that can hold 4-5 people. Fishing in deeper waters—2-5 feet—using spinning rods with bait or lures, this is often “catch and keep”.
If you have your own boat and are an experienced angler this article in Florida Sportsman may be a helpful guide. If you are new, you might get some modestly priced equipment and try your luck from the piers. There are several well-constructed and popular piers in the area. Battery and Lafayette parks each have a long pier with a covered fishing platform. There are also two long fishing piers at each end of the St. George Island Bridge.
If you do go it alone, be aware of the licensing and catch limit laws. You can find these at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website or on a laminated fold-out with a fish species guide for the Gulf of Mexico, available at Apalach Outfitters.
However: if you are new to fishing or the area, your best bet is a good fishing guide.
We spoke with Kathy Robinson, booking agent for Robinson Brothers Guide Service. Kathy is a wealth of knowledge about all things “Apalachicola Bay fishing”. She writes regular monthly articles for Coastal Angler Magazine.
The Robinson brothers, Tommy and Chris, have run their guide service here for over twenty years. They specialize in flats and bay fishing but also have offshore guides. So what do you get with a guide that you can’t do on your own?
For starters all equipment is provided: boat, rods, reels, bait, and lures. Just as important, a guide provides you with a license to fish for the day and maintains the correct catch limits in number and size. And that is just for starters.
Bait or lures, how and where to cast? Kathy explains that their guides have grown up fishing in the bay since they were kids. They know where to go, what to do, they judge the wind direction, the wind speed, the time of year, the time of day, the water stream, and the tide change. Whew! Got all that?
One more thing if you are using a guide: be sure to book ahead. For the more popular fish and times of year, Kathy says some of their guides are booked a year or more in advance.
Now about those redfish and speckled trout. Are there more? You bet, lots more. In October your chances at flounder are good too. But ask Kathy for her complete fishing calendar. Keep an eye on it and you’ll be landing tripletail, sheepshead, black drum, bluefish, pompano, tarpon, Spanish mackerel, cobia, black-tip sharks, and more. That’s a boat load of fish.
So, you’ve got a big catch. Don’t know how or have the time and equipment to prepare it right? Not to worry. Apalachicola is a seafood town. Most restaurants will be glad to prepare it for you. At the Owl Cafe, for example, they will prepare your (cleaned) catch fried, grilled or blackened and serve it to your family or group for a reasonable fixed price per plate that includes a salad and two sides.
When you throw a line in the water, just remember it’s called “fishing” not “catching”. There are no guarantees. But with good choices of place and equipment, your chances with redfish in October are very, very good.
Good luck and good fishing.
Beginning Saturday May 26, and continuing through Sunday June 10, Apalachicola Main Street is sponsoring Free Trolley Tours of Apalachicola.
Tours will depart every Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM in front of the Raney House Museum, at 128 Market Street. Although the tours are free, tickets are needed to board the trolley, and will be given out on a first-come basis at the Raney House starting at 1:30 PM the day of the tour.
The tour will go along the waterfront to battery park, then continue through the historic areas, up to the hill area, and over to Scipio Creek before returning to the Raney House. Along the tour route people will learn all about the history of the town and the many famous and infamous people who have played a role in the development of the area.
They’ll also get some insight into little-known mysteries about town, some of the fun and unusual things that have happened here, facts about our fabulous nature and wildlife, and a glimpse into Apalach life throughout the decades.
Tour participants will get to enjoy all of this while riding the comfortable trolley that holds 30-35 passengers.
The tours are being held Saturdays and Sundays at 2 PM for three weekends, starting May 26 and ending June 10. They are funded by a grant to Main Street from the Visit Florida.
Tours may be cancelled in case of severe weather. Questions? Call 844-272-2523.