January 15, 2018


Legendary Guide Steve Huff Headlines Florida Fly Fishing Expo

The 2018 Florida Fly Fishing Expo in Crystal River on February 9-10 has scheduled legendary Florida Keys guide Steve Huff to show and tell some of his secrets for catching giant permit, tarpon, snook and other trophy gamefish on a fly rod.

Huff, who has been described as “the top fly fishing guide on the planet,” tops a schedule of more than 20 expert-led seminars and new fly fishing product displays at Plantation on Crystal River on Florida’s west coast. Admission to the two-day expo is $25 but free for those 12 and younger when accompanied by an adult.

The Florida Fly Fishing Expo is put on annually by the Florida Council of Fly Fishers International. President Tom Gadacz said, “We are so pleased to have Steve Huff coming to the Expo. This guy has a bank-vault of knowledge about catching big fish on the fly and he’ll share some hard-earned insights.

After earning a marine biology degree at the University of Miami in 1968 Huff started guiding in the Florida Keys. He pioneered fly fishing for tarpon, permit and snook in the Keys and also led clients to IGFA record tarpon near Crystal River and Homosassa. Sandy Moret, his good friend and a fellow fly fisher, once described Huff as “without question, the top fly fishing guide on the planet.”

On Friday, Feb. 9, Huff will present a tutorial about how to locate and catch permit on the fly. On Saturday he will discuss the importance of and how to make quick fly casts in all directions. As the featured speaker at the Expo’s closing banquet on SaturdayHuff will share insights he has learned from 50-years of guiding fly fishers to saltwater trophy gamefish.

More than 20 other sessions about how-to fly fish, fly cast and tie flies are scheduled indoors and outdoors at the spacious, waterfront resort of Plantation on Crystal River.

  • Fly Fishing for snook at night by Capt. Rick Grassett
  • Paddleboard fly-fishing by David Olson.
  • Fly casting tutorial for women by Mona Brewer, youth fly casting by David Lambert, emergency casting clinic by Pat Damico, and casting games led by John Hand and Jim Patchet.
  • Beginner and intermediate fly casting demonstrations by Capt. Pete Greenan.
  • Fly fishing for warm water fishes in North Florida by Tom Logan
  • Wading the flats by Leigh West.
  • History of women in fly fishing by Jen Ripple.
  • DIY bonefishing in the Keys and Bahamas by Capt. Bryon Chamberlin.
  • Fishing Mosquito Lagoon secrets by Capt. Frank Cantino.
  • Fly fishing for baby tarpon in the Indian River Lagoon by Capt. Eric Davis.
  • Effortless fly casting by Joe Mahler.
  • Fly fishing the Everglades by Ed Tamson.
  • Fly tying with synthetics by Dave Schmezer.

Sandy Moret Named Fly Fisherman Conservationist of the Year

Photo Credit: Sage Fly Fishing photo by Greg Poland.

Photo Credit: Sage Fly Fishing photo by Greg Poland.

A founding member of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Sandy Moret serves on the BTT Board of Directors and is the leading force behind the Now or Neverglades coalition. Moret, owner of Florida Keys Outfitters, has been fighting Florida's water management policies that favor Big Sugar for more than 40 years. He has worked to protect the Everglades and, of course, the region's amazing fisheries. Check out the organization at gladesdeclaration.org and learn why his partners at the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust nominated him.

A Call to Action for Anglers

 Photo credit: Paul Dixon

 Photo credit: Paul Dixon

In November, the Atlantic States Marine Fishing Commission, will decide on proposed changes to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for menhaden.
         One of the most critical issues for anglers is the development of menhaden-specific management metrics that account for the ecosystem-wide benefits they provide, including their critical role as forage fish. But we must also urge the commission to immediately move management of menhaden to a conservative harvest, while giving ASFMC experts time to develop these menhaden-specific metrics.
         Our future days on the water—not to mention the $27 billion in economic activity that recreational anglers generate depends on sportsmen and women taking a big stand for this little fish. We've made it easy to be a part of this public review process online—share your story with decision makers now.
         Support bringing forage fish management into the 21st century and ensure that future generations will have an opportunity to scan the horizon for the frenzied swoop of birds and the roiling waters of a striper blitz.

