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Snorkeling & Collecting Discussion Group

Ron Reefman

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Hello and welcome to what I hope will be an interesting and useful forum for talking about snorkeling and collecting of wild marine animals.

I live in Florida and I’m able to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys several times a year. But I by no means want to limit this to just my snorkeling here in Florida. I’ve also been snorkeling in the Bahamas, Jamaica and Belize. But as much as I’m willing to share my experiences, I’d love to read about and see photos of the places where you’ve been snorkeling and your impressions of those locations.

I’ve also done a fair amount of legal and licensed recreational collecting of marine animals over the last 10+ years. I was into snorkeling some before I got involved in the marine aquarium hobby. In fact, I got into the aquarium hobby because it was my desire to have some of that ‘in the water’ snorkeling experience at home. Kind of a reminder of how much fun snorkeling is and how absolutely incredible the underwater world is. My collecting has been strictly for my own personal use and I’m willing to share information about what I’ve collected, how I’ve done it, what equipment I’ve used, how I’ve kept and transported my animals back home and even share specific locations where I’ve been successful.

I hope you’ll join in this discussion and be as willing to share your techniques and special locations as well.

P6210219 by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr
 
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Ron Reefman

Ron Reefman

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Here is a small sample of the fun and sights we get to see while just doing a simple snorkel off the beach in the Florida Keys.

Here is a Condy anemone. These used to be pretty common in the Keys, but a few years ago they were put on an endangered list and they can't be collected by recreational fishing license holders like me. And it's probably a good thing as we do see less of them now than we did even 5 years ago.
Condy at Blackfin by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr

Here is a close up of another Condy with an almost see through anemone shrimp. These are quite difficult to see unless you really take your time, watch very closely and don't move around too much. They can disappear into the anemone in the blink of an eye.

anemone shrimp by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr

How about holding an octopus in your own hand! This little guy was just off the beach at one of our favorite sites in the Keys.
octopus in hand by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr

I love this photo. It's one of the few that I have taken. This is my wife who takes 75% or more of the photos I share here.
P5070332R1 - Copy by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr
 

tnc112105

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Very cool. We get tropical strays in the northeast that get swept up by the gulf stream in late summer. The last two years have been terrible for collecting, but in a good year it’s not uncommon to see all sorts of species, especially butterflyfish and members of the jack family. I’ve seen squirrelfish, filefish, damselfish and surgeonfish as well.

Many are surprised to hear that we get tropical fish in the northeast. It’s a great way to collect as these fish are likely to perish when the water starts getting cold in autumn. It’s one of my favorite summer pastimes by far.
 
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Ron Reefman

Ron Reefman

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Hey Ron, Nice to see you here. I have enjoyed your post over on RC before. Look forward to your sharing! I'm a landlocked midwesterner so am envious of your access to the salt life.
Thanks tripdad, I'm glad to be here. I was a landlocked midwesterner as well, Columbus, Ohio. But with 18 years in Florida I'm close to feeling like a native! Snorkeling is great fun, but even beach walks on the Gulf of Mexico can bring new tank pals. I'll get into that later unless somebody is here and needs a quick answer.

Nice! Following!
Thanks, and please feel free to jump in for any reason... but especially if I say something stupid! LOL!

Very cool. We get tropical strays in the northeast that get swept up by the gulf stream in late summer. The last two years have been terrible for collecting, but in a good year it’s not uncommon to see all sorts of species, especially butterflyfish and members of the jack family. I’ve seen squirrelfish, filefish, damselfish and surgeonfish as well.

Many are surprised to hear that we get tropical fish in the northeast. It’s a great way to collect as these fish are likely to perish when the water starts getting cold in autumn. It’s one of my favorite summer pastimes by far.
I never knew tropical critters go pushed that far north. I have a inlaws who live outside of Boston and have a cottage on Martha's Vineyard! They enjoy their beach as much as I enjoy ours. In fact my wife and I are now doing volunteer work for the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum. We been trained about local mollusks and other beach related stuff and when we roam the beach on Sanibel or Captiva we wear special shirts that identify us as Shell Ambassadors for the museum. On the back of the shirt in huge block letters it says,
I KNOW SHELLS.
ASK ME!
That way snowbirds and tourists can know they can ask us questions and we try to help them out. It's been great fun teaching people about the beach. You'd be surprised at how many people don't know that shells were made by live animals! Seriously.

