Category Archives: Motorized Fishing Kayaks

Fishing kayak outfitted with an outboard gas motor or an electric trolling motor

Minimum Flow Fiasco

June 9, 2019. The following letter appeared in yesterday’s Citrus County Chronicle.

I see that Florida’s elite water management agency, Swiftmud, will be holding a workshop to gather public comment about how much more water should be removed from the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka rivers to create suitable minimum flows.   

I’d like to suggest that personnel from that agency redirect their attention to the Arctic, and hold public hearings on the North Slope to determine minimum flow standards for the glaciers that are melting at record rates.  They need to take the folks from Heatherwood Investments, LLC along to help measure water discharge levels while filling their bottles at the same time.  And, of course, our distinguished representatives from the Florida Legislature who created the minimum flow program, will be needed to supervise.

Gary Rankel

Citrus Hills, Florida

Boat Launch Fee Proposal Additional Comments

May 19, 2019. The following are additional comments provided to the Citrus County Board of Commissioners on subject proposal.

Dear sirs:

I’d like to elaborate on the comments I made at the May 14, 2019 BOCC meeting regarding your proposal to impose launch fees at county boat ramps.  I previously submitted written comments on this proposal (copy provided below), and chose to focus my spoken comments on the need to hold public hearings on subject proposal prior to any vote, and to expedite the development of the new marina on the northern shore of the Cross Florida Barge Canal just west of the Hwy 19 bridge.

At the time I submitted my written comments, I did not realize that a BOCC vote to implement the proposal was planned for May 14, prior to conducting public hearings around the county to gather community input.  If I’m not mistaken, the only public hearing on the proposed fee program was held at your May 14 meeting, and that one wasn’t announced in the Chronicle until the day before.  I know at least three folks with strong views on the fee proposal who could not attend because of the short notice and other commitments.  I only found out about it four days before your meeting when I clicked on your agenda (which the great majority of folks in the community don’t do). 

I try to keep up on current events, but was not aware of related workshops that you indicate have been held.  Were these announced in the Chronicle?  I urge the BOCC to hold at least two or three well publicized (in the Chronicle) hearings to gather community input before voting on any particular combination of fees and related measures, whether or not they are implemented in full or phased in.

I was surprised when Commissioner Kitchen spoke out against even holding a public comment period following subject presentation, and appreciate Chairman Kinnard’s decision allowing it to proceed.  In my 35 years of government service, I’ve held several public hearings that I would have just as soon skipped, because I considered them part of my job.  The public deserves its chance to speak, whether you like what they have to say or not.  You never know when someone alerts you to some unintended consequence of a program that you haven’t thought of.   

On my second issue, I suggested that you redirect and expedite your efforts to obtain funding for the development of the new boat marina on the barge canal.  Anyone who spends time on the water between Yankeetown and Chassahowitzka knows what a mess we have at our county ramps.  No amount of fee money collected and spent on our existing ramps is going to resolve this problem because of space limitations and environmental considerations, including manatee protection concerns.  We need to address the forest while treating a few diseased trees.   

When I retired to Citrus County 13 years ago, one of my first purchases was a motorized jon boat to access county waters.  After several occasions waiting in line to launch, and than again to reload, I sold my boat and learned how to fish from a kayak, so that I could escape the chaos and enjoy a relaxing day on the water instead of a frustrating one.  I’ve put in my kayak and fished most of our county’s lakes, rivers and inland areas, created and manage the Nature Coast Kayak Fishers and related website (, and am very familiar with our water access and related parking problems.

Clearly, the only solution to resolving our water access / parking problem is for one or more new facilities to be created in the county, and the the most logical place for one is on the barge canal. 

Your Capital Improvement Program includes a $5 million entry for the design and construction of the new marina (Project 2007-07).  However, it is one of more than 150 projects to be considered for funding over the next five years, at a total cost of more than $258 million.  I regard the CIP as little more than a “wish list”, akin to a child’s list of 20 things they want from Santa next Christmas, but expecting to get maybe two or three.  As I understand it, if the marina is not funded during the five year period, it would be pushed out of the planning period, and, even if it is funded, it would not be operational until 2023 at the earliest.

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I can’t see that any requests for grants to fund the marina through the Federal Gulf Coast Restoration Fund (RESTORE Act) and Florida State Boating Improvement Program, have been submitted.  Project 2019-02 in your CIP shows no future RESTORE funds even contemplated for the marina in the next five years.  Neither, as far as I can see, has the BOCC, Representative Massullo or Senator Simpson placed priority on this project when requesting earmarks through the state budget, as they have with many other county priorities. 

My 35 year career as a biologist and Program Manager administering an annual $70 million outdoor recreation appropriation and associated grant program at the Department of the Interior, provided me with insight into the budget formulation process.  Like you, I’ve had to decide which of many competing and worthwhile programs and projects to fund given budgetary constraints.  I understand the desire to seek revenue wherever it can be found.      