Beyond Bait

Photo credit: Paul Dixon

Menhaden are also the most heavily commercially fished species in the nation, though you will never see it on a menu or in a fish market. Billions are ground up and used in products such as fertilizer, pet food, and cosmetics. More individual menhaden are caught each year than any other fish species, and they are second only to Alaskan pollock when measured by pounds harvested.
         That commercial harvest could be costing sportfish a valuable food source. Unfortunately for the "most important fish in the sea," current management of menhaden stocks does not account for their critical role in the marine food chain. As a result, menhaden are managed in a way that puts gamefish populations, and our recreational fishing opportunities, at risk.
         However, anglers now have a brief window to speak up for improvements to the immediate and future management of menhaden, which would benefit sportfishing, water quality, and coastal communities.

Modernizing Management of the Most Important Fish in the Sea

John Gans - Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Anglers up and down the Atlantic coast know that a shortcut to finding gamefish is to follow the birds. When birds are working on the horizon, dive-bombing schools of menhaden—the meal that's also critical to many popular gamefish—you can't get out of the no-wake zone fast enough. It is going to be a good day of fishing.
          Atlantic menhaden, also known as pogey or bunker, are high-protein forage fish that striped bass, tuna, mackerel, sharks, drum, cobia, and tarpon from Maine to Florida depend on for food. You name it, if you are casting a line to it, it's most likely feeding on menhaden.
         Menhaden also help filter water and improve marine habitats. By feeding on algae-causing plankton, an adult menhaden can filter 2.4 gallons of water per minute. Their importance to the ecosystem is clear. Remove them, and the system breaks down.
         Simply put, there is no fish that means more to the East Coast than Atlantic menhaden, and their future is being determined right now.

Cold Snap Unlikely to Kill Florida Snook This Time

Brett Fitzgerald - The Snook & Gamefish Foundation

It’s chilly out there. In fact, it’s downright cold in some of Florida’s typically balmy coastal regions. Whether you appreciate the break from the heat or you are suddenly longing for our typically warm weather, it is worth taking a minute to think about how the weather impacts our snook and other tropical fish.

For many, the current dip in weather immediately reminds us of how badly snook were impacted back in 2010. Luckily, the current weather event is not projected to be nearly as impactful. Back then, we had freakishly cold temperatures for over a week, with drizzling rain and consistent wind. That led to a lot of ‘cold kill’ fish deaths.

So far, this event is shaping up to be less severe for a few reasons. First, it shouldn’t last nearly as long. Water cools much slower than the air, so a couple days of chilly nights and cloudy days is far less damaging than a week or more. It also has been a little cooler for a few days, which might have provided a signal for snook up in shallower waters to skedaddle to deeper, safer waters before the chill sets in.

Another difference between this snap and 2010 is the wind direction, which has a bigger impact on the fish along the west coast. Waters from the Everglades up through the Tampa area are a lot more shallow than on the east coast, where deeper waters – warmed from the tropical Gulf Stream – are right next door to many fish hang-outs.

If you’ll recall, the 2010 freeze featured consistent NE winds which blew the west coast tides out and never let them come back in. That trapped a lot of snook in the shallow back country, where they froze by the tens of thousands. If the current winds hold, there might be enough water in the cuts and runs for snook to head to the safety of warmer, deeper waters for a few days.

All that said, there will be cold related fish kills over the next week or so, and many of them will be snook. As usual, you can expect to see more of that along the northern fringes of the snook populations.

Usually, as the trapped snook start to chill, they will slow down and start to swim erratically near the surface, then eventually roll on their side or back and lay still in a stunned state. If it is only a short cold snap and the sun warms water right away, they might survive – at least for a while. But more than likely this leads to death.

As retired FWC snook guru Ron Taylor has pointed out to me many times in the past, many snook that survive the initial cold blast end up dying within a few weeks because their slime coating and/or immune system is damaged, and they are more susceptible to parasites and diseases.

If you are on the water a lot, you will probably see some stunned or dead snook. Here’s what you should do.

First, don’t touch them. If they look dead, they might not be and bothering them in their severely stunned state won’t be doing them any favors. And if they are dead and an FWC officer happens to find out you are grabbing them up, you won’t be doing yourself any favors either.

Your second move should be to report the killed fish to FWC’s Fish Kill hotline. You can do this by phone (800-636-0511) or online at http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/health/fish-kills-hotline/. This is actually better than calling your regional FWC office, even if you know there are snook researchers there. The reason is, the hotline is where the information is consolidated across the state, and that is the source of info that will tell the regional offices where to look for issues.

Finally, this little snap needs to serve us all as a reminder of the importance of logging all of our catches in iAngler, using the app or website (www.angleraction.org).  The 2010 snap is what started the iAngler program in the first place. Since then, the data has been used in stock assessments for a variety of species in Florida, and has branched out to help other fisheries better their understanding of the fisheries (most recently Atlantic Red Snapper). But it only works if we log our catches. It’s free, and it is a superior personal log book for you. Visit your app store and download the free app, iAngler, and start logging ASAP. This will help across all facets of fishery conservation, including how best to respond after a cold episode like this one.

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November 15, 2017


TOURNAMENT SALUTES WAR HEROES

War Heroes will compete with world-class anglers at the 6th Annual Cheeca Lodge All American Backcountry Fishing Tournament, November 16-18, 2017, at Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, Florida. In honor of Veteran's Day, the event will host two war heroes to join the competition. The acclaimed event was inspired by President George H.W. Bush, an avid Keys angler and a regular visitor to Cheeca. Proceeds benefit the locally based nonprofit Guides Trust Foundation (GTF) for Florida Keys guides in need.

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"This is a great opportunity for these war heroes to join discerning anglers from across the country as they hunt for the most elusive game fish in the world," said General Manager Bob LaCasse. "They have earned this chance to unwind and join the other anglers, while enjoying the fabulous fisheries of the Keys."

Anglers fish on a guided charter boat or their own boat with a licensed guide. They compete for trophies and awards for releasing five different species of inshore fish: snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon and permit. Individual and team trophies will be awarded for fly, general tackle/spinning/conventional and artificial lure divisions. Live bait is permitted in the general tackle division.

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Social events are held at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa, a sportsman paradise renowned for its barefoot elegance, with fishing departing from nearby World Wide Sportsman.

This tournament kicks-off on Thursday, November 16, with a cocktail reception, rules meeting, patriotic banquet on the beach and auction. Tickets to attend the kickoff dinner and auction are available to the community with advance reservations.

Competitive fishing hours are from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, November 17, and Saturday, November 18, 2017. The tournament culminates on Saturday with an awards ceremony and banquet, where anglers can mingle with fishing celebrities such as world-famous fly angler Stu Apte. Awards for Individual Grand Champion, Individual Runner-Up, Grand Champion Team, Runner-Up Grand Champion Team, Champions in the Fly, Artificial and General Tackle Divisions will be presented.

More details are available at cheeca.com/all-american.

LIVING SHORELINES MAY SOLVE EROSION AT CHESAPEAKE BAY

How anti-erosion measures hurt fish—and living shorelines may help.

by Amorina Kingdon - Hakai Magazine
 

Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

The land beneath Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is sinking. Couple that with climate change, and the sea level is rising twice as fast as the global average, chewing away at shorelines and drowning islands. Private landowners, who occupy about 85 percent of the shoreline, have responded with walls, rocks, and barriers, which have helped slow the losses. But evidence is growing that this coastal hardening may be insufficient at holding back future seas, and is doing serious damage to more than a dozen fish and crustacean species. Now, planners and landowners are hoping engineered living shorelines can solve both problems at once.

A hardened shore makes life more difficult for trout, perch, crab, and other species that need a natural shoreline to thrive, says Matthew Kornis, who recently published a paper evaluating the effect of shoreline hardening on these species.

