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Florida FSU Tates Hell 2013

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#1 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 04:46 PM

1 full week. Sunday afternoon October 13 to Sunday Noon October 20

After a bit of prodding i have another trip in the works and 5 are committed but 2 recently had to drop out. Michigan Jim and his wife Ann, Rudy and Big Bob are returning after attending in 2011. Isaac, our famed photographer is committed. Unfortunately President Fritz and Byrce cannot make it after all, so i am opening this up to the NANFA membership since we have room for 2 or 3 more.

We will explore for a full week, offering plenty of opportunities, experiences and just enough relaxation. We will stay in the Beach House at the FSU facility, 1 hour south of Tallahassee. There will be plenty of time to seine, snorkel, explore, walk and wade the beach by sunshine and moonlight, catch, cook and eat seafood, net colorful native fishes, visit nature facilities, and ride in boats. The cost will be $500 per person and include housing, supplies for breakfast & lunch including picnics, drinks and snacks. Also included will be entrance fees along with a few other suprises. Transportation, licenses and most evening meals are at your own expense.

Florida State University's ( FSU ) 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 stay 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.

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 Apalachicola Nature Center. Every past trip we have enjoyed the jungle cruise, swim, snorkel and high dive at Wakula Spring. We will also take FSU's trawling boat out into the gulf waters.

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 8 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 or my email is prizma@aol.com.
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.

You can also see photos from our recent 2011 trip at...


Start at the first photo and toggle through them one at a time to read the descriptive captions.

This is my 4th Tates Hell trip open to the NANFA membership. If interested i do need to hear from you as soon as possible.


#2 Guest_Irate Mormon_*

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 07:09 PM

Eh, too bad - I blew through what vacation time I had.

#3 Guest_MichiJim_*

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 07:12 PM

I went on this trip in 2011, and it was a great time. So good, I am going again. A great opportunity to see a wide variety of Florida fish up close and personal, including several types of killies, including flagfish. A lot of interesting saltwater animals as well. Good food, good friends and great sunsets. You will not be disapointed. Oh, and don't forget the 'gators, too.

#4 Guest_velvetelvis_*

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 09:42 PM

Florida is a wonderful place to observe and collect native fishes (I'm an FSU alum, too!). Growing up there is what got me into native fishes in the first place, and nostalgia for family collecting trips is partly what inspired my two current native biotope tanks.

And yeah, watch out for gators! ;) And if you do any wading or snorkeling in salt water, make sure to shuffle your feet so you don't accidentally get pranged by a stingray.

#5 Guest_IsaacSzabo_*

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 12:05 AM

This will be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can find a few more people to join in.

#6 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 07:20 PM

Just 2 weeks away. 8 of us are now committed, and room for a couple more fishheads if so inclined.
I am especially excited that 2 NANFA photo extraordinaires will be along, being TN Bryce and AR Isaac, and the others are repeaters as they know what this adventure is all about and ready for more, MI Jim even bringing his wife along this time.
I am disappointed that more NANFans don't take this opportunity to experience a wonderful part of the country. Though i have been several times with fishy friends to the area, this is my 4th trip offered to the general NANFA membership and may very well be my last as i am getting a bit too old for all this organizational effort.
I lived on the beach here as a young man, hand lettering signs for the surrounding towns, during those pre-computer years of the late 70's. Sopchoppy, Panacea, Wewahitchka, Sumatra... great names for quaint, relic towns populated by a weathered blend of interesting characters. Some Floridians call this the Forgotten Coast and that is a most appropiate description. It is not a Orlando nor any of those bumper car, bikini and beach umbrella touristed stretches so typical of Florida. The Forgotten Coast expands into vast stretches of state and national forests spreading to the north and coastal drives are just that, offering an unhindered view out to the great flat horizon of the Appalachicola Bay and beyond, past the narrow gaps between the barrior islands.
At the age of age 21 i slept in my 1966 Kadette station wagon, parked on a little wooded pininsula jutting out into the bay, and lived another life. Years later, when i married Connie, my wife of 25 years now, we passed through on a coastal trip and she too felt the quiet peace and beauty of the region. We have continued to return with our children, family and friends nearly every year, even buying a bit of beach property before the boom and bust.
Then i discovered native fish and snorkeling and a new world opened up.
My oh my. So different than what i see here in Tennessee. Alert and caution are good friends but when you pull a shimmering Blue Spotted Sunfish from water the color of steeped tea you are transported to the dazzling beauty that lives below the surface. Omata, Cingulatus, Starheads, Golden Ears, Redfin Pickeral, Bowfins, Mullet, Manatees and you better watch for gators when snorkeling alone but the crystal clear springs of Florida beckon and all manner of diversity are found within! Everytime i return i see more and every wander brings new experiences and gained knowledge.

