Mating in Red Tide

It’s been a less than ideal summer of fishing as of June 2018 in the Venice Beach area. My dad and I drove down to Manasota Key to stay in a channel-side cottage to [hopefully] fish from dawn until dusk. FORGET. IT. Summer in Florida can be summarized by the mosquito bites on my sunburn. It is too hot to be outside and we came right at the end of a red tide.

Red. Tide.

The worst words to hear as a fisherman or general human being who has the hopes of being near water. We walked down to the beach one night and the stench was so crippling, we developed full-blown asthma and fled. Not only does it smell, as you can probably imagine, it really throws the fish game. Except for the pin fish. They literally can’t die.

But nature can’t totally give up during red tide. Some animals are sturdy AF. We saw a manatee hauling ass by our dock (probably trying to flee the nasty tide.) The mullet have been breaching like crazy. And the horseshoe crabs are crawling from the depths to… reach their full potential.

In 2008, I went to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Aquarium in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and had a life changing experience. Usually anything Ripley’s is kind of dumb and a total tourist trap. I’m also usually very dramatic- just take all of this into consideration. But they had a touch pool and I live for touch pools. I can remember my top 3 touch pools: Monterey Bay Aquarium with sea cucumbers, Destin’s Gulfarium with some borderline dangerous aquatic life, and the Ripley’s Aquarium with HORSESHOE CRABS. These are some awesome creatures. After cradling their prickly, little, twig legs, I was in love. My general rule of thumb is that if it’s in a touch pool, it must be safe. So from that point on, I vowed to one day find one in the wild and give it a minimally invasive hello.


Male horseshoe crabs climb aboard the female for a ride to the shore.

You guys. I found one. Two. Well, one. Well.. I was walking the sandy shore of our channel and spotted a living horseshoe crab. Obviously, I’m having a heart attack at this point after 10 years of hoping to spot one. I ran over and stooped to check him out. Then, I took it a step further and was ready to scoop his little body up to get a better look and I couldn’t pick him up. I tugged a little harder. No luck. I tugged a little harder again. In what world am I that weak that I can’t pick up a CRAB.

Turns out he was latched on to a much larger, older horseshoe crab underneath him and they were going at it. Even red tide can’t stop them. They literally defeated all odds to get to that point, so I left them be- after taking lots of pictures and snapping the whole ordeal.

Hopefully, the red tide heads out and the fishing picks back up. I don’t think I can handle much more of this Florida heat if the fishing is equally unbearable. Wish us luck and I’ll report back on our big catch.


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