Hi Everyone!!! Welcome Back!!!
I’m finally just sitting down to write last weeks blog. Thought I would never get a chance to get to it! Was busy doing birthday party adventures over the weekend and a little bit of fishing and before I knew it, this weeks adventure was under way! Oh well, what can you say? Time flies when your having FUN! Last week we had a small group of adventurers, only 3, but we had a blast all the same. We had some last minute cancellations the night before the week started, and I didn’t bother to make any calls to try and fill the spaces at the last second. I thought it would be kind of nice to have just a few of us going for a change. And I’m happy we did! I know AdventureRachel, Neil and Hagan sure had fun checking everything we found and caught, up close and personal. Like this really cool mantis shrimp we found crawling around outside its burrow on the Big Sandbar.
This was the very first time I have ever seen one out and about in the day time and it was a really great find! You have to be extremely careful when picking these up, best not to at all, as they can give you a painful stick with their sharp dagger like claws. We always see their burrows in the sand around the sandbar but rarely do we ever see them peeking out at us, much less crawling about. Wish I could find one like this on every weekly adventure! Like all shrimp, mantis shrimp also have the capability of slapping their tails closed. The big difference with this species is that they also have sharp razor like edges along their hard tail with a few big needle like spines to boot. Commercial fisherman who catch these shrimp sometimes call them “thumb splitters” for good reason. Either way, I was happy to find it, and we checked it out up close before letting it go.
Every morning we spent an hour or so walking the Big Sandbar and exploring the shallows like there was no tomorrow. We had a full moon coming up and the tide was exceptionally low. The bar was exposed for hundreds of yards in every direction and it didn’ take us long to find some big Cushion Starfish that were bright red in color. You could see them in the shallows at least 100 yards away. The Kids would race to get them, sometimes stopping along the way to check something else out they didn’t see at first. It was just great and we had a blast finding one big starfish after another. I know AdventureRachel sure had FUN sporting her new starfish “hat”. It seemed to fit just right!!!
Every single day we stopped at the Sandbar to explore. We found fighting conchs, box crabs, blue claw crabs and hermit crabs galore. We even found some really cool shells and living scotch bonnets that I rarely see. Netted olive shells and bubble shells were every where leaving long burrows thru the sand. But the kids always seemed to love finding the starfish best, and every morning we found a bunch!!! We found two different species of beaded starfish, a few small brittle starfish, some nice big Cushion Starfish and quite a few 9 armed starfish that we all loved to hold. A few of the 9 armed starfish had previously lost the tips of some of their legs and you could see where they were all growing back. We all thought that was cool! I know AdventureHagan had Fun wearing a few starfish stuck to his shirt, before he let them go.
Every afternoon we would take a swim at the Rock Garden and check out all the fish and search under rocks for swimming crabs, rock crabs, brittle starfish, blennies and what ever else we could find. Occasionally we would discover a really big swimming crab that would dart out from the rocks right under our feet. AdventureNeil and Hagan would give chase and eventually catch it in their hand net. It was a fun and exciting thing to watch as they tried to get it out of the net by the back leg without getting pinched. Half the time I would come to the rescue, but more often than naught they would get it on their own. Even Rachel would come up with a big crab in her net as well!
After a while we would take a break from this and swim about and look for some big queen conchs and see who could find the biggest. They can be found in a variety of sizes though most are in the 4 to 6 inch range. Every now and then one of us would come up with a mature conch that had a beautiful pink and yellow interior and we all loved that. This past week we found dozens of conchs right up next to the rocks feeding on algae and it wasn’t long before AdventureNeil came up with a really nice big one that won the contest. Nice job Neil! I thought I was going to win it for a while!
Thursday was our fishing day, and as usual we had non-stop action the minute our lines were in the water! And I mean from the very first second! If you didn’t have a fish on within 3 seconds of hitting the bottom then your bait was gone. We all caught fish one right after the other and sometimes all at once ! And that’s just the way I love it! Over and over and over. Fish Fish Fish!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that! We started out fishing the artificial reef north of Phil Foster Park and it wasn’t long before AdventureRachel, Neil and Hagan were standing side by side, each with their very own fish! It was just great!!!
