In October some friends came to visit and we went fishing on the Indian River. The water was exceptionally clear that day and we could easily see manatees near the boat.
We all enjoyed the beautiful weather and the fishing was pretty good.
Where is the Indian River?
I often write about being out on the Indian River. So, where is the Indian River? It is part of the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) that runs up the eastern side of Florida. In my (central east coast Florida) area it is named the Indian River. A bit further south, part of the river branches out by Merritt Island and the Space Center and that part is named the Banana River. Here is a good map of the area.
The river is salt water, or brackish, which is a mix of salt and fresh. We only live about two miles from the local boat ramps. This is the main area we go when we travel by boat. Our part of the Indian River is actually designated as “north” and is part of the Mosquito Lagoon area. The Indian River is also referred to as a lagoon: Indian River Lagoon.
The area is known for it’s abundance of fish and sea life specifically bottlenose dolphin and manatees. We see lots of dolphin while boating, but only see manatee when the water is warm.
This area of the river can be a nursery for fish until they grow and migrate offshore. Whenever we fish in the river, our catches are usually small in size, and are released back into the water. However, some fish hang out in the river once they have become large. We’ve caught good size Redfish, Jack Crevalle, and trout. The Snapper is usually very small as they move offshore to grow large. Offshore fisherman catch some really nice snapper. An old friend of ours runs a fishing charter business out of Jupiter if you like offshore fishing.
The only parts of the river and lagoon that are deep are the dredged parts which allow for large boats to travel it like a highway. This can make for some very big waves at times! Well, big if you are in a small boat like ours.
Fiddler crabs are very tiny and they are a favorite food of Sheephead fish. We see Fiddler crabs in groups on the sandy shores of little uninhabited islands along the saltwater river. They scurry around in groups, or pop into their little holes when they see us.
Thousands of crabs hurry up into the mangroves to hide as we approach. They are very tiny and difficult to photograph. I do however have a pretty cool video – below.
During Sheepshead fishing season, local bait shops sell fiddler crabs to fishermen. Unfortunately, Sheepshead fishing is very popular because it’s good eating fish, and the crabs are often sold out. You can catch your own Fiddlers, but we never have. But we do sometimes specifically look for sheepshead. They are often found around docks and piers where they eat barnacles clinging to the pylons.
All three photos below show Fiddler crabs but they are so tiny it’s hard to make them out.
Low tide is a good time to see Fiddler crabs scurrying around the grasses and mangroves. They need the water to survive, but can’t live submerged. They scurry into little holes in the sand and hide there when the water comes up as explained at the Florida Fish and Wildlife page.
My phone doesn’t take great zoom photos, but I had to get this crab photo without scaring him into his hole. The male crabs have one large claw so I would say this is a male and these crabs are very tiny. Little piles of sand pellets are left all around the holes they make.
The Fiddler crab doesn’t have a long life span, but is an important food source for more than just crustacean loving fish.
For some reason my “Florida’s Living Beaches” (affiliate link to Amazon) reference book does not mention this type of crab. I have the first edition of this book, so they may be mentioned in the second edition. I am surprised at this omission because they are an important part of the coastal ecosystem.
My information on this page came from reliable online sources mentioned in this article. All photos are my own.