Monday, March 31, 2008

Man-of-War Jellyfish Video Clip & Photos


Thanks to the generosity of one of BeachHunter.net's visitors, I now have some great video of a Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish floating in the water and washing up on the beach at Bathtub Reef Park in Stuart, Florida.

BeachHunter.net is building quite a nice collection of Florida jellyfish stories and photos. Jellyfish come in all shapes and sizes. Some sting and some don't. So if you're curious come check out the jellyfish info on BeachHunter.net.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Ray Flies Out of Water, Collides with and Kills Unlucky Woman on Boat


Here is an incredibly sad story from the Florida Keys about a woman who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. According to the article in the Naples News, a woman was pleasure-boating with her family in the Keys, cruising along in their small boat, when a 75 pound spotted eagle ray jumped out of the water and collided with her. Depending on which news account you read, the boat was traveling somewhere between 25 and 40 miles per hour. Apparently the force of the collision killed both the woman and the ray.

Rays are not known for doing a lot of jumping, but they can leap clear of the water, and obviously they sometimes do. Please understand that the ray did not "attack" the woman, as some dramatically overstated and irresponsible initial newspaper headlines have stated. The ray was, I'm sure, just as surprised by the woman as she by it.

Reports of large marine animals leaping out of the water and killing or injuring a person on a boat are heard every year. Unusual, yes; unheard of, no.

Barracuda and other fish are known to have jumped out of the water and collided with fishermen. This is sometimes attributed to the fish being attracted to a lantern or other light on the boat.

On freshwater rivers and lakes in Florida, the sturgeon (a very large and armored fish)is known to leap out of the water during certain times of the year and sometimes collides with people. Just last year I read of a woman on a jet-ski who was hit head-on by a large sturgeon while zooming along on her jet-ski.

Jumping sturgeon news report.

I took the photo above while standing on the boardwalk at Clam Pass Park in Naples, Florida. The spotted eagle ray was swimming about two feet under the surface of the tannin-stained backwater. It swam right under the boardwalk. They are very beautiful and graceful creatures.

If you have a little patience and don't mind waiting 20 seconds for the page to load, MSNBC has a good video report on rays and interviewed an expert at the Miami Seaquarium.

Note: If you click the heading, or the link in this blog post to read the Naples News story, may I suggest that you read the comments below the article as well. There are a few goofy ones, but also some helpful and interesting comments as well. And those are even rarer than jumping rays.

Florida Beaches Information

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Grayton Beach State Park


Last August I made a very memorable trip to the Florida Panhandle beaches (Northwest Florida, as the State tourism promotion people refer to it). I've been remiss in putting up my photos and writing about several of the places I enjoyed. I've finally published some photos of Grayton Beach State Park, which is near the town of Seaside.

It was an EXTREMELY hot and humid day when I was there (over 100 degrees)so I did not explore the park as much as I'd have liked to. But I did hang out on the beach, and wow is this a great beach. I was particularly taken by the quality of the sand. It is really pure and white. The water is clear and emerald green, but on the day I visited, there was enough surf to make it just a bit rough. There was a sandbar visible and that was taking the brunt of the waves.

Nice tall white dunes, few people, fantastic beach. Check out my photos of beautiful Grayton Beach.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Another Giant Florida Hammerhead Shark Killed

Lately (last few years) it seems like a lot of "record" sized hammerhead sharks have been killed by shark fishermen in search of a trophy sized shark. This time it was off Singer Island in Palm Beach County on the Atlantic coast. A 1,000 pound, 13 foot long hammerhead was caught. According to the news article, the fisherman said he didn't mean to kill the shark, it just died during the struggle.

Two years or so ago a 1,280 pound, 14 foot 3 inch hammerhead shark was caught in Boca Grande Pass on the Gulf coast by another record-seeking shark fisherman. It pulled the fisherman's boat 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico during the struggle.

Imagine the power and stamina of a shark that size to be able to pull a boat for 12 miles.

Lots of hammerhead sharks feed in Boca Grande Pass, especially from May through July, when one of their favorite food sources, Tarpon, is there. Unfortunately the human Tarpon sport fishermen are also there competing with the hammerheads and other sharks for the Tarpon. Often the sharks will attack a Tarpon that has been hooked by a sports fishermen and eat it before the Tarpon can be pulled into the boat.

