Archive for June, 2011

COOL SEA CREATURE ENCOUNTERS!!!

Posted by 30 June, 2011 (0) Comment

Hi Everybody!!! Welcome back!!! We’ve just finished up our third week of double session Adventure, and as usual, we had a BLAST!!! When I arrived at the dock bright and early for the Tuesday morning session I could tell we had another great group and were going to have another fabulous week!!! The kids were […]

Hi Everybody!!! Welcome back!!!

We’ve just finished up our third week of double session Adventure, and as usual, we had a BLAST!!! When I arrived at the dock bright and early for the Tuesday morning session I could tell we had another great group and were going to have another fabulous week!!! The kids were all there, early no less, excited and raring to go, smiling from ear to ear. And that’s just the way I love it!!! I hopped onto the dock to meet the parents and greet the kids, and the FUN began! As I walked, I looked down into the shallow water along the seawall and saw a 9 armed starfish burrowing out of the sand, variegated urchins along the wall, 2 octopus peeking out from their holes under the rocks, an eagle ray, 3 stingrays, a school of jacks and a striped burrfish swimming by. What a way to start the session!!! What a way to start any day!!! The morning group was already having FUN and we hadn’t even left the dock yet!!! And so was I!!!

Morning group

We spent the week boating, exploring and having non-stop adventure, morning and afternoon!!! It didn’t make a difference what session you were in. It was FUN FUN FUN, all day long!!! We explored the Rock Garden, the Big Sandbar, the South Jetty, Little Munyon Island, Starfish Prairie and more. We even went a bit offshore on one totally calm, flat day looking for sea turtles. And not only did we see sea turtles, but we saw something MORE!!! MUCH MORE!!! One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, but your going to have to keep reading to find out WHAT!!! Of course, we also spent a day Fishing where it was non-stop action from start to finish!!!! And did we Ever LOVE IT!!! The whole week was a blast and each session seemed to end way to soon!!!

Afternoon group

At the Rock Garden we saw the usual…. Hundreds of fish in every size, shape and color imaginable! From small barracudas to snook, seargent majors, porkfish, parrotfish, sheepsheads, grunts, snappers, angelfish, damselfish, butterflyfish, blennies and more. Every where you looked there was something else to be seen! There were fish in every direction!!! We didn’t know which way to look!!!

Rock Garden

We spent hours searching under the shallow rocks and found all types of hermit crabs, box crabs, rock crabs, porcelain crabs, swimming crabs, stone crabs, pistol shrimp, popping shrimp, blennies and more!!! We had so much fun finding, chasing and catching swimming crabs, we almost couldn’t stop!!! What a fun day underwater!!!

Fun day on the water

There was a plethora of things to discover, and discover them we did! One day, while swimming along the shallow rocks of the Rock Garden, AdventureKatie looked into a crevasse between 2 rocks and came up with a giant Measled Cowrie. The shell was totally covered by its mantle and looked more like a slimy short-spined sea urchin than a beautiful shiny brown and white, polka-dotted shell that is was. It gave the art of mimicry a whole new meaning! Nice find Katie! Way to Go!

measled cowrie

By the end of the week at the Rock Garden, we had found 4 different species of sea urchins, numerous species of brittle starfish and conchs, almost a dozen different species of corals and sponges, 8 different species of crabs and hundreds of different species of fish. The water was crystal clear all week, and everywhere you looked there was something to see and something new to discover!!! One of our favorite discoveries was a beautiful striped burrfish that we found hiding among seaweed along the bottom of the rocks. It was so darn cute, we just wanted to kiss it. That is, if it wasn’t so spiny and didn’t have a parrotlike beak that could nip you good!!!

Pucker up burrfish

We all spent a good bit of time taking turns checking him out and taking photos along the way. We loved the way it would puff itself up and become a short, stout, spiny pin-cushion. After we released the burrfish, it began to deflate, and then swam a few circles around AdventureLily as if to say, “goodby” before moseying on. They are always a great find and the kids love them! And so do I!!!

Striped burrfish swims by

On the Big Sandbar we found hundreds of Florida and West Indian fighting conchs and noticed they were all laying eggs. Cool to watch! We found dozens of squat lobsters and netted olive shells, and quietly observed tube worms slowly filter sand to digest the algae off each grain. One morning we found a huge Scaly Mantis Shrimp totally out of his hole, lying still in a tiny pool of water. It was a great discovery, and only the second or third time I have ever witnessed it! What LUCK!!!

Scaly mantis shrimp

Mantis shrimp get their name for the way they resemble the preying mantis insect with their large, stalked eyes and long spiked foreclaws which, when not in use, fold back into a claw slot in the leg. These powerful claws can easily slice a finger as well as capture prey! They are known as “thumb splitters’ by Caribbean fisherman. Bet you’ll never guess how I found that out, when, long ago, I wriggled my finger in one of their holes! OUCH!!!

mantis shrimp close-up

We found numerous box crabs and juvenile blue crabs and a couple of small chocolate chip sea cucumbers along the way. The kids had fun trying to find as many, and as many different species of hermit crabs they could find! Most were living in the discarded shells of fighting conchs that made for a great home. AdventureAlex and Max sure loved finding this one that wasn’t a bit shy!

Finding hermit crabs

We found a variety of starfish everytime we visited the Big Sandbar, from Beaded Sea Stars to Cushion Sea Stars and sometimes even the unusual 9 armed starfish that is mainly nocturnal. Always a great find and a wonderful treat for the kids! Of course I would have to make the most of this opportunity and take a few photos of the group with a 9 armed starfish on their heads. I could tell AdventureJacob was having a good time wearing this one as a hat!

