Crystal River – Fall 2021

YEAH!!!! Here we are again! Get to log in another fishing trip to the Gulf coast, staying at Crystal River’s King Bay Lodge.

We have clear weather for fishing. But, take a look at the time on the photo.

Yep, didn’t get out on the water until mid-afternoon and we left home early morning. Why is that you might ask????? There was one important piece of equipment needed for the boat:

 

………the GPS. In my mind we had 3 options. (1) go without (not an option said Eric) (2) purchase another one (Eric also said not an option and (3) drive back home to pick it up. Yes, he went back home. I stayed at KBL and hung around the grounds until he got back. He exceeded his expected time of return and I believe a trip through the golden arches was part of the reason. Really?

Even though we had a late start, we still came back to KBL with some keepers.

Seatrout top and bottom with a grunt in the middle.

My particular trout was a very nice size. Hence a photo with me and my fish. Our boat is one of those in the background.

Man! Very different fishing this time of the year. The time change and shorter length of daylight really cuts into available fishing. Dusk was creeping up quickly and the shadows were getting long.

A late start fishing discouraged Eric from cooking that evening and we drove to a local favorite Peck’s Old Port Cove Restaurant.

Weather permiting we sit outside and this day it worked out for us. A little breezy being so close to the water (literally 10 feet from the back of the outside porch) but throw on a jacket and you’re fine.

Eric always goes for a dozen crabs – steamed with old bay seasoning (spicy!) – while I ordered the grilled grouper, complete with fries and a (very) delicious cole slaw. Yes, it looks like ‘normal’ cole slaw, and it is………but it definitely hits the spot when eating at this locale.

The next day of fishing starting out with catching some unusual species: a shark (24″) and needle fish (16″).

Whaaaaaaat. Really? Really.

But the Dardens persevered and brought these beauties back to KBL. The trout ranged from 15.5″ to 18″. At the bottom was the black seabass, extending beyond 10″ (the legal size needed).

Such a boring photo…………………………..

Eric makes fun of me but I like to dress them up a bit with some local fauna.

Invariably while we’re taking photos at KBL, we draw (really I should say I draw) attention and this time I added another layer of color to my last photo.

He’s possibly going to use all of these ingredients when he prepares the fish, so I thought ‘Heck, why not.’. It was fitting. Eric just shakes his head.

I must say, two of the above fish were nice and plump – mine.

While Eric caught this one. Sorry hon.

Since it’s a regular occurance at KBL for fishing and thus filleting, local wildlife is always hanging around. This guy (great white heron) was getting bold. He’s about 8′ away from where Eric is filleting our catch.

Persistant devil! He got even closer and while not truly aggressive, you couldn’t turn your back or he would have snatched a free meal.

While no photos of that night’s prepared meal, the fresh trout was delicious. All too soon it was our last day of fishing. Eric likes to grab a photo of me on the boat leaving KBL. I take the boat, he takes the truck, picks up the boat trailer and we meet at Pete’s Pier where he parks. BEAUTIFUL day on the boat, with crystal clear water.

This last year we’ve expanded our acceptable catch and come home with a variety of fresh fish. Our last day had these fish coming to the Darden kitchen. Eric was impatient for the photo to be taken so no extra flora or fauna – so boring.

Middle fish 12″ grunt with a sand perch top and bottom – used for fish stock.

Loved our visit to Crystal River. Not sure if that will be the final trip for this calendar year, but I hope not.

Ginny

 P.S. – Right before I posted, I saw something that made me smile. Did you notice the bumpers on the boat? To the far left, one bumper is a mermaid. 🙂 Little touches of whimsey can be put and found where you choose even when fishing.

Crystal River – Summer 2021 Scalloping!

At the end of my Crystal River – Summer 2021 post, I indicated the next post would focus on the ‘scalloping’ part of the trip. I’m finally getting around to completing the last few details of that post. Here you go………………..

