Sunday, July 23, 2006

Yesterday On The Gulf Of Mexico

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The boat is back after $$$KA-CHING$$$ repairs...$70 an hour labor fees...arrrghhh! Forget college, go to outboard mechanic trade school!

Yesterday was spent chasing scallops down in Crystal River.

It was a shakedown cruise for the newly repaired SS Summer School and our first shot at scallops this season. We launched on the Crystal River (which was a lot more crystalline before it's banks sprouted so many neatly fertilized lawns) and ran west to the Gulf.

The Crystal River is a place of compromise where power boats (like mine...guilty!) attempt to coexist with manatees. Travelling the river involves passing through different posted zones where you are at times required to idle along, while other zones are normal speed. The USFWS has mapped out areas of heavy manatee use and these are the idle zones. Even though we spotted two manatees as soon as we got on the river, it's really not the season for lots of manatees inside the river. During the winter, they come up to bask in the Crystal River spring where 72 F water gushes out.

It's a short run to the Gulf and our two (brother in law Paul's family) boat fleet was soon flying south across clear green gulf waters. We had just got up on plane when a school of feeding dolphins caught our eye, so we cruised over to watch them. For you "dolphin doubters" from the Ozello post, NO, there are no dolphin shots in this post. I did get some, but in the boat I use 35mm, not delicate digital, so you'll have to wait. In the meantime, get your dolphin fix at Hurricane Teen's site.
I did miss a really good shot of the one dolphin who lept completely out of the water in a graceful arc. Ya' had to be there.

After the dolphin break, we ran down off Homosassa and Ozello to search for scallops. The water was clear, very salty, and we all hopped over in about 10 feet to search for scallops. The bottom was carpeted with seagrasses which undulated lazilly in a mild current.This is a little deep for scallop hunting, usually scallop searching is done in shallower water, but the tide was up at the time. It didn't take long to determine that the bottom was NOT carpeted with scallops.

After 20 minutes searching this first spot, we clambered back in and ran inshore and a little more south until we were nearer St. Martins Keys.

Here, the water was a little clearer and a few feet shallower, so again the anchor splashed into the Gulf followed by kid and adult splashes. This was a great spot for snorkeling with a mix of seagrasses and hard bottom. Hard bottom spots are places where the underlying limerock is exposed. These are colonized by sponges and small corals. The tropical corals never get reefy big here as cold temps kill them off during hard winters. The more temperate sponges do get pretty big and the combination of the two attracts a different mix of fish than you find on the surrounding seagrass beds.

After some serious searching, we had a total of about a dozen blue-eyed, nervous scallops. The daily limit is 10 gallons (in the shell) and it takes about that many to have a decent meal. These are small bay scallops who sport one delicious adductor muscle per animal.

With such a small take, we decided our 12 scallops would do more good spawning than sauteeing. We tucked them back down into the seagrass and our scallop hunt became a family snorkel, swim, play in the water day. Excellent!

After a few hours, we reluctantly loaded up and ran back to port just ahead of a developing thunderstorm. It was a pretty good day and not having any scallops to clean was just fine with me, since they're not my favorite.

I do have a boat to clean though and so our tale ends here.

12 comments:

Likes2mtnbike said...

Ahhhh...life in Florida...

Mrs. S said...

10 gallons for one meal!? That's crazy. Maybe it's best you didn't find any, that sounds like it would have been a lot of work... not to mention a lot less fun than just general snorkeling and playing.

Debbie said...

Our scallop hunts always take us just southeast of St. Marks, south of Tallahassee. For many, many years the scallops were abundant and we always caught the limit. Three summers ago it rained all summer, then it rained again the following summer. Last year everyone was asked not to gather scallops because they were having such a hard time with two summers of rain and last year's hurricanes. Since we haven't had the chance to go out this summer I enjoyed reading about your experience.

rick said...

Thats why I keep the fish I catch alive in case I get that I dont want to clean fish today so Ill release them and only have to clean the boat.

Floridacracker said...

Likes2mtnbike,
When it's good, it's very, very good.

Mrs. S,
Cleaning scallops is tedious, but snorkeling in search of them is a lot of fun. If only they were shrimp...

Debbie,
We usually go to Steinhatchee, but tried the Crystal River area since my brother in law lives there. I don't think it's a banner year for scallops this year.

Rick,
Good idea...not that I've caught any fish lately.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

You guys have soooo much fun...I wish I was a kid in your family! And I love scallops and would have cleaned them, but do they really have pretty blue eyes?

kevin said...

C'mon! Fresh scallops and manatee steaks, it doesn't get any better than that!

Floridacracker said...

Abandoned,
Up to 400 I believe.

Kevin,
I like a good red with manatee.

Hick said...

Well I was by here yesterday to comment on your yummy scallop post, but blogger wouldn't let me. I'm hoping it will take my comment today.

Ahem...

First: How do you know it was a nervous scallop?

Second: Not your favorite? (She stands staring with her mouth hanging open.)

I just paid over TEN DOLLARS for about 10 scallops and my mouth is watering even as I speak...er write.

Brother...you are very spoiled with all that yummy seafood floating around.

Hurricane Teen said...

I'm with Abandoned in Pasadena...I wish I was growing up in the kind of lifestyle your family has...I've always wished for a more humble rural lifestyle than these suburbs I deal with everyday...anyway...nice post; scallop gathering sounds like a good bit of fun.

Floridacracker said...

Hick,
It's true about the spoiled thing...we use shrimp for bait!

Hurricane Teen,
It's all out there waiting for you. Keep that kayak wet!

Hurricane Teen said...

I'm just afraid there's not going to be any expansive rural areas left by the time I'm old enough to buy a house and live out there. It's a shame, too.