We did a quick gearup with full bellies and headed to the water. It was perfect, nice and flat. Not hard to get out past 2nd buoy. We descended and decided to get a bit more adventurous. We took our lights and headed to the cheese about 75 feet off shore and went to explore the holes. It is really pretty neat how the fish group in those little holes and swim in circles. I started checking out the coral, sea urchins and anenomes a bit more. We saw some red pencil sea urchins. Nice variety of colors ranging from mbright reds to oranges. There are some super huge black sea urchins with spikes up to 8″. Many, many of them. I was a bit concerned about that as I know they bore into the coral and do damage. I saw a lot of purple one s and I think this is the long-spined sea urchin found in south Florida. My understanding is this has poisonous sharp spines that can penetrate human skin and break off. You can pick up most sea urchins without getting harmed–but I stayed away from this all together. I chatted with the guy up at Deep Six and he said they are encouraging people to get rid of them. I know you can eat the roe from sea urchins. Anyone have any great sea urchin recipes they want to share? I know you can mix them up with eggs or have as sushi which is called uni in Japan. In cuisines around the Mediterranean it is often eaten raw, with lemon. It can also flavor omelettes, scrambled eggs, fish soup, mayonnaise, Béchamel sauce, or Hollandaise sauce to make a fish sauce, the boullie for a soufflé, or served raw with lemon, onions, and olive oil. last bit of trivia, in Maine they are called Whores Eggs.
Also I found quite a few of bodies called tests. So something out there is having some good eating.
I’ve been boning up on the eco life in the Florida shores a bit more since I have been diving. I know there have been issues with rapid increases in sea urchin numbers. It could have to do with an increase in fishing, which would deplete urchins’ natural predators, or it could have to do with an increase in nutrients in the water — causing algae blooms that are feasts for urchins. Whatever it is, I sure would hate to see these beautiful new coral growths destroyed as they will be great eco systems for fish of all species as they expand in size. I know the teeth can cause the coral to be brittle and break in storms. What a pity! I am curious looking back to see if that is the reason why the first reef has so much less color than the cheese or the second reef.
So moving on, again we saw very large angelfish, grey and queens. I am always stunned by them and Richard is constantly moving on without me. I had asked Richard to look for some cool coral pieces. I don’t take anything alive put but I like on each trip to take back 1 good shell and a pieces or coral to remind me of my trip. I saw alot of live conch about 4-7″ shells and some murex shells but no empty conch shells or bright little treasures yet. I did find a dead/old sea biscuit and pocketed that. (later threw back in ocean. (algea and funky smelling). There are tons of sponges of all colors out here. Some broken pieces I picked up and looked at were red, orange, green and blue. I thought they were hard but they are just colorful sponges. Quite neat!
I also found some cute little gastropod seashells (the shells of sea snails). These look like little tubes. Always a favorite of mine. Plenty of little spiny crabs and hermit crabs in a variety of shells. We also saw two different fireworms. One about 3 inches and one about 6 inches.
We also saw like 3 different polkadot bat fish. I had no idea until I did research what these things were. Kinda ray looking but no spike and kinda flounder looking but not quite. Come to find out it was a polkadot batfish. Neat and different. About 16-18″ the largest one we saw.
I spotted a couple of balloonfish as well. Some small juvies and one about 8-9″ Like the eyes. They have like a glittery sheen to them. Also saw a lizard fish in one of the cheese holes. I discovered a nice little school of about 9 juvie spotted drums. Neat little black & white striped dainty fish. These are also really fun to watch as they dart through the coral holes. We saw an enormous ( or so I thougt) bandtail puffer. This guy was about 15 or 16″. Hubby was pretty bored with this one so we moved on. We spotted a good sized arrow crab too. All in all lots of nice sea life.
We headed out to the 2nd reef. IMHO not as colorful. Saw some large grey angelfish. Rich said he saw two big tarpon but I missed those. Scary looking critters in their armor suits. I saw a huge 7 foot one in Key West last year in a school of about 50 and I about crapped myself. Sped by me doing about 50, well maybe I don’t know but it was fast. Protected the herd I guess.
We stayed till about 1000 psi and headed back again. I was starving! We decided to hang out on thbe first reef till 300 psi. Lots of cute little sealife there. Tiny banded crabs and a funky snail looking thing on some long coral spikes. Called nudibranchs from the research I did. They looked to me like they were eating the coral strips. Does anyone know if this is true? The pieces they were on looked like the outer skin had been taken off or did they just gravitate to them? Let me know any thoughts on this while I research it some more.
We also saw a little eel about 8″ Nasty looking guy. Rich shined the light on him and he popped out to ward him off. I was down to 700 psi and Rich was airhogging it and down to 4 so he passed me the flag and headed out. I hung around till about 200 psi and headed for shore.
Funny little story, as Rich was heading out some tourist (thank god for them) said “hey Mister, there is a fish here. ”
Evil Rich silently says to himself in his brain” no s+_T dumba** there are lots.” but he smiles and says “Ok”
Tourist says “no Mister I think he’s hurt, can you help him.” No joking! I don’t know if he thought Rich was Mr Fish Surgeon or that he had the healing touch but Rich just smiles and says “Dude something probably but him” smiling to himself Evil Rich says in his brain ” and it was probably bigger and still out there” but he holds his tongue and tells the tourist, “it’s the way of the sea my friend and he will probably be bird bait for some lucky bird later.” Rich heads out to shore smiling the whole way.
Thank god for the tourists for the economy but some of the things they come up with are great!
I head up and we head for a couple sandwiches, beers and AC. Looking to head back out around 3. Need a quick dip in the pool and a reg mouth break. Did I mention reg mouth, man it would be nice to have some tropical cocktail flavor added to the mix. Anyone???