Thursday, July 13, 2017

Salty Memories Part 5 - Fish Everywhere, But No Fishing!

Three years ago, I wrote a series of blog posts titled Salty Memories about my memories of Oak Island, NC and the good times I enjoyed down there with family and friends. These posts were inspired by a return to Oak Island after being away for a few years. If you haven't had a chance to read these, please take the time to check them out here: Salty Memories Part 1 - The BeginningsSalty Memories Part 2 - The Pier Years, and Salty Memories Part 3 - Time and Tide. These three posts provide the background to this new series of posts about my most recent trip. 

This post is the start of the current trip: Salty Memories Part 4 - Familiar Places with New Faces. The following post will pick up where Part 4 left off. 

- Joseph
Trina and I on the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry

I'm getting closer to talking about the fishing at Oak Island, I promise. This post will definitely contain a lot more fish than the last one, they just won't be on a hook. One of our traditions on almost every visit to Oak Island with my family growing up was to take the ferry from Southport over to Fort Fisher and visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. This was always one of the highlights of any trip to the beach for me, because the natural world has always fascinated me. I loved being able to see all the different fish and animals that were around the beach, especially the ones that I had never seen before while fishing. 

The trip to the aquarium always begins with catching the ferry from Southport over to Fort Fisher. This is an adventure in itself, as you never know what you might see while crossing the Cape Fear River. On this last trip, we saw pelicans diving on schools of bait fish, a dolphin jumping, and several species of shore birds. Once we arrived at the dock, it was a short drive to the aquarium itself. Before we entered the main aquarium building, Trina and I decided to check out the new lorikeet exhibit right outside. This was a small extra charge, but we got to enter an aviary with lorikeets and lorries, and also got the opportunity to feed a few with nectar provided by the staff. It was a neat experience to get close to these bright, colorful birds and well worth the few extra bucks for admission. 

Feeding a lorikeet
The aquarium itself has changed over the years since I first started visiting, with the biggest change being the first exhibit area where you enter the aquarium. This area is now set up to represent the freshwater areas and swamps of the Cape Fear River basin, compete with bobwhite quail, box turtles, several species of fish, and alligators! The star of the alligator exhibit is an albino alligator named Luna. Trina and I saw Luna on a visit here about eight years ago, so it was interesting to see how much she had grown. Also, it was fun to see how our niece Addyson reacted to the fish tanks. She would walk up to each one and point at the fish and watch them swimming. I think we may have a future fisherwoman in the making!
She kept saying "Fish!"

Once we went through the Cape Fear exhibit, we came to the part of the aquarium that I can remember from my very young days, where there are all kinds of exhibits of marine animals and fish. We stopped by the touch pool, took a look at a loggerhead sea turtle, and saw many many different varieties of fish, lobsters, jellyfish, and other water dwellers. One thing that has always been interesting to me about this particular aquarium is their focus on species that are found in and around southeastern North Carolina. Just about all of the habitats in the exhibits are designed to simulate habitats found in coastal North Carolina, such as wrecks and artificial reefs or pier pilings. 
Fort Fisher Aquarium

We also took the time to take in a presentation on fishing basics, which covered things like license requirements and regulations along with identifying organisms that are fish versus crustaceans and other water dwellers. I thought it was a well put together introduction to fishing for anybody that wasn't too familiar with fishing but might like to give it a try. Somehow along the way I got talked into trying the hurricane simulator, which exposed you to winds up to about 75 miles an hour. It wasn't too bad, but then again it only lasted for a couple minutes. I can't imagine being in a full force category four or five hurricane, the simulator was as close as I ever hope to get. 

After a full morning at the aquarium, we drove from Fort Fisher up through Kure Beach and Carolina Beach. After a stop for doughnuts at Britt's Doughnuts in Carolina Beach, (a first for us, but highly recommended), it was back to the dock to board the ferry for the return trip to Southport. I did fish early in the morning before we went to the aquarium, but the majority of this day was spent looking at fish that were off limits, even though I have my coastal fishing license. It was a fun trip, and a nice continuation of a tradition that started with my family when I was very young. I have a lot of memories of Southport and Fort Fisher, and this trip only added to the wonderful store of them. I was glad to get to share another special place with family that had never been there, and I think they enjoyed the trip as much as I did. 
I'd like to catch one this size!

Thank you for rambling along with me on this trip. The next post should wrap up this installment of the Salty Memories series, at least until the next time I am able to make it down to the coast. Part six will be all about fish that can actually be fished for. Until then, thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings!

- Joseph

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think!