Fishing and Sightseeing Indian River Lagoon

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Sunrise on Indian River Lagoon.

Finally! We visited Indian River Lagoon, a place I’ve personally wanted to see for years! Almost bucketlistish! Let’s make that a word. Indian River Lagoon and the nearby Mosquito Lagoon are world renowned for the fishing opportunities they afford. Specifically both areas are known for world class Spotted Sea Trout and Bull Redfish. Michelle enjoys the sport of fishing as much I do, so when we decided to make a quick weekend trip for her birthday, she chose Indian River Lagoon! How could I refuse?

We rented a small two bedroom one bathroom cottage on a canal in Edgewater, Florida just off of Indian River. The rent was less than $100 per night plus a few reasonable fees. We managed to make it to town early enough to get a first night sunset run in the boat.

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The canal! Headed to the home away from home.

It was beautiful, but we also quickly learned where the area got its name. The mosquitoes were out in force! Thankfully we brought along bug spray thinking that flying bugs might be a problem, and the spray was definitely needed that night in the Indian River Lagoon.

Fishing

I’ll start by saying, we didn’t exactly have a record weekend when it comes to the number or size of fish that we caught in the Indian River Lagoon. We caught a few, and had a few big ones break us off. The highlight of the fishing was probably the two nights we fished the well lit waters around local docks. You could see Snook and Sea Trout hovering in the current around the docks. It was a great time watching them strike our baits and fighting them to the boat. So, while we didn’t land any record fish, we definitely enjoyed the fishing.

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Time for a little night fishing action in the backwater  and the docks!

Sightseeing

This was the best part of our trip, and certainly the part that left us with the most entertaining stories! The views were beautiful as soon as we left the canal, with the mangrove back-country directly east of us. The sunsets were beautiful with rain showers falling in the distance.

 

A short run with the outboard motor allowed us to spend most of our time using the trolling motor in waters averaging one to three feet deep. When we weren’t actively fishing we took some sightseeing runs along the eastern shoreline down to the wide open main body of the Indian River Lagoon, along with many of the backwater areas in between.

Prior to going on our trip we reviewed satellite imagery that showed a parking area connecting the lagoon shoreline to an ocean access. We thought this was a great opportunity to get the best of both worlds. We planned to fish most of the the morning, run down to beach the boat on the lagoon side, walk to the beach side for a swim, then return to the boat to run back home for a late lunch. The plan worked out perfectly! Well, almost…

We beached the boat on the east side of the Indian River Lagoon as planned, and started walking across the beach and lagoon access parking lots. The signage suggested pretty clearly that we were in a public area. As we walked across the lot, a grey haired gentleman gave us a little giggle. I just thought he was feeling friendly… We walked down the boardwalk beach access toward the water and all was well. As we stepped onto the sand, we were both focused on the water in front of us and looking forward to sweet relief from the blazing hot day.

It was then that my eye panned slowly left, only to see a rather large, naked man walking toward me down the beach. I thought, ” Well he’s bold. Pretty sure he is going to get a ticket.” Then I panned my eyes right, only to see two more men walking toward me in their well tanned birthday suits. Okay then, there wouldn’t be any public indecency tickets passed out on the beach that day, because clearly… we were on a nude beach! I looked over at Michelle and told her what I had just discovered, and it was then that she also looked around to take in the view. Happy birthday babe!

We weren’t the only ones wearing swim suits though. That being said, on this particular beach, the men seemed to be the only ones feeling particularly “free”.  The ladies seemed to keep their suits on. After a moment of laughter about our unexpected surprise, we took our swim in our swim suits, as an older guy with a long grey beard surfed naked about one hundred yards to our north. Hang five brother. There are so many directions I could go with jokes right now… but this is a family blog! We swam for about ten minutes and then went back to the boat to return home for our planned late lunch with a funny story to tell!

