Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Not A Ferry Tale .... The Welaka Fish Hatchery Still Exists

(Yes, I know how to spell Fairy ... pay attention. We'll deal with that later.)

When I was a kid, and just as fish crazy as I am now, my wonderful parents took me on a day trip to Welaka and the National Fish Hatchery there. Being a St. Augustine kid, with Marineland in our backyard, I could easily get my fish fix (there was no SeaWorld or shudder, DisneyWorld in FL yet) ... but this aquarium was different.

It was a sweetwater aquarium! As a ten year old beach kid, I had never considered that such a thing might exist.
It was a wonder to me and I remember putting my nose prints on each aquarium front as I soaked in the freshies.

Flash forward a few decades and sweet baby girl Emma sends me a message that she wants to go on a daughter/Dad adventure when she comes home for the weekend. Oh, and she would like steak for Sunday's meal ... she's eating lots of chicken in college and needs a break.

Today I'm taking care of that lack of grilled beef, but yesterday we took care of that lack of adventure that comes from acing your classes and setting the curve in your college genetics class.
(Gosh, how did that Daddly bragging slip in there?)

Anyway ...

On the most beautiful day in months, we headed out early for Welaka. A cold front had barreled into Florida overnight bringing us blue skies, crisp cool weather, and NO HUMIDITY!
Oh sweetness!
On the way, we drove and splashed our way through countless JEEP trails in the Ocala National Forest so we didn't get to the hatchery until 3:45 pm. I thought it was open until 5:00 pm, so no worry ... except when we arrived the sign said OPEN 8:00 TO 3:00.
Oh no!

I thought I had blown it, but I had an idea for a funny PF pic, so I handed the camera to Emma and told her I wanted her to shoot me hands up on the window, nosed pressed to the glass door, in the classic, "Nooooooo, it's closed" pose.

When I pressed against the glass door, it moved a little.
I pulled on the handle.
It opened!

In we went.

Emma checking out some yummy channel cats.

Young sunshine bass ... a hybrid of white bass and striped bass.
Such active schoolers ... they were a fishy swirl of motion.

A lovely lady largemouth bass shared her aquarium with me.
We circumnavigated the small, quaint, aquarium enjoying each simple tank and having the place to ourselves.
I was secretly glad that nothing seemed to have changed, I would go so far as to say the backdrops behind each aquarium were the same as when I visited so many years ago.
In a state like Florida where "progress" tends to erase traditional places and events, it was so refreshing to walk into this old aquarium with it's rustic displays and retro tile every where.
It was a wonderful bit of old Florida and well worth the drive.
Speaking of old Florida ... and of apparent spelling errors in the post title, there was one other bit of old Florida we found yesterday and I will share that with you this week ... plus pictures and video (hopefully) of our JEEP adventures in the Ocala National Forest.
... and yes, there will be a Ferry tale.


threecollie said...

Neat to see fish that might live up here too! Sounds like a wonderful trip...congrats to Emma and to you and Mrs. FC for your part in the raisin' on those wonderful grades!

Joey B said...

I never knew about that place. I'm coming home for a visit in November, so I'll definitely hit it. Thanks for the tip.

kevin said...

Good for Emma for getting the grades and the break from chicken. As a member of PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) I understand needing a change in the protein source.

How is Mrs. FC holding up after last nights game?

cndymkr / jean said...

Tell your daughter that I remember the various mystery meats they served at college. And congratulation to her on the great grades!

who wouda thunk it?? said...

were there terrazo floors?? That stuff just screams old Florida to me

lisa said...

It is always nice to have a father, daughter day! I hope to be able to take another trip to Florida (St. Augustine). We didn't nearly have enough time to see it! The Aquarium would be awesome to visit!

cinbad122 said...

So that's what you were doing when I got my picture!

Miz S said...

Dadly boasting allowed. How awesome is it that your college-age kid WANTS to spend time with you?

robin andrea said...

Cool aquarium pics, and great that Emma is setting the curve in Genetics! Woohoo. That's the way to do college.

Did it MY way said...

Father daughter day.....Priceless.

God Bless-You have a wonderful family-Job well done!

See Ya

Floridacracker said...

Hah! The everpresent bluegill.

Perfect time of year to do it too.

She was stressed but alive.

Thanks! She's doing her own cooking now, but cheap chicken still hits the menu often.

Who woulda,
You are right terrazzo does that. I think this was tile though ...

It's little but still neat to see. Plus you can explore the nature trail and ponds.

You got it!

Miz S,
Totally awesome!!

She's really got her act together.

My Way,
I agree completely.

Anonymous said...

Those fish look amazing! Beautiful place... and thinking of fish...

I really am so grateful to these biology flashcards

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Welaka National Fish Hatchery in 1964-1966. The aquarium was there at that time and I lived in a house next door to it that has since been removed. Glad to learn that the aquarium is still in operation and providing an enjoyable time for visitors! John P. Crowder, Florence, AL