NANFA-- Florida trip

Mon, 28 May 2001 22:31:28 -0400

Hi guys

I have been trying to post for the last 2 days now and finnaly found the
problem.I had my e-mail set on HTML instead of plain text.

I just came back from the Destin/Panama city area where i spent 4 days
mostly looking for saltwater fish.
I do not have all of the species latin names since i am new at SW collecting
but am learning quickly with the help of Andy ( in
Key-West-FLA- via e-mails and phone and my books.

Sunday the 20th:

We arrived in Panama city around noon and couldn't check in the hotel until
4PM so 3 good hours where spend in residential areas looking for spots to
collect the rest of the vacation.
I mapped from Panama city all the way to Parker which will save me time on
where to go in future trips.
As we drove by one of these spots i could see schools of silvery fish being
chased by bigger fish.
The car was absolutly packed but i had to find my smaller cast net.
Two throws of the net produced about 90 shads.I was expecting something else
like stripped mullets but at least i knew what they were now.
All were released unharmed.
We then checked in our hotel located in Panama City beach (For those who
don't know, Panama City and Panama City Beach are 2 different cities right
next to each others) which was located on a freshwater lake just a few feet
away from the clear waters of the gulf.
While my wife unpacked i set 2 traps in the freshwater lake.

Monday the 21st:

First thing in the morning, i went to check the traps in the lake which had
produced 12 fish but unfortunately nothing rare since 8 Bluegills (Lepomis
Macrochirus) and 4 Largemouth bass (Micropterus Salmoides) were caught and
released.Again i had hopped for something i couldn't get home.
I have a question about the Largemouth Bass though.They took me a while to
accurately I.D. for the simple fact that they looked just like L.Bass but
the jaws didn't extend pass the eye just like in adult Bass.Don't juveniles
jaws of that species extend past the eye?

We then headed to St-Andrews park which is a marine aquatic preserve for an
amazing day of snorkeling and fishing (Posters in the park remind you that
you need a permit to collect live marine life in these waters)..
You can't collect but can fish and keep your (dead) catch in the park as
long as Florida regulations are followed.
As soon as you enter the water without any snorkeling gear on yet, schools
of juveniles Pinfish (Lagodon Rhomboides) come between your feet and
litteraly bite them.It doesn't hurt a bit and is quite funny.
The second species of fish i encountered where Spots (Leiostomus Xanthurus)
which school on the bottom constently stiring the sand for food.
As i was still snorkeling on a wide sandy area on my way to the rocky jetty
where most fishes are, my eyes caught something crawling along the bottom
which was a Searobin (Family Triglidae).I followed it for about 10
minutes,it would just crawl on the bottom and not swim,and would bury itself
in the sand at times.I decided to accelerate the chase and it sprayed its
fins and just lost me.
The jetty was all i had hoped for with thousands of fish left and
right.Colorful wrasses, tiny Seeweed Blennies by the dozens perched on
rocks, Cocoa or Beaugregory Damsels which are bright yellow and blue, 2 foot
long Stripped Mullets (Mugil Cephalus) travelling in schools, and also had
the chance to spot 2 adult Sheepshead (Archosargus Probatocephalus) which
are prized food fish.
As you get further away from the beach along the jetty, schools of
Mangrove/gray snappers (Lutjanus Griseus) litteraly follow you, checking out
every move you make, some are quite big.
The highlight of that snorkeling trip happened towards the end of the jetty
where as i was turning in the water to see what was behind me (I always keep
an eye on what's behind me), i found myself surrounded by a school of big
jack Crevalle (Caranx Hippos) which passed me at great speed coming as close
as two feet.I braced for the impact sure one would just hit me but fish know
where they go and they were gone faster than they appeared.Awesome!!!
Other than fish i spotted 3 yellowish anemones which i just couldn't I.D.
with my books later on along with big snails.Sea urchins are everywhere on
the rocks and you got to be real carefull when inspecting rocky areas that
the current don't throw you against them.
I could I.D. 3 species of Hermit crabs which are all over the Gulf, Giant
hermit crab (Petrochirus Diogenes), Stripped Hermit Crab (Clibanarius
Vittatus), and the Red Hermit Crab (No scientific name yet).
I spotted a big Stonecrab (Menippe Mercenaria) in a hole and played with him
for a few minutes (It's like playing russian roulette ;-) but i did manage
to grab him by the claw (Pat 1 Crabs 0).
I briefly fished on the Jetty towards the gulf side which is deeper and
caught and released Mangrove Snappers, Pinfishes, and unidentified at this
time silvery fishes with a black ring at the base of the tail and with very
compressed bodies like in freshwater Sunfishes but more compressed (will
keep you updated since i am actively looking into I.D. them).

