A Change in Seasons

Island Jane Magazine- Capt. Samantha Zeher

As the snowbird season comes to an end, and summer begins, we are praying for calmer winds. Through most of the spring, we had some gnarly winds of about 20-30 mph. This made it difficult to snorkel Oceanside, but that didn’t stop the visitors from wanting to get in the water. Our eco-tours have been filled with many dolphins and manatees around the mangroves. The bird life has been wonderful as well. When it came to the snorkeling portion of our tours though, on those windy days, we opted to stay away from the rough seas and explore the mangrove roots and some sunken boats. .

Have you ever explored the water below the mangroves? Most people would not think to snorkel here, but the root system of the mangroves have a wide variety of fish and critters. The tangled mess of roots act like a nursery for juvenile mangrove snappers, grunts, and more. There are tons of minnows that hang around them as well. This is because the trees provide protection for the juvenile fish from the larger fish that want to eat them. The mangroves grow in very shallow water so it makes for a great spot for beginners and young children.

Island Jane Magazine- Capt. Samantha ZeherAlong with all the juvenile fish that live in the mangroves, if you float still and look close enough, you can see things like starfish, crabs, lobsters and more. Sponges grow on the roots of the trees and, inside the sponges, there are small sea stars and shrimp that make them their home. Sometimes you can see these animals moving.

Back in the day, people used to sink boats, car engines, pipes and much more, in the bay to create an artificial “reef” to attract fish and lobster to a designated area, making it easier to catch the fish and lobster. Through the efforts of FWC and other conservation groups, a lot of these artificial reefs have been removed, but, luckily for us on windy days, there are still a few left to explore. At these sunken boats, it is possible to see tons of lobsters, juvenile snappers, parrot fish and the occasional nurse shark or stingray.

Although it is always amazing to go to the reef to snorkel, snorkeling the mangroves or a sunken boat can be a lot of fun, and you may be surprised what you might see if you take the time to look!

Owner of a sightseeing eco-tour business out of Islamorada. Samantha grew up playing on the waters off of Lower Matecumbe. She learned to fish and snorkel at a young age. She loves being on the water and enjoys educating people about the importance of the marine environment.

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