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Spring Break Adventure 2011

Hi Everyone! Welcome Back!!!

It seems like it has been forever since the last blog! Glad to be back!!! We’ve just finished up another wonderful week of Adventure, Excitement and Fun in the Sun. Having a non stop blast all Spring Break long!!! Wish you all could have joined us, we had so much FUN!!!. We had bottlenose dolphin sightings, saw nurse sharks and loggerhead sea turtles, caught giant porcupine burrfish by hand, found cute atlantic yellow rays, sea hares, starfish, sea urchins, chocolate chip sea-cucumbers and more!!! And if that wasn’t fun enough for a Spring Break Adventure, we caught fish like crazy, big ones too, on our fishing day!!! Now that’s what I call Having FUN!!!

Starfish Heads

Everyday we stopped by the Rock Garden to spend an hour or more snorkeling along the shallow rocks and bar. We saw so many fish! Dozens of different species! From juvenile barracudas to giant blue parrotfish, we saw them all, and by the hundreds! It was just GREAT! I think one of our more memorable moments at the Rock Garden occurred on the last day when we came around the edge of a rock and found a big spiny burrfish looking right back at us. We gently dipped him up from underneath with a small hand net, and low and behold, he puffed himself up like he was a giant spiny bowling ball. Did we ever LOVE THAT!!! I know AdventureNicholas sure did!!!

Nicholas with spiny burrfish

On another day here we found a couple of lovely atlantic yellow rays buried in the sand between a few shallow rocks. The group wanted me to catch one in my hand net so that they could check one out up close and personal. I very gingerly scooped one up and carefully removed the venemous barb with the tips of my fingers so that we could all hold one without fear of being stuck. Before doing this I made certain they understood never to do this themselves! This is certainly NOT what anyone else should try!!! EVER!!! The odds are very good that you can and will be stuck, painfully, and from personal experience, it is not something worth risking. That is of course, unless you are AdventureMike. I have spent my whole life in, around and under the water and have learned how to do this without too much worry. You certainly have to know the behavior of the subject matter involved! Best to just leave all rays alone! Once the barb was carefully removed and I had checked to make certain things were totally safe, we took turns holding the ray and checking him out. It was a wonderful experience to watch the gang gently hold the ray and check out the gills underneath, the sphericals on top of the head and the bony mouth plates within the mouth. I know AdventureMaxwell sure enjoyed this encounter. We all did!!!

Maxwell holds a barbless yellow ray

Thursday was our fishing day, and as usual, we caught fish non stop!!! We started out fishing in one of my secret lane snapper holes and before long everyone had caught some really nice fish!!! As soon as the bait hit the bottom you would have something big eating it! It was just AWESOME!!! We caught dozens of big lane snappers, ceasars grunts, spanish hogfish, tomtates and more. Every now and then someone would hook something that we just couldn’t get in, but it sure was FUN watching that rod bend double and hearing the drag on the reel scream out! More often than not, those big fish would swim under a rock or simply break the line, but everyone caught some really NICE FISH all the same!!! Talk about having FUN, we were having a blast!

Porgies, grunts and mackeral

AdventureMax, Maxwell and Nicholas caught some really big porgies that put up one heck of a fight on light tackle!!! It was just GREAT to watch them struggle and fight a nice big fish all the way back to the boat and eventually boat them! I think Nicholas was the first to catch a big porgy that he released afterwards. Maxwell was the second to catch a nice big one worth keeping. He wanted to bring some fish home for dinner for his parents so we decided to keep that one to fillet later. A short time after that, AdventureMax, the other “Max” aboard, caught one nice BIG porgy himself and he decided to add that one to Maxwell’s first so that there would be enough fish for a nice meal. Nice Job Max! And nice porgy too!!!