Jakob & starfish

One afternoon we stopped to snorkle and explore a small vessel that had recently sunk just north of the Big Sandbar. It was already covered with barnacles and tunicates and loads of fish. There were dozens of juvenile blue crabs hiding underneath the boat and a few arrow crabs clinging towards the stern out of the current. It didn’t take AdventureMaxwell long before he caught one in his hand and held it up for us to see. Nice job Max!

Maxwell finds arrow crab

From here we swam to another smaller sandbar and explored along the shallows to see what we could find. Before long we had found dozens of netted olive shells, plenty of mantis shrimp holes and even a few more starfish. One afternoon little Max found a really cool beaded starfish that was in the process of regenerating the tips on 3 of its arms. It was neat to see how a starfish could grow its arms back after some other creature decided to have one for lunch! How cool is that!!

Max finds beaded starfish

Another morning while exploring the Big Sandbar we found an octopus that had been caught out of water by the falling tide and had died. We felt bad for it and wished we had come by sooner to have found it alive. We did love checking it out up close and personal, even when dead, and somehow this led to another photo opportunity to take some different photos of octopus that we hadn’t done before. That’s right! You guessed it! Dead octopus head photos!!! You just have to admit, AdventureBrett looks like he’s loving this! Well sort of ???

Brett with octopus head

One morning when the ocean was totally flat calm we drove the boat around to the South Jetty and parked a few feet off the beach. The water was crystal clear and there seemed to be thousands of tropical fish all along the shallow rocks. It was absolutely Great!!! There were so many different species of fish you couldn’t keep count! As we swam thru them, they would swirl all around us, sometimes just inches from our nose! We all just loved that!!!

South jetty

A bit further along the jetty we started seeing large numbers of short and long-spined burrfish swimming along in pairs. I found a nice big long-spined burrfish hiding in a crevasse between 2 rocks, seemingly uncorncerned that I was there. I carefully reached in and gently took hold around its midsection and pulled it out for the group to look at. A split second later it inflated itself like a ballon and became so full of long, sharp quills that I could hardly hold it. It poked me good a few times and I think the kids loved that too! One look at the photo and you can tell how it got its name and why it wasn’t too concerned I was there! I sure wasn’t going to try to eat it!!!

Long spined burrfish

On the way back to the boat, AdventureKatie found a cool Hairy Clinging Crab clinging to a rock with all its might. She called me over and it took all I had to pull that crab off that rock! Not only was it hairy, it was thorny like all get out and could hang onto that rock like Arnold Swartzencrab!!! And Arnold Swartzencrab it was!!! I think we could have used that crab as an anchor if we could have could tied a rope around it and dropped it on a rock where it could hang on! It was about that strong!! Nice find Katie!!!

Hairy clinging crab

The most wonderful underwater encounter of all for this week occurred just as we got back to the boat!!! One unbelievably cute manatee had decided to take a rest right underneath the boat while we were gone swimming along the jetty. As we got closer to the boat, it swam right up to us and just about laid right in our arms!!! It swam and rolled around us like we were long lost friends and brushed up against us over and over! It would come up right beneath us and almost lift us to the surface. It was just GREAT!!! It was one of the most friendliest manatees I have ever seen, and unbelievably cute too!!! Did we EVER LOVE that!!!

One cute manatee

Every now and then it would come right up to us and just lay there for us to scratch its back!!! It would gently roll back and forth underneath our hands while we scratched, like it just didn’t want us to ever quit! We spent a few moments appreciating every minute of that!! I could tell by all the happy squealing coming from the kids, this wondrously extra special manatee encounter would be something they would never forget!!! I know I won’t!!! What a GREAT DAY!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that!!! LOVE IT!!!

Friendly manatee underwater

Thursday was our fishing day, and of course, its hard to match the fun and excitement of that if you love fishing! Always non-stop action from start to finish and everyone caught a mixed bag of snappers, tomtates, caesars grunts, sailor’s choice, margates, spot-tail pinfish, porkfish and more!!! All in all, I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I NEED MORE BAIT!!!” over and over and OVER!!! The sound of that is still ringing in my ears!!! I could sure tell AdventureJulia sure loved catching this nice one!

Julia catches fish

On another day, we spent part of one morning and afternoon heading over to Little Munyon Island to do some seine netting in the shallow grass beds. The tide that day was extremely low and the shallow bar to the south was exposed for hundreds of yards. This extreme low tide gave us the very best opportunity to seine net in some areas that we never had before. It was neat to see and we all were excited to get started!!! The full moon sure made a difference for the tides this day.

Extra low tide

AdventureLilly and Noelle were among the first group to go seining and before long, they were seine netting like pros! On the very fisrt pull of the net they caught sea grass filefish, pipefish, mojarras, juvenile snappers and grunts, a couple of tiny hogsnappers, pink shrimp, grass shrimp, small blue crabs and even a few small checkered puffers! What a great way to start your very first day of seine netting!!! Way to go girls!!! YOU Rock!!!

Lilly & Noelle seining

One of the neatest fish we got that day was a nice, big, striped burrfish that inflated on demand. It became a thorny ball with short, curved spines. They are common to Florida and generally inhabit sea grass beds and adjacent reefs. The stripes help them to camoflauge amongst the sea grass where they are difficult to see in brackish water. I know AdventureJack sure loved holding this one! We all did!

Jack with striped burrfish

We spent rest of that morning at Little Munyon Island finding more large sea grass hermits than you could count, and short-spined sea urchins in every color you could imagine by the hundreds. Almost every urchin was covered and camouflaged by little shells held tightly to them by their tiny tube feet. They looked more like the bottom than urchins themselves. Neat to see them this way. Give them a few quick swishes in the water and the shells fall off, leaving you with a handful of urchins in a variety of colors. It didn’t take AdventureTrevor long to find his favorites!

Sea urchin collector Trevor

We snorkeled almost the whole way around Little Munyon Island finding blue crabs, hermit crabs, juvenile stone crabs, some small beaded starfish, a few small 9 armed starfish, and a dozen or more West Indian Sea Eggs . We found just about every color combination of short spined or variegated sea urchins you could imagine. My favorites were the bright white ones with dark purple spines that are hard to find, and I wasn’t succesful on this day! AdventureLilly seemed to like every one she found. I don’t think she cared what color they were. She was having FUN either way!

Sea urchin collector Lilly

When we came around the south end of the island I took the group over to a cluster of rocks hidden among the sea grass beds. I wanted to show them another species of sea urchin called a long-spined or diadema sea urchin. These are the big black ones with long needle sharp spines that can easily puncture the skin and break off in the flesh. They are most commonly found on the near shore reefs but this cluster of rocks seems to have one or two almost every time I look. They are best left alone but over the years I have learned how to handle them without getting stuck. My advice would be to don’t try this on your own!!!

Long-spined sea urchin and group

On the way back to the boat AdventureJulia came up with another large 9 armed starfish that was just crawling out of the sand and moving towards deeper water. They are fairly uncommon thru-out the Caribbean and seem to inhabit shallow sand or sandy mud bottoms. Exactly what we have here. It was another nice find and she held it up for us to see. Way to go Julia!!!

Julia finds a starfish

We spent some time taking turns checking it out.We watched as hundreds of tiny tube feet would wriggle non-stop, as if trying to right itself up from the palms of our hands. The kids loved that and it was just great to watch them all smile when it came to their turn to hold this starfish. I could sure tell AdventureNoelle was having FUN when her turn came around!!! Love that smile too!!!

Upside down starfish

One morning ,when the ocean was flat calm, I decided to take the kids offshore for a little bit to see if we could find a loggerhead or green sea turtle floating on the surface, catching its breath. Little did I know then what a wonderful decision that would be!!! We motored around for a bit in about 120 feet of water, then shut off the engines and drifted quietly. I had just got done telling them that on days like this, when the ocean is flat calm, and shiny like a mirror, you can sometimes see hammerhead sharks swimming lazily on the surface. Not a minute or two later, the ocean erupted a hundred feet in front of us, and a tremendous hammerhead shark came thrashing to the surface with another large hammerhead shark in its jaws!!! What a sight to see!!! So much for swimming “lazily” !!!

hammerhead 1

For the first minute or so I could believe what we were seeing, and I didn’t think to take a picture! I started the engines and quickly motored to within 20 feet of this unbelievable sight, wanting to see what was actually taking place! The ocean seemed to have come alive and walls of water were being thrown 15 feet into the air! We observed, what I would estimate as about a 10 to 12 foot hammerhead shark, being attacked by another monstrous hammerhead shark that I thought was closer to about 18 feet!!! It was just INCREDIBLE!!! and one of the neatest things I HAVE EVER SEEN!!! MAY EVER SEE!!! All this action taking place at about 30 miles per hour!!! What a SIGHT!!! As we came closer, the monster shark let go this shark, and swam deeper down, and just kept circling around us, below.

hammerhead 3

This 10 to 12 foot hammerhead shark, that seconds earlier was in the jaws of the other, swam straight towards the boat as if looking for something to hide behind! For two to three minutes it never left the vicinity of our boat while the other, much LARGER shark kept circling below. This shark appeared totally exhausted and spent, probably trying to flee for its life, and at this time could hardly swim! I did not get a photo of that monster shark as it never came up close enough to the boat for me to take a decent picture. Shortly after I took this photo below, this shark swam away from the boat down a bit deeper, and I watched as that monster shark came racing in and grabbed this one again, thrashing him in its jaws and swimming deeper into the depths, until they disappeared from our view!!! JUST UNBELIEVABLE!!!

hammerhead 4

To witness what we saw was most unbelievable to say the very least!!! One of the most EXCITING and INCREDIBLE things I have ever seen or may ever see in my life!!! I will always wish I would have thought to start taking photos sooner, but I was so awestruck I couldn’t think to take a picture, as I looked on in amazement!!! WHAT A DAY!!! WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!! WHAT AN ADVENTURE!!! WHAT MORE CAN YOU SAY!!! WISH YOU ALL COULD HAVE BEEN THERE!!! IT WAS JUST GREAT!!! The kids summed it up perfectly when I asked them how they felt after seeing THAT!!! Their response was, ” IT WAS AWESOME!!!!” I FEEL THE VERY SAME WAY!!! AWESOME!!!!! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE WEEK!!! IT JUST DOESN”T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!!! AND I CAN”T WAIT TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, NEXT WEEK!!!!

See you soon!!!

AdventureMike

Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!

AdventureMike

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Summer Time Fun Continues into Week 2

Posted by 24 June, 2011 (0) Comment

Hi Everybody!!! Welcome Back!!! I’m finally getting a chance to write about our second week of Fun and Adventure. And what a week its been!!! Just like the first week, its been fast action Adventure Fun from dawn to dusk too!!! Non Stop fast Action Fun!!! Been so busy adventuring and running double session camps […]

Hi Everybody!!! Welcome Back!!!

I’m finally getting a chance to write about our second week of Fun and Adventure. And what a week its been!!! Just like the first week, its been fast action Adventure Fun from dawn to dusk too!!! Non Stop fast Action Fun!!! Been so busy adventuring and running double session camps that I can’t seem to ever get a chance to sit down for a bit and write my blog! So todays the Day! And just like last week, I had two great groups of kids, perfect weather all week long and non stop fun and excitement like there was no tomorrow!!! From one group to the next, its been a Blast! As soon as I would drop off the first group, the second would arrive and off we’d go again, looking for adventure and creating our own!!! Just the way I love it!!!

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For this week, the tides were low incoming in the morning and high out going in the afternoon. Sometime each day we would visit the Rock Garden to go snorkeling and the Big Sandbar to go exploring. Everyone of us had a chance to explore and discover new things. And explore and discover new things, We Did! From manatees, sea turtles and Giant Barracudas, to horseshoe crabs, spider crabs, squat lobster and more! It was a Great Week, and one thing for sure, we kept busy non-stop!!! What a week it was!!!

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We spent a few hours everyday exploring the Rock Garden. And as Usual, there were fish everywhere to be seen! We had so much fun snorkeling, observing and chasing fish, looking under rocks catching all sorts of different species of crabs, finding sea cucumbers, conchs and shrimp. You name it, we found it, and of course we tried to catch it just for FUN! Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn’t but it was just GREAT all the same!!!

4 having fun

AdventureMichael and Gabrielle spent a good bit of time finding fighting conchs by the hundreds. In no time at all they collected them by the handfuls! They were everywhere to be found! They literally covered the bottom! Most were West Indian fighting conchs and a few others were Florida fighting conchs. The West Indian species can be identified by having dark reddish brown to purple interiors while the Florida species has an orange to almost bright red interior and a little more knobby around the spire.

Michael, Gabrielle & fighting conchs

AdventureAJ spent a good bit of time searching for swimming crabs under rocks and collecting star eye hermit crabs by the dozens! Most were living in the empty shells of fighting conchs that were strewn along the bottom. A bit later, AdventureMichael gave a hand and in no time at all they came up with some nice and impressive swimming crabs for all to see! Nice job guys!!! Didn’t get pinched either! Way to go!!!

swimming crabs galore

Another day while we explored the lagoon on Peanut Island, AdventureJulia found 3 different species of sea urchins that she collected to show and share with us. The one she liked best was a nice big slate-pencil urchin that she found stuck between two rocks. It was using its stout spines like anchors to wedge itself in place. Another was a smaller reef urchin feeding on the algae covering the rocks and the most common of all was the variegated sea urchin that she found by the dozens!

Julia finds 3 species of urchins

By the end of the week at the Rock Garden we had schools of parrotfish following us, hoping to steal our swimming crabs, rock crabs and juvenile blue crabs for a meal! We had 3 big sheephead following us too and they wanted to steal our crabs as well. I think they were beginning to recognise us! The second we got in, here they came! Just as if we rang the dinner bell!!! All of us thought that was Cool! AdventureEthan came up with a swimming crab with giant pinchers that was so big even the sheephead thought better than try to eat this one, claws and all!!!

Ethan with one big crab

One day at the Big Sandbar we stopped by to do a bit of exploring and snorkeling and found hundreds of fighting conchs along the north edge of the bar. They were so thick along the bottom you couldn’t put your foot down without almost stepping on one. In some places they were so concentrated you almost couldn’t see sand between them! It was a great discovery and we all loved that!!! The kids collected a few dozen, placed them in one big pile and nick-named it “Conch City”. And I had to agree, it looked like a ‘conch city” to me!

Conch city

We spent a bit of time exploring around the sandbar and found numerous beaded starfish, juvenile blue crabs, found tons of mantis shrimp holes with even a few shy, beady-eyed mantis shrimp peeking out to look at us! We always love seeing that! This is the only creature I know of in the marine environment that has 360 degree vision, and they are darn smart and wary too!!! I thought one of the coolest finds at the sandbar was a banded sea star that we found just popping out of the sand! AdventureHunter shows us his find! It was the very first one I’ve seen here. And a nice find it was!!!

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Another day, while exploring the Big Sandbar, we found dozens of juvenile queen conchs and watched as the congregation of fighting conchs we found earlier in the week, were laying eggs. They would seemingly glue long strings of eggs to grains of sand, and somehow roll them into tight round balls. It was a cool thing to watch as hundreds of conchs were laying eggs all at the same time! One of the neatest things AdventureStella found this day was an extremely large 9 armed starfish that seemed to be about half her size! Way to go Stella!

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Later that day we walked over to another sandbar that was exposed to the west of us and found dozens of netted olive shells burrowing tunnels thru the sand and about a half dozen juvenile box crabs that were crawling back to deeper water. We didn’t find as many fighting conchs on this sandbar, and we thought it was neat how they somehow ‘knew” to congregate all in the same place at the same time! I guess released pheromones plays a big part in that. Another cool thing we found on this sandbar that we didn’t on the other, was dozens of squat lobsters just beginning to burrow out of the sand. I could tell AdventureAmanda sure loved finding this one!

Amanda with squat lobster

On the round about way back to the boat we stopped to explore and snorkle around an old sunken boat in about 4 feet of water. It was surrounded by thousands of menhaden in a tight school, swimming seemingly endless circles around the boat. We found a couple of arrow crabs clinging to the barnacle covered sides. While we were scuffling our feet along the bottom, AdventureNicholas came up with a nice 9 armed starfish that seemed to fit perfectly right on his head! Another nice find!

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Thursday was our fishing day, and as usual, everyone caught fish one after another!! Tomtates, sailors choice, pigfish, porkfish, pinfish, porgies. margates, lane snappers and more! You name it, I think we caught it!!! Fish after fish after fish!!! All day long!!! Just the way it always is!!! More often than not, everyone had a fish on, all at the same time!!! And I certainly was running behind taking fish off on that day!!!

Fishing day!

While fishing the artificial reef during the morning session, we had so many fish coming in one after another, we attracted a hungry barracuda that decided to hunker down right under the boat and have a few of our fish for lunch! It wasn’t long before we started to lose our fish to that toothy critter! An especially exciting moment occurred for AdventureMichael when one of his tomtates came up partially filletted before reaching the boat! Way to go Cuda!

Something bit my fish!

During the afternoon session we started out fishing the artificial reef and caught the typical grunts, snappers and tomtates by the hundreds. Nothing of any size though. We just couldn’t seem to get our baits past the schools of smaller fish hovering over the reef by the thousands. A few times we threw our lines out away from the rocks and the reef and came up with some flounder that the group loved catching! Not the typical fish you usually catch in the summer time. We seem to catch the bigger flounder during our Christmas and Holiday Camp sessions and sometimes early in the Spring sessions too. either way though we had FUN catching these! I know AdventureBella sure did!

Bella with flounder

From here I decided to move to my secret lane snapper hole where the action is not as fast and furious, but sometimes you get some decent size fish. Little did I know then how BIG the next fish was going to be!!! And today was going to set the new standard for the BIGGEST FISH caught and boated at any of AdventureMike’s Camps!!! On the lightest tackle no less!!! We no sooner pulled up to the spot, dropped anchor, let the lines down and WHAMMO!!! AdventureDylan hooks a BIG Lane Snapper! As she is reeling that fish in on 6 lb test ultra-lite spinning tackle, some Monstrous Barracuda decides to have it for lunch and eats it 6 inches rom the side of the boat!!! The drag on the reel screams out, stops for a second, then the rod bends double and the reel screams again!!! I thought it was never going to stop!!! AdventureDylan fights like a champ, long and hard till she has nothing left! Finally, with the rod bent straight by the weight of the Big Fish, she begs me to take the rod before it is pulled from her hands!!! A half hour later we boat this HUGE barracuda that was foul hooked under the belly by the # 2 circle hook when it pulled from the snappers mouth!!!

Dylan's Monster Barracuda!

Later when I got home and weighed that fish, it turned out to be a hair over 49lbs. Not bad on 6lb test and no wire leader!!! What a FISH!!! What a DAY!!! What a GREAT JOB you did Dylan!!! YOU ROCK!!! And that ain’t no fish story!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that!!! Don’t know how we’ll ever beat that!!! But I’m sure going to try… :-)

Another day we spent snorkeling around Sea Urchin Shoals and found so many variegated and short spined sea urchins you couldn’t keep count. They came in a variety of colors, from snow white to dark green, brilliant purple to light pink. Just about every color combination you could think of!!! It was great and we had so much fun collecting them all and checking them out. It didn’t take Adventure Dylan and Julia long to find the colors they liked!

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AdventureBeau spent some time searching the shallow sea grass beds looking for a much more rare or uncommon sea urchin called a West Indian Sea Egg. They are not real easy to find and I am always looking myself. They are round and black, have very short spines and seemed to have tiny tube feet by the thousands! When held under water in the palm of your hand, those tiny tube feet will grasp ahold and firmly attach themselves to your hand like they belong there! Every kid loves when it happens to them! I know I sure did when I was a kid too! Nice find Beau!

beau with west indian sea egg

A short while after this AdventureDylan spots a giant spider crab crawling thru the sea grass beds and gives chase! After numerous squeals of laughter, excitement and/or sheer terror; or maybe all the above, she comes up holding this beauty just the way she’s supposed to without getting pinched! Way to go Dylan!!! That’s one nice, big, thorny spider crab!!! And you still have all your fingers!! Alright!!!
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From here we mosied over to Little Munyon Island and swam around the island to see what we could discover. We all found some really cool things but adventureNeil took the cake when he yelled, “horseshoe crabs, horseshoe crabs” and a split second later came up holding a pair by the tail! They are actually related to spiders and components in their blood are synthesized and used in medicine to make blood thinners and anti-coagulants for heart attack and stroke victims. How cool is that, that your very life could be saved by this amazing creature!!! It was a great find! Nice Job Neil!

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Another day while we were snorkeling at Little Munyon Island, searching around the mangrove roots and rocky shoreline to see what we could find, I heard adventureDylan yell, ” A pufferfish, a pufferfish!” and I swam over to take a look. Sure enough, AdventureDylan had found a cute striped burrfish that was lying motionless on the bottom, half hidden amongst the weeds. I’m sure it thought its camoflauge good enough to fool even the most diligent hunter. But not good enough to fool AdventureDylan!!! She seemed to be finding just about everything I could think of lately! You’ve come a long way since that very first year you came to my camp! way to Go!!! Another Great find!!!

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A short time later AdventureJulia and Bella came up with a pair of horseshoe crabs on their own and we all took turns checking those horseshoe crabs out up close and personal as well. I always wish we would be able to find these wondrous creatures everytime we come here and lately, luck has been on our side! Hopefully this species is making a comeback around the lake worth lagoon, or maybe we are just getting luckier or better at finding them. Either way I love it! Nice job Girls!!! Way to Go!!!

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During one of the morning sessions, we stopped by Starfish Prairie to search for some large cushion starfish commonly found here. It is about a 200 yard wide, shallow rocky bottom, full of short spined sea urchins, fern-like Calerpa algae and a few sandy patches full of small clams. Just right for keeping a Cushion Starfish happy and well fed! Needless to say, we found quite a few, but one of the coolest things we discovered while searching for starfish was a sandy patch full of some large live sandollars that I have never found here before! It was a great discovery! I know AdventureJackie thought so!

Jackie with sand dollar

On the way back to the boat, I heard AdventureChase yelling he’s found some horseshoe crabs too and after a few squeals of laughter, he came up with a big smile on his face, and a horseshoe crab in each hand! Way to go Chase!!! I think we found more horseshoe crabs this week than what we found in total all last year! Hope it last all summer! Wouldn’t that be GREAT!!!

Chase with horseshoe crabs

One afternoon we spent an hour doing a bit of seine netting in the shallow grass beds but the tide was so high we didn’t have any real beach to pull the net up on to. Usually we come up with hundreds of juvenile fish and a variety of shrimp and crabs but today the grass beds were too deep to do any successful seining. We had a blast all the same and it was fun for each child to give it a try!