The Wildlife

The wildlife in the Indian River Lagoon was plentiful. Manatees seemed to be everywhere. We saw them every time we stopped the boat, and dolphins were pretty much the same. The difference is that the Manatees don’t hurt your fishing. Not sure I can say the same about the dolphins. They were like aquatic stalkers at times. But first the Manatees. I’ve seen them plenty of times at home, so they aren’t new to me at all, and I have seen them interacting the same way in my home range as we did in the Indian River Lagoon. I have never seen them interact in the way that you’ll see in the video for such an extended period of time. Mating? Maybe. It went on and on, so we eventually just went on our way. Below is a short clip of the Manatees.

Now, back to the dolphins. We saw them during the day frequently but they didn’t hang out close to us. The nighttime excursions to the brightly lit local docks were a very different situation. Those dolphins were on to us as soon as we started fishing, and they followed us to every dock. I wish I owned a better camera that would have been able to show them in such low light, but no such luck. You could hear the dolphins exhale through their blowholes, and what started as slow, relaxed breaths became more frequent, louder, and more abrupt sounding. It was as if you could actually feel them getting more excited at the thought of stealing a fish. At least, that was my impression of what they had in mind. People fish those docks all the time, and I’m guessing the dolphins have become efficient Indian River Lagoon fish thieves.

There were seabirds abounding in the area. We saw Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Herons, Egrets, Ospreys and more. No doubt the experienced birdwatchers out there would see many more.

Food!

We ate at the Florida Roadhouse, which was good, but didn’t exactly wow us. We also ate at a local seafood spot called Goodrich Seafood and Oyster House that you may never find unless you know to look for it. The food there was good as well, and we would go back, but again it didn’t leave us wowed. It was right on the water, but it was pouring rain while we were there so we sat inside.

A little strip mall breakfast place called C’s Waffles was the highlight of our food experience in Edgewater. It was a small family owned place that has been there for many years, seemed to have a solid clientele, a great staff, and fantastic breakfast food. We stopped in for breakfast on our way out of town. Michelle had the waffles and I had hash-browns, eggs, bacon and toast. It was all delicious. Michelle said the waffles were up there with the best waffles she’s ever had. Bravo C’s. You made it feel just a little OK to be leaving our short vacation behind. Until we meet again…

 

 

 

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park – Camping With the Family

Hanna Map

Hanna Park is a 400 + acre city park in Duval County on Florida’s northeast coast. The park lies just South of Mayport Naval Station in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Atlantic Beach is part of the incorporated city of Jacksonville. Hanna Park is a rare treasure. A piece of mature, accessible oceanfront coastal hammock that has a little something for just about anyone who loves the outdoors.

Camping

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Hanna Park offers a beautiful campground that showcases great old Live Oaks, Sweet Gums, Palm trees, and many other coastal species. The campground has full camping hook-ups for tents and RV’s and other smaller campers. Some spots are more desirable than others. Checking the park map before you go helps, and while you camp for the first time be sure to look around for spots you might like to try in the future. The kids love meeting new friends around camp.

There are showers and restrooms but user be warned, they are kind of gross. They were probably fantastic in 1562 when installed by a small group of French Huguenots, but since then they have gone way downhill. Ok, I may be exaggerating on their age a little. Some of the trees and palmettos inside Hanna Park may have been around since the French landed in the area we now call Jacksonville, but pretty sure the French weren’t calling it Hanna park and the third tree on the left was the restroom. So bottom line, if you’ll need to use the facilities, bring shower shoes and some sanitizer! They do at least hose the restrooms down. Seriously… they hose them down. The campground has a small store where you can pick up a few basics and rent equipment.

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You’ll see lots of beautiful mature oaks, palms and other majestic trees.

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Mature trees in the campground itself.
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Hammock views are the best!

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One of many beautiful old oaks in the park.

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The sea fog looked cool wafting through the campground lights.

The campground provides easy access to all of the following activities.

Biking

Bring your own or rent one in the camp store. If you are going to ride the trails, a mountain bike is recommended. The technical trails are challenging, and you will need a bike that is up to the challenge.

