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Sea Creature Encounters, Big and Small !!!

Hi Everyone! Welcome back!!!

We’ve just finished up another week of FUN and Adventure and let me tell you it was one of the best! We had so much FUN I don’t even know where to begin!!! It does seem that every week just gets better and better or maybe we are just getting lucky, but either way I LOVE IT!!! All week long we had the coolest encounters with all kinds of sea creatures both big and small! No matter where we went or under which rock we looked, we found something COOL! I think AdventureMandy summed this week up best when I asked the group at the end of the day, ‘Well, Did you have Fun?” And her response was, “This was AWESOME!!! This is the BEST camp I’ve ever been too!!! ” My thoughts exactly Mandy!!! I couldn’t have said it better!!!

Jack with a ghost crab

We began the first day stopping by the Big Sandbar. The tide was dead low and we all wanted to jump out and explore the bar to see what we could find. We hadn’t been out of the boat for more than a minute before we found something we liked or were fascinated with! Wherever we walked we found blue crabs scurrying by, or baby’s ear mollusks burrowing in the sand. As we walked we would occasionally stop to check out the Mantis shrimp and tube worm tunnels or pick up a handful of fighting conchs to watch for a bit. We kept our eyes open for starfish and before long we found a few. We came up with two beaded starfish, one big Cushion Starfish and shortly after that, we found a nice, medium sized 9 armed starfish that we loved! Some of the legs were shorter than others and we could see it was in the process of regenerating and growing new legs which we all found to be really neat! I know Mandy, Mac and Jack had a good time finding this one!

Mandy, Mac and jack

As we loaded up in the boat to head over to the Rock Garden to snorkel, we noticed a thin wispy water spout coming out of the very edge of beautiful cloud bank a ways offshore. We stopped and watched it develop a bit bigger than disappear in a blink of an eye as the cloud bank moved to the south. We thought that was just great too! No trouble for us! The minute we got in the water we were seeing fish by the thousands. Every where we looked there were FISH, FISH, FISH!!! And did we ever love that! While watching a school of parrotfish swim by one of the kids found a big slimy sea cucumber which we all took turns checking out. And did we ever enjoy that too! I know AdventureMandy sure did!!!

Mandy with a slimy sea cucmber

As we snorkeled along the edge of the Rock Garden we saw dozens of short-nosed puffers and quite a few checkerboard pufferfish. As usual, we all wanted to try and catch one to watch it “blow up” with air or water to more than twice its normal size. Chasing after and catching pufferfish has to be one of the most favorite things the kids love to do! We don’t always get them, but we sure LOVE trying! Sometimes it takes a combined effort to be successful. I know AdventureBobby was sure happy when it came his turn to get one in the net! We all were! Nice job!

Bobby with a checkerboard puffer

As some of the kids chased puffers or watched the thousands of fish swim by, others would search or turn over small rocks looking for crabs, shrimp, brittle starfish or anything else they could find. Every now and then someone would come up with a few small stone crabs or porcelain crabs or a nice big queen conch or two. But the prize they were after was a nice big swimming crab! Every now and then I would hear a squeal of glee and turn around just in time to see some big crab dart about scurrying from rock to rock or underneath a nearby foot. You have to be quick of foot and hand to get a big one in your net. All the while not getting pinched! Check out the impressive pincers on this one that AdventureJack was lucky to catch!

Jack catches a swimming crab

Another day we went to Little Munyon Island to search along Sea Urchin Shoals to see how many different color variations of short-spined urchins we could find. The ones most commonly found are the dark green varieties, but my favorite color phase is the bright white ones with rich dark purple spines. We found sea urchins in every size and color! There were so many urchins you could collect them by the armfuls. And by the armfuls we did! It looked like it had rained urchins all night long! On this day they literally covered the bottom and we picked them up one after another checking each one out! We loved when they would stick to our hands using their tiny little tube feet, and we would all share when a smaller one or new color variety was found.

Raining sea urchins

The latter part of the day we spent seine netting the shallow grass flat to the east. The tide had gone out and the flats were exposed like never before. This gave us a rare opportunity to seine in areas that were normally too deep. Here the sea grass was thick and luxuriant. The perfect home for fish! With the very first pull of the net we brought in some wonderful “treasures” that we placed in our tank of sea water to check out a bit later. They came in all sizes. You name it and I think we found it! The group loved to sort through the net the minute it reached the beach! And me too of course!

