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An Expedition to Florida's Forgotten Coast

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#1 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 04:09 PM


An Expedition to Florida's Forgotten Coast. October 16 - 23 2011. Sunday to Sunday

I am offering a 3rd trip to Tates Hell and the FSU Marine Lab. This time we will stay longer and have more leisure time but if some of you are so inclined i will let you wear yourself out with maps and legends, seines, dipnets and snorkeling. I really think an additional couple of days to relax and enjoy the facility and region at a leisurely pace will be much appreciated by all.

Florida State University's Marine Lab's gated compound is located 1 hour below Tallahassee and right on the coastline looking South into the Gulf of Mexico. It has a wonderful view, interesting facilities to explore and will provide for a comfortable base. We will reside in their Beach House located right on the water. In past visits we have walked and waded the beaches during low tide, and at night by moonlight or lantern finding Sting Rays, Horseshoe Crabs, Flounder, Batfish and Jellyfish along with schools of Killiefish and Needlefish, pods of pulsing Squid and a green eyed Alligator. We have cast nets for Mullet and hooked Speckled Trout from the docks. We have marveled at and attempted to discern the diversity that lay within our nets. We have felt the sun's autumn warmth by day and nearly touched the Milky Way by night. During past visits we have seined the rivers, barrow pits, ditches and swamps of Tate's Hell which borders the vast Apalachicola National Forest to the North. We have snorkeled the cool, clear waters of the Wakula and a beautiful slough lush with plants, fish and life. We dove into the blue waters of the Cherokee sinkholes and lunched on the high bluffs and down by the sulpher springs. We measured Old Joe and found the gator's length a bit exaggerated and then dined in fine southern fashion at the historical Wakula Lodge. We have rode whales and fiberglass sharks and poked our fingers and arms into places we were told not to. Yet no one been lost, forgotten or eaten, but all have shared in the finest the sea offered from Blue Crab, Gulf Shrimp and Apalachicola Oysters, to freshly Smoked Mullet, softshell Crab sandwiches and bait shop Squid cleaned, ringed and fried. We walked up the tower of wood and overlooked the vast stand of dwarfed Cypresses. Fish, life and water are everywhere and i have yet to see it all, even after so many trips.

With limited space, we have the opportunity to continue the adventure again.

I am going to reserve the FSU Beach House for a full week, October 16 - 23, a Sunday to Sunday gathering, limited to 10 NANFA Fishheads. The cost is $500 per person which includes our beach house, the makings for each of our morning breakfasts and roadside lunches, and a variety of snacks and drinks for along the way. Most, if not all of the fees, will be included to the various facilities and activities we will visit. Nights, at individual expense, we will visit nearby seafood restaurants or perhaps cook some freshly caught or locally acquired fish, shrimp, crab or self seined Redfin Pickerel in the house's kitchen or on the outside grill.

The weather should be dry, the water low and the summer heat gone, and hopefully most of the bugs too. Alternate and backup plans for rainy days are a visit to the Gulf Specimens Marine Lab in Panacea or westward to the new Apalachicola Nature Center. Every past trip we have enjoyed the jungle cruise, swim, snorkel and high dive at Wakula Spring. We may even take FSU's trawling boat out into the gulf waters if we are so inclined.

We will encounter a wide variety of native fish from Bluefin Killies to melanistic Golden Topminnows and Sailfin Shiners. Big and small, beautiful or beastly, we have observed well over 35 species of freshwater fish in past visits.
Waders are required for safety in the swamps and caution is a must with alligators, water mocassins and other unseen concerns. Bring your snorkel gear for the amazing underwater views of the Wakula's spring, river, its tribs or clear lakes out in Tates Hell.

A freshwater fishing license is required, all laws are to be respected and no over collecting will be acceptable while staying at the FSU Marine Lab. Keeping a few souvenir fish is certainly ok. This adventure is to be experienced for its natural wonder and is not an opportunity for wholesale collecting. Alcohol is prohibited at the lab but quiet evening discretion has been tolerated during our stays. Smoking is not allowed in the house. The lodging is a 4 bedroom beach house, 2 of which are fitted with bunkbeds, 2 full baths, a nice kitchen and large living area opening to a patio and the sea. Outside showers are available and we have access to the compound by night. Video, TV and the internet is generally available. Cell phones work pretty well in the flat expanse of the panhandle.

Send a check for $250. to reserve your space as soon as possible. We are limiting this to 10 NANFA members to simplify logistics and for housing comfort. Make your check out to NANFA but send it to Casper Cox, 1200 Dodds Avenue, Chattanooga, TN, 37404.
Include your phone number and email address so i can keep you updated. My phone number is 423-624-0721 if you have any questions.
Your deposit check is generally non-refundable as the house must be reserved in advance and expenses will be incurred. The remaining $250 is due upon your arrival. Any additional monies, after all expenses, will be contributed to NANFA.

You can read about past adventures in the Spring 2005 American Currents, the Summer 2006 issue, or the Winter 2009 AC written by Keith Hudgins.

I have included a photo collage of our last visit in 2009.





Edited by Casper, 26 August 2011 - 04:10 PM.