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Hanna Park has biking opportunities for all skill levels. Whether you enjoy a leisurely ride down the hard-pack sand on the beach at low tide, riding the paved roads throughout the park, or the more technical mountain bike trails, there is something at Hanna Park for you. The mountain bike trails are marked with skill level and the direction of travel. With people riding the courses at speed, you definitely don’t want to be traveling in the wrong direction. Helmets are required for youth and advised for all.

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Nice spot to stop and smell the roses.
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Headed up the road to the lake and the next trailhead.
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Plenty of paved roads if trails aren’t your thing.
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Another cool old oak tree.
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Can you find this “Hanna” sign carved into a tree on one of the bike trails? Let us know if you do!
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The red trail is technical!

Hiking

Hannah Park offers great hiking trails that are intertwined with the bike trails, but separate from them. Unless someone is riding where they shouldn’t be, you are unlikely to run up against bikers when using the hiking trails. The hike around the Wellness Trail is approximately 6 miles.

This time of year is great because the mosquitoes are minimal, and the temperatures are relatively mild. This year has been an exception with mid to upper 70’s on NewYear’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If you’re going to be in the woods or campground, take precautions to protect yourself from ticks and be sure to check yourself occasionally, especially before bedding down for the day. Michelle and I both found one each on our legs. Hers was from camp, and I believe mine was from the trails.

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Fishing

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Hanna Park has several fresh water lakes, as well as the beach itself. You can catch an array of fresh and salt water species. Personally I wouldn’t recommend eating the fish from the lake. You can fish either salt or fresh water, but be sure that you obtain a Florida Fishing license if you are a non-resident, or if you are a resident who will be fishing from a boat, kayak, etc. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse or two of the otter I saw this weekend!

 

 

 

 

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Kayaking and Canoeing

Rentals are available or you can bring your own. No motors allowed! The lakes hold a few alligators, but as far as I know of there have never been any issues involving the gators at Hanna and humans. Just keep your distance and don’t feed them if you do see them.

Wildlife

You’re not likely to see large mammals such as deer or pigs here, but there are a lot of raccoons and squirrels. A raccoon walked directly into our seating area as we sat by the fire on New Year’s Eve. There has been a recent increase in coyote sightings around the beaches and Hanna Park. As with many other areas facing an increase in coyote populations, vigilance is required to ensure people and pets remain safe. Be smart and don’t feed wildlife. The park provides food and shelter for birds of many kinds. We saw a big group of birds roosting on the small island in the middle of the lake.

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Birds roosting on island in the sea fog.

Invasive Species

Be aware of the dangers of spreading invasive species. The park asks that you not move firewood from areas outside the region, or that has been elsewhere. Firewood is available for purchase on-site if you want to purchase it there. There is information available in the campground about specific pests of concern and tips on helping prevent the spread of invasive species.

Fungal Finds

We’ve had a few wet weeks, and the first couple of days of the trip brought heavy sea fog, so there were of course plenty of fungi to be found in the campground and along the trails.

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Oyster mushrooms on Magnolia cone.

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Lycoperdon – Puffball Mushrooms
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Pisolithus tintorius – aka “Dog Turd” fungus, aka “Dye Maker’s Puffball”
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Dog turd… I wonder why they call it that?
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Clathrus columnatus Stinkhorn in egg form.
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You can see the columns developing inside the “egg.”
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Beautiful edible Pleurotus mushrooms.
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Oysters from the underside.
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Oysters growing in a rosette.
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May be a hygrocybe of some kind. Honestly not sure.
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Mushroom, possibly Tramates lactinea, exuding water droplets.
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Nice shot of Pleurotus – aka oyster mushroom and mycelium on wood.
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Spongipellis pachyodon – considered inedible. New mushroom hunters often think this is Lion’s Mane or some other edible toothed mushroom. This mushroom actually has a pore surface that quickly break down to look like teeth.

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Pachyodon being attacked by slime mold. Slime mold for the win.

Play Areas and Public use Facilities

The kids will enjoy playing in the small campground parks or taking a cool splash at the water park during summer months! There are water cannons, jets that shoot up from the ground, and several other cool things for the kids to play with when the weather is warm.