Low tide seine netting

The second pull of the net thru the grass flats brought in the typical assortment of juvenile fish ranging from tiny barracudas to filefish, mojarras, striped grunts, ceasars grunts, lane snappers, yellowtail snappers, pinfish, sea grass shrimp, pink shrimp and lucky for us, some striped burrfish! This fish are in the blowfish family of fishes and are striped to match the sea grass and covered in short spines. They can be handled easily from underneath if you are careful to keep your hands and fingers out of the way of their mouths. AdventureJacob, Harper and William loved taking a close-up look at these!

Jacob, Harper, William and striped burrfish

It seemed with every pull of the net we would come up with something different. It is amazing how many species of fish and juvenile fish depend on the grass flats to provide food and shelter until they are big enough to live on the reef. Many species of fish will never leave the grass flats their entire lives. This is the perfect habitat for slow swimming pufferfish and on this day we were finding them by the dozens. And were we ever happy with that! AdventureMandy, Mac and Bobby sure had FUN checking out this checkerboard pufferfish up close and personal!

Mandy, Mac, Bobby and checkerboard puffer

On the last pull of the net we came up with a juvenile long-spined porcupinefish and that was the very first one we have ever caught here. The minute the net came in to the beach this two inch long porcupinefish puffed up in all its glory and turned itself into a round little ball of quills. We absolutely loved that! This species of porcupinefish has the longest spines of any around, and even though it was tiny, we had to be very careful to hold it gingerly. All in all, we found 4 different species of blowfish or pufferfish in one pull of the net, and let me tell you that was just GREAT! AdventureHarper and Mandy loved the striped burrfish and long-spined porcupinefish best!

Harper, Mandy and porcupinefish

Of course, Thursday was our fishing day and it is mighty hard to beat the FUN and EXCITEMENT that we have on this day!!! Most days the kids will have a fish on within a few seconds of their bait hitting the bottom! On this day it was no different!!! We spent a little bit of time fishing the artificial reef and caught porkfish, grunts, snappers, tomtates, porgies, parrotfish and more! I took them to my secret snapper hole a bit later and we caught lane snappers non stop till we were almost too tired to bring any more in!!! And that’s just the way I love it!!!

Great day of fishing!

It always seems on most trips the smallest person in the boat catches the biggest fish, and on this day it was no different. This was AdventureMandy’s first day of fishing and I think she stopped counting how many fish she caught once she reached about 40 or so. She seemed to be catching big fish one after another and sometimes I was wondering whether she would get them in or whether they would pull her out of the boat. She had quite a tussle with a few big fish but eventually got them in! I absolutely loved watching that! Great job Mandy! Nice big grunt too!

Mandy catches a ceasars grunt

The last half hour of the day we went back to the Big Sandbar and romped around in the shallows. The boys dug trenches in the sand like they were building an irrigation project and the girls played in the warm pool of water we call the Hot Tub. As we headed back to the boat to call it a day we came upon a large Cushion starfish at the edge of the bar. We all had a chance to check the starfish out and take some cool photos along the way!

sandbar starfish

When we arrived back at the dock we were met with Icecream bars to celebrate AdventureJacobs birthday, and the cool thing about that was not only did we love that ice cream, but AdventureJacob and I celebrate the very same birthday! That’s July 8th, so Happy Birthday again Jacob! You ROCK! Nice sharing a birthday with another Adventurer!!!

We began the last day going back to the Rock Garden to enjoy the fabulous snorkeling and of course spent a good bit of time chasing and netting fish and crabs. We always love that!!! I noticed the ocean was absolutely flat calm so I decided to take the kids for a short jaunt offshore looking for some loggerhead and green sea turtles to show them. On the way out we passed over a nice sargassum seaweed line so we stopped to dip net a bit to see what we could find. With the very first scoop we caught a half dozen filefish, numerous shrimp and crabs and a lovely juvenile long spined porcupinefish that filled itself with air as if right on cue! Harper was the first to check it out and I could tell she loved it!!! We all did!

Harper with a long spined porcupinefish

We all took turns checking out the porcupinefish and watched how cool it was to see it fill itself up with air to more than double its size. Being able to double its size and protrude hundreds of tiny sharp spines is a great way of preventing oneself from being eaten. Makes it also difficult to hold even if all you want to do just take a quick peek before leting it go! When fully grown this porcupinefishes spines can be over 2 inches long and needle sharp, making it almost impossible to be eaten or held! I know AdventureJason sure enjoyed checking it out when it came to his turn. Me too of course!