Kornis, a fish biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, studied hundreds of sites in and around Chesapeake Bay, from natural beaches and marshlands, to shores lined with riprap (cages of loose rock) and bulkheads (walls, often wooden). The harder the shoreline, he found, the harder hit the species. This was true even for riprap, which is often considered more environmentally friendly than sheer walls.

Kornis says natural shorelines offer things hardened shorelines don't: juvenile fish live in the nooks and crannies of rocky shorelines, for instance, and these environments serve as nurseries. Fish also feed within beds of seaweed and seagrass. Hardening decimates these complex habitats, leaving nothing to eat and nowhere to hide.

Hardening isn't unique to Chesapeake Bay. Estimates suggest that about 14 percent of the United States' coast had been hardened, and the shorelines of Europe and China are also heavily armored. While the motivations for reinforcement vary (development, industry, sea level rise), most Chesapeake Bay residents are trying to protect their property from rampant erosion. Sea level rise is a relatively new problem for many coasts, but land subsidence means it's been the norm in the Chesapeake for a long time.

"Erosion has been happening for centuries," says Zoe Johnson, climate change coordinator with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Chesapeake Bay. Tide gauge data shows the water rose nearly a third of a meter in the past century. Similarly, the sea moved inland by roughly half a meter a year on average. But these rates are accelerating as climate change adds a rising sea to sinking land. "The influence of global factors will outpace the land subsidence," she says.

In the early 2000s, Maryland convened a climate change task force, including Johnson, to study how to better adapt to these future seas. They identified one promising method that seemed to stand up to the sea: living shorelines.

CLUB PROFILE: BACKCOUNTRY FLY FISHERS - Naples, Florida

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The Backcountry Fly Fishers of Naples, Florida was formed in 1993 to:
• Provide members a place to share fly fishing experiences in the interest of fun and fellowship
• Assist and educate members to improve their fly fishing skills and knowledge of the sport
• Promote conservation of natural resources
• Promote the sport of fly fishing in the community

Today the club has over 200 members. We have a monthly meeting featuring an expert speaker and fly tying demonstrations. Monthly outings provide an opportunity for members to fish in an interesting variety of area locations. Casting and fly tying classes are held monthly for beginners and advanced skill levels. Members receive a monthly the newsletter, the e-Breeze.

The Backcountry Fly Fishers is affiliated with the International Federation of Fly Fishers, an international organization of over 300 clubs, whose purpose is to provide a strong voice in the state and national conservation movement. The Federation provides fly fishing education programs and teaching aids.

The Backcountry Fly Fishers is affiliated with the American Casting Association (ACA). ACA is organized to foster national and international amateur sport competition in the sports of angling and casting.
 

MEETING INFORMATION:

Club meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome.
Meeting Location
Tiburon Golf Course Clubhouse
2620 Tiburon Dr., Naples, FL
Directions
On Vanderbilt Beach Rd., turn north onto Tiburon Dr.
On Airport-Pulling Rd., turn east onto Tiburon Blvd., then south (right) onto Tiburon Dr., to clubhouse.
Meeting Dates

Second Monday of the month October through May
Meeting Schedule
6:00-6:30 PM Socializing, activity sign up, raffle ticket sales, fly market
6:30-7:00 PM Announcements, activities schedule, business meeting
7:00-7:15 PM Demonstration
7:15-7:30 PM Break, activity sign up, raffle ticket sales, fly market
7:30-8:30 PM Program
8:30-8:45 PM Raffle
8:45 PM Adjourn
Next Meeting
December 11, 2017

After the Hurricane

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Needless to say, when major hurricanes sweep through an area, our first concern is for the people living there. In the aftermath folks close enough pitch in to help rescue those in need and later look for the missing. The rest of us that are far removed reach for our wallets to provide support for those efforts.

It is only later that we begin to ask how the fish and fisheries faired during those disasters. We now are far enough removed to ask those questions regarding both Harvey’s impact on the Texas coast and Irma’s in the Florida Keys and along with that state’s southwest coast where she made landfall.

