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Old 07/30/2015, 06:52 AM   #26
Ron Reefman
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Anybody got anything more they could add?

I won't be back to the Keys to snorkel until sometime Sept. But I'm more than happy to discuss ideas and options here.


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Old 07/30/2015, 07:20 AM   #27
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I wish I did. We are still hoping to go back in the fall for a short visit with a longer stay planned for late winter.


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Old 07/30/2015, 02:09 PM   #28
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Ron, have you tried Sombrero Beach?


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Old 07/31/2015, 09:29 AM   #29
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I wish I did. We are still hoping to go back in the fall for a short visit with a longer stay planned for late winter.
Stay in touch. We go about 4 or 5 times over the Spring and Fall. Summer is great too, but afternoon rains are a regular issue and hurricanes can really screw up a vacation! Winter is OK. The water is kind of cold for us Floridians, but like gardens up north, the shallow reefs near shore tend to look a lot more barren in the winter.

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Ron, have you tried Sombrero Beach?
I've been to Sombrero Reef, out by the lighthouse, and I've walked Sombrero Beach, but never considered snorkeling there. Have you snorkeled there? If so, how was it.

To everybody else: I'd like to try and keep this thread active if we can. I'm always up to learn more about snorkeling the Keys in any way, shape or form! So even if you are a newbie or just going to go try it for the first time, share your ideas, questions and results.

Thanks


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Old 08/05/2015, 07:26 AM   #30
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After 3 long weekend or mid week snorkel trips to the Keys in just 3 months, I'm starting to have withdrawal issues. LOL!

I want to get back for more of this:

Bahia Honda State Park at the far ENE end.


A Gorgonian forest.


Zoas that came home from the Keys as 10 polyps (5 for me and 5 for my wife because 5 polyps per person per day is the limit). But they have grown well and even done some weird morphing in my frag tank.


Our friend the tiny octopus.



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Old 08/05/2015, 08:16 AM   #31
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An octopus that size is so much fun. Found one very similar when I went to the Turks & Caicos. Great pics as usual
Nice Zoas Ron!
To answer your question, no I haven't snorkeled there but it's an idea. It's a nice beach either way.

Came up with another spot, it's a popular hang out spot for boats. It's currently in construction so not accessible by car.
It's called American Outdoor, it's on the bayside. The Seawall has mostly sand but you can find plenty of critters there. Then if you get deeper, from 4-5ft you'll find more critters. Not a great spot, but still nice and shallow and one of the best sunset views. Anyone with a small boat can get there.


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Old 08/06/2015, 06:29 AM   #32
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Thanks for the lead, now how about some location info. I Googled American Outdoors and found nothing in the Keys. Just an America Outdoors near Naples? Any help would be very appreciated.


The little octopus was great fun. My wife had picked up a really big chunk of 'finger' coral, a little bigger than the size of a softball. In it there was an emerald crab, a nice serpent star and the octopus.

We found one living in a pin shell that had washed up on the beach of Sanibel (SW Florida near Ft Myers) after a winter cold front had passed through. We had about 15 or 20 'snowbirds' huddled around us looking at it and asking questions about what we were doing. After a few minutes I walked the octopus out into the water and let it go. As I turned to walk back to the beach, there were 2 people in uniforms with official looking patches and name badges waiting for me. As I walked toward them I went through my mental checklist. We had our saltwater fishing licenses, so we are allowed to collect certain animals, there were only some small porcilian crabs, small pistol shrimp and a couple very small serpent stars in our bucket, all legal. So I said to myself, "I'm OK."

One of the officers said, "Can I ask you a question?" I said, "Sure." The officer asked me where do I teach? I'd don't teach, I'm retired and never was a teacher. The officer told me that given the 'lecture' I was giving to everybody on the beach about what we were doing, I must have been a marine biologist at the local college or high school. LOL!

For a few seconds there, I was concerned that I had done something wrong or collected something I shouldn't have and didn't know it. The really funny thing is, back 45+ years ago I was very close to getting my college degree in teaching. But back then, teachers were a dime a dozen and had terrible times trying to get jobs. I really wanted to teach. But I switched to business school and got my degree in marketing. I still get a kick out of 'teaching' interested people about things they don't know. Some of the group that were gathered around when I had the octopus were from places like North Dakota, Arkansas and Vermont! They vacation in SW Florida, but they don't know the secrets we locals do. LOL!

Here is a pic of the Bahamian Star that I almost stepped on as I got out of the boat while at Money Key. We don't see a lot of these in the Keys, but when we went to Bimini about 10 years ago, they were everywhere. I even found one that was full size, was perfectly formed, but only had 4 legs. My guess is it was born that way, or lost one leg when very young and it didn't grow back?




