Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sandcastles 2014 a Night View

Its always fun to walk on a beach and so every year we attend the Sandcastles event on Treasure island. This year we walked down and viewed the sandcastles durng the day and then returned after dinner to view the castles in projected light.
Many of the sand carvers had been here before and we could see the styles of familiar artists. We were concerned about the winds and oncoming front but the artists applied a white glue water mixture to hold their creations together.
We all had our own favorites and while they hadn't yet presented any awards/ribbons it really didn't matter as they were all beautiful in their own way. My favorite was a carving made by a Mexican artist but there were others that were Renita and Jenny liked best.
Regardless it was a nice day and a nice stroll down the beach. Anytime we get a chance to view art enriches our day.  I think I will just let the sandcastles do the talking. Clear skies

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another Day on the Water, Waves and Fresh Fish for Dinner

Alan stopped by after pickelball and you could tell by his grin that he had a fish story to tell. He had taken his grandson out and they had gotten into fish so big that they lost all of them, They had went out nineteen miles to a reef and had then saw a group of boats about a mile away. Going over there they watched a boat land a thirty pound grouper and when they lowered their lines they were soon on a fish themselves.
Now they never did land any of the big fish they had on but they had found a spot and when he invited me and another friend, Tim, we both jumped at the chance to catch some black grouper. Two days later we had a live well full of fresh bait, pinfish and mullet caught with our cast net.
Now it all depended on the size of the seas and sadly we soon found ourselves in five footers. It was obvious that it was simply unsafe for us to continue so we headed to a pass with protected water and tried our usual drifting techniques.
As the day wore on we caught and released some small black sea bass and the usual grunts. Suddenly we saw pelicans and birds diving on a spot and as we neared it we could see fish chasing bait, Greenbacks were being driven into the air by a school of small bluefish and into the beaks of the feeding birds. Just a soon as we arrived the frenzy stopped and of course we had no bites.
Shortly after a new frenzy took place so we decided to continue fishing the pass. Drift after drift followed and finally Tim caught a nice keeper Atlantic sharpnose shark, As soon as it was landed Alan set his circle hook on a large bonnethead shark and we actually had fish in the live well.
Feeling left out we tried another drift and it was my turn as I felt a weight on my cut mullet, set the hook and actually landed a really nice southern flounder. On the same pass Tim landed a nice keeper black sea bass and surprise surprise we all started to discuss our favorite ways of cooking fish!
We didn't add any more fish to the live well but it didn't matter. Mother nature had thrown us a loop with big waves but when you can't fish for one species then go after another. The day turned out to be a five species day with good friends, good stories, and fish for the table. Clear skies

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Quiet Day on the Water, Fishing for Flounder

After pickelball, we met the other players at the clubhouse. It was get acquainted day at the rv park and free coffee and doughnuts always draws people out of their homes. One of the persons we met, Alan, asked me if I liked to fish and invited me to go out on his boat, fishing for flounder.
Of course I jumped at the chance and a few days later we were launching his boat at the Fort Desoto boat ramp. Now Alan is an expert walleye and salmon fisherman and I could see right away that I was in for a treat. Just by watching him it was obvious that he knew how to handle a boat.
Now if I could only meet my part of the bargain. That was that I had told him how the flounders were migrating to the Gulf for their spawning run and how you could usually find them alongside passes.
So we headed to Bounce Pass, between North Beach and Shell Island. Turning sideways he shut off the engine and we both cast jigs tipped with gulp towards the sandy shore, (it was an outgoing tide and not the best tide to stack up the fish), A couple of minutes later Alan set the hook and fought in an undersized flounder. Continuing to drift with the outgoing tide we both had more bites, but kept missing them until Alan hooked and landed one of the ugliest fish in the ocean, a sea robin, (known affectionately in Texas as a mothers in law fish).
Somewhat resembling a lion fish he avoided the spines and released it unharmed. Now it was my turn to pull in another sea robin, and for several drifts that's all we landed. Still Alan did catch another small flounder and so we tried other drifts. The tide went slack, never good for fishing, as it seems to us that the best fishing is with moving water. Still we caught quiet a few small grunts, destined for the bait box, (cornbread for dinner again).
Trying other places the fish refused to cooperate so the day turned into the usual dues day, which is a day where you have to pay your dues before you finally figure out the local fish. Still it was a really nice day in Alan's boat, a day of sharing fishing stories and talking about the differences between fishing for salmon and walleye on the Great Lakes, and my techniques for fishing the western reservoirs.
Clears skies

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fossils, Beaches, and Fishing: What a Surprise