AdventureMax catches a big porgy

A short while after this, AdventureMiriam, who was quietly catching lane snappers and other fish non stop like there was no tomorrow, hooked into something that screamed the line off her reel like it never was going to stop!!! It took quite some time for Miriam to get that fish near the boat and every time she did, that fish would take off, screaming the line back off the drag again! It was unbelievable and very exciting to watch!!! For a while there I really didn’t think Miriam would get that fish in on this ultra-lite tackle but of course she had to prove me wrong. It turned out to be a really BIG spanish mackeral that had some how hooked itself right between two big teeth and was unable to bite thru the line. Way to go Miriam! That’s one nice fish! HOLY MACKERAL!!! Pardon the pun of course 🙂

Miriam catches a BIG spanish mackeral

Each day we spent a bit of time exploring the Big Sandbar and found loads of beaded starfish, dozens of netted olives, fighting conchs, hermit crabs, cushion starfish, ctenophores and some really big Sea-Hares that are related to nudibranchs. When touched, these sea-hares would squirt out a rich purple dye just like an octopus. It had been years since I’ve seen this species around and they were quite prolific the whole week long. We all loved finding them and nick-named them “Ink fish” for the way they spewed out ink. One afternoon we stopped by Starfish Prairie and picked up a few large Cushion Starfish to take a couple of quick photo ops before releasing back where we had found them. All the kids love finding these. They are the largest species of starfish found here and we had a quick chance to take some of those infamous ‘starfish head” photos! I think AdventureJake found his to be a bit more heavy and spiny than he anticipated! Nice expression Jake!

AdventureJake with starfish

One morning we took a quick boat ride down the beach and did a bit of trolling for blue runners. AdventureMaxwell caught one right quick and we decided to put it on a line to see if something big would eat it. We ran back up the intracoastal to a shallow grass flat and put him out on the line to leave overnight. The next morning when we came back to check the line, we could see the bouy line swimming around in a circle. I knew we had something and the group was excited to see what we had caught. We pulled up slowly and pulled in the line and found that a medium sized nurse shark had eaten the bait. Nurse sharks get their name from the “sucking” sound they make while feeding. One of their favorite foods is stingrays. I carefully pulled the nurse shark out of the water to unhook him and everyone had a chance to touch the rough sand-paper like skin covered with the tiny dentickles that gives the skin its rough texture. Afterwards we released the nurse shark and watched him swim away. It was a great experience for all, and we just loved it!

Nurse shark

Later in the day we stopped back by the Rock Garden to snorkle, search for crabs and see if we could catch some small fish in our hand nets. We spent a good bit of time chasing juvenile spot-tail pinfish and some blennies, watched parrotfish munch on seaweed and went looking for all the different species of coral we could find. We found hundreds of ctenophores, a non stinging jellyfish like creature, washed up against the shallow rocks. For a while we collected them by the net-fulls then went off in search of more fish to chase with our nets. We had so much fun watching as hundreds of fish swim all around us, but didn’t have much luck catching them in our nets!

Swimming at the Rock Garden

As we swam along the rocks we discovered dozens of Sea Hare Nudibranchs and had a ball watching as they released their ink. Along the way, AdventureNicholas found a nice big Chocolate Chip Sea Cucmber and we all took turns checking it out. Sea Cucumbers are one of those creatures that slowly moves about using tiny tube feet like a starfish, and filters sand thru its mouth, digesting the algae growing on it. They basically act as the oceans vacuum sweepers. I believe almost every grain of sand on the outer reefs has been thru the belly of a sea cucumber at one time or another. This species is one of my favorites and is always a nice find! Way to go Nicholas!

Nicholas with a chocolate chip sea cucumber

On the way back to our boat we swam over the remnants of a sunken vessel lying upside down in shallow water. It looked like it had been submerged for years. A few big long-spined porcupinefish had made this boat their home and were peeking out at us from a hole in the hull. As we swam around and checked them out, a very small juvenile nurse shark came swimming lazily out from underneath the vessel. This was the very first one I have ever seen here. As she swam slowly passed me I very carefully caught her in my hands and held her out to show the kids. This is something no-one else should EVER attempt!!! I am a trained professional in handling sharks and have handled nurse sharks and dozens of other species of sharks for years while working at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota county and working for the National Marine Fisheries tagging sharks. Nurse sharks are totally a non aggresive species of shark that possess tiny serrated teeth, but when hassled or held by a swimmer can bite on and never let go! DO NOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN!!! Trust me when I say I have seen nurse sharks hang on to something for hours, and you don’t want it to be your hand or your thigh. When handling or working with potentially harmful creatures, especially around others, you absolutely must know what they’re potential behavior is, not threaten them and respect what they are capable of doing. Needless to say, all sharks are best left alone and appreciated just swimming by. After gently holding the juvenile nurse shark for a few seconds for all to see, I placed her back underneath the hull where she belonged. It was a wonderful experience for all, and we were glad and excited to have this opportunity! It just doesn’t get any better than this!