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Old 08/07/2015, 01:16 PM   #33
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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ameri...91286314237015

This is the best link I could find. The facebook page has a map showing where it is.

Got a pic of that pistol shrimp?


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Old 08/08/2015, 05:59 AM   #34
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Sorry, but no. When we get them out of the orange sponges that wash up on the beach, the stars, shrimp and crabs are so small they would be hard to get a good photo. I'll give it a try this Fall or Winter when we get a strong NW wind from a cold front. The tricky part is, you need to get to the beach as soon as you can. Like at the tail end of the windy day or the early the very next morning. Otherwise the sponges will have dried out and all the critters inside will have died. So the collecting we do is really saving their lives. And after I put them in the aquarium I almost never see them. Hear them, yes, see them, hardly ever. Even 2' down in a 180g aquarium, when they snap that front claw it sounds just like somebody who was standing in front of the aquarium and snapped their fingers.


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Old 08/11/2015, 10:39 AM   #35
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I have snorkeled sombrero beach and there is quite a bit of wild life there. We were just there in May and saw a variety of things such as urchins, barracudas, blue tangs, sting rays, snails, star fish, etc.. I was quite impressed as I didn't expect to see much there. My camera had malfunctioned on this trip if not I would post some pics.. It was pretty to sit back and watch the barracudas feed of the schools of small bait fish there.

This was all yards from the beach


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Old 08/12/2015, 06:42 AM   #36
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Chris, thanks a lot for jumping in and sharing your experience in the Keys.

In all the times my wife and I have been snorkeling in the area, we never really considered going off Sombrero Beach. We've walked the beach a couple of times, but never snorkeled there. So next time we go, probably in late Sept or Oct, we will give Sombrero Beach a try.

I hope if you ever get back to the Keys some of the info we've shared here can make your experience more enjoyable.


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Old 08/12/2015, 07:39 AM   #37
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It has already! We love the Keys and try to make it down as much as we can, my parents live in Hallendale FL so we escape to the Keys quite often. I am always looking for a lively spot to snorkel, so this thread has been extremely insightful for me.


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Old 08/12/2015, 02:51 PM   #38
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Sargassum shrimp I caught.


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Old 08/15/2015, 07:25 AM   #39
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Just for fun, here is my photoshop version of the Flagler Railroad Bridge at Bahia Honda State Park that was taken out at Little Bahia Honda Key. The bridge really does have the missing section, but I removed the US-1 car bridge out from the background. It was too distracting.




Here is one of my favorite pics, a Flamingo Tongue. Just for those who don't know, this snail lives exclusively on Gorgonians and the great looking colors aren't the shell. The shell is very plain vanilla off white. The great look you see is the snail's mantle that it stretches out and cover the shell. And for info purposes, don't try collecting a Flamingo Tongue to put in your aquarium unless you have a lot of Gorgonian corals already there. It's the only thing they eat.




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Old 08/17/2015, 01:09 PM   #40
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Ron that is exactly the area we spent most of our time when we were at Bahia Honda except much closer to shore. And that picture was taken from little Bahia Honda? That doesn't seem very far at all.


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Old 08/18/2015, 11:39 PM   #41
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Little Bahia Honda Key is about a 1/4 mile off the beach. Quite a few people rent a kayak at the park and take it out there, but not many of them do it to get out there and snorkel. For as close to shore as it is, it's pretty pristine.


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Old 08/19/2015, 03:16 PM   #42
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I saw your posts about snorkeling the keys. I go down there occasionally. I usually fly into key west and go up to big pine. I had no idea that there was so much to see so close. I'd like some pointers, if you don't mind, for the next time I'm down that way.

I was hoping to PM you, but my phone said you are not set up for that or it's something on my end.


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Old 08/20/2015, 08:49 AM   #43
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I saw your posts about snorkeling the keys. I go down there occasionally. I usually fly into key west and go up to big pine. I had no idea that there was so much to see so close. I'd like some pointers, if you don't mind, for the next time I'm down that way.

I was hoping to PM you, but my phone said you are not set up for that or it's something on my end.
I've been on probation here for what seems like 2 years or more and they won't let me off. So no PM. Some people do get to me by email, I'm guessing it's in my personal info and I can't even see that myself.

That said, I'd be happy to help in any way I can here. And it's possible others may benefit from the discussion as well.

If you want to see big coral reefs, you need to take a boat out 5 miles. It's very cool if you haven't seen a big reef before (and even if you have). I still do it once every year or two.

