Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater aquarium offers two-hour ecotours on Intracoastal


It's a hunt, but no animals were harmed during the making of this fun.

The captured were counted and later released.

It's the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's Sea Life Safari, a two-hour ecotour offering a leisurely cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway with narration about the local marine environment. The excursion features a net pull for sea creatures.

Dolphin sightings are common — about "200 live in the area," said Kathy Lloyd, the tour guide on Monday's morning cruise.

Luke Conrad, 6, of Ohio was all smiles as he saw one following a tugboat, leaping over its wake.

He was born with spina bifida and wears braces on his feet. They were created by Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics, the same company that fashioned the prosthetic tail for Winter, the aquarium's celebrity dolphin.

Luke's mother, Journie Conrad, said she hoped her son would be inspired by Winter. They would visit the dolphin later in the day.

"It's something he's really looking forward to," she said.

The Sea Life Safari leaves from the aquarium's parking lot three times a day during daylight saving time. In winter months, it departs twice a day.

The 40-foot catamaran cruised along at 10 miles an hour, fast enough to create a cooling breeze in the summer heat.

It passed under the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge, where brown pelicans, a white egret and a couple of fishermen were looking for their next meal.

That's near where the crew cast a trawl net, pulling it slowly through the water for three minutes. Any longer would endanger the lives of the catch, they said. Collection sites vary continually and are "based on weather and tidal conditions," Lloyd said.

She led a collective "heave-ho" as the crew pulled in the bounty: 38 sea creatures and a few egg casings. Most of the catch — 26 —was pinfish, abundant in these waters.

Staff members said they have pulled up octopi, crabs, starfish and seahorses — as well as a golf cart, a file cabinet, an exercise bike and a stereo.

Farther down the Intracoastal, a stone crab awaited its rescue in the aquarium's crab trap. One claw was shorter than the other, leading one to believe that one claw had been harvested and was growing back. This practice of taking only one claw ensures sustainability of the species.

On the way back, the boat stopped at Compass Cay, a one-tree island where passengers waded in blue-green waters and picked up coquina and other small shells that had washed ashore.

Then it was time for the highlight of the trip, when the catches of the day were passed around, most of them in transparent containers.

Lloyd commented on the various species as they made their rounds.

A grunt fish is sometimes called a "mild white fish" by restaurateurs, she said. The fish makes an audible grunt by grinding its teeth while the air bladder acts an amplifier.

She said American Indians used the abrasive filefish to "sand their boats and file their nails."

The group got a look at a rare lookdown fish. Its slanted "forehead" gives the appearance that this very thin fish is peering down.

A sea squirt, "nature's squirt gun," is a lumpy, rubbery yellow filter-feeder that shoots a line of water when squeezed.

Lydia Olmstead, 7, of Missouri got lots of laughs when she accidentally sprayed a volunteer.

"It was pretty neat," she said. "I liked the sea urchin, too. It felt like little pins touching your skin."

if you go

Sea Life Safari

What: Clearwater Marine Aquarium's two-hour ecocruise down the Intracoastal Waterway.

Where: The boat docks next to the CMA's parking lot, 249 Windward Passage, off the Clearwater Memorial Causeway.

Hours: Cruises are at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 4 p.m. daily

Cost: Adults, $21.35; seniors (60-plus) $19.95; children (3 to 12) $13.75. (Combination prices are available that include admission to the aquarium.) Space is limited to 30 passengers. Reservations are suggested, but walk-ins are welcome if not full.

For information: Visit or call (727) 441-1790, ext. 223.

Clearwater aquarium offers two-hour ecotours on Intracoastal 07/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 3:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Danny Rolling killed five in Gainesville 27 years ago this week


    The following story appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on October 26, 2006, the day after Danny Rollings was put to death. Also included are photos covering the period from the time of the murders to the day of Rollings execution.

    Rolling Executed

  2. Hernando commissioners propose tax-rate reduction as budget talks continue

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The typical budget battle between the Hernando County Commission and Sheriff Al Nienhuis has largely been averted this summer, except for a dust-up over how the sheriff has accounted for federal inmate money. But a minor skirmish did break out this week.

    Hernando County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes has suggested a small rollback in the proposed property tax rate for the 2017-18 fiscal year and proposes that it be equally shared by the county's operations and the sheriff.
  3. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce


    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]
  4. Florida: White man who killed black person to be executed

    State Roundup

    GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with help of a drug that has never been used previously in any U.S. execution.

    This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay. If his final appeals are denied, Asay is to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.  [Florida Department of Corrections via AP]
  5. Ex-TPD sergeant LaJoyce Houston takes plea deal in stolen tax refund case


    TAMPA — LaJoyce Houston, a former Tampa police sergeant accused with her husband in a federal tax refund fraud scheme, has agreed to plead guilty to receiving stolen government property, court records state.

    Former Tampa police officers Eric and LaJoyce Houston walk into the Sam Gibbons U.S. District Courthouse on Oct. 28, 2015, to face charges relating to stolen identity tax refund fraud. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES