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!!!
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!!!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!!!
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…
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!!!
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!!!
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 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!!!
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!!!
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!!!
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.
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!
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!!!