Sunday, December 3, 2006

Okeechobee Photo Album

There's a bird for every tree! The dead Mallaluka trees make great roosts and fishing perches for birds of all types. We saw vultures, hawks, anhingas and ospreys and lots of smaller birds as well. The trees, an invasive non-native exotic, are killed by the state with an herbicide which kills them and nothing else. They were carried here by people who wanted to use them to drain the swamps- which now are being restored with this program.

Night fishing at the camp's marina pier. Marilyn catches an exotic of her own- a sailfin catfish. Once a common aquarium "pet", they have proliferated heavily in the waterway. At the bait shop we saw a color poster of the exotics that now live in the lake system- there are dozens of them! Tilapia, Killifish, walking catfish, clown knife fish and on and on- some of them are a nuisance at this point but some have already become prized "protein" species. That's the way with a lot of things. When I was a young guy and went fishing on party boats, the captains often killed what they called "undesireable species" by clubbing them and throwing them overboard. Many of those species are now prized for flesh and sport- like sharks. The picture that follows is me with an alligator gar.

The weather was warm enough, but windy and overcast, and since our time here was limited, we decided to put the "yaks" in and paddle around with the gators. It's a bit unnerving when you get too close, as I did a time or two trying to get a picture, but it surely is something not everyone gets to do and we sure had a great time in the water. Suffice it to say that my "best shots" of gators close up did not make the album. It seems that they "jumped" about the same time I did and the shot was partly or mostly missed. Shooting a digital camera through a dry bag in bright light is difficult to begin with, and darn near impossible when you try to do it fast enough so as not to become gatorbait! Look closely at the shoreline opposite where we launched.
We paddled past the entry gate to the lock for entering the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee. It's one big gate! Very impressive.
December in Florida and the water lillies are in bloom. No ice storms here like elsewhere in the country on this day...
The army corps of engineers, who built and owns the lock put in a river walk park which is very nice. They lease back the land in the area of the development to the state for parks, the campground operator for camping, and the like. Some aspects and operations were wonderful and nicely maintained. Regrettably some were not.

The spillway to the Caloosahatchee, one of a series of spillways to other outlets, is used to control the water levels in the lake and the locks.
Why did the turtle cross the road? What? Are you kidding? To visit the chicken, of course.
You may know the name but no recognize this as one: weedeater. Powered by a paddlewheel, this canal monster patrols the waterways of the lake and cuts and removes excess vegetation like water lettuce and hyacynthe plants.
There is a small five footer or so gator on the bank here. Not big enough to scare me but evidently big enough not to be scared of me. There were gators to 14 feet all over the place. They all look pretty big when you are sitting eye to eye with them "in" the water on top of a kayak.

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