Argopecten irradians – WHAT? That’s the scientific name for the Florida bay scallops. Found in shallow, nearshore waters along Florida’s Gulf coast. These bivalves are usually found nestled in seagrass beds and have really cool electric-blue eyes. They move by opening & closing their shells rapidly, pushing themselves across the seabed.

Okay – that’s probably enough of the educational piece for this post. 🙂

We had pretty decent days for fishing while at Crystal River but for a short period of each year, Scalloping is the main purpose for most visitors, and we were no exception. I’m not here to scallop but enjoy the fruits of Eric’s labor – thanks hon.

A few essentials are needed: mesh bag, goggles or snorkle and fins. Otherwise, it is about slowly moving around the boat, eyes down peering through the seagrass for the scallops.

Fins up and head down – always a good sign.

Enough of those tactics and you end up back on the boat with a bag of scallops. It’s not really that easy…………but if you find a good spot that hasn’t been picked over, you’ll end up with a bag like this – probably 15 inside.

Now comes the fun part – NOT!

Getting the edible part of the scalloping out of the shell requires patience and a strong stomach as you scrape out the shell. Scallop guts go into the trash can and the muscle is the part eaten. Notice the ‘equipment’ needed for this strategic operation? A spoon.

When all’s done you should end with a nice bowl of bay scallops: small 1″ pieces of white seafood flesh, about the diameter of your thumb.

My favorite way to eat them is sitting in some soy sauce, a dab of hot sauce and angel hair cabbage for a bit of crunch. Eric leaves off the cabbage for his. Serving them in their (cleaned) shell adds a bit of ‘something’ to the dish.

Did I mention the photo above with the scallops are not cooked?

Another tasty way to enjoy this delicacy is with pasta – a little olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes yielded this dish.

Our first day of scalloping yielded this bounty.

With our second day of scalloping yielding these bivalves.

Typically, shells are dark & mottled on top and lighter on their bottom shell, better camouflage amongst the seagrass floor of the Gulf. The orange shell is considered rare and a product of their colorful parents.

It was a fun trip, catching fish and snorkeling for scallops.

Ginny

Crystal River-Summer 2021 1.0

Finally! Got to plan a short trip to Crystal River. We knew it might be a dicey trip as there was a tropical storm/depression/wave/thunderstorm (really, seems like every cloud has a name – just saying) in the Gulf but all indications let us believe it would go further north than our spot. Leaving that morning, this was our forecast.

Nothing is ever easy…………especially with a boat. Eric had been washing and waxing the boat earlier in the week. The night prior to leaving he discovered the boat trailer had……………….a flat tire – of course it did. One more thing that had to be done to get ready – exchange the tire for his spare. Nope, the spare was fine, not flat. Bet you were expecting another tale. Ha!

Going to our home-away-from-home spot, King’s Bay Lodge.

Surprisingly, we were assigned to a room we had never stayed in – #2. Even better, as we were driving over that morning, we got a call the room was ready immediately, mid-morning.

Interior was fairly typical of other rooms, same style but each individual owner gets to pick their specific furniture. Would I stay on the room again – sure. Didn’t necessarily love the room’s location in the overall scheme of things. It was fairly close to the road and just about as far away from the boat as you could get.

Take a look at the first photo in this blog and see that phrase “River Flood Warning”? Yep, we noticed. Getting to the boat at the KBL dock required wading – yikes.

Naturally we had to stop at Pete’s Pier……..

………and saw more flooding. This is the walkway from the parking lot to the store & bait shop.

We did notice they’ve done some work on the place, repairing recent hurricane damage. Guess the gas pumps haven’t made the list for replacement – yet. The photo doesn’t show, but 2 feet to the right, the boardwalk is under 5″ of water.

The trip was for naught. HOWEVER, loved being on the water…….

The weather was adversely affecting the fishing so after time on the water, we headed in for an afternoon snack. Found a new place – St. John’s Tavern – very nice.

Perfect for an afternoon snack was a beer, a pretzel and a cup of chili – loaded with onions and jalapenos (yes, that was Eric’s selection).