It won’t be long before the new parkway will be operational.  The red tide and blue-green algae problems to the south have severely impacted sport fisheries, resulting in the imposition of catch-release only regulations, and an increasing number of anglers heading north for a chance to bring home a fresh fish dinner for their families.  Increasing numbers of active adults settling down in The Villages, Top of the World and other nearby retirement communities will be looking for the kind of quality water-based experiences that Citrus County can provide. 

I’m a big advocate of the user-pays concept for funding projects, and believe that a sensible boat launch fee program coupled with a new Cross Florida Barge Canal marina could go a long way toward relieving stress at our ramps.  Your fee program by itself will allow for limited maintenance and small improvements projects only, without relieving the stress that our private boat owners, fishing captains, kayak businesses and tourists face each year.   

In conclusion, I’d like to make one more pitch to have BOCC staff contact Mr. George Decker, owner of the property adjoining Pirates Cove in Ozello, to discuss acquiring or leasing his property to create an exceptional paddling, small watercraft and ecotourism park, which would further alleviate the stress on our existing launch sites, while providing a great addition to the county’s tourism program. 

One final note: Commissioner Coleman, please reconsider stepping down from the BOCC, but, if not, thanks for your service.  You’re calm, thoughtful approach to problem solving will be missed.

Thank you for your consideration,

Gary Rankel     

Gary Rankel aka PackerYaker
Peaceful Paddles, Tight Lines and Happy Landings
Kayak Fishing – Nature Coast (

New Boat Launch Fee

March 6, 2019. The following letter was published in today’s Citrus County Chronicle.

Boat Launch Fees:  Beneficial or Boondoggle

The following summarizes comments I provided to the BOCC regarding its proposal to institute fees for launching watercraft at county boat ramps. 

Anyone spending time on our waterways recognizes the horrendous access and parking problem we have at our ramps.  I’ve spent hours at county launch sites waiting for dilly-dallying knuckleheads who seemed to mistake the ramps for campsites.  The frustration associated with the long holdups on both departing and returning segments of my “relaxing” days on the water helps explain why I now fish from a kayak.

Charging launch fees will not resolve the problem.  There simply isn’t enough space at existing sites to provide for additional access and parking without filling in valuable wetlands. 

New launch sites are needed. 

I’m aware of only two areas that, if developed, would significantly improve access and relieve pressure at existing ramps: the previously considered barge canal site for larger power boats, and the private property adjoining Pirates Point Community Park in Ozello for paddle and other small watercraft.   

A new ramp and parking area on the Barge Canal would be a godsend for boaters. 

The private property adjoining Pirates Point Park remains vacant following BOCC rejection of past environmentally unsound development proposals by the owner.  If purchased, it could be developed into a premier paddling, eco-tourism and kayak fishing destination with broad regional appeal. 

Development of these sites would relieve pressure at county ramps, while also expanding tourism opportunities.  Additional suggestions for improving paddling access are included under the Boosting Tourism link at

The community will certainly oppose the proposed fees.  Many will register opinions relative to their application to favor residents, seniors, veterans, paddlecraft users, etc. 

Opposition will expand greatly if the money collected is inadequate to produce observable improvements after paying for related administration, monitoring and enforcement efforts. 

BOCC: let’s get real.  Recognize that fees collected through the proposed program will be inadequate to create the new sites needed to significantly improve watercraft access unless combined with other sources of revenue that our elected representatives can help us obtain.  Development of an appropriate mix of programs, budget priorities and funding requests are necessary to resolve our water access problem.    

Gary Rankel, Citrus Hills

Comments on Proposed Boating Launch Fee

The following letter was submitted to the Board of County Commissioners – Citrus County on February 18, 2019.

I certainly support the concept of a user pays system for expanding / facilitating water access in the county.  Here’s a few initial thoughts.    

–  This undertaking may be a bit more complicated than contemplated.  To start with, new fees will most likely be opposed by a majority in the community.  Opposition is likely to increase if the money collected doesn’t produce significant observable results.   Administration and enforcement won’t be cheap and will eat into project accomplishments.  BOCC may want to consult with other county officials who have instituted related programs, and consider conducting a feasibility study prior to moving forward. 

–  Funds collected may be adequate to support recurring maintenance at existing sites.  Assuming, however, that the BOCC wisely rejects paving over wetlands, not enough usable property exists adjacent to our existing boat ramps to provide for a significant increase in parking / access.  Hence, new launch sites will need to be created.  Fees collected won’t be adequate to create such new sites unless used in conjunction with other sources of revenue (e.g., State Boating Access Improvement Program, Restore Act).  The only new areas I’m aware of that would be capable of significantly improving access while relieving pressure at existing sites are the previously considered site on the barge canal for larger power boats, and the private property adjoining the Pirates Cove Community Park for paddle and other small watercraft.   