Our group will travel within an hour radius of our Beach House on the FSU Marine Lab compound, but there is more in that simple radius than one can see in a week or even in a lifetime of seasons.
Fresh water, brackish and salt, tannic tea stained and crystal clear, snorkel, dip, seine, hook and spear. Beach house compound, star filled nights, comfortable weather. Nothing to ask for but more time.

#7 Guest_Irate Mormon_*

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Posted 28 September 2013 - 11:18 PM

Sopchoppy - my favorite town to pass through...

#8 Guest_Mysteryman_*

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Posted 29 September 2013 - 01:24 PM

Would it be ok if some locals, who can't spend a week, showed up to hang out with you guys for part of a day?

#9 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 09:32 AM

This is offered to NANFA Members, dues paying members. There would also be the issues of logistics, finances and synchronization. My focus and scheduling needs to be 100% focused on the attendees that are committed to the full week. Each day we have distinct activities scheduled and even then we may have to respond to the weather. Trying to accomodate temp visitors would just be too problematic... i need to stay focused on our group.
On the other hand i will be staying an additional week and would enjoy meeting you and we could wander around Hell for a time.

#10 mattknepley

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 05:13 AM

"... we could wander around Hell for a time."

Just don't get bit by a schnaike and die several days later. Not the type of historic reenactments I recommend.
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#11 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 03:31 PM

Sounds like you have been doing a little research on Cebe Tate.
Whether the story is true or not, it is accepted and fascinating. Though the vast swamp and forest are beautiful while viewed from our relativily safe vantages Cebe's account bears witness to its dangers.

Here is a song about Tate's Hell which narates the story... listen carefully.

Old Tate left Sumatra along about dark.
He had his two big dogs and a puppy named Spark.
An old Long Tom shot-gun, a sharp Barlow knife,
That panther would sure have the chase of his life.

A little past moon down, the dogs struck the scent;
Through bramble and titi a-running Tate went;
For hours and hours, until it was dawn;
Then Tate knew that he was a long way from home.

He blowed through his gun-barrel, the dogs did not hear;
The panther had killed them, and now Tate felt fear;
The sun was not shining, the mist it was thick;
"Oh, Lordy," Tate hollered, "I'm lost up the crick."

He leaned back to rest, and his eyes did not see;
The big rattler struck him above the bent knee;
The lick was so hard that a-sprawling he fell;
This was the beginning of poor old Tate's Hell!

He opened his Barlow and grabbed him some moss;
A cut he made one way, another across;
He wrapped his leg tightly and tied it with string;
the sickness came on him, his body turned green.

When Tate was discovered, these words he did tell,
"My name is Old Tate, boys! I've just been in Hell!"
These few-spoken words were the last that he said;
His spirit, it left him. Old Tate, he was dead.

by Will McLean (1919-1990)
© 1992, Wakulla Music, BMI

#12 mattknepley

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  • Smack-dab between the Savannah and the Saluda.

Posted 08 October 2013 - 05:18 AM

Yup! Anybody who gets a "hell" named after them deserves a little research. Funny, but when one's life is relatively softer, somebody else's hell looks a lot more like solace for the soul. Coulter comes to mind quickly, too.
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#13 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 21 December 2013 - 08:27 PM

Tates Hell 2013

A bit overdue i have assembled a short summary of the week selecting about 3 photos from each day.

Day 1 Arrival
One of hundreds of butterflys along the shoreline, i presume resting and feeding before heading out over the Gulf of Mexico. Isaac arrived midday and after provisioning the FSU Beach House we and my Carrabelle friend David took a scouting run of the Tates Hell sand roads ending the day at Sumatra.




Day 2 Lake Morality
My fear of gators never allowed me to venture far out into Lake Morality but with Isaac along i figured my chances were reduced by 50%. In addition to the unseen lurkers it is full of Sunfish, Bass, Escambia, Cingulatus and Pygmy Killies and lush with a vibrant green milfoil plant. This pylon is one of the few remaining that held swimming platforms for the officers of WW2 Camp Gordon Johnson. After drying off a beautiful sunset was enjoyed before we rendevoused with the visiting Hellions in Panacea for shrimp, mullet and oysters.




Day 3 Wakula
A beautiful blue sky, white cloud morning, we took the first Jungle Cruise offered and then headed to McBride Slough for a crystal clear snorkel. Redfin Pickerel, Redtail Chubs, Bluefin Killies, Metallic Shiners, Pygmy Sunfish, Big Sunfish, Escambia, Chubsuckers, Pirate Perch, a plethoria more. Back to the Lodge for a wonderful evening meal in the fine southern tradition while in the lair of the Creature, old Joe and Tarzan.




Day 4 Gulf Specimens Marine Lab
We started the day with a tour of the GSML. Sharks, Rays, Horseshoes and Crabs of all manner. A lunch stop at Hutton's roadside picnic tables and to a couple new lakes that Ace guided us to. Golden Topminnows, Spotted Bullheads, Silversides and Swamp Darters among the netted. Back to the local Bank for the last documention of the northward expansion of Flagfish. 2 years ago they were in mass, today after a long stinking sinking muck slogarama Isaac came up with the only one. A proud man he be.




