Cool Sea Creature Encounters!!! Manta Ray!

Posted by 30 August, 2010 (0) Comment

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 […]

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.

A cool mantis shrimp

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.

Mantis shrimp close-up

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!!!

Rachel's new hat

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.

Hagan and starfish

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!

finding crabs and conchs

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!

Neil finds a nice queen conch

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!!!

trio of fisherman

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!

Hagan's half eaten grunt

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!

boat aground

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!

Rachel with a ghost crab

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.

sea urchin trio

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.

We find a Dwarf Seahorse!

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!

Neils big blue crab

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!!!

starfish trio and group

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!!!

swimming with a manta ray

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!!!

AdventureMike

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Summer 2009 Week 12: FUN, FUN, FUN from Here to There!!!

Posted by 21 August, 2009 (0) Comment

Hi Everybody, Welcome Back!!! I just wanted to drop a quick post about the weeks Adventure. Let me tell you, it has been one of the very best! We’ve had FUN, FUN, FUN from Here to There!!! It just doesn’t get any better than this!!!  And I really mean that!!! I just never want this […]

Hi Everybody, Welcome Back!!! I just wanted to drop a quick post about the weeks Adventure. Let me tell you, it has been one of the very best! We’ve had FUN, FUN, FUN from Here to There!!! It just doesn’t get any better than this!!!  And I really mean that!!! I just never want this Summer to come to an end!!! It has been so much Fun!!! I must be dreaming… :-)

Having FUN!!!

Having FUN!!!

I started out the week with just another absolutely wonderful, great group of kids! And like I’ve said before, “Each week just seems to get better and better!!!” When I arrived at the dock I was joined by 4 previous adventurers, AdventureRachel, Amanda, Rylee and Sydney. In turn, we were joined by 4 new Adventurers, AdventureRobert, Jonathan, Madeline and Emily. It was Emily’s birthday on Monday and we spent a great day doing an AdventureMike custom birthday party session, and boy did we ever have FUN! I never wanted that to end either! Always have a blast! I just love doing those!!! We’ll have to do some more!!!

When I arrived at the dock I could tell this group was ready and raring to go. We quickly loaded up, and off to the Rock Garden we went. The tide was high and the water absolutely beautiful! We had just dropped anchor and as I was getting the masks ready for everyone, 5 manatees came by and took a look at us!!! Right by the boat. Boy do I wish we had gotten there 2 minutes sooner so we could have been in the water with them. They hung around the boat for a minute or two, then off they went. What a way to start the day!!! It didn’t take us long to get in after that, and as usual, there were fish every where we looked!!! Within a few seconds we were catching swimming crabs, blennies, wrasse and pufferfish. We all took turns checking out what everyone was catching. It was just great and we were having so much FUN!

Amanda with a BIG swimming crab!

Amanda with a BIG swimming crab!

We found some really beautiful Hawkwing and Queen conchs and checked out their cute little eyes peeking back out at us. We found a nice big spotted moray eel living in an old barrel and that was great to see too! There were all kinds of arrow crabs and rock crabs living all around the barrel, and of course we had to catch a few of those in our nets to check them out up close and personal! There were so many things to see we didn’t know which direction to go! There were sheepshead, snook, barracudas, porkfish, snapper, grunts, surgeonfish, parrotfish, angelfish, wrasse, blennies, toadfish, cowfish, jawfish and even some beautiful pearly razorfish almost within reach of our fingertips! We found so many cool things!!!

This is COOL

This is COOL

We swam around in the shallows looking for flounder and pufferfish and came upon a beautiful small,yellow spotted ray hidden in the sand. Even though they have a small venomous barb like a stingray, I carefully took a scoop and caught it in my net. I gently pulled the barb off so that we could all hold it and take a good look up close and personal. They begin to grow their barbs back in a week or two and I thought this would be a great opportunity for the kids to hold one in their hands and see what they’re like. Boy, did everyone love doing this! I never saw such smiles on so many kids faces!!! Miles of Smiles, from ear to ear!!! Just the way I love it!!! I just loved it!!! A bit later we let him go to continue on his way.

Robert, Jonathan and Rylee with a barbless yellow ray!

Robert, Jonathan and Rylee with a barbless yellow ray!

By now the tide was going out and we went to the Big Sandbar to explore the shallows. Before we even had a chance to drop anchor I could see some big Cushion Starfish and fighting conchs exposed on the bar. The second we dropped anchor, the crew unloaded. Off and running they went to check out the big starfish!!! Nobody wanted to be the last one out of the boat here! By the time I got out of the boat they were all checking the Cushion Starfish out. So much for waiting for me… By now I was getting used to being the last one out. This group had more energy and enthusiasm than you could imagine. Just the way I love it!!!

We found a Cushion Starfish!

We found a Cushion Starfish!

