TISIRI divers made a voyage offshore St. Augustine Florida yesterday in hopes to capture video and photo imagery of St. Augustine Reefs for TISIRI's Reefs Revealed map. The vessel Tickle Stick, captained by Steve Blalock, transported divers to the Intruder Aircraft Reef, Taylor Reef, and the Dorthy Louise Barge Reef. Weather was perfect but unfortunately visibility was not. In fact, the waters were too turbid for TISIRI's underwater photographer Joe Kistel to captured quality imagery for TISIRI's Reefs Revealed Map. Instead Kistel did his best to capture a few "close-up" images of reef life. A few pictures captured throughout the dives are posted below. (post continues below gallery)
On each dive divers reported encounters with lionfish. This is somewhat of a surprise as TISIRI divers have not encountered lionfish offshore North East Florida for the past few years. The pictures above are proof of the encounters. All of the lionfish were relatively small (4" to 5" inches in length) but their stomachs appeared bloated as if they have been well fed. The lionfish were quite abundant on Taylor Reef. It is estimated that at least one to three lionfish were encountered on every other piece of concrete reef structure. If the visibility conditions were improved more lionfish may have been observed.
Other fish encountered included sea bass, triggerfish, spadefish, large gag grouper, large red snapper, morey eels, tomtates, batfish, blennies, flounder, wrasse, sheepshead, and many more.
A big thanks to Steve Blalock and the crew of the Tickle Stick.