AdventureMike with a nurse shark

Needless to say, this Spring Break week flew by faster than any of us wanted! We were having way too much FUN !!! We never wanted it to end! NEVER!!! Somehow it always seems to be this way, and I just LOVE IT!!! , We had a BLAST!!! We lived the Adventure!!! From the very start until the very end! FUN and ADVENTURE from here to there!!! Somehow each and every week always seems to be this way, and I just LOVE IT!!! Wish you all could have joined us! We loved the Adventure! We lived the Adventure! It was Just GREAT!!! Lucky for me, I get to do it all over again when my summer camp sessions start May 24th. I’m taking registrations now!!! Don’t post pone, We will fill up quickly!!! Some weeks are already filled!!! Its always a BLAST!!! Its going to be GREAT!!! Don’t be late… Hope to see you there!!!
Let’s Go Have Some Fun!!!


Summer 2009 Week 6: Snorkeling and A New Fishing Record!!!

Hi Everyone, Welcome Back!!!

We just finished up the third day of our weekly Adventure and let me tell you it has been absolutely FABULOUS!!! This week has been just perfect!!! I’m not even sure where to begin! We’ve had so much FUN since the very first second we left the dock!!! It seems like this adventure has been going on for weeks, not just 3 days! Just love it like this!!! On Tuesday AdventureGeorge, Peyton and I were joined by 6 New Adventurers, Adventurer’sLeah, Nicholas, Emily, Daniel and Joseph. And the best thing, this group not only swims like fish, they know how to make the most of an Adventure!!! It doesn’t get any better than this!!!

Group photo at the Rock Garden
Group photo at the Rock Garden

We started the first day going to the Rock Garden. The tide was high, the water crystal clear and fish everywhere by the thousands! As soon as we got in the water we saw big snook chasing menhaden, small barracudas on the prowl, parrotfish, surgeonfish and sergeant majors by the hundreds! Everywhere you looked there were fish in every size, shape and color. So many different species of fish just too numerous to mention!  It was just GREAT!!! The first wonderful highlight of the morning occurred when we caught a small sharpnosed pufferfish and watched as it puffed itself up as if on cue with water to almost double its size. Always love catching these!!! Had a chance to take some nice photos as everyone had a chance to hold it and check it out. Everybody had smiles from ear to ear as this was going on! Everyone was on the hunt with nets and catching swimming crabs, blennies, rock crabs, hermit crabs, pistol shrimp, etc. You name it, we just about caught it!!!

Emily with a pufferfish!
Emily with a pufferfish!

The second fabulous highlight of the morning occurred when we discovered a nice yellow ray swimming along the bottom without a barb.  We quickly surrounded it and were able to catch it in a net. This gave everyone a wonderful chance to check it out up close and personal since it was totally harmless. It was just great!!! We brought it back to the boat to take some photos and give everyone the opportunity to check out the mouth underneath and the sphericals on the top behind the eyes. It would lay in our hands like it belonged there without even wriggling! Did we all love this!!! Just GREAT!!! After a few minutes we let it go and watched as it swam back to the bottom and continued on its way. We spent the whole day snorkeling here. We never wanted to leave we were having so much FUN!

Yellow Ray with no barb! Nice find!
Yellow Ray with no barb! Nice find!

The second day we went back to the Rock Garden since we had so much FUN the previous day and found a baby octopus peaking out of his hole at us as we swam by. It seemed he was as curious about us as we were about him. We would stare eye to eye for minutes and boy did we all love this! We also found some cool jawfish and a baby flying gurnard crawling across the sand with its modified ventral fins that act more like legs than fins. Such a cool find! From here we went to the beach and spent the rest of the day snorkeling, collecting sea glass, shells and body surfing in the waves. We were having so much fun nobody wanted to call it a day when it was time to leave!  On the way back to the boat we saw some big tarpon in the shallows! Really cool seeing that! And on the way home we saw 2 big eagle rays swimming slowly side by side and we were able to motor right up next to them just a few feet away. They didn’t seem to mind that we were there and we loved that too!!!
And of course you all know that Thursday is our fishing day. And let me tell you, DID WE HAVE FUN TODAY!!! We set all kinds of records that may never be beaten! And I mean NEVER!!! Unfortunatel 2 adventurers couldn’t make it this morning so AdventureGeorge and Joseph missed the boat since their moms called and let me know they weren’t going to make it. They won’t believe what they missed! We had so much FUN today!!! Sorry guys…

Another quadruple hook-up!!!
Another quadruple hook-up!!!