This is me doing my thing on a cold day in February. The best shelling days are after a winter cold front go through. And that only happens about 3 to 5 times a year, always in the winter. It's also the best days to collect critters like porcelain crabs, pistol shrimp and even some other strange critters.
Shell Ambassador Ron by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr
 
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norfolkgarden

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The smaller butterflies and Florida angelfish will show up here off Virgin Beach starting around August.

I always assumed they died off in the winter.
Don't know if they can survive out deeper in the winter. Surface water in the Chesapeake bay makes it down to high thirties in the winter.

Looking forward to seeing more of your adventures!
 

norfolkgarden

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Lol, Was talking to someone about hermit crabs and the fact that they need to find bigger shells as they grow.
They asked if snails needed to find new shells as well.

Some very nice people just don't have much of an ocean education and we are fortunate enough that we can help out with that.
[emoji4]
 
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Ron Reefman

Ron Reefman

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Lol, Was talking to someone about hermit crabs and the fact that they need to find bigger shells as they grow.
They asked if snails needed to find new shells as well.

Some very nice people just don't have much of an ocean education and we are fortunate enough that we can help out with that.
[emoji4]
I had a bit of a hard time believing what the marine biologists at the museum were telling us about people not knowing where shells come from. But I've been doing the Shell Ambassador beach walks for 5 months now and it's true. And most people are completely surprised when I show them some live animals I've collected off the beach and keep in a plastic bottle to take home. I can't collect any live mollusks or echinoderms (stars, cucumbers, sand dollars) when I do beach walks on Sanibel Island as they are protected. But I have collected a lot of small porcelain crabs, some pistol shrimp, and a few anemones and peppermint shrimp. And these are collected off the beach, not in the water!

Here is a pistol shrimp from earlier this year.
Yellow snapping shrimp by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr

This little anemone was attached to a shell when I found it.
P1140009 by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr
 

bobbyM

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Thanks, and please feel free to jump in for any reason... but especially if I say something stupid! LOL!
My Family and I are relatively new to Florida and ALL of us are ready for some serious beach combing and snorkel time! Watching to follow in your footsteps before making tracks of my own. Fresh and salt fishing license in hand. We have 10 tanks up and running "mostly freshwater" and 6 sitting in the garage.
 
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Ron Reefman

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Hi bobbyM and welcome to Florida. Since your are relatively new to Florida, allow me to share this (although you may already know it), the east coast beaches and the west coast beached are incredibly different. I haven't spent much time doing beach walks on the east coast so I'll let others tell me how they do over there. West coast beached, especially the SW beaches get tons of shells. But for really good shelling and any live animal collecting will require you to be on the beach early in the morning after a storm. The serious shell collectors get out early and find the really nice shells, sunrise isn't too early! And animals don't last long out of the water. And it's best if the storm had a 15mph or better wind with at least some strong westerly component that will help carry stuff up to the beach. This photo is after a pretty strong cold front in January a couple of years ago. End really heavy ston crab traps were washed up!

P1180372 by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr
 

dbraun15

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Really like to see all the critters you have collected...we go the the beaches in Destin, Orange Beach, Perdido, Navarre quite often and my kids love to look for shells. I haven't done much snorkeling in the area, but have been told you can see all kinds of sealife. We have also found that the best shelling is in the fall/winter when the amount of people is a lot less. Looking forward to seeing more....interesting thread!
 
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Ron Reefman

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Really like to see all the critters you have collected...we go the the beaches in Destin, Orange Beach, Perdido, Navarre quite often and my kids love to look for shells. I haven't done much snorkeling in the area, but have been told you can see all kinds of sealife. We have also found that the best shelling is in the fall/winter when the amount of people is a lot less. Looking forward to seeing more....interesting thread!
I'd love to see some pics of the shells you find on your beaches. We even notice different shells between Sanibel and Lovers Key and they aren't 10 miles apart as the crow flies!