I went fishing in the evening off a Panama City pier that had produced
several fishes 2 years past but got only nibbles and gave up after one hour
(Summertime is best in my experience).

Tuesday the 22sd:

I went snorkeling off a little jetty north of Walton Beach that was
recommended on a diving group online but didn't see anything real amazing
beside the biggest Blenny i have ever seen in US waters (Saw bigger in
France), a lot of blue crabs (Callinectes Sapidus), the usual Pinfish,
Mullets, Hermits and Spots and all the oysters you can eat.
Once done snorkeling i threw the cast net at random in the grass beds and
caught only Pinfishes and Spots (It's like the lotto, you never know ! ).

We then moved on to a day use area below the Destin pass.The place is very
clear but very crowded,snorkeling holding my 8 years old daughter hand
didn't provide any new sights.As warned online the current is strong and
drown several careless divers every year.
I saw a dead Hardhead catfish (Arius Felis) on the beach which is one of two
marine cats present in the gulf which fishermen hate so much that they throw
them on the bank (I hate them for doing that).
There were 2 ponds right behind the beach among the dunes and i threw the
cast net in the thick vegetation to see what i could come up with. I caught
several colorfull Sheepshead Minnows (cyprinodon Variegatus) and kept 3
which are happily swimming (or look it anyway) in a brackish set up in my
home. I also caught an unidentified Killifish which was very dark (A very
dark green) all over with a black spot on the dorsal fin.Bruce can you help
I.D. it?
There can't be too many killifish with a black spot on the dorsal that like
some salt in their water in that range?
I don't think it was a rainwater but it could still be and definitely wasn't
a Mummichog or Stripped killi which i know well.
I didn't keep it and let it go.

Wednesday the 23rd

The day started by a big disappointment since i was told online to go
collect in the Grayton beach area which has lots of shallow grass flats.
None could be found and i did all of Grayton including the park.
I think these guys forgot to tell me that they were divers and the grass
flats can clearly be seen a ways out in the gulf.
I tried to still make the most out of the day and snorkeled the extremely
clear sandy waters.I saw hermits, snails, a blue crab and a small marine
I tried to grab a small Blue Crab that look like it wouldn't hurt if it
would pinch me but it did. I am glad i didn't try that with a bigger one
(Pat 1 Crabs 1).
Water was rough and i got out.A few minutes later 4 school buses dumped
about 100 kids on a field trip.
It was time to leave. ;-)

We headed all the way back to Panama City and that's when my first mapping
day paid since we headed straight for secluded spots litterally carpeted
with seagrass.
My wife and daughter helped with the seine which provided me with my best
collecting day of the whole vacation.
Water is shallow and stays like that for very far.At last the spot i had
been looking for !
We caught hundreds of Pinfish, Spots, Hermits, Ghost Shrimps, Blue Crabs,
Livebearers (Gambusia?), Snails along with a splendid juvenile Stonecrab, 2
species of Gobies including a very neat looking one I.D by Andy in Key-West
over the phone as The darter Goby (Gobiionellus Boleosoma), an Atlantic Bay
scallop (Argopecten Irradians) which 30 blue eyes could clearly be seen.
The last but not least species was one that had always been on my "Wanted to
collect someday" list.
The Pipefish which could be either the Gulf Pipefish or the Chainpipe
Pipefish (Thanks again Andy).
We caught a total of 5.Neat looking creatures.

That is it. I want to again thank my lovely wife which did everything i
wanted to and provided me with food,drinks, band-aids and dry towels when i
needed them.

Steven Ellis is your trip to Savannah still up? I am in, if you go let me

Best regards


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