north florida - wild florida - the big bend..

By: marsHen , 3:57 AM GMT on May 30, 2014

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three days of trawling offshore in suwannee sound, steinhatchee, and apalachee bay off econfina. these were the first trawls of a new sampling year at big bend. we haven't trawled in either econfina or steinhatchee since last november, 2013. we found some changes.
catches in suwannee sound off the suwannee delta were low - some baitfish, a few flounder, some stingrays of several species, and a bunch of starfish. did bring in a living lightning whelk, busycon spp., that measured 339mm, 16" long. it's top side had a lot of small barnacles growing on it. it went overboard again.
water temperatures hovered between mid-upper 70's. water was dark. saw my last loon - a beautiful bird with a dark head and a speckled chest - and 3 small ducks flying off .
also spotted 3 roseate spoonbills on the mud flats by #4 bridge while driving home.
most of the trawls to the southeast of econfina river were a bust. several miles offshore and in water 2-2.5 M deep the bottom had been invaded by small mussels that were attached to the exposed roots of dormant turtle grass and manatee grass. along with snarls of wiry brown algae, that was the dominant substrate with very few snails, crabs, or fish. some sets we got no fish at all. we took samples of the mussels and algae. the water was very dark and salinity was in the mid-range. wind was brisk in the morning with a moderate chop. the intense rains we've experienced have sent pulses of fresh water and tannin out into the bay, which could account for the substrate alteration. northwest of the river there was some seagrass, much less mussel by-catch, and we pulled in some fish - mostly pinfish and pigfish with a few young of the year black sea bass and no scallops at all.
offshore steinhatchee river the water was similiar - dark, mid to upper 70's,
netted no mussels but sea urchins instead. we did catch more fish and even got 3 small scallops. the catch consisted of pinfish, pig fish, some sea bass, a few seahorses, and a bunch of founder. much more encouraging than the econfina trawls.. hot and sunny that day. glad for a sea breeze, a light chop.

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About marsHen

marine biologist around the Suwannee River delta. Raise Cracker sheep on an old Cracker farm ~ 12 mi. (as the crow flies) from the Gulf.