Diving for Shells

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I get asked all the time about diving for shells.

“Where do you dive?”

“How deep do you go?”

“What kind of shells do you find?”

“Aren’t you worried about sharks?”

…and many many more questions.

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I appreciate all the questions asked. Now, I can answer some questions but not all.

“Where do you dive?”

This one is the most asked question.  Well, I cannot divulge where I dive. Every sheller has their honey holes as does every fisherman, shrimper and hunter. Some have found these spots by trial and error or by good old fashioned hard work. I will simply say that I dive all over the island as well as places like Little Hickory, Lover’s Key and Barefoot Beach. I have given my word that I will not divulge secret spots. I know that stinks and I am sorry.

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“How deep do you go?”

I have been known to go as shallow as a foot locally to as deep as 20+ feet in the Keys and the Caribbean. At about 15 feet, I can feel the pressure change. By about 20-22 feet, I’m about at my limit with a single breath. But I have seen some amazing things in deeper water.

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“What kind of shells do you find?”

Lots!

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Like this 18″ Horse Conch and huge Heart Urchins in Islamorada – which I still have yet to clean up.

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And this gorgeous Hawkwing Conch – same spot.

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Found this haul diving the island this past weekend. There are goodies out there. You just have to get into the deep water and get them.

“Aren’t you worried about sharks?”

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Sometimes, yes!

But I also play the odds and don’t go where it feels weird.

Read this article written by David McRee over at Blog The Beach. On a side note, our good friend Kim over at Snug Harbor did a great interview with him recently. Go check it out here.

One in 3 million odds.

Now I’m not gonna go shelling in some giant bait ball or near fishermen. That would be insane. I listen to my gut (and my diving friends) and pay attention to what I see and have seen in the water…

Let me also say that there are other things in the water that creep me out more than sharks……

“Isn’t the water really cold right now?”

Yes, the water is pretty daggone cold right now! I dove this past weekend with a water temp of 64 degrees. BRRRRRR. Good thing I have a wetsuit.

Unless you have one, you’re kinda on the crazy side to be getting in such cold water.

“Where is your favorite dive spot?”

Other than a couple of local spots, hands down it has to be the Caribbean (specifically The Cayman Islands and Cozumel), followed closely by the mid-Florida Keys. I’m sure the Shell Queen can confirm that. The Virgin Islands have amazing water. Grand Turk is just as beautiful. The Caribbean has the most beautiful, clear water that I have ever seen.

Diving is fun. It is also unsettling sometimes. But I think the payoff is always worth it!

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The Florida Beaches Royalty Tour – October 2013

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Four words to kick this post off – GO TO THIS BEACH.

Our October spot was one we’d marked on the calendar and specifically saved for the last couple of months of the year. So when this weekend’s trip rolled around, we knew we were in for an awesome time.

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Siesta Key is mentioned year after year as one of the top beaches in the country by sites like The Travel Channel, USNews and Dr. Beach himself. It’s located at the Southern end of Siesta Key and it’s beautiful. No wonder the area is listed as one of the best. It’s off I-75 at Exit 205. West for a few miles until you go over the drawbridge and hit the main drag. South for a couple of miles until you hit none other than Blind Pass Road. Yep, the Blind Pass there is as awesome as ours here on Sanibel.

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So let’s talk about a couple of things that immediately stand out:

1. The water

Crystal clear – and I mean crystal. I snorkeled in about 5-7 feet of water and could see the bottom easily. From my place in the water, I could see on all sides between 8-10 feet out in most spots. I’m not kidding.  Of course, there are also little patches where the water isn’t as clear (like in the pic below), but for the most part, it was spectacular. About 150 yards offshore, we saw a handful of scuba divers. I was jealous. I wanted to scuba dive too.

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It was also very cold. This meant the Queen stayed on the shore. I thought about bringing my wet suit since it’s getting to that time of year where the water temp drops quickly. I left it at home, which was a mistake. The water was 77 degrees. Now if you’re visiting from say, Siberia, that’s probably pretty warm for you. but around 80 is about my limit when shirtless – and I’m shirtless nearly 24/7 because you know, the gun show is always in town.  But I just couldn’t get used to the temp. I was annoyed that I was in near perfect snorkel water, but too cold to truly enjoy it. I lasted about an hour before I couldn’t take it anymore.

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2. The shelling

Shelling is pretty daggone good. Lots of minis hiding (like teeny tiny scallops) in the wrack line –

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and the stuff we’re used to seeing in Fort Myers/ Sanibel (Fighting Conchs, Whelks, Olives, Murexes) is prevalent there too.  Like this stunning and nearly perfect Lace Murex we pulled from the sand.

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Since the water is clear, it’s easy to see what’s there – and there are many remnants of really good shells. We found a lot of hash and broken pieces of shells that if found intact would be sitting on our display shelf, like three really huge but broken Whelks. I also noticed that the Olives we found were much darker. Don’t know why, but they were.

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There was also an abundance of Calico Clams. So you know there are plenty octopus in the water because they love to feast on the Calico. Little known fact – did you know you can’t  collect Calico clam shells in Bermuda? Yep, they’re a protected species and it’s against the law.

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But the Find of the Day went to this extinct/fossil Turrid shell I found in about 5 feet of water, nestled in the sand:

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I’ve mentioned before that I have big hands. So you can see that sucker is nearly as long as my thumb, It’s a beast. I was stumped as to what it was – I initially thought it was a Wentletrap of some sort. So I shared it with our friends over at the Facebook Sea Shell Collecting Club and they came through . Who came through with the final answer? None other than our friend,  The Essential Beachcomber. 🙂 Thank you.

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3. The view

Good Lord, the place is so peaceful and relaxing with a great viewscape. We arrived on the beach at around 9:30am and it was quiet and nearly empty, save for a couple of fishermen. The place is absolutely gorgeous.

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After a few hours of sunning, we decided to get some lunch at a quaint greasy spoon nearby. That’s when it hit me. We couldn’t be that far from Yoder’s Amish Village. Five miles away to be exact. I wanted some pie to take home. Hey, not only are we shellers, but we’re foodies too. Foodie, Fooder…whatever word describes it, that is us.

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We remembered seeing Adam Richman visit Yoder’s on an episode of Man vs Food a while back and vowed when we watched that we would visit the place the next time we were in the area. Plus, we needed a pumpkin.

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That place is amazing. They have a restaurant and Farmer’s Market all rolled into one with lots and lots of great homemade baked goods and fresh fruits and veggies.

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Pies, cakes, muffins, candy, drinks…the list goes on and on. All homemade.

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We picked up some candy, cheese curds (nom nom nom), beef jerky and a handful of other stuff and I have been getting fat all weekend. Totally worth it though.

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So Siesta Key and the surrounding area is an absolute must visit for your future travel plans. Spend the day enjoying the clear water, sun and good shelling (Free parking too!). After you’re done with the beach, hit up Yoder’s for some lunch and shopping.

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What a great weekend trip!