Seine netting

We did catch a couple of checkered pufferfish which have to be one of the most favorite fish the kids like to catch, along with a few pipefish, mojarras, needlefish and a few juvenile grunts and snapper. All pufferfish are capable of giving one a good bite if you don’t hold them properly. Make sure to keep your fingers away from their mouths! Once inflated, they are easily held but since I couldn’t get this one to stay “puffed up” I held him myself to show the kids. They seemed to love it all the same!

checkered puffer and group

One morning I took the group to look for juvenile and sub-adult sea turtles that I had observed a few weeks earlier feeding on the shallow sea grass just to the west of Singer Island. I carefully motored in to shallow water and shut off the engines to drift. We spent a few minutes observing and counting all the different turtles we saw coming up to breathe. We spotted 19 different turtles in the first 15 minutes! What a day, and shortly after that it got even BETTER!!! While we were sitting quietly observing the turtles, 2 manatees came slowly swimming along, spotted the boat, and swam directly towards us. A few of the kids put their hands in the water and the manatees came over and began nuzzling their hands like they were long lost friends! It was a wonderful encounter for all of us!!!

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For the next 2 hours those manatees never left the side of the boat. They would lie right up against the boat and roll back and forth along the side, seemingly using our boat as a scratching pad. Of course the kids loved this!!!, and so did the manatees!!! Every now and then some of the gang would gently reach over the side and give one of the manatees a scratch on the back. They would arch their backs out of water as if to say, “Please scratch me some more”, and not move an inch while they were being scratched. Maybe they thought we were some giant cleaner fish, who knows, but the kids were having the time of their lives and so was I !!! It was just GREAT!!!

friendly manatee

Sometime later, as the water level got deeper, the manatees sauntered off a few feet and began eating sea grass like we weren’t even there. The would lift their heads out of water with mouths full of weeds, shake back and forth, and gobble it down. Mouthful after mouthful after mouthful! What a site to see!!! It was absolutely fabulous!! We felt so lucky to have had the opportunity to experience this! I’m sure the kids will never forget it! I know I won’t!!!

What a wonderful day!!! A short while later they swam off as a pair and disappeared into deeper water. We loved every minute of it!!!

Off they go

All in all, it was an incredible week for all of us!! An Adventure we soon won’t forget!!! We had so much FUN, so much ADVENTURE!!! And the kids were just Great!!! Even when some come wearing “chicken hats” , which I loved by the way!!!, I’m sad to see them leave!!!

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Of course all this FUN has left me looking forward to this up coming week. A new Adventure to be shared with an exciting new group of Adventurers. Who knows what we may discover, but one things certain, We Are Going To Have Some FUN!!! Stay tuned, and see what the next week brings!!! Could things possibly get any better??? Hope you’ll join us!!! I’m going to give it my best!!!

Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!

AdventureMike

Categories : Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , ,

Summer Time FUN Begins!!!

Posted by 13 June, 2011 (0) Comment

Summer Time FUN Begins!!! Hi Everybody, Welcome back!!! We’ve just finished up the first week of Fun and Adventure and as usual, it has started out with a great big BANG!!! Non-stop, fast action fun, pulling double duty sessions from dawn to dusk! Things just couldn’t have started out better! Two great goups of kids, […]

Summer Time FUN Begins!!!

Hi Everybody, Welcome back!!! We’ve just finished up the first week of Fun and Adventure and as usual, it has started out with a great big BANG!!! Non-stop, fast action fun, pulling double duty sessions from dawn to dusk! Things just couldn’t have started out better! Two great goups of kids, perfect weather all week long and non stop fun and excitement like there was no tomorrow!!! From one group to the next, its been a Blast! As soon as I would drop off the first group, the second would arrive and off we’d go again looking for adventure around every twist and turn and bump of a wave! From sunrise to sunset, Fun Fun Fun, 4 days in a row!!! Just the way I love it!!!

morning group

In the beginning of the week for the morning session, the tides were high, the water crystal clear and fish were everywhere to be seen! We would start each morning session out snorkeling and end each afternoon session exploring the sandbars and shallow estuaries looking for treasures just waiting to be discovered. And discover them we would! From manatees and bottlenose dolphin to dwarf sea horses and octopus we seemed to find it all! Each group had a chance to find and discover something special that put a smile on all our faces!!! It left us looking forward to the very next day to do it all over again!!! Things just don’t get any better than that!!!

afternoon group

Through-out the week we explored the Big Sandbars around Peanut Island and found many wonderful and cool things. The tide seemed to be about as low as I could remember and the sandbar stretched for hundreds of yards in every direction. It didn’t take us long to find hermit crabs, box crabs and juvenile blue crabs by the dozens. As we were walking from one sandbar to the next we came upon a nice big Cushion Starfish and all took turns checking it out! It seemed to fit perfectly on AdventureNick’s chest!

Nicholas, starfish and group

Around the shallow edge of another sandbar the morning group found a handful of really nice beaded starfish that were just beginning to pop out of the sand and move to deeper water. We collected a few to take pictures and noticed that many were beginning to grow new tips on their arms where a seagull or crab had nipped them off. This gave us a chance to talk about how starfish can regenerate new arms if they happen to lose one or two to a predator. I think AdventureBrianna and Krissy just enjoyed finding them most of all!

Brianna & Kristine

Another afternoon we took a long walk around the west edge of the Big Sandbar and came upon hundreds of florida and west Indian fighting conchs in a shallow pool surrounded by the dry bar. Right in the very middle of them was a big horse conch with his “suction cup foot” wrapped around a fighting conch, sucking it right out of its shell, having it for lunch! Horse conchs are the largest shell found in north america and can grow to a length of 38 inches. They feed almost exclusively on other shells, and this one seemed to be right where he belonged! It was a cool find for us!

fighting conchs galore

On the way back to the boat we found a few baby’s ear mollusks, a bunch of star eye hermit crabs with the most saphire blue eyes you could ever imagine and a couple of red banded hermit crabs too. Just as we were crossing from one bar to the next, AdventureAidan came upon another big bright red cushion starfish and of course we had to stop to take a few pics of this one too! I could sure tell she had fun finding this one too! We all did! Her smile was contagious!

