Happy New Year!
During the holidays my family and I got to visit in Sarasota, FL, for about
a week. Toward the end of the stay my stepson and I got to cram in a bit of
collecting. On 12/28, Jonathan and I stopped at the Little Manatee River,
about 17 miles east of Bradenton on FL Highway 64. Normally this stream is
crystal clear, with a white sand bottom. However, there was a considerable
leaf pack in many places on this visit and the water had more of an amber
color with a temp. of 58F. We had planned to snorkel, but even the Great
Gilled One in Chattanooga hesitates to go in when it's below 60F. (-: I
know some of our MI stalwarts think that this is warm water, but it ain't
here in the Southeast.
Because of all of the family activities our time in the water was very
limited. Still, we did okay. We found brook silversides, FW shrimp,
assorted sunfish (mostly dollars and bluespotted, I think), 1 tiny channel
cat, 1 Everglades pygmy sunfish, swamp darters, and coastal shiners. We
were solidly in range for our targeted flagfish, but we failed to find any
on this day.
The following morning we started back toward GA, intending to hook up with
Doug Dame (Interlachen, FL) along the way. Unfortunately, our friend had to
work that day, so we stopped to explore on our own just north of Ocala at a
place called Orange Creek, on Co. Highway 115. Ironically, we were only 12
miles from Doug's house, but we didn't find that out until we got home.
Otherwise, I would have left some fish in his mailbox. This stream is very
slow-moving, bordering on swampy conditions. The bottom was a mixture of
sand and mud, with a heavy tannin stain in the water. Mud along the banks
was extremely treacherous in places. However, much of the bank was anchored
with wonderful cypress knees. What a beautiful area! I had some
reservations about gators, although I saw no signs of any, because of the
depth of the dark pools and moderate to heavy vegetation...too many hiding
places. If any were around, I guess the cooler weather kept them subdued.
We did more dipnetting than seining there to allow us to watch for any
reptile visitors. This was my first experience using a "Perfect Dipnet"
from Jonah's Aquarium. They are, in fact, perfect! Nice design, Mark.
Again, were we limited in our collecting time, having left my wife in Ocala
for a shopping rampage while we pursued the fish. We caught the same mix of
sunfish plus one warmouth, FW shrimp, swamp darters, sailfin shiners
(beautiful fish!), 2 golden topminnows, scads (herds?...schools?...packs?)
of unwanted gambusia, and some ironcolor shiners. I thought I had some
taillight shiners, but I may have been mistaken (many thanks to Dave Neely
for the ID help). Some of them are still so small, it's hard to tell. I'll
let 'em grow for awhile and see if I get lucky.
We were in the water only about an hour, and I know that we barely touched
all that must be there. Our friend Doug visited the same location last week
and also found pirate perch, brown darters, an an Okefenokee pygmy sunfish.
This was my first collecting trip in FL. I am very impressed. If I couldn't
live in GA, I guess I'd just have to go there!
Already, there are rumblings for spring collecting trips. A surprising
number of people are talking about an Okefenokee outing. If any of you have
an interest in hitting that area, contact me off list. I'll try to
coordinate all of the input and come up with something that works for the
majority of those who wish to go swamping. Also, if I can twist Jay's arm
one more time, I'll try to get the pics from FL up on a page for your
All The Best,
Steven A. Ellis
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