The Hidden Coast July-August 2017
The Last of Old Florida
Scalloping Season is Here!
See inside for articles, tide charts, maps, and more! Cedar Key, Steinhatchee & All In Between!
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2 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
The Hidden Coast
The Last of Old Florida
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2017 Bay Scallop Season Information
Bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) live in shallow, nearshore waters along Florida’s Gulf coast, from Pensacola to the Florida Keys. These bivalves are usually found nestled in seagrass beds and are easily distinguished from other bottom-dwelling animals by their electric blue eyes. Bay scallops are capable of swimming by opening and closing their shells rapidly to generate thrust, which can make catching them more challenging.
Information and graphics courtesy: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission For more information: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/
4 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
Bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) live in shallow, nearshore waters along Floridaâ€™s Gulf coast, from Pensacola to the Florida Keys. These bivalves are usually found nestled in seagrass beds and are easily distinguished from other bottom-dwelling animals by their electric blue eyes. Bay scallops are capable of swimming by opening and closing their shells rapidly to generate thrust, which can make catching them more challenging.
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TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 7
Bay Scallops Our Radiant Comb
By Capt Brian Smith, Big Bend Charters Steinhatchee French scientist Lemark called the scallop peigne rayannant or radiant comb, due to the design on the shell. The scallop shell is the most recognized of all ‘sea shells’. People who think they have never seen a scallop are most often surprised when shown the shell and told it is from a scallop. They probably recognize the shell as the logo of Shell gas stations. Actually, the shell they’ve seen is only half of what makes up the scallop. The scallop lives inside two shells hinged together by a single muscle. Because it has two shells the scallop is a bi-valve. In the wild, each of the two shells has a different color. The bottom shell, the shell it rest down upon, is whitish to light gray. The top shell, the shell facing up, tends to be a dirty brown because sediments collect on its surface. Nonetheless, Mother Nature, not one to be stereotyped or pigeonholed, occasionally adds a splash of color. On average, 4% of the population will be orange, while 1-2% will be lemon-yellow in color. The bay scallop has a short life span in the Gulf, living for about one year, and their life ends after spawning. Scientists have demonstrated that some scallops live for more than a year and probably spawn at least twice, and it is possible that this phenomenon is more common in the northern Gulf. The bay scallop is both a male and a female. Reproduction occurs primarily in the fall as water temperature begins to drop and scallops release eggs and sperm into the water. Although most of the gametes do not survive, in a healthy population enough will survive to produce the next generation of scallops. Fertilized eggs develop into a swimming larval stage known as a veliger. The veliger develops into a juvenile scallop in about two weeks, when it then settles from the water and attaches to seagrass blades. In the spring
8 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
the juvenile scallops grow rapidly and detach from the seagrass to take up their free-living lifestyle. For more information go to www.marinelab.fsu.edu/faculty/ scallop.html. The bay scallop is the marine equivalent of the canary in a mine. Miners used to carry a canary in a cage with them in the mine. A live canary meant the environment was safe and clean. However, if the canary died, the miners knew the air was toxic yet had enough time to escape before they fell to the same fate as the canary. The presence of bay scallops indicates a clean environment. Bay scallops require pure seawater and a healthy seagrass bed to survive. They thrive in waters with higher salinity and low sediment loads, therefore heavy rain events and the subsequent flush of dirty freshwater on to the grass flats prior to scallop season reduces harvest. Scallops are filter feeders. The abductor muscle that holds the two shells together, relaxes so the shells open up about the width of a pencil. Water that passes through the opening is filtered removing algae. While the scallop is feeding, you can see up to twenty sets of eyes all along the perimeter of the open shell. The eyes are blue, the size of a pinhead, on the end of stalks. You can also see tentacles along the rim. Their eyes are not like ours. They merely detect changes in light. The tentacles detect touch. When an environmental change is noticed, the scallop either closes the shells tight or takes ‘flight’. Sometimes, when startled, the scallop will take evasive swimming action by quickly opening and closing the two shells together jetting out water. Imagine clapping castanets doing a zig-zag dance in the water; it is funny to watch. The vast majority of people are interested in bay scallops because they are the tastiest of all marine bivalues. Although the entire animal is edible, typically only the abductor muscle is eaten. A statement from 1895 told that women especially enjoyed eating scallops because the meat was white and additional organs were absent. Furthermore, since only the muscle is eaten,
consumers have fewer problems with illness from bacterial or viral diseases. Unfortunately, due to over-development along much of our Gulf coast the grass beds have been erased along with the scallop populations. Areas where scallops populations are still healthy are quite special. Because of concerns of over harvesting; collection is only allowed by hand or dip net by recreational fishers from Pasco-Hernando county line to Mexico Beach in north Florida. For those planning a scallop adventure this season here is some of what you need. For those planning on an overnight visit, early as possible reservations are needed because scalloping is so popular. If you have your own boat, make sure it was a good sturdy ladder for getting back onboard. If you don’t have a boat, rental boats are available or, for the least amount of hassle, guides will take your party out for a fun day. In terms of gear, a dive flag, mask, snorkel, swim fins and a collection bag (a laundry bag is great). A heads up tip: check the fit of the mask and fins prior to jumping in. A leaky mask or blister making fins can make for a frustrating experience. This is most important! Exercise respect and caution when operating a boat around those in the water scalloping. The scallops aren’t going anywhere so there is no need to rush. Buzzing by scallopers is rude and unsafe. How would you feel is someone cruised passed your child, wife, etc. A boat is just a slow bullet, but with the same effect.