We didn’t want to fill up too much. After watching the sun set, Eric was cooking steaks on the grill. Man! It was nice just sitting, relaxing, drinking a beer and watching the sun go down. 🙂

The radar looked MUCH better the next morning. This is doable. Should be plenty of time for a little fishing and a little scalloping.

Scalloping – LOVE to eat them (raw) but don’t love searching for them in the water. Eric did pretty well. That will be a post in itself, scalloping. We (and by that I mean Eric) caught enough seafood for our dinner: one trout and quite a few scallops.

Once again he used the grill for the fish, leaving the skin on when cooking.

Put that together with some dirty rice and a salad (tomatoes from our home garden!) and you have a mighty tasty meal.

Our second day of fishing was MUCH better – code for I caught some fish – with the photo below showing our haul. In addition to these fish Eric find plenty of scallops for the two of us. I’m holding that photo for the next post

Three grunts, left, sand perch in the middle, a grunt, porgie and blue runner on the right with a seatrout at the bottom.

Our last day of fishing yielded one of my favorite fish – spanish mackarel – the bigger fish at the bottom of the photo. We also caught this small porgie which gave us two small fillets for another meal.

Why do I r.e.a.l.l.y like mackarel…………….sushi! Add in an avocado, tuna, edamame, bok choy, followed by the mack and you have an awesome meal.

Having the sushi was a great end to several days on the water on Florida’s Gulf coast. Next up is a post dedicated to scalloping.

Ginny

Crystal River – 1st 2021 trip!

Ahhhhhhhhh finally back to one of my favorite spots in Florida. It’s been so long, Eric had a lot of work to do on the boat, getting it up to (my) boating standards. Don’t kid yourself – he LOVES working, cleaning, waxing, cleaning, waxing the boat.

Weather had the potential to be dicey, but it looks like any storms will have passed by the time we arrive. Driving through them with the boat on the trailer wasn’t a lot of fun – just saying.

Yeah!!!! I’m back on the water.

We usually pack lunching items while on the boat and today was no different. Our choice of lunch was not the norm………tuna salad – yes, crackers – yes, fruit of some sort – yes, oysters – not usually. Don’t forget the cookies in the upper left corner of the photo. Sit them on top of the deck for a few minutes and YUM, they taste like they just came out of the oven with ooey gooey chocolate chips.

Eric has been keeping some on ice these past weeks from a local purveyor and thought they would be the (perfect) thing for our lunch on the boat. Perfect for who??????

There were enough leftover for a mid-afternoon snack once we returned to King’s Bay Lodge.

Seafood Sellers continues to be our restaurant of choice and dinner that evening had some of the usual items ordered.

Fried tomato chips and grouper sandwich – yum!

If you’ve read any of my earlier Crystal River posts – there’s only one thing on the menu that Eric will order, if available………………..crayfish.

All washed down with a locally brewed beer.

It was a bit chillier the next morning.

Saw this eagle in one of the slow zones we pass through. My photo isn’t the greatest, but if I had the latest I-phone………………think how much better it would have been.

We got a quick photo of me with my first snook – not a keeper.

Before hooking this puffer. LOVE their puffiness.

Each of these keepers were hard-earned: 3 trout and 1 mackerel.

This white egret was very persistent as Eric was filleting out catch. He/she was bound and determined to steal one of our fish – he was not successful.

Always a great day on the water when you catch (keeper) fish and are with good friends.

Eric and I were able to extend our stay for one more day. This enabled us to (1) have one more meal at Seafood Sellers and (2) catch a few more fish – black sea bass (top) and a grunt.

Always LOVE coming to this area and catching fish makes it sweeter.

Ginny

Crystal River – Fall 2020

Yes, we do get Fall in Florida! It’s very subtle. You just kind of know when it’s here. It’s a feeling you get when you walk outside. It takes a few years to develop this ‘sense’, but it’s possible.

I had a chance to tag an extra day onto my weekend for 3 day break from work. We headed west to Crystal River. Love the bay, love the blue sky, love the white puffy crowds and love the water. Yep, it felt great to get away.

