Monday, November 19, 2018
Outdoors

Honeymoon Island is Florida's most popular state park, again

HONEYMOON ISLAND — Peter Krulder is no salesman. As the manager of Florida's most visited state park, his product sells itself.

"I guess you could say we have it all," said Krulder, who not only works but also lives on Honeymoon Island, "… great water, beautiful beaches, a fantastic nature trail … what's not to love?"

In the fiscal year 2013-14, which ended June 30, Honeymoon Island had 1,144,285 visitors, making it Florida's most popular state park for the eighth year in a row.

People come for the 4 miles of beaches and the 3-mile nature trail, which also happens to be a great place to see osprey, bald eagles and great horned owls. The raptors love the 80-acre slash pine forest, a reminder of what "Pine-Ellas County" must have looked like at the turn of the century.

"We also have one of the best snook fishing spots on the west coast," Krulder said. "The numbers aren't huge but the fish are."

When tropical storms roll up from the south or cold fronts barrel down from the north, the tip of the island turns into one of the area's best surf breaks.

"It is so good we decided to install a wave cam," Krulder explained. "The surfers love it, but it is also a great way to see the sunset without leaving home."

Honeymoon Island is also the headquarters for other nearby state parks including Anclote Key and Caladesi Island, both popular destinations for Tampa Bay-area boaters. Anclote Key, which lies to the north of Honeymoon, has one of the best primitive camping spots in the state. You can only get there by boat, so that ensures a certain degree of privacy.

South of Honeymoon, you will find Caladesi. The two islands were once connected and part of a larger land mass called Hog Island, but a hurricane in 1921 cut the island in two. The cut that was created, Hurricane Pass, is the major route to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico for boaters in the Clearwater/Dunedin area.

Barrier islands such as Caladesi, Honeymoon and Anclote are in a constant state of change, growing and shrinking with each passing storm, which makes them a challenge to navigate. But while the area may be challenging for boaters, stand-up paddlers and kayakers will find the waterways a veritable playground.

While Caladesi, just like Honeymoon, may be best known for its 3-mile beach, visitors find plenty to explore inland. The state park, which is composed of six islands, has more than 650 acres of uplands, some as high as 11 feet above sea level, a rarity among barrier islands.

The high ground made the area appealing to pre-Columbian Indians and later to Spanish explorers. In the early 1900s, Myrtle Scharrer Betz, a member of a homesteading family, found some ballast bricks, a length of chain and some pieces of a jar the Smithsonian Institute dated to the 15th Century.

This led to rumors of conquistadores and pirates, but when archaeologists dug on the west side of the island in 1903 all they found were 33 skeletons, probably Tocobago, the dominant tribe in the region.

Boaters can approach Caladesi from the gulf side or drop anchor off the beach or follow the channel markers to the 108-slip marina on the east side. Overnight docking with electricity and water hookups is available, but boaters must register before sundown. The marina has no fuel facilities, but a concession stand has food and drinks.

If you would rather leave your boat at home, Caladesi Island is accessible by a ferry that departs daily from Honeymoon Island. There is an entrance fee for the park and an additional charge for the ferry.

Your best bet is to get to Honeymoon early — the park opens at 8 a.m. — hike the nature trail while it is still cool, go for a dip on the beach, then hop the ferry for Caladesi. Eat lunch at the snack bar, stroll through the hardwood hammocks and then go for another swim. Take the last ferry back and then watch the sunset from Honeymoon. You could not plan a better day.

Comments
Take it outside: Chasing an inshore slam in Tampa Bay with Roland Martin

Take it outside: Chasing an inshore slam in Tampa Bay with Roland Martin

Fishing with Roland Martin was a bucket list couple of days for Misty Wells.
Published: 11/14/18
Captainís Corner: Whatís happening with the redfish?

Captainís Corner: Whatís happening with the redfish?

Fall is when adult redfish return from the open gulf and spawn just offshore of the major estuaries. These breeders rarely come back inshore to the flats where they spend their first 3-4 years of life. Once they mature, usually at around 30-32 inches...
Published: 11/10/18
Updated: 11/11/18
Captainís Corner: Snook fishing has been strong

Captainís Corner: Snook fishing has been strong

This year continues to bring challenges for the bay areaís guide business. What most donít realize is how good fishing is inside Tampa Bay. Most of the bay it is free of Red Tide and full of marine life. In fact, I have notice that the clean areas ar...
Published: 11/08/18
Updated: 11/09/18

Captainís Corner: Tips for Old Salt King of the Beach kingfish tournament

The Old Salt King of the Beach kingfish tournament is this weekend, and there are plenty of reasons to think itís going to take a fish in the 40-pound range to wear the crown. Last Sunday was the final leg of this yearís Wild West kingfish tournament...
Published: 11/07/18
Updated: 11/08/18

Captainís Corner: A welcome return of flounder to Tampa Bay

It has been two years but flounder have again become an option around Tampa Bay. If you know where to go for the under≠utilized species, you can have excellent flounder action. Theyíre easy to catch but challenging. I call it flounder frustration: Yo...
Published: 11/05/18
Updated: 11/07/18
Captainís Corner: Low tides offer good snook, redfish and trout fishing

Captainís Corner: Low tides offer good snook, redfish and trout fishing

Inshore waters are full of bait and are attracting schools of ladyfish, bluefish, trout and Spanish mackerel. The bite can be insane at times, especially on a good moving tide. Toss out live pilchards for chum to attract the fish to your area and als...
Published: 11/05/18
Updated: 11/06/18

Captainís Corner: Shark exodus is good news for divers

The summer-time sharks have started their migration away from the Tampa Bay area to the coastal waters of South Florida. This makes it safer for the divers who are spearing in the darker inshore waters of the bay. Most of these bay spearfishermen are...
Published: 11/04/18
Updated: 11/05/18
Captainís Corner: Normal conditions on water close to returning

Captainís Corner: Normal conditions on water close to returning

High winds and rain will change the conditions of the water in North Pinellas this weekend. The clarity had been good and I expect a couple of calm days will return conditions to normal. Cooler temps are creeping into the area, but the water is still...
Updated one month ago

Captainís Corner: Speckled sea trout a good target

The gulf water temperature has dropped into the 70s, significantly lower than the mid 80s just 10 days ago. The drop in temperature has caused the speckled sea trout fishing to become a reliable target. Redfish have been on the move, so sea trout has...
Updated one month ago

Captainís Corner: Cooler weather should help fish action heat up

If the forecast is correct, we will finally have cooler weather, with water temperatures in the 70s. Fishing is always better when water temperatures teeter in the low 70s for spring and fall runs. Cold fronts will usher in lots of wind with cold air...
Updated one month ago