Anyway, play safe and enjoy scallop season 2017! TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 9
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Horseshoe Beach By: Mayor Talmadge Bennett
On Labor Day weekend, 2016, The Town of Horseshoe Beach took a direct hit from one of Mother Nature’s natural disasters, Hurricane Hermine. Although our Town has experienced several hurricanes and tropical storms, Hermine was the second worst storm to hit our community, only “The Storm of the Century” in March of 93’ was more devastating. One of the biggest impacts to our Town was the loss of our “scallop season”. Our town has a small retail business sector and a successful “scallop season” is vitally important. As we open our 2017 scallop season, all of our business community has geared up with all the necessary supplies for our visitors. Early reports are pointing to a real good season. I am personally inviting everyone to come to Horseshoe and enjoy one of our best Family-time adventures………. Scalloping!
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Spectacular Sunsets! Fish or Crab off of Your Own Deck! See Front Inside Page For More Information! TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 11
RIVERBOATING ON THE SUWANNEE RIVER By: Toni C. Collins
Vessels that run on the Suwannee River today are far different from the vessels that plied the waters of the river more than 150 years ago. Today, runabouts, wave runners, and pontoon boats provide recreational activities to boaters while in the past shoal draft riverboats carried passengers and freight from the interior to the Cedar Keys. Connections with ocean going vessels to New Orleans and Havana could be made in the Cedar Keys. As early as 1845, at least one riverboat was using the river on a regular basis. An item in the St. Augustine News announced the coming of the ‘Orpheus.’ “Our readers may remember that it has been in contemplation for some time past to establish a mail route, by steamers, upon the Suwannee from Cedar Keys to Fort White, to be connected thence with the St. Johns by stage... The steamboat, ‘Orpheus’ built in New Orleans, expressly for the purpose, has arrived and taken her station on the route. We learn that she is a most beautiful vessel, 136 feet in length, and is fitted up in fine style with 18 staterooms. She will carry the U.S. Mail from Cedar Keys to the new town of Santa Fe on the Santa Fe River, in Columbia County, once a week and will also run up the Suwannee to the flourishing town of Columbus.” Unfortunately the vessel met her end in 1847 and her remains were advertised for auction where they lay. The next recorded river boat to serve on the Suwannee was the ‘Glasgow.’ She was registered at St. Marks but the exact time or nature of her operations is unknown.