Aidan finds a big starfish

While we were all busy checking out AdventureAidan’s cushion starfish, her big sister, AdventureRyenne, was busy finding some really cool beaded starfish that had some lovely bright orange “beadwork’ all around the very edges of the arms. These were much more spectacularly colored than most of the beaded starfish we find. This one here seemed to fit just perfectly right on the very bridge of Ryenne’s’ nose as if it belonged there all along! I could tell AdventureRyenne was having FUN too! Cool look also!

Ryenne having fun

Just as we got to the boat we saw something pop out of the sand, crawl about for a bit, then sit still not moving an inch. We went over to investigate and found a really cool and unusual squat lobster rarely found around here. Good thing we came upon it first rather than a seagull, otherwise it would have been lunch! We checked it out up close and personal for a bit, then brought it to the edge of the bar and let it go. In a blink of an eye it buried under the sand and was gone from view.

Nicholas with squat lobster

Thursday of course was our fishing day, and as usual, we caught fish like there was no tomorrow!!! Sometimes you couldn’t count 3 seconds before having a fish on!!! We caught so many different species of fish I could hardly keep track!!! Good thing one of my very best friends, CaptainBill came to help out or I would have been stuck in the weeds taking fish off and baiting hooks. We must have caught and unhooked between 300 and 400 grunts, snappers, tomtates and sailors choice in 3 hours and I certainly couldn’t have done THAT without his help!!! Good Job Bill!!! It was non-stop action from start to finish!!! Just the way I LOVE IT!!!

3 fish on

For the afternoon group we went to one of my other secret fishing holes that doesn’t have as many fish or non-stop action, but does seem to have bigger fish and more lane snappers than most other spots we fish! Everybody caught a ton! Every now and then a few of our lucky anglers will hook into a nice porgy that not only fights like crazy, but tastes great pan fried too!!! They are one of my favorite fish to eat, and today, AdventureMax and Casey caught some nice big ones! I know AdventureRyenne loved that since she had been wanting and craving a fish dinner, and home for her dinner they went!!! Nice Job!!! Yumm…

Casey catches a porgy

A short time later AdventureRachel caught a nice big black and yellow porkfish that seemed to stand out nicely in front of her bright red shirt for a great photo op. These species of fish are hard to hook as they have small mouths and feed mainly on invertebrates but fight well once you get one on the line. There was no doubt in my mind she was loving every minute of that bringing it in on ultra lite tackle. Way to go Rachel!

Rachel catches a porkfish

Another day we stopped by Sea Urchin shoals to collect a few short spined and variegated sea urchins to check out. Within minutes we found a ton amongst the sea grass happily munching away. On this day, most of the ones we found were green with pink tips to the spines and a few whitish pink ones that would stick on to your hands with their tiny tube feet and just about never let go! It was obvious AdventureBrian was sure having fun pretending he had sea urchin eyeballs as he mosied about!

sea urchin eyeballs

For the afternoon group we moved a bit further down the shoals to a rocky area where I hoped to find a few of the long-spined sea urchins that have become a bit uncommon ever since the world wide sea urchin blight that devasted this species in the early 90′s.This species has numerous long thin needle sharp spines that can easily puncture the skin and break off in the flesh. This species is best LEFT ALONE!!!, but sometimes can be carefully handled by me from underneath where their spines have been worn down and dull from crawling about. Do not attemp this on your own and be prepared to be spined on numerous occasions. While gently and carefully trying to place this on AdventureMatthews hands, I was stuck at least a half dozen times. Him not once! Its painful for a while but eventually goes away!

Matthew with long-spined urchin

A bit later in the day while snorkeling in a new area, we found a few reef urchins that were much easier handled with less chance of getting stuck! I could tell AdventureCasey had no qualms picking up this one and holding it up for a picture or two. These are more commonly found on the offshore reefs but occasionally can be found inshore on a rocky bottom grazing on the algae growing on the rocks.

Casey with sea urchin

We spent a few hours everyday exploring the Rock Garden. There were fish everywhere and the water was crystal clear! We had so much fun observing and chasing fish, looking under rocks catching all sorts of different species of crabs, finding sea cucumbers, conchs and shrimp. You name it, we found it, and of course we tried to catch it just for FUN! Sometimes we were succesfull, sometimes we weren’t, but we had FUN trying none the less! It was just GREAT!

5 underwater

Another afternoon we spent snorkeling the lagoon on Peanut Island and spent about an hour swimming with a juvenile manatee that did his best to ignore us. It was a fabulous encounterand we all loved it!!! Along the way we found dozens of large variegated sea urchins grazing on algae covering the rocks. Each one had covered themselves with dozens of live hermit crabs in an attempt to camoflauge themselves from nearby predators. We thought that was cool too and spent a good bit of time searching to see who could find the largest one. AdventureMax found a nice one and we all checked it out up close and personal!

Max, urchin and hermit crabs

From here we snorkeled along the deeper edge of the lagoon and found dozens of live hawkwing conchs, juvenile queen conchs, a few large sea cucumbers and saw hundreds of parrotfish, snappers, grunts, juvenile barracudas and quite a few angelfish and reef butterflyfish. It was a beautiful area to snorkle and AdventureAidan found a fairly uncommon slate-pencil urchin that I thought made a fabulous photo opportunity when she stuck it on her head. To me, it looked just like it belonged there all along. Cool Find!!!

