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“I found another seahorse!” a woman screamed with glee after scooping up her fifth or sixth seahorse of the evening. Even though the discovery of a seahorse wasn’t new, most of the group stopped what we were doing and waded over to admire this magical sea critter.
Heading Out into the Evening
It’s not every day I have the opportunity to wade into Lemon Bay to explore the sea life inhabiting the area while watching the sunset. The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center organizes these nighttime seagrass wading trips. At around 6:30 that night, the group of about 15 began gathering under the visitor center at the Cedar Point Environmental Park in Englewood, Fla.
Guides Pryce Durney and Adam Herman welcomed us. They provided an overview of what to expect, including getting very wet and possibly carried away by mosquitoes. It is Florida in spring, after all.
We followed Pryce down a trail through the park and to Lemon Bay. Adam pulled a cart with our tools for the evening, small buckets and dip nets. Along the way, we stopped to see and learn about some of park’s habitats. This included the mangrove swamp and salt marsh. We also admired different species of mangrove trees along the way. (Red, black, and white.)
Under a pavilion, the two guides provided more guidance for the evening. They provided instructions on properly dipping the nets to scoop up marine life. We were instructed to carefully place all sea life in a water-filled bucket for observation.
Wading in Waist-Deep Water in Search of Sealife
Upon given the go ahead, I armed myself with a dipnet and bucket and waded into Lemon Bay. I was on a quest for marine life. A participant asked about alligators. I assured them we don’t need to worry about them because the bay is saltwater. By nature, gators prefer freshwater. However, they should be concerned about sharks.
The outgoing tidal water was warm and teemed with life. Using a brushing motion, I carefully dipped my net in the water gently brushing the tops of seagrass. I hoped to scoop up critters but I felt like Charlie Brown trick-or-treating on Halloween. Most times out of many, my net captured an elusive blob of algae. Eventually, I found juvenile fish, hermit crabs, shrimp and a pipefish. Others found the beloved seahorses and a sea squirt. With the exception of seahorses and pipefish, one of each animal was placed in a water-filled bucket for later observation.
Seahorses and pipefish are released where found. Their entire lives are within a small area, and they are poor swimmers. Meaning, it will most likely take an eternity for them to find their way back home if released elsewhere.
In waist-deep water, we dipped the bay until after sunset and returned to land. Under green lights, we took a closer look at our catches. The buckets glowed a green hue and Pryce explained what each animal is. Once complete, Adam carefully placed the sea animals back into the bay.
About the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center
The program was about two hours and fantastic way to learn more about the area I call home. A small fee is charged for the nighttime seagrass wading trip and advance reservations are required. Trip times vary throughout the year depending on sunset times.
The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC) is a non-profit organization offering a variety of programs including daytime wading trips and guided walks. Their mission is to educate residents and visitors about the local environment.
CHEC operates two centers, one at Alligator Creek Reserve in Punta Gorda (10941 Burnt Store Rd.) and the other at Cedar Point Environmental Park in Englewood (2300 Placida Rd.).
Visit the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center website and Facebook page to learn more about their hours of operation, mission, and upcoming programs.
Duk Gear Phone Case
A note about my phone case – yes, newer iPhones should be water resistant, but I use a Duk Gear Phone Case when engaging in water activities. I wear it around my neck and can take photos through the case without worrying if I’ll drop my phone.
It’s also handy for carrying things like credit cards, cash, ID, etc.
Duk Gear is also an Englewood-area business so I’m happy supporting them. You can find them on Amazon and your favorite retailer.