Yardboy

Keys Diving

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Yardboy   

I'm leaving next Tueday for the Keys for some diving/snorkeling. We're staying at Cramer's Caribbean Critters, planning on going on their license to a collecting site to bring stuff home. It's located on Tavernier Key.

I've dove on Largo around Pennekamp, a big swath around Marathon, and as far out as the Dry Tortugas from Key West. Last year we stayed in Marathon and would just drive down the road until we saw structure (power pole, old pier, wrecks, borrow pits) in the water and would snorkel on it and find shrimp, fish, gorgonians, crabs, snails, enough to fill the limits of 5 people less than a hundred yards from the highway! Safest place so you don't get busted collecting from illegal areas.

How about your favorite place to go there. While I remember the places I've dove in general, in a move some years ago I lost all my logbooks so I can't remember the names of the dive sites we went to now. Any places you have a special feel for?

And to keep this off-topic, what's your favorite bar in Key West?!

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Well, how did it go???

Also, have any of you ever ordered from these guys? How did THAT go?

As for my own favorite spots, there is a double-jetty down there, closer to Big Pine, called "The Horseshoe." It is basically a giant fishbowl! I'm also very fond of a place I don't know the name of, but it's east of the Horseshoe, and it is a vast area on the north side where the water is only about 3 feet deep on average. In this big flat area are tens of thousands of cassieopea upside-down jellyfish in every color imaginable; it looks like you are swimming over an immense flower garden. Scattered all through it are big outcrops of colorful sponges, and lots of Halimeda clumps. All around those are anemones galore often in weird colors you would never expect, and they have shrimp all over them. There are spiny lobsters everywhere, with literally every square meter pretty much having one on it. The best part is the unusual coloration found in many ordinary things. Imagine bright blue or green condy anemones, for example, or SOLID metallic royal-blue blue crabs!

Awesome. Every rock you flip has oodles of neat stuff under it, like big serpent stars or octopuses.

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Yardboy   

It went great. I'm trying to make time to post a thread of our experiences. I've finished processing the pictures, but haven't found time to write it up. I'll take your prompt as impetus to do it. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in collecting and diving.

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jetties   

Whoa thats so weird. I bought online from cramer last year and was going to meet up with him while i was in the in the keys too. it never worked out though because i had to leave early. but the livestock came in in very good condition, i would definetly reccomend ordering from there.

i stayed at largo and dove john pennekamp a couple times. i got some mangroves and TONS of blueleg hermits and also some other inverts and fish.

this year im staying in the middle keys and maybe going to key west. going in late july/early august. i plan on getting a lot more stuff than last year and free diving under bridges and in better spots than i dove last year.

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Watch out under the bridges. The current is killer and can shift on you without warning, dragging you 300 feet before you know what hit you. The bridge pilings themselves are completely covered in fire coral, so hanging onto them for dear life is a bit problematic. Also, hammerheads have a habit of cruising up and down the rows of pilings, so don't forget to keep an eye peeled for them. Otherwise, there's a lot of cool stuff to see.

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Kevin   

We are looking to go our first time in August. My coral guy is taking me out on a dive to collect my own coral, fish, and inverts. We are going to snorkel around for urchins, crabs, snails, and whatever else we can legally grab. We are first timers, so ANY help is appreciated lol.

Edited by Kevin

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Yardboy   

Kevin, diving with a local colector is the best way to go as then your limits aren't restricted to your fishing license. We've gone to Tom's Caribbean Tropicals for some years now and it' been the best deal you could hope for. We go snorkeling in the mangrove swamps too, never know what you'll find there. The best tool we've found for collecting is a floating minnow bucket

minnowbuckets_2.jpg

Glue some plastic winddow screen over the larger holes and punch holes in the flotation chambers so it will sink then tie a piece of rope with maybe a clip on it so you can carry it on a belt around your waist. Works real well like that. A collection of small plastic bottles with holes in them (burned through with a hot metal rod) to keep small shrimp etc. keeps them seperated in the bucket. It's a lot of fun and can be lucrative, especially when you are already in the business!

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Kevin   

That is a great idea and cheaper than my critter keeper idea. Was going to bring 4 10g rubbermaids for storage as well. I have a diver friend where I get my corals from who will be taking us out, we wanted to snorkel and find others as well on our own. Do you have a site to what is limited with a fishing license? I know a few thins that are a no collect, but would love to know exacts so I do not have an issue.

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Yardboy   

If you are not working with a licensed collector, your collecting will be very limited, not what you an collect, but how much.

First, buy a Florida fishing license and read these regulations

You'll be disappointed. Going with a collector like Tom you have a much larger limit, since you will be bsically "working" for the collector and he'll be "paying" you with what you catch. His limits are much bigger. We discovered this some years ago and go with Tom since then. See above link for tom's tropicals. There may be other collectors who do the same gig but not sure. Another thing is that there are so many prohibited collecting sites, you'll eventually realize you can only collect off the side of the road, and not in parks or preserves even then. Very limiting. Sorry to be so negative about it but you should know. I started out without realizing what was what, collected a mess of blue legs off the seven mile bridge abutment and could have been in big trouble if I'd gotten caught. Sadly, ignorance is no excuse, otherwise I'd get away with a lot more!

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Kevin   

Ouch, that puts a damper on a few things now doesn't it. I was expecting hermits, snails and urchins to be a get what you can ordeal. Guess I will change my plans a tad for collecting with my guy. I will check Tom out too! I really appreciate the info! Keeps me out of hot water, I know the locals will turn any and everyone in :P

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jetties   

well, the keys were interesting. i probably went at the worst possible time in the entire year- mini lobster season. i HIGHLY** reccomend steering clear of the keys on that weekend, especially if you are there for collecting fish, inverts and whatnot. every hotel is packed, and the worst part is the COPS!! there were about 60 extra police, state troopers and wildlife officers soley to bust lobsterers and divers, on key largo ALONE. on average i was stopped 2 or 3 times a day by cop boats because they think every diver is there to illeagally collect as much lobster as possible. i was extremely paranoid the whole time!

but other than that it was alright. i came home with some little yellow stingrays, a gorgonian, a few starfish, a sponge, mangroves and some wrasse, tons of blue leg hermit crabs, parrotfish, and best of all a couple iguanas.

Watch out under the bridges. The current is killer and can shift on you without warning, dragging you 300 feet before you know what hit you.

haha figured that out the hard way. we were free diving so it wasnt too much of a problem but there was an eerie feeling to it

Another thing is that there are so many prohibited collecting sites, you'll eventually realize you can only collect off the side of the road, and not in parks or preserves even then. Very limiting.

very good point ^

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Yardboy   

I'll add this to my bad stories about lobster season! Any other time you can hardly find a game warden or policeman. And thank goodness for that!

Did you dive with any of the collectors, or jsut on your own? Sounds frenetic. Glad you managed to collect some stuff though!

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