Take a short drive west from High Springs, Florida and you’ll find yourself confronted with 3 choices for swimming or snorkeling in 72-degree spring water. Florida’s springs, fed by the constant-temperature Floridan Aquifer (the largest self-replenishing aquifer in the world), are comfortable year-round, especially when the air temperatures drop and the water is warmer than the air!
Poe Springs, at 28800 NW 182nd Ave, High Springs, FL, sits a short run from the Santa Fe River and is located within the boundaries of an Alachua County Park. There’s plenty of parking, but be aware that it’s about a quarter-mile walk to the spring itself. At the spring, you’ll find picnic areas and a set of concrete steps leading down to the water. There is NO CHARGE to swim in Poe Springs!
Blue Springs Park is located just down the road from Poe Springs, in Gilchrist County at 7450 NE 60th St. The spring run to the Santa Fe River is a bit longer than the one at Poe Springs, and the spring is larger. There are also several other smaller springs that are easily accessed. Blue Springs offers overnight camping and is very family oriented. Modest fees are charged for entry and for camping.
To fully experience Ginnie Springs, consider camping there for a weekend. There’s great swimming, snorkeling, rafting, , SCUBA diving and camping! Located just down the highway from Blue Springs and Poe Springs, this place is all about FUN! Fees are charged for camping and springs use. Rafts and tubes can also be rented there.
Don’t drive too fast on US98 west of Perry or you might miss Deal’s Oyster House. This unassuming white building is home to some of the best seafood in the region and as they tell you “The finest people in the world come through that door”. Of course, oysters (raw or fried) top the menu choices, but there always fish and shrimp for those folks who don’t eat the oysters (or in the summer months when the oysters are not as tasty). You can also get a plate of delicious fried mullet, or if you’re there in colder months, a plate of fried or broiled sheepshead. Side dishes are outstanding, too. Expect to get some of Deal’s famous hushpuppies, their sweet cole slaw and grits with every entree!
Deal’s is about 2 miles east of the intersection of US98 and US19 in Perry and is open Tuesday through Saturday for both lunch and dinner.
Deal’s Oyster House
2571 US Hwy 98, Perry
The weather’s cooling down, so it’s time to head to the coast and do some paddling.
Sea kayakers have long known of the multi-day expedition possibilities along Florida’s Big Bend Gulf Coast. The area boasts one of the longest and wildest publicly-owned coastal wetlands in the United States, and a striking array of bird and marine life. Flocks of white pelicans often zoom past in winter and great egrets dot marshy expanses, white as snowflakes. Bald eagles and ospreys entertain with their aerial maneuvers, and in the often clear waters, one can spot crabs, fishes, sea turtles, manatees, cannonball jellyfish and small sharks and rays.
A 40-page guide to the 105-mile trail includes detailed maps, and information on the rich natural and cultural history of this region.
Do you want to make your adventure longer? The Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail is part of a system of trails that make up the Florida Circumnavigational Trail. For information on extending your journey in either direction visit this website: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/paddling/saltwater.htm
Fall means that our Gulf waters are beginning to cool off, and the redfish are getting frisky and into a spawning mood. However, the big “bull” and “spawner” reds are over-slot and wouldn’t be great to eat anyway. Reds in the 18-27-inch slot are much better at the table.
If you want to eat a redfish, you’ll either have to catch it yourself or pester some neighbor or friend into giving up one of his or her two-fish bag limit. Redfish, or red drum, are not to be confused with deep-water red snapper, which are commercially available at some times during the year. There’s a distinctive difference in the taste of shallow-water reds from the offshore snapper “reds”. Here’s a recipe that’s bound to please and have your guests asking for seconds!
Allow one fillet per person. To prepare, put the fillets in a shallow baking dish and pour in a whisked-together marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. An hour in advance of dinner is ample, but be sure to turn the fillets every 15 minutes or so. At grilling time, place the fillets skin-side-down and cook uncovered until the top surface of the fish turns white, meaning it’s almost cooked. Then, finish the cooking by carefully flipping the fillet to the “meat side” for just a few minutes. Most of the actual cooking takes place with the skin side down and this final touch is mostly to impart color and grill marks. Total grilling time depends on your particular cooking gear and the thickness of the fillets, but you’ll soon learn to judge doneness by pressing a fillet with your finger. Too soft means not cooked enough; too hard means overcooked—grilling tricks you’ll learn with experience.
The St. Marks Stone Crab Festival has been an annual event since 1997. We know fall has arrived when our fishermen start hauling in the Stone Crabs. It is a celebration of the stone crab season opening in October. Originally started by Stan West and Dave Vailancourt, owners of the Riverside Cafe’, in recent years the event has grown into a community wide project with many local volunteers and sponsors.
Today the festival hosts thousands of visitors and provides a venue for local musicians and artisans. In addition to the great food and music, attractions include a parade, children’s activities, educational displays, and dozens of vendors. The main event is, of course, Stone Crab. Come and enjoy the day with us.
The St. Marks Stone Crab Festival, Inc. is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) operated by a group of volunteers. Proceeds from the festival are given as charitable donations to organizations in St. Marks and the surrounding area.
First settled in 1527, St. Marks is a historic little city at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge, it is located just 20 miles south of Tallahassee. Today, the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park and the Tallahasse – St. Marks bike trail, located on the historic St. Marks Railroad are permanent reminders of the colorful and eventful past that this community is preserving.
The St. Marks River opens into the Apalachee Bay, thus this sleepy village has a robust fishing and stone crab industry. Marinas and fine restaurants along with many eco-friendly guides can be found in the City of St. Marks. Two city parks, one on the St. Marks River and one on the Wakulla River, are convenient for boaters, canoeists, kayakers and families to enjoy.
