Island Kid Must Haves:
- Old sneakers or tough water shoes
- Long handled net
- Large bucket
- Little rod and reel
- Flash light
What to bring – Bring old sneakers and a small net mesh – on the bayside you can scoop up small crabs, fish, shrimp, seahorses, pipefish, and a wide variety of cool stuff to look at! Bring a bucket to put water in and watch your creatures swim around!
Nature walk – the island has sandy paths perfect for exploring…take a nature walk! Can you spot an endangered gopher tortoise? A prickly pear cactus? A coconut Palm? Seagrape ? Osprey? Eagle? Pelican? Seagull? Dolphin? Sandpiper?
Have An Island Scavenger hunt! Try to find a cockle shell, australian pine tree burr, coconut, seagrape leaf and an oyster shell (careful, they can be sharp!).
Go Ghost-crabbing at night!! Bring a flashlight and a long handled net – when the sun goes down the ghost crabs come out and feed at the edge of the ocean – find the crabs with your flashlight and scoop them up!! It is helpful to have a large bucket to put them in – that way you can get a good look! Please retum them to their section of beach! Ghost crabs are the proud owners of the holes you will see between the dune line and the water. They are NOT aggressive but can bite if you pick them up.
Catch a blue crab. Blue crabs are all around the bay – you can catch one by tying a piece of chicken on a string and dropping it into the water at the dock. It may take a while so plan on tying the string to the dock and coming back in an hour to check your bait. Pull the string up very slowly – a hungry crab will hardly notice he is going for a ride. Use your net to scoop him up quickly! Tell Mom to ask for crab bait at the meat counter at Publix.
Sand fleas – small white crustaceans at the edge of the ocean – look for sand fleas where the waves are breaking on the beach – they have a round white shell, little flippers that they swim and dig into the sand with and they make great bait for fishing! No – they don’t bite!
Coquinas are beautiful little shells that can be found where the waves are washing up on the beach – they are very small and come in beautiful colors…Can you find a pink one? Yellow? Purple? White? If you see one you like you have to be fast – They will dig right back down into the sand! Get a handful of wet sand with coquinas in it and let them dig down – they tickle your hands!
Have you ever made a sand angel? Find a nice stretch of undisturbed sand on the beach – lay down, move arms, legs and head up and down and voila – a sand angel. This is an activity best enjoyed just before swimming!
Low tide bay walk – at low tide when the mud and sea grass are exposed it is a great time to find clams. Walk out into the wet mud – and wait for a stream of water to come shooting up out of the mud 10-12 inches! Every few minutes a clam will squirt out water which shoots up out of the mud. If you can keep an eye on where the water came out – you can dig up the clam. Hint – there will be a small keyhole shaped hole in the mud where their snorkel comes up!
On your low tide walk – with shoes you can find small fish, crabs and shrimp hiding in little puddles of water. Turn over any shells, branches, debris you find in the water – they are great hiding places as well!
Not low tide? That is OK – you can still get clams. Wade out into the sea grass in an old pair of sneakers. When you feel like you are stepping on a baseball buried in the mud – STOP! Using a pair of gloves – dig up the clam. They can be cleaned and eaten or are just fun to look at and throw back in the water in the same area where you found them.
Barnacles are small shells that glue themselves to the dock pilings, boat bottoms and anything else they can find. Lay down on the dock next to a piling and watch the sharp little barnacles open up and use their fan to sweep plankton into its mouth.
At Night go down to the dock and look under the lights. The lights attract all sorts of plankton, which attract bigger creatures, which attract shrimp, and small fish, which attract the big fish! Lay down on look – how many different creatures can you find circling under the dock lights? Now turn the dock lights off, turn over and look up. Because there is minimal light pollution our docks and beaches are beautiful places to see the stars, examine the moon and look for planets. Can you find Orion? The Big and little dippers? The north star?
Is there Fluorescence tonight? Sometimes there is a tiny organism in the water that glows when disturbed – on these nights you can see fish swimming away in the dark – leaving a trail of green sparks in the water behind them. Run your dip net in circles and watch the fireworks – It is a great time to swim in the dark when you light up the water as well!
More nighttime fun… Take your flashlight to the dock and shine it in shallow water around the pilings and in the sea grass. Shnmp eyes glow orange in the light! With a long handled dip net you can dip them up-perfect for bait! If your dock has lights then shrimp are attracted there too. In May the “Shnmp Run” is on – take a big bucket and you can dip the larger shrimp that go floating by – you can use them for bait but they are great to eat as well!
Take a turtle walk! May through October is sea turtle nesting season on the island – walk the beaches – can you find tracks of an endangered Loggerhead turtle that crawled from the sea and laid her eggs in the night? You can volunteer and go with the island Turtle patrol while they mark the nests or while they dig a nest which is already hatched and rescue the baby turtles trapped inside!
Love Sand Dollars? The sandbar just off the beach is sometimes loaded with live ones! The live sand dollars are brown, have tiny bristles that they use to crawl about and leave a yellow stain on your hands.. ..If you find a live sand dollar be sure to put it back where you find it. There are plenty that are no longer alive that make great treasures to take home. Those sand dollars will be white and can be found right alongside the live ones!
Ever heard of Hot Rocks? The island kids love them! They can be found inside the burr of certain trees – or sometimes underneath them. They are smooth grey seedpods, but when you rub them quickly on jeans or carpet to create friction – they get super warm. Kids have burn wars – they don’t create actual burns but they sure feel hot!
Fishing can be done on bayside or beachside. Frozen or live shrimp from the marina are always good bait – another great way to get bait is to catch it yourself! Small fish and shrimp can be dipped up with a long handled net – put them on a hook and trade them in for a big fish!