Along the South Texas Coast, both strong winds and flooding were the dangers from Hurricane Harvey. In Houston’s Harris County alone, at some point, more than 1300 square miles were under water.

Fortunately for saltwater fly fishers in Houston, as soon as the week following the storm the three Fishing Tackle Unlimited stores, the Orvis Store, Bass Pro Shops, and Gordy & Sons Outfitters were all open for business and striving for some normalcy. Farther down the coast near Corpus Christi the popular Swan Point Fly Shop at Rockport did sustain damage, but by the end of September it too was up and running.

Obviously, the guide business took a double hit on this coast. Many guides were off the water trying to put their lives and property back together. Additionally, their local clientele was busy with those same chores, leaving no time for fishing.

As for the fish, most reports point to little to no effect. Redfish, trout and flounder have all been reported to be present, hungry and getting less fishing pressure. The biggest hazard for fishing has been the amount of debris in the water, necessitating extra care while running boats.

As for Hurricane Irma’s effect on fishing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda and surround isles, who knows? Those places are still in recovery mode and the infrastructure is in no shape to support visitors to find out.

The Florida Keys from roughly Cudjoe Key to Islamorada took the brunt of Irma and those islands were not opened to visitors until early this month. The entire stretch still is cleaning up and rebuilding. Hotels, restaurants, fly shops and guide services all are spotty at the moment.

Some reports filtering out point to the fishing having been basically unaffected. But, of course, as in Texas, debris in the water can be a hazard.

Along the Southwest coast of the Florida peninsula, it is a mixed story. Chokoloskee, Naples and Marco Islands all took a beating and much like the Keys are still recovering. Up at Fort Myers, the storm turned inland ravaging some of that city. But, the barrier isles of Sanibel, Captiva, Cayo Costa, as well as Pine Island and its namesake sound, were basically spared. They are open for business. Whitney’s Bait & Tackle and Norm Ziegler’s Fly Shop, both on Sanibel, have their doors open and are dispensing fly gear and fishing tips.

The staff of Southern Saltwater Fly Fishing was on Pine Island Sound the week following Irma’s visit to assess the fishing. While the waters were churned up and quite murky for that time of year, the area was alive with tarpon of all sizes. Up around the mangroves the snook were also feeding. Once the water clears, this part of the coast will be back to business as usual.   

Gulf Coast Fly Fishing Fair

The 4th Annual Gulf Coast Fly Fishing Fair is slated for September 16, 2017, at the Ocean Springs Civic Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The event is co-sponsored by the Gulf Coast Council of Fly Fishers International and the Historic Ocean Springs Saltwater Fly Fishing Club.

The public is invited with free admission for introductory classesfly tying demonstrations, regional fly fishing seminars, vendors, outdoors-related auctions and raffles of equipment, clothing and artwork. 

            Proceeds from the event will benefit programs at the University of Southern Mississippi – Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and Gulf Coast Council efforts, which include fly fishing programs with the Atchafalaya High Adventure Camp and other regional Scout troops and summer camps at the GCRL and various conservation projects recently including a reef building project on Mobile Bay.

Many of the best casting instructors and fly tiers in the region will be attending. Anyone who has ever thought about learning to fly fish, or just improving their skills, has a great opportunity to learn from the best. 

For more details visit gulfcoastfff.org.

Dual Function Angling Shirts From Capital Sportsman

Anglers in saltwater environments have two main concerns when it comes to shirts to wear. The first is protection from the sun, followed closely by comfort. If you are a traveling sportsman there are a couple of more things to consider. Having shirts that look good and that can do double duty both on and off the water make packing an easier chore.

A couple of lines of shirts from Capital Sportsman can take care of all of those concerns. One is the Hemingway Fishing Collection. These casual classic, performance, and rip-stop fishing shirts are ideal for the avid anglers’ need.