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The water park is all shut down this time of the year. Looks like it has truly gone to the birds! Can you see the large vulture in this picture?
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Now can you see it?
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Main campground park.
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Indoor gathering area. May need permit. Call park for details on this and other sheltered areas.
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Lots of outdoor picnic areas and open space around lake.

The Beach

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Heavy sea fog rolled in all day.
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Shells were plentiful Sunday up above this tide line.

The beach  at Hanna Park is beautiful. The sand is clean, and on days when the wind and waves work together to uncover them, Hanna’s beaches provide some of the best shelling around. Sharks teeth are plentiful, with large specimens being found on occasion. Are you one of those people who says they can’t find shark’s teeth? Believe me; you can! They are there by the thousands. If you believe you will find them, you will. If you believe it is impossible, then I’ll come behind and find them for you!

Surfing

Hanna Park holds one of North Florida’s premier surf spots, know as the “Poles”. Thanks to the way our St. John’s River jetties build the sand up around the inlet, the Poles provide what most locals describe as the best break in our area. The jetties offer great wind protection on good days, making the form of the waves that much better. If you are a surfer, bring your board and join me at the Poles!

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Surf Gators!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this review of Hanna Park. Let us know how your experience goes there!

Resources

Hanna Park Trail Map – http://www.coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation/recreation-and-community-programming/docs/preservation-(1)/kathryn-abbey-hanna-park-trails-maps.aspx

Florida Invasive Species Lists – https://www.fleppc.org/list/list.htm

Freshwater Fishing Regulations  http://www.eregulations.com/florida/fishing/freshwater/

Florida Freshwater Fishing Regulations http://www.eregulations.com/florida/fishing/saltwater/

Mayport Poles Surf Report & Forecast – Surfline
https://www.surfline.com/surf-report/mayport-poles/5842041f4e65fad

Park Information – http://www.coj.net/departments/parks,-recreation-and-community-services/recreation-and-community-programming/kathryn-abbey-hanna-park.aspx

Park Information – http://www.coj.net/getattachment/Departments/Parks-and-Recreation/Recreation-and-Community-Programming/Oceanfront-Parks/Kathryn-Abbey-Hanna-Park/Hanna-Park-Brochure-2-Apr-2018.pdf.aspx?lang=en-U

Mushroom Forage and Sightseeing Near Middleburg Florida

It’s been raining hard the past few days, and we have the mushrooms to show for it! There were too many types of mushrooms and other forage to share at once, so I’ll go over some of the best. It needs to be very wet for Exidia recisa, or the Jelly Roll fungus to be noticed in the woods. IMG_20181215_101449808A trained eye might find it when it’s dry, but it wouldn’t be easy. Several fungi are bundled into the common name of Jelly Roll. Exidia recisa is brownish to amber in color and looks like small ear like appendages when wet. They can grow closely together but don’t usually joining into one large mass. The fungus can be found on oak and possibly other hardwoods in Florida. This is an edible fungus though reportedly without a great deal of flavor of its own. The mushroom expands impressively when wet, so it can absorb whatever flavors or liquids it is cooked in. You’ll look for this fungus on fallen wood when the ground is wet.

Yellow staining milk cap

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Notice the milky yellow latex?

Milk caps are mushrooms that exude a latex when cut or damaged. Many are quite tasty, but some are toxic or too bitter to be edible by all but the most desperate. The taste and color of the latex are significant clues to edibility in this group of mushrooms. This yellow staining milk cap is one of the toxic milk caps. We won’t be eating it!

Deer Moss

 

This is a lichen, not a mushroom but is edible when processed correctly. Processing involves boiling and disposing of used water multiple times. If you needed carbs badly enough, you could get them from this. These are reported to be slow growers, and some that I saw were as tall as six or seven inches.

Cortinarius (Cort)

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Not and edible mushroom, but beautiful just the same. There are said to be over 2000 types of cortinarius. Some are said to be lethal, and as a general rule many foragers don’t eat cortinarius of any kind.

Lactifluus paradoxus

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I love the colors of paradoxus.