Aidan with pencil urchin

Just as we were about to call it a day and head back to the boat, AdventureRyenne spotted a large porcupinefish swimming along the wall. She asked if I could catch it so she could check it out. I slowly swam up behind so as to not spook it, and when it was within range of my hands I quickly reached out and carefully took hold. A second later it inflated itself with water, ballooned to twice its normal size and became a large thorny ball. Extreme caution must be taken when handling these as they are capable of inflicting a nasty bite. Keep your fingers and hands away from the mouth! AdventureRyenne sure had FUN checking this Big Burrfish out!!!

Ryenne with burrfish

Another afternoon we stopped by the Big Sandbar at an extreme low tide and were able to walk the whole way to Peanut Island without even having to swim. A distance of about an 1/8 of a mile.I t was just unbelievable! The bar seemed to be exposed for ever and we found tons of cool things!! ! We walked the whole way to the Rock Garden for a quick snorkle and came upon a beautiful green sea turtle that swam right up to us, literally just about into our hands. It was just GREAT and we all loved that!!! Later, on the way back to the boat, AdventureNicholas picked up a good sized piece of granite that was lying on the beach. It had to weigh about 60lbs or more! I bet he and Max couldn’t carry it the whole way back to the boat, and just to prove me wrong, they did!!! Way to go!! You guys ROCK!!!
pardon the pun, of course… :-)

The Rock!

The next morning the group wanted to go seine netting along the backside of Little Munyon and along the way we stopped at Starfish Prairie to check out a few of the large Cushion Starfish that are commonly found here. These are the largest species of starfish found in this area. We picked up a couple and placed them in a large bin of water to check out, then hurriedly took a few photos with the group and released them where we had found them. AdventureMatthew sure thought this was FUN!!! We all did!!!

Matthew with cushion starfish

From here we continued towards Little Munyon Island and along the way, we spotted a few manatees with calves feeding along the shallow sea grass beds. Every few seconds they would lift their heads out of water with a mouthful of sea grass and munch it down. We stopped, shut off the engines and drifted slowly by, observing them all the while. At one point they swam right up beside us as if to say hello, then later, went back to their feeding, seemingly oblivious that we were there. It was a fabulous encounter for us all!!! We just loved it!!!

Watching 2 manatees

Finally we made our way to the island and hopped out with the seine net to see what we could discover hidden amongst the shallow sea grass. This is always one of the kids favorite things to do. You never know what you may come up with. On the very first pull of the net we came up with some juvenile barracudas, lots of file fish, tiny yellowtail snappers, grunts, mojarras, a few hogfish, loads of sea grass shrimp and some big pink shrimp as well. It was a great way to start and we loved every second of it!!!

morning group seining

We began the afternoon session that same day doing a bit of seine netting as well. The tide was still extra low and there were plenty of areas we hadn’t been to in a while. On the first pull of the net we came up with a couple of big checkerboard puffers that seemed to inflate right on cue, and caught loads of other fish as well. Before long we had discovered dozens of different species of juvenile fish that make their home in the sea grass beds.

Checkerboard puffer and group

By the end of the day we had found 4 different species of puffers, 3 different species of grunts, numerous snappers, juvenile barracudas, mojarras, pinfish, pipefish, needlefish and one very small dwarf seahorse that was too small to even take a worthy photo of. It wasn’t even a half inch tall but we loved the discovery all the same! I think Ryennes favorite fish was this checkerboard puffer with its big puffy cheeks!

Ryenne & Pufferfish

The most unusual fish we found is another species of pufferfish that I was not able to identify in any books I have. It is either an uncommon or rare species found here or an unusual color phase that I have not seen before. I believe it is another species as it had a rough texture to its skin under the belly and a mottled pattern on the top. It could also inflate almost perfectly round which we thought was just GREAT! I know AdventureJamie sure did! It was a nice find!!!

Uncommon Puffer

On one of our last visits to the sandbar for the week we found a piece of pvc pipe discarded in the shallows. I had just got done saying this would be a perfect home for an octopus, when low and behold, out crawled one right into AdventureMatthew’s hands. It was just great! We all absolutely loved finding this little guy and after a few seconds of checking him out, he slid off the pipe and into the water.

Octopus in a pipe

One of the neatest things about octopus is they have specialized cells called chromatophores that allow them to instantly change colors to match their backgrounds. They are able to change their colors, patterns and shapes to match just about any background they are on. Sometimes they seem to disappear right before your very eyes. We brought it near the beach so that we could check it a bit out more closely.

Checking out the octopus

We all took turns gently handling the octopus, letting it reach out with its tentackles to explore our hands. It would stretch out one of its arms, grasp a nearby finger, stick on for a bit, then let go and reach out for another. We were all loving that “sticky” situation!!! After a short while we released the octopus back into the pipe and watched it disappear from view. I hoped next week that it still would be there.

"sticky" situation

The very last day we went back to the lagoon on Peanut Island and spent a good bit of time snorkeling around the edges checking out the hundreds of different species of fish and corals we could find. We also hoped to see that very same manatee we spent swimming with earlier in the week, but no luck this time. Maybe next week!!! I hope anyway!!! AdventureRyenne spent some time catching juvenile checkerboard puffers and came up with quite a few. She made a joke like she was going to eat one and I’ll bet this cute little puffer was mighty happy when she let it go instead!!! It made for a great and humorous photo!

"Gulp"

Before we knew it the week had come to an end and not one of us was ready to call it quits!!! We had so much FUN we never wanted it to stop!!! Non stop, Fast Action FUN!!! What a way to start the Summer!!! What a way to end the Week!!! It just doesn’t get any better than THIS!!!Having all this Fun has left me looking forward to next week. And one things certain, I can’t wait to head out in the boat with the next group of kids and have fun doing it all over again! I know its going to be great! I can just feel it!!! Hope you’ll join us in the Adventure!!! Stay tuned, it will be here before you know it! Time Flies when your having FUN!!!! And we’re going to have it from start to finish!!! See you soon!

Let’s Go Have Some FUN!!!
AdventureMike

Categories : Summer 2011 Tags : , , ,