After an hour here of catching grunts, tomtates, sailors choice, porgies, seargent majors, long-spined filefish and a few cuban hogfish we decided to move the boat a bit over and try a new spot. The very first fish that AdventureHagan hooked was a nice big Ceasars Grunt and as he was fighting to bring it in to the boat a great big barracuda decided to have part of it for lunch. The line went screaming off his reel for about 10 seconds and then the fight was over. He reeled in what was left of his big grunt and we all checked out what that nice big hungry barracuda had done. I could tell AdventureHagan thought that was about as exciting as things could get! We all did!
A few minutes after this we started catching lane snappers one right after the other until the group was tired of reeling in so many fish! From here we spent the last hour going out to the beach to do some beach combing and a bit of snorkeling along the shoreline. On the way down the beach we found a small boat that had run ashore some time in the past week. It was totally filled up with sand and sitting high and dry on the beach. The kids wanted to stop and check it out so we did. We anchored our boat and swam in to the beach. A few seconds later the kids were sitting in the old boat pretending they were driving and getting ready to run aground. No doubt they were having FUN! They were screaming with laughter the whole time!
The last few minutes of the day we took a quick walk down the beach to do some beach combing and check out the tracks left by big sea turtles coming up on to the beach to lay eggs. There were quite a few around and some of the tracks were tremendous. On the way back to the boat a ghost crab went scurrying down the beach in front of us and we all gave chase. It took a while for us to catch up with it but we finally tired it out and it sat still just long enough for AdventureRachel to pick it up. It was great to watch. Nice job Rachel!
The next morning we went down to Little Munyon Island to collect some sea urchins and see what else we could find. We came up with quite a few different color combinations and some really nice big bright pink ones. Most of the ones we found were of the green variety and it wasn’t long before every one of us was holding them by the handfuls. In some places there were so many you had to be careful to look first before you sat down in the shallows. I learned that the hard way. They make a tough cushion to sit on! Ouch! Either way, we had a blast and it was great finding so many.
From here we decided to do some seine netting in the shallow grass flats. After just a few pulls of the net we had come up with some nice juvenile barracudas, a cool juvenile flounder, some small needlefish, a couple of pipefish, a sharpnosed and a checkerboard puffer, a bunch of filefish, mojarras, pinfish, juvenile lane and yellowtail snapper, a small hogfish, pink shrimp and grass shrimp and best of all, a dwarf sea horse. It wasn’t much bigger than a dime. We always love finding these! It was just great and we all loved checking them out before letting them go.
With the very last pull of the net we came up with one really nice big blue claw crab that sat and waved its claws menacingly at us just daring us to try and pick it up. I carefully slid my hand along the backside of its carapace and picked it up by the base of its swimming leg. I showed everyone the proper technique without getting pinched, and asked if anyone wanted to pick it up for a photo op. AdventureNeil was the only taker brave enough to give it a try. I watched carefully to make sure he didn’t get pinched and a few seconds later he had it firmly in his grip. You can tell that this crab is sure capable of giving you one heck of a pinch! Nice Job Neil! Way to go!
The last morning we spent snorkeling at the Rock Garden and chasing pufferfish and then as the tide went out, we motored over to the Big Sandbar, hopped out and began to explore the bar. The tide was so low we could walk for hundreds of yards in any direction. It was just great and we found all kinds of cool shells, sea urchins, box crabs and more. We found two different species of beaded starfish and a pile of 9 armed starfish. Every where we looked we seemed to find another starfish! We moved most of them into deeper water and kept a few just long enough to take some pictures before letting them go. We had a ball finding so many and having FUN all the while!!!
We decided to spend the last hour of the day going back out to the beach. Over the past few weeks I had seen some really nice big and beautiful Manta Rays swimming just a short distance from the beach. I was hoping that we might see another one and if we were really lucky, have a chance to get in for a wonderful manta encounter. Though they may be big, they are totally harmless, have no venemous barbs and feed mainly on small fish and plankton. Lucky for us, today was our day!!! A short distance ahead was a nice big manta ray, maybe10 feet wide from wingtip to wingtip, swimming in about 4 feet of water. We motored the boat ahead and quietly got in. A few seconds later we had this wonderful creature swim right up and past us and did we EVER LOVE THAT!!!
We did this over and over until it was time to go. I can tell you nobody was ready to call it a day when it was finally time to head home!!! We just never wanted it to end!!! We had such a great time and such a great week!!! I just wish it could have lasted for ever!!! None of us was ready for Summer to be over!!! Good thing for me I have one week left to do it all over again!!! I have a small group coming all the way from Hungary, and I know its going to be Great!!! I just can’t wait!!!
See you soon!!!
Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!