Great forum to start! I hope to load some of my snorkeling adventures from the Caribbean a few weeks ago. I just have to find my camera first ha.
Thanks, I just hope we get enough of a following and posts that R2R will consider making it a forum or at least a sticky so it doesn't get lost in a million new threads here in the Lounge Forum.

Please, find your camera and post some pics (always welcome) and I'd love to here stories about what it was like. My wife goes with me on every snorkel. I love it, but I seriously think she loves it even more. And she takes most of our photos. I'm the one looking under rocks for hard to find critters!

As for stories:

P5240113 R1 by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr

It may be had to see, but this is a 2 foot nurse shark. It is under a rock that sticks out of the water which is only 2 to 3 feet deep and we are only 50 feet from shore. The bottom of the rock is curved up off the sand in the middle. If I put the side of my head on the sand I really couldn't see what was under the rock. But I know there is always some kind of cool stuff under big rocks that aren't buried in the sand, so I had to see. So I took my camera, turned on the flash and stuck it (and my hand) under the rock and took a flash photo. To my huge surprise this 2' nurse shark comes out from under the rock, slapped me with its tail as it shot past me going as fast as it could and in just a second it was gone. I'm not afraid of nurse sharks, especially not small ones. But I wasn't expecting this one and for a split second I didn't know what it was. It swam by me so fast and even hit me with it's tail... for a fraction of a second I was scared, then I realized what it was. A few moments later I realized that the flash of my camera under that rock probably scared the shark more than it scared me!
 
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dbraun15

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Mostly olive snail shells and small conchs(max about 4")...the olive snail shells are probably the most "prized as they range in size from 1/2" to approx. 4" and remain very shiny. There are a few others that I don't know the names of off hand, but will see what I can do.

Also, we went to Ambergris Caye in Belize and had a great snorkeling adventure...I have a bunch of pics, but don't know how to transfer them from the old photobucket disaster...if anybody has any ideas, I would be happy to share them.
 

Captain Quint

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Great thread and thanks for sharing.

Once now and I again I like to snorkel but my passion is scuba. I've been doing so for 46 years and love it. I do not collect other than megalodon teeth which I donate.

I've scuba dived throughout many areas of the world including some blue holes and such. Do both West and East coast and like each for what they are. I'm lucky that I live about an hour from Wilmington NC and we have several good wrecks to dive which I enjoy.

At least once a year I head our way, hit several springs and cave dive before hitting the Keys. I truly loving Key Largo and drift diving, diving the reef and shipwrecks such as the Speigel Grove which I utilize my CCR to go into the depths of the ship.

I better stop, or I'll write all day. Thanks for the thread as BSL is my favorite place to be.
 
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Ron Reefman

Ron Reefman

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Mostly olive snail shells and small conchs(max about 4")...the olive snail shells are probably the most "prized as they range in size from 1/2" to approx. 4" and remain very shiny. There are a few others that I don't know the names of off hand, but will see what I can do.

Also, we went to Ambergris Caye in Belize and had a great snorkeling adventure...I have a bunch of pics, but don't know how to transfer them from the old photobucket disaster...if anybody has any ideas, I would be happy to share them.
We snorkeled Laughing Bird Caye which is further south and it was the best snorkeling I've ever done in the Caribbean. This is a quick merge of 2 photos. I took the one of my wife and she took one of me!
laughing bird caye merge by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr

I paid for a year at Photobucket and they only got worse. It's a total disaster. Now I'm posting photos to Flickr. It took me a while to get it all figured out, but now I find it's way, WAY faster and better run (no pop up sds!). If you need help send me a PM.


Great thread and thanks for sharing.

Once now and I again I like to snorkel but my passion is scuba. I've been doing so for 46 years and love it. I do not collect other than megalodon teeth which I donate.

I've scuba dived throughout many areas of the world including some blue holes and such. Do both West and East coast and like each for what they are. I'm lucky that I live about an hour from Wilmington NC and we have several good wrecks to dive which I enjoy.

At least once a year I head our way, hit several springs and cave dive before hitting the Keys. I truly loving Key Largo and drift diving, diving the reef and shipwrecks such as the Speigel Grove which I utilize my CCR to go into the depths of the ship.