I arrived at the dock at 9AM, and AdventureReese, Leah, Peyton, Nicholas, Emily and Daniel were quick to load up and as excited as you could be about fishing! Man were they raring to go!!! Luckily I had 5 pounds of squid already cut up into bite size morsels and 20 extra rigs already made! I wasn’t going to be having any help today so I had prepared everything as best as I could! Little did I know then how unbelievable our day of fishing was going to be!!! I quickly motored out to one of my “secret spots” and  when I drove over it with the fathometer on, we marked thousands of fish from top to bottom! The bottom was litterally “swimming” with fish!!! I anchored right above the rocky ledge, got the rods ready and handed them out. From the very minute we baited the hooks and dropped them down the rest was just a blur!!!
Instantly, and I mean INSTANTLY everyone had a fish on. AdventureReese, Leah, Peyton, Nicholas, Emily and Daniel caught fish faster than I have ever seen, and I mean EVER SEEN!!! Like in my whole life of fishing! You didn’t have 3 seconds from the moment you dropped down till you had a fish on, most times I couldn’t count to 1 second! EVERYONE had fish on ALL THE TIME!!! The action was so unbelievable that everyone was baiting and taking off their own fish!! I couldn’t even keep up with just one adventurer by myself today, the action was so hot!!!
The kids caught all kinds of fish in every size shape and color you could imagine. They caught fish I have never seen caught on rods before. From Parrotfish, snapper, grunts, cottonwicks, sailors choice, tomtates, scorpionfish, banded pufferfish, threadfin herring, porkfish,  butter hamlets, etc. You name it, I think they caught it!! We had groupers eating our bait and fish left and right and cutting us off in the rocks!!! Just Unbelievable. We had one very exciting moment occurr while AdventurePeyton was waiting for me to take his big Caesars Grunt off a big shark came up and ate it right at the side of the boat; hook, line and sinker!!! Just about splashed us in the frenzy. And while that was going on, a huge barracuda came up and ate Reeses fish off too!!! Man was that exciting too!!! Talk about having FUN, we were having it NOW!!! I know none of us will ever forget this day of fishing!!! I didn’t get a chance to look at my watch for 3 hours. It was just that crazy!!!
By the time 3 hours were over and done with, we had boated 419 fish!!! That’s right, you read that number correctly!!!  419 FISH!!!  BROUGHT IN THE BOAT!!!  And that does not include what we lost, had on or got eaten by something else!!! As fast as we could catch them and release them, we had 6 more on!!! I have NEVER seen anything LIKE THIS!!! I may never again!!! It set an all new fishing record for AdventureMike’s that may NEVER be beat!!! And I mean NEVER!!!  It never let up!!! From BIG FISH TO SMALL FISH, WE CAUGHT THEM all!!! God I love this job!!!!!
Somehow or other AdventureDaniel caught this tiny pufferfish on a hook that I had never seen done before and I bet him he would never catch another one like that again. Well just to prove me wrong, not only did he catch another one, he caught another two!!! Talk about losing a bet, Oh Boy…. I loved every minute of it!!!!!!!!! Just GREAT!!!  🙂

Daniel catches his first pufferfish!
Daniel catches his first pufferfish!

In the end, the final tally was: AdventurePeyton with 43 fish, Reese with 54, maybe even more? Lost count, oops.., Leah with 67, Nicholas with 71, Emily with 73, and the new all time winner, AdventureDaniel with 111 fish!!! I can’t tell you just how good I feel right now!!  Today was one of those “ONCE IN A LIFETIME DAYS!!! Is it possible to get any better than this or have more FUN? I don’t think so… What a day it was!!! I will never hear, “I NEED MORE BAIT!!!” without thinking about this day! never!!!
We caught so many fish!  I can’t even begin to guess how many we had on besides that. It was amazing!!! I would have given anything to have it all on video!!!  I have no idea what made the action so extra special, or what made the fish bite like they did, but I know one thing for sure, not one of these adventurers will ever forget this day, and neither I !!!!
We had fun!!! We had a blast!! ! We had a once in a lifetime day!!! And we all had a story to tell!!! It may sound like a “fish story” to some, but we all know differently! WE LIVED THE ADVENTURE!!! And if you saw the smiles on the faces that I did today, you would never forget it either!!! Thank you !!!

