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Strike wrote:

> Ten of us went on this morning's dive to Shelly Beach.  Ralf and I were
> buddied together and only managed to see two angel sharks and a fiddler
ray
> on the swim out to 'Dragon Patches' to look for Weedy Sea Dragons. (Julian
> saw another four that Ralf and I had swam over the top of without
noticing!)

For a chance, I too went diving today.  On Mika's advice, I took my first
trip with Lady Cyana, out of Islamorada, one of the Florida Keys.  We were
treated with respect, got a discount and got 3 dives (on two tanks) for less
than the normal price for 2.  It was a good start.  The quality of the
operation was slightly diminished by a surprisingly crowded boat.  Not only
was there a full load of certified divers, there was a somewhat larger than
usual gropu of Open Water students.  To Lady Cyana's credit, everything was
well organized and went smoothly despite the number of divers present.

We started with the Eagle, a wreck at 110 feet.  S. Florida is so full of
wrecks, that I seem to have become used to them.  This wreck was nice
enough, but no more special than a lot of others. . . except for a rather
large and healthy Jewfish.  Any dive in good visibility is a good dive.
This one was made better by the Jewfish's presence.  The next site was for
the Open Water students.  It was shallow, but a legal area for lobster.  It
had the usual 1,000 or so fish, but during my brief 25 minute stay, no
lobster appeared, apparently being unwilling to sacrifice themselves for my
dinner.  Just as well.  While I had the required lobster guage, I did not
have the required license with me.  Nice chance to get wet, but not much
else.  The third dive, done on the same tank as number 2, was a pleasant
surprise.  This was another shallow site designed to meet the needs of the
open water class.  This one, however, had more than it's share of marine
life.  There were several thousand fish in attendence.  The highlights were:

Spawning Seargent Majors, one of the ocean's most agressive but harmless
fish.  While it's not uncommon to see their eggs this time of year, we hit
the spawning cycle just right, finding several females chasing away all
intruders while males did their thing to convert eggs to future fish.

Several spotted morays.

On very large green moray tucked into a hole in the reef and one large, but
not quite so large green moray swimming free of the reef.  This used to be
unusual behavior, but is becoming more common.  It may be a result of
operators who feed the eels in order to give their clients a chance to see
them better.  Regardless of the reason, it was a pleasant experience.

About a half dozen lobster, all of legal size and all where they could be
reached.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the
reef is within a park area which does not permit the taking of lobster.
Then there was the friendly skate (like a stingray only different) who paid
me a visit to see what was going on.  Most of the dive was very enjoyable.

The only downside to the trip came near the end of the dive.  I came across
a large spotted moray laying on top of the reef.  In his mouth was a
fisherman's hook and the fisherman's line was tightly wrapped around the
eel's neck.  It appeared to be recently deceased.  It was certainly
deceased.  It's a shame to see such a beautiful creature so obviously
wasted.  It's a crime for it to have happened on this particular reef,
literally.  The area is a restricted replenishment zone.  No fishing, of any
kind, allowed.  Somebody apparently didn't understand where they were,
didn't know the area was a restricted zone and/or didn't care.

Lee