We placed the big starfish back into deeper water and off we went to explore the bar. It was only a matter of seconds before we found Baby’s Ear mollusks, Netted olives and fighting conchs popping out of the sand. There seemed to be something everywhere we looked! We found numerous beaded starfish, maybe 10 or so, and that was the most I have ever seen at one time. One of the best finds on the bar was a lovely 9 armed starfish, and of course we had to share that and take some “9 armed starfish head ” photos for fun. I could tell Rachel really loved that!!! Tell me she doesn’t look like a “Natural” !!!

Rachel with a starfish hairdo!

Rachel with a starfish hairdo!

I think Jonathan found the most beautiful blue-eyed hermit crab I have ever seen! It had eyes like fluorescent deep blue sapphires! The most beautiful and unreal shade of blue in the world!!! Stunning comes to mind… Wish mine looked just like that, it was so cool! A really nice find! We took a jump into the hot tub for a few seconds, checked out some Mantis Shrimp in their tunnels then had to head back to the boat to make it back on time. On the way back we found another large Cushion Starfish and I could tell everybody loved that again too.

 Rylee and Sydney with a Big Starfish!!!

Rylee and Sydney with a Big Starfish!!!

Today may have been the most fun for me all Summer!!! Everything was just absolutely perfect from beginning to end!!! We had so much fun today!!! It just couldn’t have been any better!!! You guys ROCK!!!

Woke up Wednesday morning to a heavy rainfall, blustery winds and some strong lightning storms in the vicinity. Finally the bad weather from tropical storm Anna had caught up with me. This was the very first time EVER that I was going to have to call it a day without being able to go out, but I didn’t want to take any chances so I made the calls to cancel the day. Boy was I disappointed, but I knew the weather for Thursday was looking perfect, and that of course is our FISHING DAY! Just wanted everyone to be safe, and I knew we were going to have FUN the next two days!!!

When I arrived at the dock today, everybody was early and ready to go, and so was I!!! Little did I know then just how good our fishing day was going to be!!! When I arrived at my secret spot and checked the fish finder, I was recording fish from top to bottom!!! Excitedly I dropped anchor, baited the rods and handed them out and then everyone dropped down at once. From that second on there wasn’t ever a moment that somebody didn’t have a fish on. And I mean not for one second!!! You know the saying a “pictures worth a thousand words”, well look below…

FISH ON!!!

FISH ON!!!

Eight kids, eight rods and eight fish on at ONCE!!! All day long it was like this!!! From the very first second and it never stopped!!! I was so busy I couldn’t even take photos. I can’t tell you how often I heard, ” I NEED MORE BAIT!!!” I You could not count one second from the moment your bait hit bottom till you had one on!!! AdventureDaniel, if you are following this post you got lucky today…  If I would have had more help taking off fish and baiting hooks, your record of 111 fish in 3 hours would have fallen today!!! It was that unbelievable!!! I think everyone must have caught between 50 and 70 fish each, and some were mighty big! We caught some really nice grunts, snappers, parrotfish, tomtates, porkfish and even a seargent major or two. Good thing Madeline, Emily and Robert helped to bait lines and take fish off!!!

Madeline and Emily help take off fish!

Madeline and Emily help take off fish!

The action was so incredible that I heard complaints that wrists and arms were getting sore reeling so many fish in!!! Now that’s what I call FUN!!! I may never again see fishing action like this, but I can only hope!!! Most of the time you couldn’t even get your line to the bottom before you had a fish on. And of course all this excitement and non-stop action brought in the Big Barracudas right up underneath the boat!!! And it wasn’t long before they decided to make a meal of all the big fish that were fighting hard not to come in!!! We had fish eaten right up next to the boat and I can tell you that was exciting!!! Matter of fact, it was AWESOME!!! At least for us that is… I’m sure the snapper felt otherwise…

A Barracuda ate my fish!!!

A Barracuda ate my fish!!!

As it turned out, I have no idea how many fish we caught, but it had to be somewhere over three hundred. That may sound like a fish story to some, but we know better!!! We lived the ADVENTURE!!! You can ask anybody on board today and they would say the same thing. Non stop from start to finish!!! It just couldn’t have been any better!!! It was just GREAT!!!  JUST GREAT!!!  God, I LOVE THIS JOB!!!

When we finally reached the point where no one could reel in one more fish, we pulled anchor and went to the Rock Garden for a quick swim and a rinse. We spent some time chasing fish and crabs and relaxed, just having fun! On the way back to the boat when it was time to leave, A big manatee came by, gave us an up close and personal look, and then continued on. We gave him a quick rub on the back before he left. It couldn’t have been a nicer way to end the day!!! I would have loved to kiss him right on his nose!!!  Did I say, “It just couldn’t get any better than this”!!!

Friendly Manatee!

Friendly Manatee!

All I can say is, “So Far, We had fun from start to finish”!!! And I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait till tomorrow!!! We have one more day left, And I can guarantee you, I’m going to make it FUN!!! It’s going to be GREAT!!! Wish you could join us!!!

LET’S GO HAVE SOME FUN!!!
AdventureMike

Categories : Summer 2009: August 17 to August 20 Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,