Photos taken while boating and beach-combing in Mosquito Lagoon on the east coast of Florida.
We seldom take our boat down to Mosquito Lagoon even though that is suppose to be the place to fish. Our boat is a flats boat which means it is meant to traverse shallow water. It handles waves okay, but not large waves or choppy water.
Mosquito Lagoon – the wide open part – is about a 20 minute trip by boat for us and if there is wind kicking up waves once we get there, it is not a comfortable ride. If we happen to hit beautiful, glassy water, we can keep going south to the cut through at Haulover Canal. That takes us through to the other side of the lagoon.
This is where we went the day I took these photos.
The Lagoon is a place for fishermen. It is not a place to go to beach-comb. There are islands along that area, heading south, which are pretty nice and can be used for camping. But, we rode way down that way once only to find that all the islands were inhabited by people.
Mosquito Lagoon is a huge area that looks more like a giant lake. I’d like to explore it more, but when we are far from home, and if the weather changes, we could get in trouble.
We’ve tried using the boat ramps on Merritt Island, but they are not the greatest. And the ramp at Haulover Canal is small and crowded.
When I am out walking a beach or shallow water area, I am mostly searching for seashells and sea life to photograph for this blog. Sometimes I end up with many more photos than I will use.
Here I am sharing some photos that may have been overlooked from the trip.
One thing about this (rather creepy) area where I walked was the fact that there were many, many dead horseshoe crabs. They were scattered over the beach sand and all throughout the water. Later I read that raccoons will eat them, although this page about horseshoe crabs does not mention raccoons as predators. It does mention alligators. This water can have gators (I found a skull), which adds to the creepiness.
Horseshoe crabs leave behind an exoskeleton when they molt. If they get turned upside down they may die. Grab them by the big part of the shell, not the tail, and turn them over. They are harmless.
I walked along this shallow water area and around the corner where the water got creepy. The brown became darker until it was nearly black. I did not venture neat that water.
I found a lot of living sea snails and no hermit crabs. My son did some fishing but caught nothing. We will make the trip back one day.
It was too windy and we should not have taken a long trip down to Mosquito Lagoon. Unfortunately the weather in Florida is unpredictable and once you are out on the water, anything is possible.
The wind creates waves which make the water choppy and gives us a bumpy ride. A little bit of that is okay, but riding a long way is not comfortable. Our boat is a fishing boat and is not made to cut through waves. It does quite well when we encounter the wakes of boats we pass, but chop is too much bouncing.
Mosquito Lagoon is a large body of water that is mostly shallow, and especially so on the East side. The lagoon is divided by a narrow strip of land that is part of Merritt Island, and boats cross from one side to the other, following the ICW, through Haulover Canal. It’s what we had planned to do, go down to Haulover and fish the area.
Our ride down from New Smyrna took about 20 minutes but once we hit the open water area it got rough. So we putted in behind one of the islands to sit for a bit and decide what to do.
Not only is the water in this entire area quite shallow, it is brown and murky. I don’t know if it’s always this way, but this day it was. Some parts of the ML are so shallow that only push-poles can be used – no motors, except (I think) trolling motors.
Also, there can be alligators in this water! A year or so ago we went into the West lagoon area and my son dropped me off in the shallow, clear water to wade. I came across a skull… turned out to be an alligator skull. Supposedly gators are more common toward the southern end of the lagoon, nearer the Space Center, but who knows for sure what is under that murky water?
It was a hot day, and I was not going in that water, so we left the area and headed back up north to fish. As we headed back out to the main channel area we saw two yachts speeding along the ICW, which is the only deep area.
The Little Drama Part of my Story
The large boats had gone by when we reached the channel, but their wakes got us. Between the two of them they had created large rolling waves that came right up over the bow of our boat! I was sitting up front so I grabbed our boat bag, which holds our hats, towels, and other things, as the waterfall from a swell cascaded into our boat!
That is a first for us. We’ve never had waved come up and over our Redfisher. Yachts we meet along the ICW can be gigantic and they always slow down if they see a smaller boat nearby. But we were not near them and I doubt they even saw us anyway. We never expected to encounter waves that size, but the water drained out the back, and on we went.
One of the interesting things about being out on our tiny fishing boat in this area is the array of boats we see. We can get into the very shallow backwater areas, but we also follow the ICW at times, such as when we go north to Disappearing Island near Ponce Inlet. Large yachts and sailboats travel this waterway and its a good place to view some really gorgeous boats. Some are docked, and some pass us on their way to wherever. The ICW goes all the way up to the northeastern US.
The Big Boats
We also see beautiful sailboats, and I’m not always that good to get photos, but if you are interested, Sailing Britican is a website about people who sail along the ICW.