God, I love my job!!!! How can we have this much fun!!! I must still be dreaming… YOU GUYS ROCK!! I can’t wait till tomorrow!!!



A Weiss School Student Adventure – Part I

Welcome back all,

We just finished up the first day of a new adventure session and as usual we had a fabulous time! I was joined by a whole new group of adventurers today, AdventureSeth, Michael, Darby, JC, Andrew and Lauren from the Weiss School. This group was well acquainted, extremely comfortable in the water, and they could all swim like fish. All the makings for a wonderful week! I just love it like this! AdventureNicholas, who joined me a few weeks back, came along to give me a hand and help find unusual creatures to share with the group.

Group Photo

After introductions, the group of adventurers boarded my 26′ Island Runner, “Dream Chaser”, donned lifejackets and off we went. We were all excited and in a hurry to get to the Rock Garden and start the days adventure! After a few minutes getting the masks cleaned and ready we got in. In seconds everyone was pointing at different fish, searching for crabs and finding “treasures”. We saw parrotfish, sheepshead, wrasse, bermuda chub, porkfish, pinfish, snook, barracudas, snappers, lizardfish, grunts and an assortment of tropical fish all around us. The usual here! Many times we were completely surrounded by schools of menhaden so thick you could not see thru them. AdventurersDarby, JC and Lauren found all kinds of corals while AdveturersAndrew, Michael and Seth were finding tunicates, crabs and some strange types of tube worms that had long thin stringy tentacles filtering thru the sediment on the bottom. Some of these tentacles were 2 or 3 feet long and the second you touched a tip of one, the whole thing would race back into the hole and disappear in a split second. It was neat to watch them go!

While we were snorkeling a barge came in carrying a load of large rocks to place around the perimeter of the snorkeling area to increase habitat for fish and stop erosion along the south east side of the island. I never saw this here before and it was neat to watch the back hoe operator pull the barge into shallow water and begin dropping off his load. We moved further south along the snorkeling area to get out of his way and check out some new area so we did not swim in the same places I usually go. Even the life guards didn’t know he was showing up till 10 minutes before he arrived.

Future Naturalists!

AdventureNicholas found us crabs and sea urchins and caught a few fish in his hand net to show the gang. He caught a small scorpionfish in his net and brought it over to show us. I wanted everyone to see what they looked like and how well they camouflaged on the bottom. I mentioned how they could deliver a potent sting and to just let them be should you encounter one. I just wanted to make sure everyone new what to be aware of and how to recognise them in case they saw one.

A short time later AdventureNicholas returned with the smallest yellow stingray I had ever seen. It was only about 3 inches wide and cute as can be!!! It had one very tiny little barb that was hung up in the net and preventing it from swimming away. Everyone wanted a closer look so I carefully removed the barb from the ray and gently lifted her out of the net for everyone to see. Since she no longer had any barbs she was totally harmless and I could hold her without worry. This was a great opportunity for everyone to hold a ray and feel how it would suction itself to the palm of their hand as it pumped water thru its gills on the underside and out the sphericals on the top side of the head. It didn’t even try and get away and we all took turns holding it. It was a great experience for all of us and I could tell by the giant smiles all around that everybody was enjoying this encounter as much as I was. I just love it when there is nothing but smiles!!!

Seth with a Yellow Ray

From here we swam back to the boat and found some really nice fossilized worm tubes and quarts crystals along the shallows. We discovered a few jawfish burrows with the tiny jawfish peeking up at us from within their shell lined homes. These are one of my favorite fish that actually carry their fertilized eggs within their mouths until the babies hatch. When danger comes near the young swim back into their mothers mouth and hide till the danger has passed. Always wonderful and fascinating to see this take place. Just love it!

From here we loaded up and went to the sandbar and found West Indian and Florida fighting conchs laying eggs and swam in the Deep Hole looking for fish. For the first time this summer, the skies began to darken overhead and the rain storm was inevitable so we motored over to the Blue Heron Bridge and played around by the life guard stand and stayed out of the rain for the last half hour till it was time to go. We even had fun doing that! I was with a great group, and we had fun no matter what we were doing and that’s what counted. I would liked to have spent more time in the shallows around the sandbar but didn’t want to stay out in a storm. I knew there was always tomorrow, and with this group, there is no doubt in my mind, We are going to have some Fun!!! I can’t wait!!! Stay tuned…..