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Port Aransas: Collection Trip

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July 20 - 22, 2007MAAST, MARSH, and DFWMAS all joined together for a fun collection trip near Galveston, Texas. The plan was to scoop out some peppermint shrimp out of the ocean, play in the water, and enjoy a bonfire. We had a great time, and here are some pictures to prove it...

It was a decent drive from Ft Worth to the coastline, probably about six hours total. Fortunately, I was just a passenger helping foot the bill for the gasoline. Robert, a friend of mine, drove since he'd made this trip several times and knew the area well. Several of our group rented rooms at a location about 45 minutes away from the event, because it was near a great Nerite snail breeding ground. This is Robert.

This first picture is a pretty accurate representation of what things looked like...

...but for the next few pictures I tried to make things look a little more perfect. Sue me.

After we got settled in, we met on a nearby pier.

All that work for this?

I think this kid had the right idea.

Steve did pretty good with that net after all.

This crab trap was tied to the pier, and inside were both carcasses and live crabs.

This picture is from the end of that same pier looking back at our accomodations.

While fished off the pier, while others went in search of critters.

Nerite hunters, unite!

We found other stuff out there, including some odd crabs that pinched if you weren't careful, ghost shrimp, pipe fish, flounders and more.

To keep the snails alive overnight, we had styrofoam coolers in our rooms full of saltwater, air pumps and heaters. When we didn't have the option to use electricity, such as in the back of Robert's truck,
we used battery powered air pumps or power inverters.

As night approached, we had to take a ferry to get to the bonfire. This is a drive-on ferry that takes a few minutes to get your vehicle to the opposing shore, as there is no bridge. There are quite a
few ferries in operation, so it isn't too bad. Below, we are waiting in line on a Friday night.

Driving on the ship. Once parked, you turn off your engine for the short trip.

A ferry is returning to get more passengers.

There's our destination approaching.

The bonfire was a on pitch dark beach. Taking pictures was pointless. You could hear the ocean nearby, and saw everyone enjoying themselves. Kids played near the fire, roasting marshmallows. Plenty of
beer was consumed. We were out there for a couple of hours, then it was time to head back to the ferry, and then to our room for the night.

The next day (Saturday), we went to the hotel were many were staying as it was almost time for the BBQ to begin. Some explored the area while others helped get things set up. The BBQ was fun, and quite a
few DFWMAS members won raffle prizes. There were quite a few more people there, but when it got interesting, I'd put my camera down to enjoy the food and the entertainment.

This vendor described one of his newest products, a Lumenbright reflector. It was one of the prizes.

Yes, that's me winning a sump, of all things. ;)

Matt, our club president, won some goods.

As did Rick, our treasurer.

There was a poker game, but I merely observed. Steve (aka Bigbird), the person that organizes the event each year, won the pot. He's the one wearing the starter shirt.

Check out the cool t-shirts they made up.

Anyone that donated stuff to the raffle got listed on the back of the shirt.

We had a few hours to kill, so we took the ferry again, and it began to rain.

Another ferry ahead of us.

Seagulls had no fear of us.

The main point of this trip was to collect peppermint shrimp, but first we had to traverse this huge jetty. Yes, it was as rough as you can imagine trying to walk / climb over those boulders. Some areas
were wet with slick algae spots that could lead to a nasty fall. Try doing this carrying buckets, nets, flashlights, and more. Even worse, try it again coming back with buckets filled with saltwater & shrimp
in pitch darkness while huge mosquitos are sucking you dry!

The picture above is the halfway point, half a mile from shore. The picture below shows what is left to come, another half mile.

You might think SCUBA would be a safer method of getting to the end, but if you'll note this guy's bloody calves...

The trip wasn't a total waste. I found some very pretty wildlife on these rocks.

These medallions were on many of the rocks.

A huge barge moved up a nearby estuary. We tested the salinity of the water on this side and it was quite low, but the other side of the jetty was near reef standards.

These barges were being pushed by a smaller tugboat.

Motor boats worked the choppy water not far from the jetty.

This pelican wasn't shy at all.