#2 Guest_fritz_*

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 03:49 PM

Rudy Arndt, retired professor from Richard Stockton College in NJ, expert herpetologist and a fountain of information on Southeastern natural history, and I, erstwhile fun guy, plan on participating. Who wants to join us?


#3 Guest_MichiJim_*

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 07:30 PM

Seriously considering it. I could miss a couple of hockey games to go play in the mud.

#4 Guest_MichiJim_*

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Posted 29 August 2011 - 02:42 PM

Just spoke to Casper, and I'm in. Too good to pass up, but we need some more people to join in.

#5 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:39 AM

Its a real deal, lots of fun, plenty of time, most all expenses included, and we will make a little money for NANFA's treasury.
We need 8 to make it work though. President Fritz, snake handler Rudy, Auctioneer Phil and now Michigan Jim. A couple three maybees including our new American Currents editor.
I have to notify the FSU Marine Lab to release or commit to the Beach House by September 15. We need about 4 more.

#6 Guest_mneilson_*

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:37 AM

Wish I could join for the week, but I don't think that's feasible. I might, however, come and join for one of the day's outings as it's not too far from here.

#7 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:43 AM

I know you have a lot going on right now Matt, but I think a day in Wakulla Springs with El Snorkelmeister is just what you need :)


#8 Guest_khudgins_*

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 08:32 PM

I'm scrambling to see if I can take a week off with a brand new job. Somehow I doubt that will happen, unfortunately.

I was part of the team on the last trip a couple of years ago, and I had a great time. There's tons of things to see, lots of snorkeling and fish photo opportunity, and the Marine Lab beach house is a great home base for the adventure: beach tens of yards out of the back door, and a plethora of interesting places to explore. Tate's Hell won't be so hellish this time of year. That's my foot in the picture above - and I still want to go again!

If you're thinking of going, go ahead and get your bunk assignment - there's only a few weeks left before the deadline.

#9 Guest_nativeplanter_*

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 11:14 AM

I've been waiting for this trip to come back up since the last one. Alas, I will be out of town that week. Argh!!!!

#10 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 10:32 AM

Off to another great adventure!

#11 Guest_Newt_*

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Posted 14 October 2011 - 11:05 AM

Have fun! I look forward to reading your trip account.

#12 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 11:07 PM

Hello all...
I have finally gathered the time to assemble a photo journal of our 2011 "Expedition to the Forgotten Coast".
Be assured, the other fishheads have sorted through the account to throw out all the lies, embarassments and exaggerations.
It was near a full week of fun activity, and for a bunch of "Geezers & Cripples" we did pretty good.
Our misfortune was not having some young fellas along to pull those seines through gator and snake infested waters!
As usual i was relieved afterwards that we all survived, and most were generally unharmed. Being worn weary i swore off organizing another, but with the wintertime weather upon me i am dreaming of returning again.
We raised $600 for NANFA's coffers even though i had anticipated the need for 8 attendees to clear a profit for NANFA. We saved a bit of money by staying a day less, not printing t-shirts, the guys pitching in on some provisions, skipping an evening culinary outing and myself kicking in a bit to even the return. Most of our meals, including hot breakfasts, were enjoyed at the Beach House and were eagerly assisted by all from flipping pancakes to washing dishes. A fine group of fishy guys.
For future reference i think about 6 to 8 attendees is ideal for the Beach House and never more than 10, which would be way too many elbows, snoring and fishy clutter. We had plenty of room to sprawl, relax, cook, chat, watch videos, check emails, and sleep in after full days of excessive outdoor behavior.

You can find the photo journal in NANFA's Members Photo Gallery at this link.
My album is in the lower right corner.

There are 127 captioned photos included, so be prepared to spend a bit of time. I think the best way to view the photos and read the captions is to start at the beginning, click on the title, then click the first photo to full screen. Then use the "END" key to hit the page bottom and click the "NEXT" arrow to proceed through the account chronologically.


#13 Guest_schambers_*

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 12:07 AM

Great pictures and trip report! I enjoyed it immensely. Sounds like it was a great success.

#14 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 05:55 PM

I want to BUMP this again in case folks did not see that i had put together an extensive photo report of it in the member gallery just the other day...


#15 Guest_farmertodd_*

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 10:18 AM

Great pictures, thanks for taking the time to put them up. I sure wish I could have been there with you guys. I can't wait until the next time I can get down there, but not so much for the fish... I want to fully explore the botany! I'd also like to spend more time in the marine environments. So much to see :)

Not that it matters much, but I think your largemouth bass is a spotted bass. He's got the orange cast in the caudal fin, the blotch on the peduncle and the jaw doesn't extend past the eye. I'm not sure what environment you caught him from (which may tell you more), but those characters are all pretty consistent.


#16 Guest_LittleBuffalo_*

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:04 PM

Man! You guys know how to have fun! I've got to get in on one of these trips. I'll even eat the mullet roe.

#17 Guest_fritz_*

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 04:16 PM

I'm embarassed to admit that I don't know my basses all that well but the fish was saved and at the NCSM so at some point I will check the ID. It was caught in Crooked River with gobies, hogchokers, marsh killifish, spotted sunfish, rainwater killifish etc. Blackwater and maybe slightly tidal stream.

Edited by fritz, 23 February 2012 - 04:17 PM.

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