I like to fish, and I'm no far-left tree-hugger, but at some point we all have to realize that there are just too many people fishing now to be continuing to kill off the dwindling population of large sharks, just for "sport". What kind of sport is that?

It reminds me of when I'm around other fishermen on the piers, and someone lands a catfish, a ladyfish, a stingray, or some other fish that they don't want. They often just leave it flopping on the hot concrete of the pier until it dies, then they kick the lifeless body back into the water. It's just a "trash fish" they say. Fortunately the people that do this are not as numerous as they used to be, but they are still around.

Below is a photo of a stingray someone left on Fort Desoto's Gulf Pier to die. They could have easily just nudged it into the water. Instead, the tore off the tail spine and left it baking in the sun to die. Some would say that the stingray has no useful purpose, but as it so happens, the stingray is one of the hammerhead shark's favorite foods.


I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be able to see the graceful beauty of the giant hammerheads. For those who might quote the Bible and say that man has dominion over the earth, I don't challenge that at all. But with that honored place of holding dominion comes the responsibility of stewardship.

Below is a youtube video of a large hammerhead shark in Boca Grande pass eating a tarpon that the fisherman has hooked. If you listen carefully, you'll hear a woman on one of the boats remark how "sad" it is that the tarpon is being attacked. Amazing. The shark is killing to survive. How is that sad? The tarpon might well have died from the struggle with the fisherman anyway, even though it might have been released "unharmed." Many "catch-and-release" fish die anyway, despite the best efforts of the fishermen to return them unharmed to the water. A struggling fish attracts sharks. Upon release, the fish is exhausted and is an easy catch for any sharks that have been attracted by the struggle. I am not against catch-and-release fishing, but I am not comfortable with the deliberate targeting of large sharks, whose population is in decline.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sweetwater Kayaks: First Saturday Kayak Demos


Sweetwater Kayaks is a full-service kayak shop in St. Petersburg, Florida. The first Saturday of most months they bring a bunch of kayaks to the beach on the St. Petersburg side of the Gandy Bridge causeway for people to try out. I've been meaning to check them out for at least a year. I'm getting more serious about buying a kayak now, and the weather was absolutely perfect for kayaking today--high in the upper 70's and no wind--so I decided that TODAY was the day.

I pulled together my usual BeachHunter gear--Tilley Hat, dark glasses, water, sunblock, various cameras, towel, sun-protective clothing, etc--and drove to the demo location. I wasn't the first one there. They had a nice setup and plenty of signage, so there were 4 or 5 kayaks already in the water.

They have many different kinds of kayaks, from plastic molded sit-on-tops to state-of-the-art sleek touring kayaks.



I signed a waiver and they gave me a paddle, a personal flotation device (life-jacket), and a brief orientation. Kayak testers are allowed to paddle a few hundred yards up the beach toward a marina and then turn around and come back to try a different boat.

I started with a short inexpensive boat, then moved up to a 12 footer, then a 14 footer. With each increase in kayak length the boats became easier to keep moving in a straight line and the larger boats moved much faster than the smaller ones.

I also climbed into one of the sleek-looking carbonlite "Eddyline" brand kayaks. It was harder to balance in, but was really fast. And it tended to keep moving even after I stopped paddling.

One of the things I noticed right away is that the most important part of the kayak is the seat! Some of them felt great. Others were really uncomfortable. I was happy to learn that I can have whatever seat I like installed in my kayak (when I buy one).

Sweetwater Kayaks offers all kinds of classes and kayak trips. In fact, after looking over their literature and their website, it looks like a person could make kayaking a full-time hobby and never run out of places to go and things to see by kayak.

My main interest isn't really to buy a kayak. I just need a way to reach some of the islands and beaches that don't have bridges from the mainland. If you don't have a boat, some of the islands are tough to explore. Plus I'd like to see the beaches and islands from another perspective. A kayak can take me places that my feet can't.



If you live in the Tampa Bay area and would like the chance to try various kinds of kayaks, check out Sweetwater Kayaks first Saturday demo. There is absolutely no pressure for you to buy anything. Just go and try as many kayaks as you please.

Sweetwater Kayaks website.

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