What's hiding beneath the surface of the water? The Gulf of Mexico is home to an incredibly diverse collection of marine life, from tiny unicellular organisms to massive whales. While birds often float on the water's surface, underneath you'll find a totally different world to observe.
The Gulf of Mexico has long been known as a super fishing destination. The ocean's bounty includes jack, grouper, snapper, and other (dinnertime) favorites. For guidance on what's in season, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. One expert fishing captain also depart from Anclote Village Marina, if you'd like to arrange a charter fishing trip.
Many much larger species of fish swim in Gulf waters. You may spot dolphins, which like to play in the wake of boats. Sharks can also be found, as can marlin and sailfish. During the winter, the North Atlantic Right Whale heads to the warm waters of the Gulf for calving. Though all these species are impressive, they usually steer clear of humans and pose little to no danger.
A few marine critters you will want to watch for are jellyfish and stingrays. Jellyfish float in the water, with poisonous tentacles that dangle below their bodies. When these tentacles come into contact with your skin, they cause a painful burning sensation. Usually that can be assuaged with ammonia, so it's a good idea to bring a bottle on the boat with you just in case. You may encounter jellyfish in the water or washed up on shore; even dead jellyfish can still sting, so don't touch them.
Stingrays are very shy creatures that like to disguise themselves by burrowing beneath the sand. Though you may see rays swimming in open water, they frequently hang out the shallows. Stingrays have long tails with a barb at the end, which shoot straight up if the sting ray is stepped on. To avoid this, do the "stingray shuffle": instead of picking up your feet as you wade into the water, gently shuffle them along the bottom. That way you'll nudge the stingray from the side, and it will swim away without defending itself.
Nearby Tarpon Springs grew up around one specific marine creature: sponges. These stationary animals affix to the ocean floor. As water filters through the sponges, they capture and feed on microscopic organisms. Harvesting sponges became a robust industry in Tarpon Springs around the turn of the century; natural sponges are more gentle and durable than manmade ones, and they remain popular today. If you cruise upriver to Tarpon Springs, you'll still see the traditional tools of the trade displayed on the docks. Have a question about a fish or other marine creature you've seen? Just ask! We'll do our best to answer for you, or direct you to an expert who can help.