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!!!
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!!!
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!!!
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!
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!!!
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 🙂
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!!!