It always amazes me how fast time flies and how easy it is to get behind on our blog. Here its been a week and we have been busy beaching, fishing, and fossilizing, ( that's hunting for sharks teeth not becoming one). So if this post seems kind of disjointed well that's the way it goes.
While we were at Zolfo Springs, we stopped at the museum and learned that there was a fossil show. It was the first show being held by the Southwest Florida Fossil Club and so of course we had to check it out. Mike, Mona, Melanie, and their granddaughter Heather all wanted to come along and so we loaded up the truck and headed south to Punta Gorda.
We wanted to be there when they opened and so we had pretty good pickings. Its a really active club with about two hundred plus members and the displays were all chock full of megladon sharks teeth and Pleistocene mammals fossils.
It didn't take long for us to find more weight for our fifth wheel and we quickly purchased three dugong ribs, (a ancestor of today's manatee). A little further we added a bison tooth, alligator scutes and teeth, and even two cave bear molars. Of course I found a heavy rock from New Mexico that we had to have and now we have a five pound chunk of green silica gel, (needed some weight for the fifth wheel;)).
It all stuff we plan on turning into jewelry, (not the rib bones), as we plan on expanding our line of fossil jewelry. We also purchased several sharks teeth and an opalized ammonite, again all new projects for us to figure out how to wire wrap.
While there we met an author of numerous fossil books, Mark Renz, who told us about a great beach to hunt for sharks teeth. As it was on our way home we decided to stop for a short try and we quickly fell in love with the place. People were everywhere, walking the surf, snorkeling, and using long handled scoops to drag up the shells and sort through the material looking for megladon remains.
Even with the large number of people we still found small teeth, they were a dark black, and so its a place where we plan on returning for a full day of fun. Mikes grand daughter Heather found the largest one and isn't that how it is supposed to happen?
Another day we decided that we hadn't had enough beach fun and so we headed to Fort Desoto. I took along my fishing pole and shortly after we got there birds started to dive bomb a school of bait fish. They were being forced to the surface by blue fish and I actually got out there and had two on, losing both. It not unusual to lose blue fish as they had extremely sharp teeth and it didn't matter as I was going to release them anyway, (haven't figured out how to cook them properly).
 It would have been different if I caught a nice flounder and I did talk with several fly fisherpersons who were targeting the huge sea trout that were occasionally swimming through the pass. I never did hook up with any other fish but that was ok as it was a great day to be relaxing on a beautiful beach.
So its been a busy week and as it ended it was time to say goodbye to Mike and Mona. Mona is retired but Mike still has his business, Mike Brackin's Civil War Antiques, and were heading back to their home in North Carolina. Nothing like time with family scouring the beaches. Clear skies

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sawgrass Lake Park, The Color of the Day was Blue

Of course I was racing ahead on the boardwalk. I just can't help myself, and so when Renita waved me back I knew I had again missed something important. Mike, my brother from North Carolina, had spotted a beautiful blue tailed skink. It was sunning itself on an upturned tree root and was unconcerned with our presence.
Ever since Mike and I stopped fighting, (Did you ever fight with your brother?), we have enjoyed each others company. Growing up we would scour the woods looking for morel mushrooms and Dad taught us how to to identify native plants, jack in the pulpit, leek, and ginsing along with many others.

Mike developed his love of botany and zoology and so became an expert himself, (he later earned a doctorate in zoology with a specialty in herpetology). So of course he was looking for lizards and snakes with his trained eyes while I was trying but missing so much.
A little further a couple were peering into the palmetto brush and Mona asked them what they were seeing. The man asked her if she could see the snake resting in the brush. Renita waved me back as I was charging ahead and Mike identified the snake as an Eastern Blue Indigo, (a rare threatened species). This snake is nonvenomous and routinely eats rattlesnakes, its immune to the poison, and grows to a length of over nine feet. Sighting it was a special treat and it was obvious the color of the day was blue!
Further down the trail we spotted a Cuban anole. Our resident expert explained the difference between anoles, skinks, and geckos and told us that the Cuban anole was an invasive species that has displaced the native green chameleons, (are actually an anoles),
Of course we saw the ever present alligators and turtles. Birding had been the main activity planned for the day and we hadn't been disappointed. Limpkins, rosettes spoonbills, American white ibis, and Louisiana herons waded and fed completely unconcerned with our nearness. Renita and Mona both spotted a downy woodpecker and as it fed a red bellied woodpecker joined it on the dead tree.
It was a fine day to be birding with family in such a place. Surrounded by the city and  the ever present traffic noise, Sawgrass Lake Park is a little gem in the area. I wish I had come here years ago to see the surrounding area before it was developed to death, (meanwhile Tampa news stations proudly reported that the last undeveloped track of forty acres was going to be turned into a condo and business plaza, go figure). Clear skies

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Week in Zolfo Springs

We wanted to check out the Walchula area as a possible wintering spot. There are quite a few rv parks there and so we booked a week at the Skp park near Zolfo Springs. While there we hoped to float the Peace River, perhaps hunt for fossils, check out local museums, in other words just do our usual stuff.
So we checked into the SKP Resort, its a beautiful park by the way, and settled down into our routine. In other words we started to make a few pieces of jewelry and kumihimo and before you know it three days had passed and we hadn't gone anywhere. There was a knock on our door and we met a nice Skp Sue,( a skp is short for Escapees which is a group of fellow full time rvers), who warmly greeted us with two giant oatmeal cookies. She had just gotten a lot there after eight years on the waiting list and so we talked about the application process.

Checking out things to do we found out that the Peace river was not at a good level to hunt for sharks teeth, too high, We still drove down to Zolfo Springs, zolfo means sulfur in Italian,  to look at the boat ramp. We also found out that the current was faster then we expected and so we decided a float from there was going to have to wait.
The county park there, Pioneer Park, has lots of rv spots, They were mostly empty  as were most of the parks we drove by., There were also exhibits of historic buildings, a museum, and an old locomotive.
Heading for the museum we were warmly greeted by the curator and soon discovered display cases filled with fossils and artifacts from the local area. It was really cool to see the beautiful mammoth and mastodon teeth and bones and it was a good display of what could be found.
As we were snapping images my camera stopped working and we realized the battery had run down, of course I had left my cell phone back at the fifth wheel, and so we were short on images for this post. No matter really as it had lasted long enough for the fossil and artifact images.
Two cold fronts were approaching, with gale force wind gusts, and so we cut our visit a day short heading to nearby St Petersburg and our location for the next two months, We always get nervous when ever we have to cross high bridges, crosswinds don't you know, and the Skyline Bridge in Tampa definitely qualifies as a high bridge.
As far as the park is concerned we decided not to apply for a lot. After talking it over we agreed that we like large parks with lots of activity's, walking trails for us and the dog,, a pickle ball court, (yeah we are definitely hooked), and nearness to the beach with salt water fishing. Clear skies