Hi Everybody, Welcome back!!!
We”ve just finished up another Spring Break Adventure and what a wonderful adventure we had!!! We spent the week boating, snorkeling, fishing, island hiking, exploring the sandbars, watching for manatees and bottlenose dolphins, finding horseshoe crabs, scaly mantis shrimp and cool starfish of al kinds. We found dozens of variegated sea urchins, west indian sea eggs, blue crabs and hermit crabs, watched schools of squid change colors right before our eyes, found beautiful pink queen conchs and fighting conchs galore, and caught pufferfish bare-handed day after day! We found a half dozen spotted yellow rays swimming amongst the shallows. I caught a few in hand net, took off the venemous barbs, which will begin to grow back after a few days, just so we could check them out up close and personal. We even went out along the beach most calm mornings to check out the schools of small spinner sharks and blacktip sharks that migrate past this time of year. We saw dozens swimming right off the beach! It was just GREAT!!! But best of all, I had a fabulous group of kids, and we had non-stop FUN and ADVENTURE from start to finish, each and every day!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that!!!
The tides were high most of the week and the Big Sandbar was covered underwater more often that not, but this didn’t stop us from romping around and catching blue crabs by the dozens! We had a blast chasing them down and catching them with our hand nets, and even at times with our bare hands. Occasionally, it would get really exciting when one would scurry right under your foot where the sand was stirred up, and we couldn’t help but think it was looking for our toes! This sure didn’t stop AdventureMatthew from catching his share and showing us one crab right after another!
AdventureMax caught a pile himself and pretended he was the one that was going to have a blue crab for lunch. I wasn’t quite sure who was going to eat who, if he happened to drop it by mistake, still alive and kicking, right in his mouth! One thing for certain, he was sure having FUN, and he entertained us most of the morning! Way to go Max!!!
We spent a good bit of time each morning snorkeling about at the Rock Garden.Later, we would end up snorkeling in the protected inland lagoon looking for hermit crabs, juvenile lobsters, sea urchins and more! We hoped we might see a manatee again sun bathing in the shallows, but had no luck this day. AdventureMickey came up with a nice red hermit crab living within a discarded fighting conch shell, and I could tell he was having FUN holding that one up for us to see!!! His smile was contageous, and we all took turns checking that hermit crab out!
Every morning we found spotted yellow rays swimming in the shallows or lying motionless on the gravelly sand. I caught one in a small hand net and removed the venemous barb so that we could handle it safely and check out its sphericals and tiny mouth, filled with two bony sand-paper like plates that are capable of crushing very small mollusks or invertebrates for food. The kids loved when the ray would “suck” on to their shirt, or head for that matter, and have to be gently removed by hand after a few seconds. I know AdventureMatthew was having FUN, but his older brother AdventureJohn was a bit more hesitant on this day. By the end of the week though, he was a trooper just like the rest of them!!! Way to go Matthew and John!!!
Every morning that we passed by the Big Sandbar or had to slow down for a no-wake zone, I would put out a light tackle rod and troll for a barracuda, blue runner or jack crevalle. We all took turns putting the line out and reeling fish in, and every now and then we would catch a nice barracuda that we would later use as bait on a shark line or save for our crab traps. AdventureRachael holds up a nice barracuda that is about typical of the size we normally catch. Nice job Rachael! Nice barracuda too!!!
Each day we stopped by the Big Sandbar to do some exploring, shallow water snorkeling and look for big orange or red Cushion Starfish lying on the sandy bottom. Everytime we stopped by, the kids found a few, and we would all take turns checking them out and taking a few photos ops for our own entertainment, and for that of the parents as well! Some of these starfish were quite large, and the kids all loved that!!! AdventureJohn and Matthew would take turns catching crabs and finding starfish and I could tell they were having FUN too!!!
Not to be out done, AdventureDylan and Rachael had a blast finding Cushion Starfish of their own and acting silly along the way! They looked like naturals, wearing those two starfish as hats, and I could tell they must have practiced their posture, since those starfish never fell off! Way to be entertaining Dylan and Rachael!!! Nice Starfish Hairdo!!!
One day we snorkeled the whole way around Peanut Island and had a blast finding all sorts of cool things! We saw more spotted yellow rays, schools of mullet by the hundreds and found queen conchs galore! We found tons of blue legged hermit crabs, chased and caught short nosed pufferfish by the dozens and had more FUN than you could imagine!!! AdventureRachael found piles of west indian sea eggs, which are an uncommon species of sea urchin around here. They were feeding on the algae and sea grass growing in the shallows. It was just GREAT!!! Nice find Rachael!!!
AdventureMickey had a blast snorkeling the whole way around the island and just checking out everything in general. He didn’t seem to care what he saw or found! He just loved it all!!! And so did we!!! AdventureMicky first came to my camp about 3 years ago, had never snorkeled, been on a boat or ever caught a fish! Let me tell you, 3 years later, he is as comfortable and a natural swimmer as you’ll ever see!!! Mickey, you have come a long ways!!! Way to ROCK, and SWIM for that matter!!!
