• Biscayne National Park officials say they are preparing for the most dangerous weekend of the year in park waters — next weekend’s three-day Columbus Day holiday. Every year, thousands of powerboaters gather near Elliott Key to party, many of them spending the night at anchor. In the past 10 years, six people have been killed in boating accidents amid the long weekend of revelry. Park rangers, assisted by officers from other marine law enforcement agencies, will keep extra vigilant for drunken boaters, insufficient safety equipment, littering and other illegal practices. Violators could face fines of more than $5,000 and possible jail time. Meanwhile, park rangers and their law enforcement partners will host an informational seminar for boaters at 7 p.m. Wednesday at West Marine, 3635 South Dixie Highway, Miami, to help them to prepare for a safe Columbus Day.
• Crews of sailboats from 14-foot Beach Cats to large racing yachts are invited to compete Oct. 6-7 in the 2012 Bacardi Columbus Day Regatta, which will be held in Biscayne Bay outside of national park waters. Entry fee is $125, and the deadline to register is Tuesday. Visit columbusdayregatta.net.
• Fisheries conservationists are elated that the Billfish Conservation Act has passed in the U.S. Senate, and is now on the way to President Obama’s desk. Amid rare bipartisan agreement, the bill sailed easily through both houses of Congress over the past several months. The measure prohibits the sale of sailfish, marlin and spearfish in the United States, while still allowing traditional fisheries in Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Area. Swordfish, which NOAA Fisheries deems fully recovered, are not covered by the prohibition.
• Angler Rich Campiola won grand-champion honors in the Herman Lucerne Memorial Back Country Tournament held last weekend in Islamorada. Guided by captain Mike Makowski, Campiola caught and released seven species of fish for a total of 183.1 points. Anglers Jim Bokor and Robert Collins won the top team trophy, also releasing seven species with captain Richard Black.
• The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports it has confirmed two cases of a lethal, viral disease in white-tailed deer in North Florida and suspects it might have infected at least 10 others. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, is transmitted to deer by the bites of no-see-um gnats. Officials say it can not be transmitted to humans or pets. FWC wildlife veterinarian Dr. Mark Cunningham said in a news release he doesn’t expect any long-term impacts on the state’s deer herd because the disease usually disappears when cold temperatures halt insect activity.
• Hunting season for gray squirrels will open Oct. 13 on private land statewide. For hunting dates on public lands, hunters should consult brochures for individual wildlife management areas, or go online to MyFWC.com/Hunting.