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June 21, 2015

Fishing at Walt Disney World

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Go Fishin

Last October Carol and I were on our way from Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to the Magic Kingdom. As we stood on the dock at the Marina waiting for the boat we were able to watch the joy a young boy experienced as he caught his first fish. Wow! He was grinning from ear to ear and his eyes were sparkling; his grandfather, standing behind the boy, was beaming too! That bass was the first of several fish he landed in the few minutes that we waited on the dock.

Fishin at the Fort

They hadn't even sailed away from the slip where the 21-foot Tracker pontoon boats moor; the Disney guide simply backed the boat up, about 20 feet, and they fished between the boat slip and the marina dock. The guide baited the hook and then demonstrated how to cast the line. After several practice casts the happy young angler was able to consistently drop his line in the shadow of the dock, where the guide had told him the fish like to hide.

The Fort Wilderness Marina Dock

I think the folks on the dock were having almost as much fun as the boy and his grandfather. Everyone was cheering him on!

It took me back to fond memories of my childhood; I grew up in a small town on the north shore of Lake Erie. Boating and fishing were a big part of our family life and those few minutes on the Fort Wilderness dock took me back decades to happy times catching yellow perch, often pulling in two at a time, on the reef about 5 miles offshore.

Disney Fishing

It's not unusual to see people fishing in Bay Lake near Fort Wilderness, but it was a rare treat to be so close to the action. We could watch and listen as the guide worked with that boy and helped him land his first catch! It was another illustration of Disney Magic!

Here's how the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel described fishing at Walt Disney World in a September 9, 2010 article:

Lake Buena Vista - Bass guide Dave Osani offers these words of caution to those who fish the lakes at Walt Disney World for the first time:

"Warning," Osani said with a laugh. "May be habit-forming."

Osani, who has guided at Disney for 15 years, knows what he's talking about. He's seen novice anglers - men, women, boys and girls - get hooked on fishing and had experienced anglers become speechless after catching more bass and bigger bass than they'd ever caught before.

Then there were the sisters, one a veteran saltwater angler from Miami and the other from Polk County. In a four-hour trip with Osani last year, they caught 20 fish on lures.

They asked Osani if he was available to fish the following day and he guided them to 30 bass in four hours.

They came back the next day with two other members of their group. Osani guided the four anglers to 64 fish in two hours. The quartet came back the next day and caught 49 fish in two hours with Osani, including a big bass of 6 pounds, 15 ounces.

Outings like that make fishing at Disney a magical experience, both for the anglers who fish there and for guides like Osani.

"It's not always great, but a bad day here is better than a good day at most places," Osani said. "It's not uncommon to catch 40 fish in two hours."

An article in the Spring 2003 Issue of Disney Magazine provides a bit of interesting background.
Disney Magazine Spring 2003 page 41

Click on the image below to see a larger version.
Disney Magazine Spring 2003 page 40

A guest comment in 2004 gives this perspective!
Disney Magazine Spring 2004 page 15

Disney offers two fishing options, the Guided Fishing Excursions described above, and Dockside Fishing.

Here is the sign listing current pricing at the Fort Wilderness Marina. Click on the image to see a larger, easier to read copy.

Fort Wilderness Marina Fishing Prices

The fishing excursions are a bit more than some vacation budgets can accommodate but dockside fishing provides some lower-cost options. At either Port Orleans Riverside or Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground you can rent a fishing pole, grab some bait and wet a line! If you bring your own poles, just buy some bait, the fishing is free!

At the Riverside resort the Fishin' Hole at Ol' Man Island is stocked with catfish, blue gill and bass. Click on the picture of the sign below to see current prices.

Riverside Fishin Hole

At Fort Wilderness you can fish along the side of any of the streams and canals that criss-cross the property or on the shore of Bay Lake or any of the ponds. You will find bluegill, gar, catfish, crappie and bass.

Shore Fishing

There is no fishing allowed from roads, bridges or docks, with the exception of a special "fishing dock" located behind the Meadow Trading Post. The fishing dock is pictured below.

Fishing dock at the Meadow

Bud M. from Cumming Georgia is pictured below holding the 5 1/2 pound bass he caught behind the Meadow Trading Post on June 3, 2015.

Bass at Meadow Trading Post

Just a few minutes later his daughter Ally landed a 3 pound bass.

Ally's Bass at Meadow Trading Post

Daughter Katie's bass was smallest, but still much better than no bass at all! Nice work Katie!

Katie's Bass

The fish were all landed using worms Bud bought at the Bike Barn. Looks like it's no coincidence that the large-mouth bass is the Official Fish of the Peach State! Thanks for sharing your pictures Bud & Sonya!

Read more about fishing, and find current prices on the official Disney site HERE or on AllEars.net HERE.

All fishing at Walt Disney World is "catch and release" so be sure to take pictures of your trophies before you let them go!

Bay Lake Bass

So, the next time you're at Walt Disney World and you decide you need some quiet time, a bit of a break from the hectic pace at the theme parks . . . why not go fishin'?