We spent another morning exploring the islands and estuaries, and the shallow rocky oyster covered sandbars. We talked about the benefits of mangroves, algae’s and sea grasses, and how this type of natural habitat is necessary and crucial to the juvenile reef fish, crabs and millions of crustaceans and invertebrates that inhabit this marine ecosystem. It is vital and necessary to preserve and maintain as much of this environment as possible, for without this, the water quality and near shore marine life would diminish greatly! Along the way I showed them wild coffee plants and thorny knicker beans. An interesting fact, the husk of the knicker bean is used in making quinine, an anti-malarial medicine. How neat is that!
We took a nice hike along a nature trail on Munyon Island to the backside, or east side of the island. We ended up hiking along a narrow spit of land along the red mangroves and found a half dozen or so molts of horseshoe crabs. We hoped to see a few live ones crawling along the bottom, but no luck today. Horseshoe crabs, like all marine crustaceans, shed their outer carapace as they grow. After this molt, they fill their now soft body with sea water, and stretch out their skin. After a few days, their now much larger outer shell turns hard, giving them room to grow. Horseshoe crabs are related to spiders and enzymes from their blood are used in medicine to make blood thinners. How cool is that!!!
Thursday was our fishing day and we went to one of my secret spots and everyone caught lane snappers, pigfish, big grunts and tomtates non -stop! It was a blast watching everyone catch fish by the dozens!!! Like as fast as you could “bait your hook and drop down” dozens!!! It was just GREAT, and as usual, there were a few sore arms from reeling fish in afterwards!!! Just the way I love it!!! AdventureDylan, yes, the same girl who holds the all time biggest fish record caught for my summer camp on my boat Dylan, (49lb barracuda on 6lb test, Yippee!!!) and her brother, AdventureJohn holds up a couple of nice fish! Way to go again!!!
AdventureMax caught lane snappers, big grunts and tons of other fish, along with some unusual pufferfish with really neat markings, that we just started seeing in the lake a couple years ago. He always does well and is a great fisherman too! loves to fish like their is no tomorrow! And as he said to me about 3 years ago on one of his first adventures with me, “Fishing is my Mojo”. Well, mine too buddy! Nice Job!!!
AdventureJohn, Dylan and Matthews brother, seemed to be fishing in the right spot! Time after time, he would hook up with something big and have a real battle trying to get it in on light tackle! It turned out to be one big porgy after another, and after watching that going on non-stop for half an hour, I was wanting to grab a rod myself and move over right next to him and have a go at it too!!! Needless to say, he seemed to be catching the biggest ones that day!!! Way to catch another big porgy John!!! Nice fish!!!
The really great thing about this spot is, you never know what you might catch!!! Over the years we have caught dozens and dozens of different species of fish, in all sizes, shapes and colors!!! This is also where AdventureDylan caught her huge barracuda that ate her lane snapper she was reeling in, but not quite fast enough!!! Good thing for her too, cause that barracuda was a monster!!! Yes, I had to post a photo of that fish again!!!
Anyway, on this day she didn’t catch another monster baracuda, but she did catch an unusual filefish that had a set of really sharp teeth and extremely rough skin covered with denticles, just like that of a shark, not with scales like most other fish. She always seems to catch not only a ton of fish, but all kinds as well!!! Nice Job Dylan!!! Again!!!
On the last day we took another wonderful snorkel adventure along the backside of Peanut Island. As we were swimming along catching sharpnosed pufferfish and finding sea urchins, etc., I hear AdventureDylan yell, “AdventureMike, come over here quick! I’ve found something!!!”. I quickly swam over and took a look, and low and behold, she had found a large scaly mantis shrimp totally out of its burrough, just crusing along the bottom. What a find!!! This doesn’t happen often!!! Mantis shrimp have large front arms, like those of a preying mantis, with spikes on those arms used for impaling their prey, hence their name! When encountered, it would be best to leave these well enough alone so as not to get your thumb split, but I knew how to handle them and showed the kids the proper technique without getting stuck. We all took turns checking it out up close and personal, and loved the experience. It ws just GREAT!!! AdventureMax was careful to hold it well!!!
Just as our last day was coming to an end, we found another small spotted yellow ray that didn’t have a barb, and we all took turns checking that one out as well!!! It seemed to be a fitting way to end the weeks Adventure. We started out finding spotted yellow rays and ended finding spotted yellow rays. What a GREAT DAY!!! What a GREAT WEEK full of FUN and ADVENTURE!!! What a GREAT group of kids!!! It just doesn’t get any better than that!!!
I just can’t wait to go do it all over again!!! Stay tuned…. See you all soon!!!
Let’s Go have Some Fun!!!