Look at all the rock anemones, as well as all those tiny silver fish. These pockets of water were found throughout the jetty.

We found tons of tiny cerith-like snails up on the wet rock,
but figured if they were out of water, they'd climb out of our tanks.

After scouting out the entire structure, we headed back to the truck before dark. I put my camera away to keep it safe, and as twilight approached we hiked all the way back to the end of the jetty once
again. Everyone was dressed to get wet, with nets and flashlights in hand, empty buckets nearby. There were probably 40 of us crawling in and out of those rocks, scooping our nets up against the submerged rocks
hoping to find peppermint shrimp.

It was a little frustrating at first, but after about an hour, they started to come out in a number of spots. With a flashlight, you could see their eyes glow before they'd retreat for cover. Thrusting my
net into the water and then dragging it against the rock and up out of the water, I started catching my very first peppermints. It was exciting to report that I'd caught one or two, but Robert was scooping out 20 or
more at a time like a pro. I didn't give up though, and immersed myself in the water over and over. Waves crashed up on the rocks, soaking me to the bone, but I didn't care because I was having fun. Below was my catch for the night!

Getting the livestock back to the truck was challenging. I had two buckets half-filled with ocean water filled with shrimp and other critters, and I had to navigate over those huge rocks in the dark. It
was wet and slippery where you'd think it was safe, so I had to be extra careful. Every five steps, I had to put down a bucket and try to slap an offending mosquito to death as it slurped up my blood. Five more
steps, stop, put down a bucket, slap the other arm. Repeat about 30 more times over the one mile trek back to shore.

We did another water change at the truck, but Robert wanted to have plenty of water for the trip home. So I just walked out into the surf and brought back bucket after bucket of saltwater. I was wet, so I
saw no reason not to just wade out into the ocean a dozen times. Both my driver's license and my fishing license were in pretty bad shape after that.

Speaking of which, the fishing license I purchased allowed to catch all this stuff for my aquarium. What it prohibits is the selling of this bounty. I didn't care since I had no reason to want to do so. The whole point of the trip was to get the peppermint shrimp so they could devour the aiptasia in my system - it never was going to be for sale.

These shrimp (below) are standing on the rock anemone I brought home.

We caught some other stuff. One scoop was a huge rock blenny, and it was exactly as wide as my net - 6" and thick around like a lemon. No-one could believe that my net held that beast. We dropped it into a bucket of ocean water, and later it was added to one of Robert's tanks back home.

He also caught a tiny fish, what we believe was a baby Racoon Butterfly perhaps.

This little pipefish was so cute, but I don't know if he survived. I put him in the refugium.

Sargeant Majors were easy to catch, but not really a good idea to bring home. Here are a couple I put in my quarantine tank, and they feasted on my peppermints and ghost shrimp.

Here's the rock anemone Robert was able to pluck out of the water. It is in my angled tank.

The next morning, we packed everything up, made sure all the airpumps were on, and made the trip back to Fort Worth. Back home, I had to acclimate my goodies for my reef. Nerites, ghost shrimp, flounders,
and even a pipefish.

I don't know if I brought home a hermit or if it ate my nerite. Hrmph!

Yes, that huge ghost shrimp is as big as you imagine. Maybe it was someone's bait, and not what you'd normally scoop out of the seagrass.

Nerites have beautiful shells.

I put a few peppermints in my quarantine tank to eat the aiptasia in there. Later I saw an aiptasia eating one of my peppermints. Irony at its worst.

Here are a few I put in the angled tank.

Can you believe I got these for free?! Well, if you don't count
the gas to drive both ways, the room rental, the food, and my time...

I poured a bag of these into the back of my reef, and my Longnose Hawkfish quickly disappeared into the back of the tank. He came out later, and looked quite rotund. I'm pretty sure he ate my new crew!

This little eel was happy to become part of my suncoral tank. He likes to hide in the sand.

I also brought back some very pretty Ulva for the refugium.

Someday, I'll go back. It was a great trip, as long as I don't think about all those late-night mosquito bites. ;)

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