A few weeks ago my son and I decided to try out a new boat launch down on Merritt Island. We put in at the Biolab boat ramp, which has a good size parking lot and one small ramp. The trouble was that the ramp is in shallow water, with a marked access out to the Lagoon which was also shallow with lots of grass.
The map below is something I made at Google My Maps, which allows me to show one of their maps on my blog with attribution back to their site. This is how you are suppose to use a Google map. I didn’t do a very good job, but clicking each icon will tell you what I have marked.
Map of Mosquito Lagoon Area We Traveled
We put the boat in, to begin our boating day, on the East side of Mosquito Lagoon (blue marker). Then traveled north and east through the Haulover Canal (green marker). Boat ramps charge $10 on Merritt Island. I have yet to see a really good boat ramp in the area.
It was a beautiful day as we started out and we were looking for some of the Spoil Islands. That is not marked on my map. We headed further south and then backtracked to the railroad bridge. Our deserted island quest fizzled out, for various reasons, at the railroad bridge we veered right and stopped at a beach. This was a shallow area, so I walked in the knee-high water looking for shells while my son went a bit offshore to fish.
My goal was to find some awesome mollusks and maybe even a cool empty seashell. I had my iPhone and did find some cool shells (another post is coming about that).
As I walked over toward, what looked like, a dark water hole (called Roach Hole on the map), I saw a skull (photo below). As I was getting this photo, I wondered what type of animal it could be. The sun must have baked my brain because my first thought was “deer”. I was still in my New England frame of mind, because this is obviously NOT a deer skull. It is very obviously an alligator skull. I didn’t give it much thought – I wanted seashells.
I continued shuffling through the shallow water, which was murky as the depth increased, in search of seashells. The bottom was muddy and this was obviously a place where few people ever ventured.
The only excuse I can make for my complete ignorance of the fact that alligators lived there is that I have never beach-combed in this area… but… it is part of the Intracoastal Waterway system where I usually beach comb. Except, usually we are far north of the Lagoon area, where I have never seen a gator, nor have I ever heard of one being spotted.
Alligators are known to live around the Kennedy Space Center, Mosquito Lagoon waters, which is where we were, but on the west side. ……. I simply forgot about that. This water is not as salty as the water in the northern Indian River. To the North, ocean tides move the water level, whereas the Lagoon water level does not move according to the tides. I believe that gators prefer less salty water, which would explain this.
The photo above was taken near my yellow map marker. Water was flowing toward me out of that dark blue lagoon. In fact, it was looked more black than blue. I shudder to think that I actually walked over that berm of sand to check out the water on the other side!
Alligators Are The Creepiest of Florida’s Wildlife
It wasn’t until later when I began reviewing my photos and saw that skull photo again that I realized I had been strolling casually through water that most likely held gators. You don’t have to see them to know they are there. Alligators will sit on the murky water bottom and wait for their next meal to come along. When they bite, they mean business. They will drag their prey underwater and roll until it drowns. They are creepy creatures.
The recent story of the woman who died after a gator pulled her into the water is the type of thing I think about whenever I am near fresh water in Florida. As the story says, it’s rare, but I can recall many such stories over the years. They mainly target small prey such as children and dogs that are near the edge of the water. Or bite when swimmers invade their territory.
Nearly every bit of freshwater in Florida contains alligators. My son and I just saw a small one alongside the highway, Route 528, on our way home from the airport. We’ve had a lot of rain so the ditches were full. Although Florida is mainly a swamp, I would not purposely live near any freshwater pond or lake. And I would never swim in one!
Alligator facts you should know: They are fast. They may sit still on riverbanks and look lazy and complacent, but they can move when they decide to. According to Jack Hanna, who commented at the end of this post, which was written after the boy was killed by a gator at Disney World, a gator can outrun a human over a short distance – 20 feet.
Once a gator chomps down on something he is not willing to let go. They migrate on land and in water. They mostly attack in and around water, but can be encountered anywhere.
By the way, in my opinion, Disney was completely at fault here. Visitors cannot be expected to know about Florida’s fresh water dangers, but those who run Disney World would. It’s all about appearance. A fence, or warning sign, would have sullied the “La-la land” atmosphere, but would have kept visitors away from the water.
Hiking Trail at the Lagoon
While creating my map for this page, I discovered a hiking trail located just to the north of where my story takes place. The Alan Cruickshank Memorial Trail – is not far from where we docked the boat. You can see it on my map above (purple hiking man icon). The National Park Planner site has a blog post about this Florida hike (link above) with great photos (including the Roseate Spoonbill).
Personally, I can’t see any reason to hike in Florida. First of all, it’s often very hot and muggy. Secondly, alligators are everywhere, not to mention snakes and lots of bugs. The writer and photographer, Steve Marcos, did his hike in March and he did see one alligator. I’m betting there were a lot more he didn’t see.