Day 5 Tates Hell
Jack Rudloe founder of the GSML joined us at the FSU Lab and into Tates Hell we all ventured. Seining ditches, barrow pits, creeks and rivers we found diversity in the black water and while under a bridge a net full of Flyers. After a sulpher springside picnic lunch we walked precariously without rattlesnake leggings into the carnivorous plants. The day's end was enjoyed while overlooking the dwarf Bald Cypresses where we watched whirls of dragonflies pluck mosquitoes from the air.




Day 6 The Trawl
All kinds of interesting critters were pulled from the shallow weed flats of Alligator Bay. The water was unusually clear so we returned with our masks for a midday snorkel in the bay. Lots of the critters seen were as the forum gallery posting from the 2011 trip but we found several species i do not recall. Perhaps i will take the time to do an extended posting of photos from this trip to the gallery.
We checked out a recommended restaurant in Sopchoppy where our meal was much enjoyed by all. I was even treated to some deep fried Mullet Caviar courtesy of the young chef. That evening back at the beach house the odd critters were out so we captured a few to study and photograph.




Day 7 Last Day
After gathering our gear and recovering our fish we headed west to the Appalachicola Nature Center. Nice displays and open aquariums are presented in this fine facility. We had decided to cut our week short allowing more travel time for Bob and Phil's northward drive, while Bryce needed to leave early anyway. Isaac went to his mobile camera shop while i still had a week before me. I will select a few pictures from those days when i get another opportunity.






All and all it was a pleasant calm adventure. The weather was nice and many experiences were had by all. We raised $800. for NANFA's treasury with this 4th trip i have organized for NANFA members into Tates Hell. Rudy, Jim and his wife were missed as they had to cancel in the last couple of weeks. This region is a wonderful place to explore and i often return for more and new experiences and the week following again fulfilled that promise.

#14 mattknepley

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  • Smack-dab between the Savannah and the Saluda.

Posted 21 December 2013 - 08:53 PM

Very nice, Casper! That is the beautiful, natural side of Florida so many never see. (It is also the only side of it I miss.) Wish I could have been there! Hope to hear and see more about it.
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#15 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 21 December 2013 - 09:02 PM

Yes it's called the Forgotten Coast for good reason. If you note the map above almost the entire county is Tates Hell State Forest and northward beyond is the vast expanse of the Appalchicola National Forest. The rustic, rural remoteness is what i, my family and visiting friends enjoy. Every return offers new experiences.

#16 mattknepley

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  • Smack-dab between the Savannah and the Saluda.

Posted 22 December 2013 - 08:00 AM

Actually, I haven't been lucky enough to get to the Forgotten Coast. Cedar Key is about as far north I can claim to seeing in depth at all on the Gulf. I would love to get to the Panhandle Gulf some time. Your report and photos (and Gerald's recent request for nature viewing ideas in a different thread) got me thinking of all the other beautiful, natural areas that remain in FLA. It is a bigger state than many realize, and even though humanity has worked hard to drain it and pave it these past 50 years or so, there is still a lot of natural wonder there.
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#17 Guest_Doug_Dame_*

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 11:26 AM

Casper, thanks for sharing. As always, fish are in the story, but the tales you tell are so much more. And you pick such great photos as well.

#18 Isaac Szabo

Isaac Szabo
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Posted 23 December 2013 - 12:29 PM

Nice photos Casper. It was a fun trip. Thanks so much for organizing it. I may post a few photos when I have a little more time.

#19 Guest_fritz_*

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Posted 23 December 2013 - 01:20 PM

Yep, I have fond memories of our visit in 2011

#20 Guest_trygon_*

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 10:25 PM

Here are a few of my images from the trip. If you get the chance to go, you should.

There are a lot of these on the Forgotten Coast

This is where we stayed.

This is the entry to the lab. The lab is to the right, our quarters are straight ahead.

Our quarters.

Living room.

Dining room with Isaac and Casper.

Kitchen and Casper.

Our backyard at dusk.


FSU research vessel.

View of the FSU Lab from the Gulf. We are on our way to the trawl area.

Moon rise over the sawgrass.

Urinals at Wakulla Springs. As an architect, this is bizarre; as a male this is disturbing.

Wakulla Springs.

Sparring male Bluefin Killies.

Crayfish at McBride Slough.

Casper at work with a Pickerel at McBride Slough.

Pirate Perch.

Casper at work at our portable field station.

Brook Silverside.

Sundew and ant at Tate's Hell State Park.

Pitcher plants at THSP.

Tannic stained river at THSP. For those who may never have seen one it looks like a river of coffee.

Daisy and tree frog at THSP.

Dwarf cypress at dusk at THSP.

Sunset at the observation tower at THSP.

This was just a shadow of what it's really like. To reiterate, go if you get a chance.

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