We have a new process for getting the boat in the water………..

  • >Drive to Pete’s Pier.
  • >Eric backs the trailer & boat down the ramp.
  • >Ginny (me!) backs the boat off the trailer.
  • >Ginny (me again!) motors the boat to King’s Bay Lodge.
  • >Eric parks the trailer at pre-determined storage.
  • >Eric drives the truck to King’s Bay Lodge and I pick him up to go fishing!

After loading up on drinks, shrimp and ice we motor out to the Gulf. But not before running into these……………paddle boards. Seems like they are taking over in popularity here. You know, I tried it once and I just wasn’t very good at it. Granted I wasn’t sitting down…….

Man! Got to keep an eye on the weather. We saw this before heading out. We had some open blue skies for a bit. Looked like we could get in several hours fishing before it got dicey.

And fish we did! We came in with a m.e.s.s. of fish. Look at those beauties! Eric makes fun when I ‘frame’ the fish with greenery. I think it adds something – so there!

Top to Bottom: Black sea bass, mangrove snapper, seatrout (4), mackarel and grunts(2).

I caught this snapper, a mighty tasty fish.

But let’s see what Adrienne did. Yep, she herself got the majority of the fish. She beat the Dardens!

Supper that night was a mix of fish. Eric grilled the mangrove snapper whole, while I got the black seabass and grunt filets, also grilled. Cubic fries were added to the meal. Not truly a ‘balanced’ meal, but hey we were on vacation.

And just to be sure we were full…………ice cream filled in the cracks. 🙂

The second day we got on the water much earlier and first thing we saw was this boat, looking for manatees. I believe I’ve talked about this before, but if not… numerous tour companies advertise ‘Swim with manatee’ trips in the fresh-water springs. Which also means you have to be careful when motoring through the water to ensure no manatees are hit by your boat propeller. Notice how still the water is? There wasn’t a bit of breeze – yet.

Can I say it? We had a great day! Look at these beauties. The cloud cover was a nice bonus, keeping the temps (relatively) cool.

Eric hooked this redfish early in the morning.

We came back with another great catch for a morning/early afternoon of fishing. A little spanish moss helped the edges of the photo. 🙂

Top to Bottom: Seatrout (2), redfish, mackarel, redfish and seatrout (2).

Eric had numerous ‘friends’ waiting for the spoils after filleting our fishing.

He drew quite a crowd.

He got tired of cleaning fish and asked for a break from cooking. After all, it was such hard work catching all of those fish. We always enjoy Peck’s so off we went for an early dinner.

Eric ordered his dozen steamed crabs preceded by clam chowder while I ordered the ‘fish of the day’ (grouper) with cajun seasoning. Got to have the special onion straws or ‘fish net onions’ as they are called on the menu.

Right behind King’s Bay Lodge is a crab facility and they had thousands (literally, 15K+) of crab traps ready to be dropped into the Gulf. I had a chance to talk with one of their workers and got a mini education. I couldn’t resist a few extra photos. I’m sure they thought I was crazy for taking photos of old traps and buoys.

Our last day of fishing continued to be a day full of fun. That big redfish at the bottom was caught by Eric.

Definitely needed to measure the redfish to be sure it was ‘in the slot’, using the yardstick fish ruler sticker along the side of the boat, instead of the top of the cooler. Rich?

As you can probably guess, there’s a story there. A friend was using our boat earlier in the summer, got stopped by the FWC officer who measured their fish………..and it was short.

We’re coming home with numerous baggies of fish. Eric used his foodsaver to divide up the filets and freeze them for future dinners. We kept a few fillets out and had trout almondine for dinner later in the week. You caould almost see the fish under the almonds.

I couldn’t resist this last photo. This guy had a ‘bad day’. Probably was the storm that hit the coast a few months ago, high water pushing the boat where it ordinarily shouldn’t go.

Always, always, always enjoy our time spent at Crystal River.

Ginny