Sunday, October 10, 2010

Water boiling with bait fish

That time of year, the mullet are running and wow, what an incoming tide it was this morning. Low was scheduled around 6:30 with a new moon effect. High tide was to be so high today that there were flood warnings for the Miami coastal area. Instead of parking at the usual launch site at Mattheson, we put our boats in at the canal. I was paddling under the bridge and toward the marina at first light, about 7:15 am, expecting to get into very shallow flats where there would be plenty of birds around.

Winds were calm as I passed the powerboat launch area toward the open waters. I could see small silhouettes of birds on the flat. As the sun began to peak over the horizon and cast a brilliant orange glow on the water, I thought it would be fun to try to capture a bird or two sihouetted against the bright color. I was surprised that the water was deep enough between the birds and the shoreline so much so that I had no problem drifting along. There were a few little blue herons and one great white egret. Gulls were actively diving for food and what a opportunity that would be; a beautiful silhouette of a bird diving and coming back up with fish in beak.

All that was a dream as the birds, one by one flew away. By now, I realized that the incoming tide was quite strong and the water was rising by the second. I paddled further south along the shoreline. I've seen negative tides here where I would need to paddle at least 500 feet off shore. Not today, the strong incoming did not give the low tide a chance. Wading birds were few as a result.

Despite there being few birds in the water, the water was alive with bait fish. This became a spectacle as the sun rose over the water. Soon, I was staked out and waiting for a spray of fish to capture. I had two choices, high key facing the open water or facing the mangroves where the greens and browns reflected beautifully on the water. This is where I concentrated and waited. I got where I could find an underwater chase and follow the leading ripples that indicated bait fish would be jumping in number at any second. Sometimes, I would hear that sound of spraying water and find them that way. Even without birds to photograph, Biscayne Bay's got something. Alway.

The water rose quickly and later I headed into the creek. The current rushed me in as I looked for my golden silk weaver spider. One was still there, surprisingly. I see them late in summer, but by fall, these spiders seem to disappear. I got out the flash and set up the anchor. No way could I photograph without the anchor today. I threw it in the water and waited to see where the boat would end up. After a few attempts, I finally got the position I wanted and started shooting. I closed the aperture to f11 (but preferred f16) and increased the ISO so as not to compromise shutter speed too much. As slow as 1/250, I was able to get some good shots of the 8-legged beauty.

Not a bad day, I was happy to be able to practice capturing the bait fish. That has always eluded me, but with the mullet running thick through these waters, I had an unusual amount of opportunity. Next time, I'll be ready for them.

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