"" Writer's Wanderings: The Battle Between The Pelicans And Tarpons

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Battle Between The Pelicans And Tarpons

 Robbie's was a place we stopped on our way back to Key Largo from Marathon. We've been there several times before and it hasn't changed a whole lot. There is a place to get refreshments and several souvenir places but the main draw for many is the opportunity to feed the tarpons.

Now feeding the tarpons becomes a real battle between the pelicans and the rather large fish. The tarpon can grow to eight feet long. Most of the ones we've seen have been in the four to five foot range. They are fun to dive with. They gracefully swim beside you and if you are lucky to be diving on a sunny day, the large scales will reflect a dazzling silver color. They seem very gentle underwater but watch out if you're holding a tasty morsel of fish above a tank full of them. I guess that all changes when they feed. A website describes them as being "powerful, explosive and acrobatic."

The facility at Robbie's has two in-water tanks. I think the tarpons can swim in and out but what fish wouldn't want to swim in and enjoy a meal they didn't have to work too hard to get. The problem however is not only competing for the handouts with each other but the pelicans feel the authority to step in and grab the feeder fish the moment it is available.

There have come to be so many pelicans gathered at the dock where the tarpons are that it is almost impossible to keep the pelicans at bay. Since our last visit, Robbie's has installed netting over the tarpon pits with holes cut in them so you can hold the fish over the tarpons and not get bombarded by pelicans. That doesn't mean the pelican won't step in and try to steal the fish from your hand before you can get it into the hole or that they won't take advantage and grab as many as they can get from your pail if you're not careful.

My one granddaughter and I tried feeding some fish through the holes but the other granddaughter just clung to Bob, afraid that the pelicans might bite her. I have to say, the pelicans were about 3/4 her size so I can imagine her discomfort. 

When our fish were gone, we watched several other people who were a little more skilled at feeding. Of course they were down on their knees to get closer, something I couldn't do and my granddaughter wanted no part of. 

All in all it was kind of fun. I wouldn't suggest taking young children unless Robbie's does something more with netting overhead and around the dock to keep the pelicans at bay. At least with the netting that's there, the tarpons can no longer grab a pelican by the neck. Seen it on our last visit. Not a pretty picture.

Robbie's has also upped their prices. It's now $2.50/person to get on the dock and $5 for a small bucket of about 6-8 fish. They also rent kayaks and have fishing excursions from there as well. It's a Florida Keys kind of place. 

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