 


 

The Hemingway Collection

 

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At 4.5 ounces these 100 percent poplin cotton shirts are cool and comfortable. They feature two bellow pockets, a placket with seven wood-tone buttons, polyester mesh ventilation, a utility loop and roll-up sleeve tabs. These long sleeve shirts are available in four colors.


 

The Ultimate Hybrid Shirt

The other option is the Ultimate Hybrid Shirt. These shirts offer all the features anglers crave, but in stylish package that can be worn for evening functions as well. They feature extended sleeve plackets, open front pockets for easy access, a secure pocket for valuables and comfortable fabric.

Check out these flexible shirt designs at capitalsportsman.com.

Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir

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Progress is being made on the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir to the south of Lake Okeechobee in Florida. The project by the South Florida Water District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is designed to rectify conditions that have led to the loss of seagrass beds on both the east and west coasts of the peninsula, as well as in Florida Bay.

The project has been championed by many environmental groups, as well as the Everglades Foundation (evergladesfoundation.org) and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (bonefishtarpontrust.org.)

A deep above-ground reservoir, along with the features needed to meet state water quality standards, will be built on lands the state already owns, with the core being “A-2” parcel located between the Miami and North New River canals. It borders private agricultural land to the north, the “A-1” parcel to the east, the Miami Canal on the west, and the Holey Land Wildlife Management Area to the south. The Southwest Florida Water Management District will identify other state-owned land, as well as private property in the surrounding area, that could be purchased or swapped to achieve the optimal project configuration.

Preliminary project coast is estimated at $1.4 billion to be split by state and federal governments, as outlined in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

Project benefits are increased flow of water to Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys, while reducing damaging discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.


Flies for the Texas Coast

If you have plans for traveling to the coast of the Lone Star State anytime soon for some fly fishing, you might want to check out the website of the Rockport Fly Fishers first. The club was formed back in 2007 in the town just north of Corpus Christi on the south Texas coast. Their home fishing waters are on Copano and Aransas Bays that flank the town.

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If you click the link to Flies on their home page, you’ll find a detailed list of the main forage species targeted by game fish in this area. The list includes photos of the baitfish and crustaceans, as well as the flies that best imitate those creatures.

The club’s website is located at rockportflyfishers.com.

Mangroves on the Move?

Red mangroves growing along the shoreline. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Red mangroves growing along the shoreline. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Three species of mangrove trees are prevalent on the coasts of South Florida and two of them figure prominently in producing habitat for saltwater game fish. The red mangrove is found along shorelines and features a web of roots that form impenetrable tangles beneath the trees.     Black mangroves are also found near the shore and often are flooded by rising tides. They, however, don’t have the root tangle, but rather a series of root stubs that protrude up from the ground around the trees.

The white mangrove is found on higher, drier ground and has very little influence on fish species.

Mangrove forests often form on shallow flats and can collect debris and sand to eventually become islands. But, while still flooded the bases of the trees offer protection to a host of forage species, and hunting grounds for predators. Mangroves also protect shorelines from erosion, especially during gale and hurricane conditions.

In recent decades the Sunshine State’s mangroves have been disappearing to shoreline development in most areas of the state.  However, a new study published in the magazine Hydobiologia authored by Villanova Biology Professor Samantha Chapman, coupled with a report from Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientists, points to some good news on the mangrove coasts.

Prof. Chapman’s research shows that mangroves provide as much as eight times more protection for coastlines than do salt marshes, and the mangrove stands offer a much more cost effect form of protection than do man-made breakwaters.

As for the Smithsonian work, it used aerial photographs from 1984, overlaid by satellite imagery from 2011, to show the northern limit of mangroves at the 30-degree north latitude line, which is just north of St. Augustine. Surprisingly, it also showed that the mangrove trees were encroaching northward, with the greatest build up found in the area between 29 and 30 degrees of latitude. Through there the mangroves are replacing salt marshes.

The main reason for this expansion seems to spring from less extreme cold weather in this part of Florida in recent decades. The number of days when the air temperature fell below 25 degrees had declined during that period, allowing the tropical trees to move north.