12 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
In 1854, one of the most well known Suwannee River vessels appeared for service on the Suwannee, the ‘Madison.’ Built for use on the river by James Tucker of the Cedar Keys, the vessel was named for the county by that name where Tucker’s wife’s family resided. In the nine years the vessel ran on the river she was very popular with residents along the Suwannee in the days before the advent of railroads or the Civil War. But it was during the early days of the Civil War the ‘Madison’ showed her metal when she made a daring capture off Seahorse Key. Shortly after President Abraham Lincoln imposed a naval blockade on the 3,600-mile Southern coastline from Virginia to Texas, the Confederate government leased the ‘Madison’ to protect the Suwannee River and transport soldiers and foodstuffs. On July 1, 1861, the ‘Madison’ charged out of the mouth of the Suwannee and took chase after a flotilla of unknown vessels which had been spotted from the lighthouse on Seahorse Key. Aboard the ‘Madison’ was a troop of soldiers from the 4th Florida Infantry. Taking advantage of the foul weather, the ‘Madison’ took command of the flotilla and identified the three schooners as coastal traders operating under Confederate licenses. They were being escorted to Key West by a prize crew from the capturing vessel, the Union blockading ship, ‘U.S.S. Massachusetts.’ James Tucker was hailed as a hero and went on to captain riverboats not only on the Suwannee River but also on the St. Johns River. During the
Civil War Tucker avoided the Federal blockade by running vessels in the inland waterway between Fernandina and Savannah. After the war, Tucker moved from the Cedar Keys to Fernandina. Recovering from the Civil War, several large pencil factories and lumber-based industries located their operations in the Cedar Keys creating a demand for the transportation of raw products and supplies. It was during this period that riverboating on the Suwannee River moved into its “Golden Age.” Several years after the close of the Civil War, the Cedar Keys once again became a thriving seaport. However, records indicate that there was no steamboat traffic on the Suwannee River until the spring of 1872 when the riverboat ‘Wawenock’ made her appearance. The ‘Wawenock’ would leave the Cedar Keys at 8:00 a.m. every Tuesday and run up the river to New Troy, the county seat of Lafayette County, and return to the Cedar Keys on Thursday. During the summer of 1874, the vessel was moved to Pensacola, and later to New Orleans. Several years passed before the ‘David L. Yulee’ was built in Cedar Key and entered into service on the Suwannee in 1876. With only one deck, the vessel was destined to carry only freight during her lifetime. Following nine years of service, the vessel was condemned and abandoned in 1885 and her remains lie in the Suwannee at Plunder’s Bend not far from the Gulf. By this time, the inland region of the Suwannee Valley was bustling with activity. No large settlements had grown up directly on the river, primarily due to the river’s habit of flooding far beyond its banks during the rainy season. But farms and plantations were within easy reach and sawmills and turpentine stills were plentiful. With few roads or railroads to serve the area, riverboats became a necessity to provide a constant flow of supplies to the scattered settlers. Groceries, hardware, clothing, and other articles were taken aboard at the Cedar Keys and unloaded at docks in Ellaville-Columbus; Hudson-on-the -Suwannee, today known as Dowling Park; Bula, the dock for Luraville; Branford; New Troy; New Branford;
Hatche’s Bend; Fayetville; McCrab; Red Sulfur Springs; and Old town. In the summer of 1880, the two-decked sternwheeler ‘Erie’ made an appearance. Built in Jacksonville in 1876, the vessel was owned in part by a group of merchants from along the Suwannee. Four years later the vessel was purchased by a group of investors from Manatee County and moved to that area. As the Suwannee Valley became more populated and the demand for timber increased, more vessels entered into trade on the Suwannee. In 1882, the sternwheeler ‘Eagle Pencil’ provided the slat mill on Way Key with cedar. Then in 1883, the ‘Caddo Belle’ made an appearance and served until September 1885 when she was abandoned as unfit for service. Then came the ‘Bertha Lee’ whose term of service on the Suwannee is unknown before being moved to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee Rivers. Next came riverboats with names such as ‘Belle of Suwannee’, ‘Louisa’, ‘C.D. Owens’, ‘Sam Pyles’, ‘Thetis’, ‘Three States’, and ‘Helen Denham’. But in 1900, the biggest riverboat of them all began its run on the river. ‘The City of Hawkinsville’ was built in Abbeville, Georgia in 1896 for the Hawkinsville Deep Water Boat Lines. The vessel was purchased by the Gulf Transportation Company in June of 1900 for service on the Suwannee. The ‘Hawkinsville’ was active for many years in and around the Cedar Keys and Suwannee River towing for the pencil factories and she has the distinction of being the last riverboat to run on the river. In 1914, the vessel’s last captain, M. Currie stripped her of metal, machinery and anything worth saving, and left her at a dock at Old Town to rot. Registration records give the date of abandonment as May 19, 1922. Want to learn more? Readers can go to levycountyhistorical society.com to learn more about riverboating and also historian and author, Toni C. Collins. You may also email her directly at email@example.com.
TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 13
Cedar Key, FL
JULY TIDE CHARTS
Horseshoe Beach, FL
For more information: http://tbone.biol.sc.edu/tide/sites_usgulf.html 14 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
Gulf Coast scalloping By: Capt Mike Farmer. Salt Addiction Charters
As you read the title many of your minds will immediately envision the large Sea Scallop. But this article will be all about its more petite cousin, the Bay Scallop. The Bay Scallop is a bivalve mollusk which thrives in a small area of the grass flats in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Florida coast. The only areas with a population that allows a legal and sustainable harvest are from Hernando county to the south and Gulf county to the north. Although this is the legal parameters which will be open to harvest, located about half way in between lies the area that is generally the epicenter of the scallop hunt. Here you will find the sleepy little community of Steinhatchee, Florida. The population of this little community is just over 1,200 residents but once scallop season opens each year the temporary population increases to upwards of 8,000 during peak periods. What is it about this little creature that cause population booms filling the town and the local waters with thousands of men, women and children ? What can possess them to spend countless hours on the water in search of a tiny mollusk ? I can’t speak for what makes everyone tick, but for me it’s more about the hunt and the family fun that stirs my passion than the actual harvest of the scallop itself. There is just something about immersing yourself in the bathwater warm waters of the gulf as you swim around in pursuit of those dang little scallops. As you swim along taking in the scenery that the gin clear waters hold beneath its surface you soon find that the scallops are only a bonus to the hunt. Once you have entered this aquatic wonderland you will see an abundance of aquatic sea life including starfish, many species of crabs, sea turtles, many species of fish and various types of aquatic vegetation. There is a plethora of flora and fauna for you viewing pleasure. It is almost like diving into an aquarium and becoming a part of the ecosystem that thrives in the local waters. Most wildlife that you encounter isn’t bothered by your presence, some of the creatures are actually quite curious and many may follow you around just observing you. During your time underwater you can just forget about the rest of the world while becoming totally consumed by the aquatic environment surrounding you as your worries just drift away with the tides. If you haven’t previously participated in the incredible sport of scalloping, don’t be intimidated. Only some basic equipment is needed. First of all a boat, whether it be yours, a rental boat or a charter captain. From that point you will only need a mask, snorkel, fins and a mesh collection bag to place your catch. As with anything you get what you pay for but if your a first timer there isn’t a need to spend a fortune on equipment. Usually you can find a combo set of everything needed for $60 or less.
Once you are equipped and on the water then the fun begins. You will be on the lookout for good habitat in which the scallops live. Find a good grassy area in 3-5 feet of water. There will be three main types of vegetation found here, wide bladed turtle grass, thin bladed needle grass and moss. A combination of all three types of these vegetation is usually a jackpot and prime habitat for your quary. Once you have found these areas you will anchor your vessel, put up your dive flag then slip into the water. Once you are in their world then the game of hide and seek begins, scalloping has been referred to many times as an adult Easter Egg hunt. Some days are easier than others but just remember that they have the home field advantage. I suggest swimming against the current, as it makes the scallops easier to see in the grass as the tidal movement pushes it over and also so that if you stir up any silt then it is carried away behind you. You will want to keep your fins off of the bottom as much as possible to reduce the amount of silt that is loosened up and reduces your water clarity. At times the scallops will be sitting up on top of the grass and can be easily seen while at other times they may be hiding down in the grass. The main thing to keep an eye out for is just looking for there basic shape as well as their beautiful eyes. Yes I said eyes, they have approximately 32 pairs of gorgeous bright blue eyes that protrude from their shell. Once you have spotted one then its only to just reach down and grab it, then place it securely inside your collection bag. Once you have harvested one don’t swim away to hastily as normally there are several more in close range awaiting you. Words in a short article do not even come close to giving you all of the details of hows, whys and the joys involved. I have tried to give you a brief overview and hope it has inspired you to bring your family or friends of all ages and come join what others have already fell in love with. Whether you come on your own or call me to guide and educate you on this experience I believe you will be very glad you came and are able to take the experience and memories back home with you. You can check out www.myfwc.com for all of the current rules and regulations. If your looking for something new to try for this years family vacation then please come visit and give it a try. Capt Mike Farmer Salt Addiction Charters 352-210-1551 www.saltaddictioncharters.com
TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 15
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