|Gopher Tortoise, illegal to capture except by special permit, common is sandy long-leaf pine savannas, spend most of their time in long, deep burrows which provide habitat for other creatures and enable them to thermoregulate and avoid forest fires.|
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) closely regulates the types and number of turtles that can be harvested from the wild for different purposes, including personal use (i.e. eating) or raising on your own land for later personal use. It is illegal to sell turtles taken from the wild in Florida, and that rule may apply to their meat as well so do be careful.
"Freshwater turtles can only be taken by hand, dip net, minnow seine or baited hook. Most freshwater turtles may be taken year-round. Taking turtles with bucket traps, snares, or shooting with firearms is prohibited. Softshell turtles may not be taken from the wild from May 1 to July 31. In addition, collecting of freshwater turtle eggs is prohibited.
Some turtle farms depend on collection of wild freshwater turtles. With the new rule, certified turtle aquaculture facilities, under a tightly controlled permitting system, will be allowed to collect turtles to establish reproduction in captivity so that farms can become self-sustaining to lessen their dependence on collection of turtles from the wild.
Possession limits for the following turtle species and their eggs are as follows:
- Loggerhead musk turtles - two
- Box turtles - two
- Escambia map turtles - two
- Diamondback terrapins - two"
Information on sea turtle harvesting is not listed on the FWC official site, which leads me to believe that it is illegal in Florida waters. Interestingly, Gator-Woman claims that the largest threat to Florida's indigenous turtle population is that Chinese, a blatantly racist remark. She claims their love of turtle is skyrocketing the price of domestic turtle meat.
Once you acquire the turtle you can butcher immediately, or some would recommend storing the captive turtle securely in clean water for a day or more, providing feed for the turtle as well. This is to lessen the supposed "muddy" flavor of the meat.
The proper way to clean a carcass would involve enticing the turtle to bite a stick, then pulling its neck out as far as possible before slicing through as quickly and close to the base as possible, then hang by the tail to drain the blood. Next slice off the legs, tail, and shoulders for the meat. Remove the head from the neck and use the neck meat as well. Some open the shell to remove the fatty lining near the vertebra, or strap, as it is sometimes called. Frequently that step is omitted as opening the shell may not always be worth the mess or hassle. Care should be taken to avoid reflexive movement of jaws and legs which persist long after the turtle is decapitated.
Most recipes for preparing turtle meat call for creating a soup, stew, or possible deep-frying. Some cook with the bones, some remove the bones before cooking.