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These are beautiful mushrooms. They boast a number of different colors, often showing several colors on one mushroom. Blues, greens, greys, pinks, peach and salmon are all commonly seen. The salmon colored gills are distinctive. These are edible but require care to get back home in one piece. They are delicate and break into pieces easily.

Baby Gopher Tortoise

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If I head, nobody will see me!

No, this isn’t forage, but it is too cute and rare not to share! Saw this little one twice in a week’s time. Tiny little thing. Probably just dug one of its first of many tunnels in its hopefully long lifetime. These are endangered so look but leave them be when you see them. Take one of these for a pet, and it may be one of the costliest pets you ever get!

Lentinus

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This is the most beautiful lentinus I have ever seen! Not generally eaten, but beautiful to look at. Shiitake mushrooms are a part of this group, and they ARE eaten.

Russula (Possibly Murrill’s hixonii, a rare mushroom)

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The hixonnii russula were first noted around Newnan’s Lake just outside Gaineville, Florida. I camped there frequently while attending school. They are described by mycologist Arlene Bessette as “rare and beautiful.” The “Pepto” pink is a giveaway, as is their large size. Bessette reports that they smell like cake when drying. They may be found frequently in some areas, but overall are considered threatened. I find them in several areas from about 25 miles northeast of Gainesville to Pumpkin Hill Preserve southwest of Fernandina, Florida.

Coral Mushrooms

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You really must know these well to chance eating them, and I don’t know them well. I saw a lot of them, so I wish I was able to make a positively ID.

Turkey Tail Mushroom – Tramatese versicolor

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Look for white pores. If they aren’t white, it isn’t Turkey Tail.

We’ve written about this wonderful mushroom before. It has compounds which are currently used in the treatment of cancer and is said to be medicinal by many. Full disclosure, I know of no scientific studies that support that assertion and have read posts by experts saying the same. Don’t shoot the messenger. In the absence of proof that they do help, I don’t know of any that say they can’t help if you want to give them a try! I’ve made tea with them and found it quite enjoyable. You can find preparation methods online.

Clathrus columnatus, Stinkhorn

 

The first person to give these a common name didn’t need much creativity. They truly stink! They produce a smelly substance that stinks, which attracts flies, who carry the mushroom spores on their feet to new and exciting places. This particular variety looks really cool. These start out in an egg form underground before bursting from the sack to extend above ground. If you can find them in egg form, some are said to be edible. You can just see one busting out of its egg in the photo.

Amanita persicina

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Motherload of Amanita Persicina. Hundreds of them.

IMG_20181216_203402277This is a local variety of Amanita mushroom that is related to the Fly Agaric known in northern regions. It is the red mushroom with white spots on the cap that you see in so many pictures. Our local variety comes in shades from red to nearly tan when old. It is important to understand; the Amanita group contains some of the deadliest mushrooms known! When people imagine deadly mushrooms, they are often thinking about an Amanita even if they don’t know it. If you are not an expert, leave anything in the Amanita group alone! That being said, for the experts this is one of the Amanita mushrooms is toxic but tat can be prepared so as to be made relatively safe for consumption. I say relatively because this is also one of those mushrooms that reportedly sends some into an altered state of consciousness. The experience is reportedly not something to be taken lightly, and can include fits of projectile vomiting, sweats, and other less than pleasant physical symptoms. Some reportedly experience little to no physical effects, so I guess to quote Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, the question is “Do you feel lucky?” Not me! I’m guessing law enforcement would have something to say once you began processing for that purpose. If you are a binge tv watcher, this mushroom also plays a role in the Amazon series “Fortitude.” Great series if you haven’t seen it!

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Thanks!

Referenced Arelenne Bessette et.al. “Mushrooms of the Southeast”

Momma Bear and Two Cubs

Bear CubsThis young lady came in with her two babies. She was straight downwind of me but came in anyway. It was Awesome! I hope you enjoy it as much as me! This was the 4th time I’ve seen bears in this area over the last two years. May post a little video of the 5:30 am walk in later.