I'd like to see some coral and reef fish


Active member
Okay, hopefully you all will agree that there is no such thing as dumb question, so here goes... After starting a saltwater reef tank, reading and learning how to maintain it, and drooling over peoples' pictures of reefs and diving trips--what are my options? Could I get a taste of coral reefs and marine fish by going snorkeling? Are their interesting and snorkel-accessible reefs off the coast of Florida, Mexico, or the Bahamas or anywhere else in that vicinity? Alternatively, does anyone have a recommendation on a "learn to dive" vacation in one of these places? I don't see myself necessarily taking up SCUBA as a hobby, I just want to safely see what I have in my tank in its natural setting. I snorkeled as a kid, but am far from a kid now. Suffice it to say that I'm over the half century mark but am pretty active. Hubby was PADI certified about 25 years ago, but hasn't dived since then. With the cost of airplane tickets these days, I'm not sure how feasible any of this is, but I'd value some direction from people with experience.
I have been diving for 27 yrs or so, and since moving to FL 13 yrs ago have only purchased about 6 fish for my tanks. There are some great reefs that you can snorkel and see both the live corals and many salt water aquarium fish.

The bahamas is also a great place to dive and snorkel on a vacation, you can bring back a few fish for personal use with a fishing permit. Last time I went the permit was free and you could bring up to 5 fish back with you, I brought a cool jawfish, some royal grammas and a bluethroat trigger (or a close relative of it depending on which books you read) had some great dives as well.

In the early 90's while I still lived in San Diego, I also went on several collection trips to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the snorkeling there wasn't that good, the temp was cold and the fish were deeper, but the scuba and collections deeper in were spectacular. The best time to dive the Sea at the end of summer to the fall as the temp and weather are the best that time of yr. As I said though, if you are not going to scuba, FL and the bahamas are the better choices, and cheaper then a mex trip as well.

I'm not a good photographer, but in my gallery all of the photos are fish that I have collected myself. I have found that I actually love diving and collecting more than the tanks themselves. I couldn't recommend getting in the water more, it is a fascinating experience worth every effort to do it.
Hi philter 4, thanks for your response. Do you have a suggestion regarding a particular area of Florida? I don't mind doing some research, but I'm not sure where to start...the Florida keys perhaps? Snorkeling may be a cheaper and more practical alternative at this point. Who knows--if I do that and get bitten by the bug, maybe I'd then decide it would be worth learning how to dive. I don't think I'll be bringing back specimens for my tank, but it must be cool to be able to say, "I collected that".
Like I said, I like collecting more then my tanks. As far as where to go, if you are snorkeling the keyes are better as they are shallower. If you scuba there are places in broward and palm beach counties that have great collection/dive sites, but they are deeper so snorkeling is harder, but not impossible.

Good luck, and don't count out collecting, it is fun.
philter4, do you use one of those suction guns for collecting, and also do you need a permit to collect here in the states or just your salt fishing licsense
Jimbo, I used to collect for a living and I use nets only. The slurp gun is difficult to use and is really only good for fish that are in holes, which I can get out with a piece of thick wire and a net. As far as a license, you just need a fishing license, if you go to any sporting good store and pick up the regulation booklet, in the center is a quick guide to size and bag limits, at the bottom it covers the tropicals, there are some size and bag limits on a few of them. Also remember, no rock or hard corals of any kind- and have fun.
that reminds me my 5 year license expires i week before mini season later this month. maybe i can get some fish for the tank after getting my limit of lobster. how do you transport the fish? do you keep them in a livewell on the boat of do you bag them in the water.
FL law requires you have some sort of recurc pump, I put the fish in a lg ice chest of clean salt water, and I drilled a hole in the top and use a battery opperated air pump. Remember there are some things that can kill your catch. For instance sponges when stressed will kill the fish in your catch, cowfish and boxfish can do the same. Things like gorgonians and anemones can sting the fish in the bucket as they are disoriented and frieghtened but are safe once you are home. It is mostly just experience, but usually if it is ok in your tank it will be ok in the bucket.
Okay guys, how about any more suggestions re specific snorkeling sites off the coast of Florida? Anyone have any suggestions re resorts or other places to stay, places to rent equipment?
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=12857341#post12857341 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by otrlynn
Okay guys, how about any more suggestions re specific snorkeling sites off the coast of Florida? Anyone have any suggestions re resorts or other places to stay, places to rent equipment?
here is a link to the florida keys website. its has all the info you could ever need. i would recomend key largo if you want to take the trip. there are plenty of places to stay and lots of snorkel boats to take you out. the boats will have gear if you dont have your own. you could drive down or fly info miami and rent a car. if you go down for a week or so you can dive snorkel key largo one day islamorada the next big pine or key west the day after. there are about 110 miles in the florida keys with hotel and dive/snorkle boats the whole way.
You probably might not find a room but the 2 day lobster sport season is the last wednesday and thursday of the month. It the best 2 day to try getting a limit of lobster. I can be lots of fun. I will definatly will be there.