Sunday, February 28, 2010

02/28/2010 - Old Fort Bayou (MS)

Launch: Old Fort Bayou Hwy 609 (Washington Avenue)

1) Sunrise over the Old Fort Bayou, where the first annual Battle on the Bayou kayak race will be held this coming Saturday. The forecast is calling for almost 70 degrees and sunny - sign up today, even if it is just for the after event party. I was checking out race route today.

2) The Washington Avenue bridge (Hwy 609) in Ocean Springs, MS.

3) Click here for a PDF brochure on the relatively new Old Fort Bayou Blueway. One of the blueway mile markers is shown in this photo and they will definitely help racers keep track of their progress to the race end at The Shed BBQ.

4) Grasses and pine trees are prominent along the bayou river banks.

5) A few shore birds could be seen on the mud banks.

6) Even saw a few wood ducks.

7) Old Fort Bayou has some residential areas and reminded me a little of Dog River except the Old Fort Bayou waters were free of trash.

8) The I-10 bridges.

9) North of the I-10 bridges, sandbars begin to appear which is great for kayakers who want to get out and stretch the legs.

10) Back toward the Washington Avenue bridge area, jet skis were busy making noise and wakes. If you ever get over toward Ocean Springs, be sure to visit South Coast Paddling.

Friday, February 26, 2010

02/26/2010 - Mobile River

Launch: Causeway Boat Ramp (just west of Oysterella's restaurant)

Header Image

1) Sunny, 55 degrees, and no wind made the conditions perfect for kayaking so I did my favorite industrial loop - Mobile River.

2) A big boat passed by on Mobile River and it produced a wake in the shallows.

3) Tugboat Richard Coen turning into Mobile River from Chickasaw Creek.

4) Another view of the Africatown Cochran Bridge.

5) The Geo Explorer is a seismic ship.

6) The YP 703 is a US Navy training ship recently built locally at C. & G. Boatworks.

7) The sun shines through the RSA Tower.

8) Note the people in this photo to get a perspective on the size of the ship propeller.

9) A bunch of coots were watching a dock being demolished.

10) Some fishermen on the USS Battleship dock with the moon in the background.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

02/25/2010 - Case Against Monofilament Line

I encourage all paddlers to contact your legislative representatives to request that a bill be created and passed that makes setting out any type of unattended fishing line illegal in all states, be it from limbs, from floats, stakes, or whatever, including trout lines.

Monofilament line recycle tubes (click here for a photo) can be found near most boat launch sites in an effort to get it removed safely from the environment. Sadly, nothing that I know of is stopping people from hanging unattended fishing line which puts monofilament line back into the environment. Below are three photos documenting recent results of unattended fishing lines.

1) It is not a question IF something will get caught on unattended hooks, it is a question of when, and that includes people in kayaks if the hooks are at body level which they frequently are.

2) The unattended fishing line above would have been hard to see had a rotting fish not been on it. Bare dangling hooks present a serious danger to boaters, canoeists, kayakers and swimmers, not to mention wildlife.

3) This is a sad way to see a Sandhill Crane or Great Blue Heron when kayaking. It is only a matter of time before a person gets accidentally hooked and drowns. Do we have to wait for that to happen before making it illegal to put out unattended fishing line?

4) Limb hooks that fishermen set out and leave unattended for long periods of time leads to senseless deaths of innocent animals and fish.

5) Abandoned limb hooks catch whatever isn't paying attention.

The case against monofilament line is clear - it needs to be removed from the environment when found and disposed of properly. We paddle where the monofilament line is present, a few examples shown in the above photos, so it is up to paddlers and boaters to play an active role in its *removal. (See note below.)

Just as you might pick up a piece of floating trash from a stream, if you see unattended fishing line in the environment hanging from a limb, wadded up on a beach, or caught in the bushes, carefully *cut it loose (there still may be a hook on it), and dispose of it properly in a recycle tube (not the normal trash can). Thanks. (See note below.)

*Note: According to personnel at the Alabama Marine Resources and Wildlife and Freshwater Fishing Law Enforcement, "There is no regulation preventing the use of monofilament for a bush hook or set line. Bush hooks or set lines left unattended for more than 48 hours may be removed and destroyed by Wildlife and Freshwater Fishing personnel. Code of Alabama 9-11-270 states that "No person shall... prevent, obstruct, impede, disturb or interfere with...any person in legally hunting or fishing...""

So, much caution is advised before removing unattended fishing lines as you may be breaking the Code of Alabama Law by interfering with someone's fishing line, abandoned or not. All the more reason for you to contact your legislators to get this ridiculous law revised. Request that a bill be created and passed that makes setting out any type of unattended fishing line illegal in all states, be it bush hooks, set lines, lines from limbs, from floats, stakes, or whatever, including trout lines.

