Waccasassa River
The Waccasassa River near Gulf Hammock Wildlife Management Area

When you count the tropical coral reefs of Florida's Keys, the temperate hardwood forests, the Everglades, the slow-moving rivers that meander for miles and miles, the several hundred freshwater springs and more than 7,700 lakes larger than 20 acres, you can see that Florida has a large inventory of vegetation and wildlife habitats. And while there is a significant number of endangered and threatened species on the Federal and State Endangered and Threatened Species List, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is charged with the mission of making sure those lists don't get any longer. To that end, the Commission has a management interest in about 5.8 million acres of public and private lands in Florida, consisting of timber company properties, and land otherwise controlled by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Forest Service, Department of Defense, Florida Division of Forestry, Florida Department of Military Affairs, Florida Water Management Districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Recreation and Parks.

Officially, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission oversees 158 Wildlife Management Areas and Wildlife Environmental Areas. Some of these Wildlife Management/Environmental Areas coincide with National Wildlife Refuges, some with Florida State Forests, but most seem to be stand-alone properties where properly-permitted in-season hunting is allowed on commission-controlled lands. The majority of these properties are more rugged than your usual park and they offer significantly fewer amenities.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission also manages about 80 freshwater bodies of water scattered through the state. These are all designated Fish Management Areas and are often managed in conjunction with local counties and communities. Community-based fishing lakes and Commission-managed impoundments are typical properties on this list. These bodies of water are often stocked with sunshine bass, largemouth bass and channel catfish. To fish these waters, you'll want to have an up-to-date Florida freshwater fishing license. Many of these lakes also have special bag limits and restrict certain methods of fishing.

Note: PSGHA= Public Small Game Hunting Area