But I have more fun looking for other things than huge coral colonies and big schools of tropical fish. I like to snorkel where I can handle rocks, corals, inverts and more. We (my wife and I) take a ton of photos every time we go out and I collect one or two things to take home to my aquarium. We live 4-5 hours from the Middle Keys and we transport them home in a 7 gallon cooler with a bubbler. It's rare that we ever lose an animal. But the real fun for us is just being so up close and personal so we can see things in more detail. At the big reefs, as a snorkeler, you are lucky if you can dive down 10', 15' or more and see things, but you can't touch because it is protected. Shallow, inshore rocky areas can be flush with stuff to see.

That's my outlook, so now you know where I'm coming from. So ask a question or 2 or 3 and I'll do my best to try and help. And BTW, there are others here that will help as well.

This is the beach at Bahia Honda State Park. There is plenty to see just out past the end of the sandy bottom. And at low tide you can get 300 yards or more off the beach and still be in water that is only 5' to 6' deep. The island off shore is Little Bahia Honda Key. Don't try to swim there, the tides really rip through the area 75% of the time. But you can rent a kayak at the park and paddle out there, beach the kayak and go snorkeling, then paddle back to shore.



You move slowly and keep a sharp look out. See the horse conch in the sand?


Well, it was having lunch.


Here are some zoas I collected. There were 2 of us and we took the max number of polyps allowed (5 per person per day) and grew them out in my frag tank at home.


This is at a little island about 75 yards from shore on the Florida Bay side of Marathon. We do swim over a deep channel, but the water around the island is 2' to 3' deep. You can tell it wasn't lobster season because they weren't afraid!



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Old 08/20/2015, 10:24 AM   #44
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No wonder you didn't reply to my PM haha.
And yea you won't find any rock with that many lobster now, you'll be lucky to spot 1-2 under a rock. lol


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Old 08/20/2015, 09:03 PM   #45
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Cool pics!


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Old 08/22/2015, 06:17 AM   #46
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No wonder you didn't reply to my PM haha.
And yea you won't find any rock with that many lobster now, you'll be lucky to spot 1-2 under a rock. lol
Yeah, I don't know what I have to do to get off probation. It's been almost 2 years. And I don't work for the company I was 'shilling' for when they put me on probation. I've asked a couple times but all I've ever gotten back was a "not yet" about 3 months ago.

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Cool pics!
Thanks. My wife takes most of them. The Olympus TG-1 Tough camera works well as a snorkel camera. Good to 45 feet and has a bigger lens by 1 f-stop than the other brands of tough cameras. So it lets in more light and allows for faster shutter speeds.


Tunicates are cool, but I understand they are near impossible to keep in an aquarium.




Damsel fish are always willing to get right in your face when you get near their territory.




Some of these sponges get pretty big even in near the beach.




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Old 08/23/2015, 10:42 AM   #47
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Where is a good place to buy snorkeling gear?


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Old 08/23/2015, 11:06 AM   #48
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Any dive shop. We buy most of our gear online except for the mask. That's a critical fit, IMHO, so I need to try on at least 4 or 5 before I pull the trigger and buy. But they last for years and years even with regular use. But fins, snorkel, gloves, dive skins (sun protection even in 80 degree water) and wet suits (thermal protection in cooler water) are all cheaper online.

If you aren't doing this regularly or are really on a budget, consider a long sleeve t-shirt and light weight pants (nylon wind breaker pants work pretty well). Even cheap gloves will work.

There is a Divers Direct shop on Key Largo and we do stop in there occasionally for odds and ends. It's a huge store and they have almost anything a snorkeler could want. Last time there my friend got a fish net that has black netting and a clear bottom which makes it easier to trick fish and shrimp into it. He also got a small Hawaiian sling spear for getting lionfish. BTW, the next day he collected 5 lionfish about 15' from the end of the 'Horseshoe' or Flagler's quarry pit on the Florida bayside of Spanish Harbor Key (one south of Bahia Honda).


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Old 08/24/2015, 07:58 AM   #49
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Regarding the gear, if you stop by any local dive shop (not a big retail chain like diver's direct), if you buy a lot of different gear you can deal with them for a better price. That's what I did a couple years ago when I bought 2 pneumatic spearguns and 2 Hawaiian slings.
Don't get me wrong, diver's direct is a great place to shop, if you are new and want to see everything there is in the diving world ( when you get there it's like a playground with all the cool advanced gadgets they have).
I usually go there for specific hard to find items because I know they will have it guaranteed and I usually need it the day I go out so don't have time to look on the internet.


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Old 08/25/2015, 07:13 AM   #50
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And before you go shopping for a mask (don't buy it online unless you have tried it on at a dive shop) look up fitting a snorkel mask (or dive mask) on google. There is a lot of info out there and getting a good fit is probably the most important thing to making snorkeling a pleasant experience. A leaky mask and a nose full of saltwater just isn't comfortable to most people.


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