Friday, February 19, 2010

02/19/2010 - Okefenokee - Stephen Foster

Header Image

1) Boat ramp at Okefenokee Stephen Foster State Park.

2) Winds were calm creating beautiful glassy reflections.

3) Heading north up towards Big Water.

4) Lilly pads and Spanish Moss draped on trees with slick reflective waters were quite pleasing to my eye.

5) Alligators soaking up the heat of the sun.

6) River Dog.

7) Minnies platform was relatively new - the old one being destroyed by fire in the huge Bugaboo Fire of 2007 that raged for 3 months and burned about 600,000 acres. It was the largest fire in the history of Florida and Georgia.

8) I wonder what insect does the pollination of these small flowers.

9) The trees get pretty dense along the sides of the trail up to Minnies Lake. 

10) You don't always know what you get when snapping a photo until you get home and view it on a bigger screen. Some photos like this end up being crappy. Looking closer at this deer showed it to be grimacing so hard it had its tongue sticking out. Why grimace? The photo also reveals a stream of raisin like matter spewing from the deer's butt. Oh dear, the poor animal must have been constipated. Photos like this sometimes are a matter of blind luck.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

02/18/2010 - Okefenokee - Cedar Hammock

Header Image

1) A building was being demolished near the Okefenokee East Entrance boat ramp. Water levels were as high as I've ever seen.

2) Even in the cold weather boat tours were still going on. I saw a few birds, alligators, and an otter.

3) The dark waters of the Suwannee Canal were slick as glass. I headed south to the Chesser prairie but the trail was impossible to follow due to the high waters. 

4) Winds were gusting strong across the open prairie, so I turned back and headed up the Cedar Hammock trail. For a map of the Okefenokee Swamp, click here.

5) There were a lot of uneaten seeds in the waters.

6) Sphagnum mosses were absorbing as much water as they can.

7) The Cedar Hammock platform was constructed using EZ Dock modular pieces. We sure could use a few of these in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

8) Pitcher plants were abundant along the upper Cedar Hammock trail.

9) With a narrow canoe trail, it is always exciting to pass closely by alligators. You never know if they will thrash your way to get to the water or not. This one never moved.

10) With the high waters, you could paddle just about anywhere in the Mizell prairie. Thank goodness for GPS devices.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

02/16/2010 - Crystal River Three Sisters Springs

Header Image

1) Having never been to Crystal River in Florida, I made a quick stop at the Three Sisters Springs to see the manatees. The place was like a zoo. Tour boats, snorkeling boats, and diving boats were anchored all over the place. I was caught in a mix of the boats on the way to the springs and one impatient operator was rather rude trying to pass me in a narrow area and I was already closely following a slow motorboat in front of me and had no where to move. Add in a mix of kayaks, swimmers and gusting winds and you have a recipe for disaster. One kayaker almost got hit by a motor boat - neither saw each other because they were watching for manatees.

2) The roped off area full of hibernating manatees was off limits to everyone but that didn't matter - manatees were abundant all over the area.

3) The chilly water and cold air temperature didn't seem to bother some people. The US Fish and Wildlife service was there to prevent anyone from entering the canal to the Three Sisters Springs. Rehabilitated manatees were being released at the springs. For more info on the release, click here.

4) Efforts are being made to purchase Three Sisters Springs - click here for more info. The canal entrance to the Three Sisters Springs can be seen in the background and it is off limits to motor boats. The whole area outside of the springs should be off limits to motorboats with propellers, too!

5) There were a lot of people involved in the manatees release and TV news crews were there to cover the event. After the rehabilitated manatees got settled in, we were allowed to enter the springs area.

6) There were another 60 or so manatees in the Three Sisters Springs area where the water was crystal clear.

7) There were plenty of people snorkeling and doing under water filming with the manatees.

8) One of the smaller manatees had some nasty looking scars from an encounter at some point with a boat propeller - perhaps an impatient diving boat operator did the damage. All tour motorboats should be banned in the area. Divers and swimmers should have to get in the water from a land based area like a dock, in my opinion.

9) Several manatees nuzzled the side of my green kayak - it was love at first sight. A lot of people got a kick out of seeing the manatees push me around.

10) On the way back to the launch site, we encountered a manatee hooked up with a radio tracking device seen in the water near the back of the red kayak. A small buoy, about the size of the ones used for crab traps, kept the antenna above water. With a chord between the manatee and the buoy, it seems like an unsafe tracking method but they supposedly have break away parts in case anything gets tangled.