–  It will be difficult to get community buy-ins on a fee schedule and decision-making process for allocating funds collected for new projects.  Many can be counted on to register strong opinions about how fee schedules should be more fairly structured and adjusted to favor residents, seniors, yakers vs. big boats, launching at less utilized primitive vs. developed sites, parked vehicles without trailers, etc.  Accommodating such legitimate concerns and suggestions would most likely entail increased costs and complicate program administration, monitoring and enforcement.     

–  Boaters / paddlers must understand which ramps / launch sites will be subject to fee collection (I assume the ones included in the Parks and Recreation Citrus County Boat Ramps listing).  The several small put in sites commonly used by yakers but not included in this listing would then presumably be exempt from coverage.

–  You seem to indicate that all water craft, including kayaks, that use areas adjacent to or near listed ramps (e.g., the large sandy area adjacent to the the ramp at Pirates Cove) will be subject to fees. Clarification on such areas covered is required.

–  A $10 daily fee seems a bit high relative to what other jurisdictions charge.  The fee imposed appears to relate to launching, not parking.  Would persons parking near a listed ramp to fish or for some other purpose pay a fee (recognizing it would be impossible to tell if the driver of that vehicle had launched)?  How would the fee be applied to 2 or more anglers parking separate vehicles near a boat ramp who meet to launch in a single boat? 

–  Would it be easier to administer / enforce a program involving fees for parking rather than launching at listed sites (as per Hunter Springs and Kings Bay parks for yakers) or impose separate fees for parking and launching (as at Pete’s Pier for boaters and yakers)?. 

–  The method used to collect daily fees MUST be made as quick and user friendly as possible.  The meters used at Hunter Springs and Kings Bay parks require inputting license plate numbers (which few remember) causing delays and backups.  The last thing you want are long lines of anglers, scallopers and paddlers waiting to pay their fees, followed by long lines of these same folks waiting to launch after they’ve paid. 

–  Annual passes may require inclusion of the vehicle license plate number to minimize the exchange of tags between users, and / or involve some form of permanent sticker affixed to the vehicle.  The pass would need to be removable if one user wants to use more than one vehicle to launch.        

–  How would ticketing violators be handled, and what fines / penalties would be imposed?

–  As you indicated, a detailed ordinance would be needed.  Ditto for signs posted at all launch sites.

As an avid kayak angler, my pitch is to place priority on projects geared to improving kayak launch sites and access in the county, including investigating the prospect of creating a premier paddling, eco-tourism and kayak fishing destination with regional appeal at Ozello Community Park through the acquisition of the adjoining private property (see attached overview of area).  For what it’s worth, a fairly comprehensive set of related recommendations is included on my website:   

Good luck,

Gary Rankel

Gary Rankel (
Kayak Fishing – Citrus County (

Even More on Toxic Sludge

November 2, 2018.  The following letter was sent to the Citrus County Commission on October 25, and was published today in the Citrus County Chronicle.

Dear Commissioners:

Jon Iglehart, Director, South District of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), has stated that arsenic levels at the Dunbar sludge site are unacceptable for residential and recreational use in Fort Myers, but acceptable for treatment at the LafargeHolcim (LH) industrial site in Crystal River.  Based on the toxicity standards established for these use areas, he is probably right.

Clearly, an increasing global demand for cement and concrete exists as nations develop and industrialize.  Transporting the material to and treating it in Citrus County may create a few temporary jobs.

Those are not good enough reasons to support bringing this sludge to the Nature Coast.

Mr. Iglehart no doubt knows more about the LH operation in Crystal River than I do.  I’ve never visited it or talked with any of its employees.  I have, however, uncovered information about its plant in Ravena, New York and other locations nationwide with histories of excessive pollutant emissions.  I’ve also come across articles describing disturbing activities at its plant in Syria to keep it operational, leading to criminal investigations and an indictment of the company this year by the Paris High Court in France.

Are we to trust LH to take all necessary steps to keep the sludge from leaching into a water supply that already contains high concentrations of arsenic?

Mr. Iglehart asks us to trust his depleted and underfunded DEP to provide proper environmental safeguards and oversight of the sludge treatment process, while shifting the blame for its abysmal watershed mismanagement record throughout the state.  Who then, bears responsibility for the deterioration of the Everglades, and the toxic guacamole-like summer slime events originating in Lake Okeechobee that have become the new normal, with devastating effects on once world class fisheries, tourism and outdoor recreation in the adjoining St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and distant communities on both east and west coasts.

Why on earth would anyone elected to serve the best interests of Citrus County support bringing this toxic material here?  Just to create a few temporary jobs?

You have to wonder if some form of political payback is in play.  I wonder how much the cement / concrete industry has contributed to the campaigns of persons running for office.

Gary Rankel, PackerYaker
1675 N Shadowview Path
Citrus Hills, Florida