I better stop, or I'll write all day. Thanks for the thread as BSL is my favorite place to be.
I understand your passion. I got very close to being certified to scuba, even did a couple of resort dives in Jamaica. But I like the colors and sunshine of being shallow. And for me, collecting is almost addictive. I should have taken a job with a commercial collector. LOL!
 

norfolkgarden

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Google photos is either free or very inexpensive.
Several options to keep it free.

Or just I think a dollar a month for a reasonably normal tier.
Or if you take too many photos look I do it's $10 a month.
We have about 200 GB of photos so far for comparison.

Cheaper than a coral frag.
[emoji4]
 

bobbyM

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Hi bobbyM and welcome to Florida. Since your are relatively new to Florida, allow me to share this (although you may already know it), the east coast beaches and the west coast beached are incredibly different. I haven't spent much time doing beach walks on the east coast so I'll let others tell me how they do over there. West coast beached, especially the SW beaches get tons of shells. But for really good shelling and any live animal collecting will require you to be on the beach early in the morning after a storm. The serious shell collectors get out early and find the really nice shells, sunrise isn't too early! And animals don't last long out of the water. And it's best if the storm had a 15mph or better wind with at least some strong westerly component that will help carry stuff up to the beach. This photo is after a pretty strong cold front in January a couple of years ago. End really heavy ston crab traps were washed up!

P1180372 by Ron Lindensmith, on Flickr

I'm about 135 miles from Sanibel Island. I doubt I'd be able to get the family up and out early enough to make sunrise and not get murdered. lol I might consider going camping there sometime. Altho, camping further south in the keys tops my list. I want to get out away from light pollution and camp under the stars. My wife really wants to at least go visit Sanibel again soon. I've never been there, she tells me all about it.

I'm mainly Interested in collection laws and looking for good snorkel spots that don't have a ton of traffic. I have wanted a seagrass/mangrove tank for a long long time. And, doing a Florida biotope of both fresh and salt water would be epic.

Oh, and I have lobster tags and lobster season is coming up soon. Elena (my wife) and I have a deal. I catch'em, she cooks'em.
 
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Ron Reefman

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I'm about 135 miles from Sanibel Island. I doubt I'd be able to get the family up and out early enough to make sunrise and not get murdered. lol I might consider going camping there sometime. Altho, camping further south in the keys tops my list. I want to get out away from light pollution and camp under the stars. My wife really wants to at least go visit Sanibel again soon. I've never been there, she tells me all about it.

I'm mainly Interested in collection laws and looking for good snorkel spots that don't have a ton of traffic. I have wanted a seagrass/mangrove tank for a long long time. And, doing a Florida biotope of both fresh and salt water would be epic.

Oh, and I have lobster tags and lobster season is coming up soon. Elena (my wife) and I have a deal. I catch'em, she cooks'em.
A) If you come to visit Sanibel, let me know and we can meet for lunch, or a beer, or a beach walk, or something! I've been to most of the beaches and parks on Sanibel. We are less than 10 miles from the Sanibel Causeway. In fact on July 5th we will be volunteering our time to helping the Baliey Matthews National Shell Museum doing cleanup on the causeway after the Forth of July picnics, parties and fireworks! I'll post pics.
B) There isn't much camping there. A little, but it probably fills up fast. Sanibel is kind of 'high end' living... which is why I don't live there anymore!
C) One of the main thrusts of this entire thread is to help people with snorkel sites (all over the world), good collecting sites (mostly the US and for me, mostly Florida) and how to do sustainable and perfectly legal collecting!
D) I'm willing, and I hope others here will be as well, to share my best snorkel and collecting sites and even how I collect, keep and transport what I collect. I know a few really good spots where you can see really cool stuff by snorkeling right off the beach! But I also know a few islands off shore that are less popular, have less people and more wildlife.
E) You do lobstering? Do you snorkel or dive when you catch lobster? Do you have a boat? We see lots of lobsters when we snorkel, but they are typically too small and we tend to snorkel specifically when it's NOT lobster season as the Keys go crazy during lobster season. And Florida FWC is always out in full force during lobster season (as well as before and after)!

Thanks for getting involved in this thread. Let's keep this conversation going!
 

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