Jason with a long-spined porcupinefish

While all this FUN was going on a great big loggerhead sea turtle surfaced right by the boat and we all got a chance to see one right up close! And let me tell you, We Loved That Too!!! After this we went to the beach and anchored a few feet offshore. Most of us snorkeled while AdventureJoseph dug a huge hole in the sand to sit in. A second or two later I heard a yelp and watched as Joseph jumped up out of the hole with a huge Ghost Crab following closely behind! And “behind” is the key word! I think he even left a mark! How about it Joseph? I laughed so hard I could hardly take a picture! In a wink of an eye, Joseph quickly chased it down and held it up carefully for us to see. Nice Find Joseph!!! Well, I’m not really sure who found who, but it was great entertainment all the same! I loved it. 🙂

Joseph with his ghost crab

Just as we were getting ready to call it a day and slowly swimming back to the boat, a huge friendly manatee swam right up to us as if to say ,”hello” and gave us another BIG THRILL!!! He hung around for a little bit, then moseyed off down the beach. We loved that so much we had to get in the boat and go by and take one last look before heading home! I can tell you none of us wanted to go back that day!!! It was GREAT to have such a wonderful encounter! I wish a big friendly manatee would come by for a visit everyday!!!

Coming by to say hello

On the way back we saw another big manatee swimming right down the beach in crystal clear, shallow water. And of course, we stopped to take a look at that one too. The amazing thing about what we saw that would have knocked our socks off if we were wearing any…. Following closely behind was a huge Manta Ray that swam right up to us looking like a Bomber coming in for a landing!!! Let me tell you, WE LOVED THAT TOO!!! So much so that I forgot to take a picture! Oh well… It was just unbelievable! What a way to end the week, any week!!!

We had Sea Creature Encounters, Big and Small, all week long!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that!!! How LUCKY we were!!! One things certain, I just can’t wait till next week to do it all over again!!! Hope you’ll join us and be a part of the ADVENTURE!!! I know its going to be GREAT!!! See you soon!!!

Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!


Summer 2009 Week 10: Snorkeling Fun and Adventure times 10!!!

Hi Everyone, Welcome Back!!!

We’ve just finished up the third day of Adventure for week 10 and I’m not sure where all the time goes, but one things certain!!!! We’ve been HAVING FUN!!! There is no doubt time seems to fly by when you are having the time of your life, and this week has been as great as all the rest!!! Matter of fact, just perfect!!!  And like I’ve said before, “It just doesn’t get any better than this!” This week AdventureSheri and I were joined by AdventureDaniel, Maxwell, Jake, Michael, Dylan, Kassedy, Sydney and Rylee. And let me tell you, it’s been non-stop fun from start to finish! As usual…

Group Photo!
Group Photo!

When I arrived at the dock I was greeted by one big happy and excited group of Adventurers and were they ever ready to go have some FUN!!! We loaded up and went straight over to the Rock Garden to do some snorkeling in the shallows. The tide was just beginning to ebb and there were schools of fish swimming back and forth in the shallows as far as you could see. Parrotfish, sheepshead, grunts, snapper, snook, small barracuda and menhaden were all around the boat. It was just great and we couldn’t wait to get in!!!  It didn’t take long before we found some big beautiful beaded starfish and everyone was excited about that! Including me!!!

Rylee and Sydney with a Beaded Starfish
Rylee and Sydney with a Beaded Starfish

While we swam around in the shallows turning over small rocks looking for crabs, a big school of Sheepshead followed us and tried to catch and eat them before we could get the crabs in our nets. Were we ever having fun watching this!!! They were sure better at catching the crabs than we were! We found hundreds of swimming crabs, rock crabs, stone crabs and coral crabs. Under every rock were one or two crabs. AdventureDaniel came up with one nice big swimming crab attached to his net and hanging firmly by one claw. I could tell he loved this!!! Glad it was hanging on the net and not his finger since it took quite a while to let go! It was fun to watch!

Daniel with a Big Crab!
Daniel with a Big Crab!

We found four or five sharpnosed pufferfish swimming along the shallows, gave chase and were able to catch a few in our nets. I can’t tell you how much fun it was watching all the kids smile and laugh when those pufferfish decided to puff themselves up with water! Everyone wanted to be the first to hold them, and we all took turns until everyone had a chance to see them up close and personal.Once we all had our fill we let them go and searched for other undersea treasures. AdventureKassidy came up with a lovely pink sea urchin and we all went over and checked that out too. Nice find!

Kassedy finds a lovely sea urchin!
Kassedy finds a lovely sea urchin!

We took the long way back to the boat swimming along the rock piles looking at all the schools of fish and turning over more rocks as we went. We spent a little bit of time searching the shallow sandy patches looking for small flounder and saw a few but were not able to catch any as I had hoped. They sure know how to dart rapidly between your feet and disappear in a wink of an eye! I haven’t been able to catch one yet this summer, but I’m going to keep trying! While we were looking for flounder, AdventureJake came up with a nice pipefish. It was a very cool find! They are related to Seahorses, a slow swimming bony fish that blends in well with the seagrasses and was the first one we saw here this summer. We loved seeing that!