10:00 Festival Opens
10:45 Opening Ceremonies
11:30 Mechanical Lincoln Band
Dan & Alana Wohlrab & Crew
Classic/Rock – Lincoln@myspace.com
12:00 St. Marks Pirates of the Caribbean Parade
12:30 – 1:30 Mechanical Lincoln Band
Dan & Alana Wohlrab & Crew Classic/Rock
*DONATED GIFTS WILL BE GIVEN AWAY AT THE STAGE AT VARIOUS TIMES THROUGH OUT THE DAY.*
**COAST CHARTER SCHOOL FALL FESTIVAL IN THE KID’S ZONE WILL BE OPEN 10:00 AM UNTILL 6:00PM.**
*** INTERNATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGY DAY @ SAN MARCOS DE APALACHE HISTORIC STATE PARK
10:00AM TO 4:00PM. FREE TRAM RIDES AVAILABLE FROM THE FESTIVAL TO THE STATE PARK.***
Late summer brought a bloom of Karenia brevis, a toxic algae, to the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Yes, there were some minor fish kills, mostly offshore, but for the most part, the bloom died back after the waters cooled in early October.
K. brevis can be particularly harmful if it blooms early in the summer, when Gulf waters are hot. However, this year’s bloom seemed to stay mostly offshore.
As a precaution, anglers are advised to stay away from areas where fish are floating dead or seemingly confused and gasping. Most of these areas are at least 10 miles offshore of our shorelines.
For more information, see the FWC Red Tide Status Page
Florida’s Big Bend is home to some of the best stone crab grounds in the U.S., and we’re expecting a good year. You’ll soon be able to find these tasty delights in restaurants at Cedar Key, Suwannee, Steinhatchee, St. Marks and Panacea. Served cold or hot, with a simple mustard sauce or butter, Florida’s stone crabs are the ultimate in seafood!
Florida’s recreational and commercial stone crab claw harvest season opens Oct. 15 in state and federal waters. To ensure this valuable resource is available for generations to come, take care when removing crab claws, and follow all protective management guidelines for stone crab harvest. To be harvested, stone crab claws must be at least 2¾ inches in length when measured from the elbow to the tip of the lower immovable portion of the claw (see illustration). View a video on how to properly remove the claw, and increase the likelihood of survival of the released crab. Measuring stone crab claws Claws may not be taken from egg-bearing stone crabs. Egg-bearing females are identifiable by the orange or brown egg mass, also known as a “sponge,” which is visible on the underside of the crab when it is picked up or turned over. Recreational harvesters can use up to five stone crab traps per person. Stone crabs may not be harvested with any device that can puncture, crush or injure a crab’s body. Examples of devices that can cause this kind of damage include spears and hooks. Recreational and commercial traps may be baited and placed in the water 10 days prior to the opening of the season but may not be pulled from the water for harvest purposes until Oct. 15. Harvesters are encouraged to take only one claw, even if both claws are of legal size, so that the released crab will be better able to defend itself from predators. A crab that is returned to the water with one claw intact will also be able to obtain more food in a shorter amount of time and therefore regrow its other claw faster. There is a recreational daily bag limit of 1 gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel, whichever is less. The season will be open through May 15, 2015, closing May 16
Fall “officially” started this week (September 22) and that usually means that the chances of heat-driven thunderstorms dwindle and the chance of fronts bringing easterly or northeasterly winds increase. And when the winds blow from those directions, the impact is usually seen in the form of lower-than-predicted tides. High tides, especially during lesser moon phases (not full or new) will “buck” the winds, but still can’t muster enough strength to meet the estimates. Conversely, low tides are often driven lower my as much as a foot, and as much as two hours ahead of “schedule”
As winter approaches, anglers and boaters need to be aware of lower-than-predicted tides for several reasons. Either can run aground or become stranded by tides that are unpredictable, but most important, anglers can take advantage of the fact that fish (like smart boaters) abandon shorelines and head to holes and channels to escape the lack of water and cover. Baitfish are the first to head away from shore as the waters drop, followed soon by predators, and hopefully followed by you, armed with a rod and reel.
The best advice from seasoned Big Bend boaters and fishermen is to be prepared to move should the tide start moving quickly towards the west. Also, having a set of local charts, like those from Florida Sportsman or Navionics, can help youfind narrow channels and navigable submerged creek beds that are good “escape routes”.
Come celebrate Steinhatchee/Jena’s Culture and Wildlife at the 5th Annual Hidden Coast Paddling Adventure. This year’s event, scheduled for October 3-5 (with some great pre-event trips starting on the 1st!) promises paddlers a look at the spectacular Dixie and Taylor County coastlines of Florida’s Big Bend.
To register for the event, go to HiddenCoastPaddlingAdventures.com
There’s no better Gulf shoreline at which to snorkel for bay scallops than the shallow stretch between Keaton Beach and Steinhatchee, in Taylor County. The 2014 season ends on September 24 and limits of the tasty critters are still being caught (picked up!) daily.
Scalloping is a relatively easy process. In fact, cleaning your catch is the “hardest” part of the adventure. Luckily, at Steinhatchee, there are lots of willing folks at the Sea Hag Marina who will clean your catch for a modest fee. And if you don’t have a boat, rental boats are available at the Sea Hag, River Haven or Good Times marinas.
Look for scallops on the shallow flats off Big Grass Island or near the cuts off Dallus Creek, to the north of the Steinhatchee River. Just look for a gathering of boats and jump in! For complete information about scalloping, take a look at “Bay Scallops, The Gulf of Mexico’s Tastiest Treat”