Jake catches a nice pipefish!
Jake catches a nice pipefish!

Yesterday we spent the morning going back to the Rock Garden for a quick snorkel, then motored over to the Big Sandbar and spent an hour snorkeling along the shallow edge looking for Mantis Shrimp. We found quite a few large ones peering out their holes and we loved watching them! It seemed they were just as curious about us as we were about them!!! It was just GREAT!!! We came upon a big tractor tire that had quite a few arrow crabs and banded coral shrimp and we caught a few in our nets and checked them out. Then we went off and found florida and west indian fighting conchs, hawkwing conchs and even a few large queen conchs with their bright pink shells on the inside. Michael had a ball following us around and watching all the FUN!!!

Michael having fun!
Michael having fun!

From here we went to Little Munyon Island to do some seine netting along the sea grass beds. Everybody loved this!!! With every pull of the net we found something new and exciting. The tide was high and a bit hard to pull the net in but we had a ball no matter what!!! We all took turns trying our luck in new areas we hadn’t tried before. We caught a nice juvenile triple tail that was bright yellow and only an inch long and that was a first for this year! Always love finding something new like this!!!

Seine netting in the shallows.
Seine netting in the shallows.

It is so cool to catch juvenile fish in the grass flat that spend their adult lives on the outer reefs. We caught quite a few juvenile barracudas, ceasars grunts, tomtates, needlefish, mojarras, snappers, parrotfish, pipefish, pink shrimp, sea grass shrimp and a host of other too numerous to mention. It was just great!!! I think the best catch of all came when we came up with a beautiful blue and green scrawled cowfish! They get their names from having horns on the top of their heads. I can tell you everyone loved that one!!!! There were smiles from ear to ear!!! Just the way I love it!!!

Scrawled Cowfish
Scrawled Cowfish

And as you all know if you follow our blog, today was our fishing day!!! And as usual it was non stop action from start to finish!!! With just one of me and 7 kids hooking fish as fast as they could get lines down, I didn’t have a chance to even look at my watch for 3 hours!!! AdventureSydney, I’m sorry you weren’t feeling well today and didn’t make it cause I would sure have loved to have you along to join in FUN and EXCITEMENT!!! And YES, I heard those infamous words that will for-ever be etched into my brain, “I NEED MORE BAIT!!!” more than a thousand times I’m sure!!! It was just GREAT!!! JUST LOVE IT LIKE THAT!!! It just can’t get any better than THIS!!!

Dylan catches a Big Porkfish!
Dylan catches a Big Porkfish!

I’m not sure how many fish everyone caught, but it seemed like hundreds to me!!! Most of the fish caught were tomtates, ceasars grunts, yellowtail snapper, sailors choice and a few porkfish. AdventureDaniel caught a venomous scorpionfish that I was quick to let go and AdventureDylan caught an unusual small barred hamlet that was a first for AdventureMike’s. One exciting moment came when a large barracuda came in and took a big tomtate for dinner right off the line next to the edge of the boat. We all LOVED THAT!!! I know the tomtate felt otherwise… The best fish of the day though was caught by AdventureMaxwell with Daniel’s help! It was a big Black Grouper!!! And a wonderful catch too!!! It gave a ferocious battle and we were lucky to get it out of the rocks. Nice Job Guys!!! You all ROCK!!! Never thought they would get it in for a while!!! It just doesn’t get any better than this!!!

Maxwell catches a Black Grouper!
Maxwell catches a Black Grouper!

All in all it was just a fabulous day of fishing!!! Everybody caught some really nice fish and I was extra glad about that!!! Love it when things like that come together!!! We had so much FUN!!! Everybody was baiting their own hooks and taking off their own fish and that really helped me to keep up. Thanks guys, you did GREAT!!! The last half hour we had left we spent swimming at the Big Sandbar rinsing off and just having a ball!!! Nobody wanted this day to end, and neither did I!!! We spent a little bit of time snorkeling around the big sunken tire and found a few more arrow crabs and shrimp, then it was time to go.

Sydney finds an Arrow Crab!
Sydney finds an Arrow Crab!

And like I said before, I don’t know where the time went, but one things certain we had fun from start to finish!!! This week seemed to fly by!!! I’m so glad we have one more day left!! It’s going to be great!!! I can’t wait till tomorrow!!! Who knows what we may find or discover… but one thing’s certain…  We’re going to have FUN!!!  Wish you could join us!!! It’s going to be great!!!!