Goofy About Fishin

Head on over to Fort Wilderness or Port Orleans Riverside, grab a pole and spend a few hours pretending to be Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer . . . or maybe Ally or Katie M. from Cumming Georgia!

Doesn't that sound relaxing?

PS - Special thanks to my friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper, Al Boeck, who endured some unusually hot weather in May to take many of the photos you see in this blog.

September 28, 2014

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

Gary Cruise banner

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and how you can be a Conservation Hero. While I was browsing the Internet, doing research for the blog, I came across an intriguing web page. The headline read "Butterflies by Swamp Buggy at Disney Wilderness Preserve"

Butterfly_Swamp_Buggy_Web_Page

My first thought was, "What better way to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of nature than by chasing butterflies through a wilderness preserve with a swamp buggy?"

My mind drifted back about 15 years to the vacation Carol and I enjoyed at Pelee Island, Canada's southernmost point.

Pelee_Island_map

Every summer Pelee Island is teeming with Giant Swallowtail butterflies and we spent a glorious, sunny summer afternoon snapping pictures of swallowtails. I still have vivid memories of Carol, camera in hand, bounding through farm fields following flitting butterflies. Butterflies can flit faster than Carol can bound so her antics kept me entertained all afternoon!

My second thought was, "Disney Wilderness Preserve? What's that?"

Did you know that there is a big Disney conservation project just minutes from Walt Disney World?

You are not alone . . . neither did I. Not many people are aware of the Disney Wilderness Preserve, just 15 miles from Walt Disney World. It's at 2700 Scrub Jay Trail in Kissimmee.

It's a huge preserve, about 12,000 acres - almost 19 square miles!

The project began in 1992, before the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund was established. The Walt Disney Company heard that an 8,500 acre cattle ranch located at the head of the Greater Everglades Watershed was going to be re-zoned for extensive residential and commercial development. This would have destroyed a huge tract of natural wetlands, as well as habitat for many endangered plants and wildlife.

Disney acted quickly and quietly to preserve this sensitive property. Working with The Nature Conservancy, the State of Florida, and a number of other groups, The Walt Disney Company purchased the property to mitigate its expansion and transferred it to the Conservancy. They were instrumental in the creation of a nature preserve dedicated to wetlands conservation on an unprecedented scale. After the initial purchase The Walt Disney Company provided funds for restoration and wildlife monitoring on the property and they continue to endow a number of on-site projects.

Lake_Russell

How successful has the project been? On their web site, The Nature Conservancy refers to it as "A Model Preserve" and goes on to say, "Land that was heavily logged and ranched for decades has been restored to very near to its original state and once again resembles the descriptions left by the area's first Spanish missionaries."

Sounds good to me - sensitive wetlands preserved as natural animal habitat rather than littered with factories, roads, houses and strip malls. Just another heroic initiative that makes me proud to be a Disney fan!

Palmetto

But let's get back to the swamp buggy and the butterflies. I mentioned the web site to Carol; she immediately said, "We're there in October, let's sign up!" So we did!

This is one of many events which makes up Central Florida NatureFest, an Outdoor and Photography Festival organized each year by the Central Florida Visitor's and Convention Bureau. The cost is a mere $5.00 per person!

Here's how they described it. "Fall is the best time for butterflies in our area when wildflowers are abundant. Disney Wilderness Preserve is a mosaic of habitats such as marshes, lake edges, open meadows, flat woods and roadsides. All of these areas are attractive to butterflies. To be expected here are swallowtails, sulphurs, hairstreaks, crescents, fritillaries, skippers and more.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a vast and beautiful natural site and the best way to travel in these parts is by Swamp Buggy. So all aboard the Swamp Buggy and be ready to hang-on while your guides point out butterflies and nature's beauty. This is a spectacular excursion that everyone can enjoy."

Our friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper Al, from Missouri is joining us. Carol is keen on the butterflies but Al and I are really looking forward to that swamp buggy ride!

I hope to do a blog about the Butterfly/Swamp Buggy adventure so stay tuned! If I can get any good action shots of Carol bounding after butterflies I'll be sure to include them!

In the meantime, here are a few pictures provided by VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy.

Disney_Wilderness_Preserve

Butterfly_Swamp_Buggy_Tour

Giant_Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail

Zebra_Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Can you enjoy the Disney Wilderness Preserve? Yes, you can. The preserve is open daily Sunday-Friday (closed Saturdays and most major holidays) 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. There is no entry fee, but donations are always welcome.

Cypress_at_Lake_Russell

Boardwalk

The 2 1/2 mile hiking loop takes you past the shore of Lake Russell and then offers a closer look at the preserve's natural communities. What will you see? The landscape and foliage includes: cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, scrub, flatwoods and oak hammocks.

Lake_Russell_at_Reedy_Creek
Lake Russell at Reedy Creek

There is a rejuvenated longleaf pine forest with a lush understory of native grasses, saw palmetto and other shrubs. The rejuvenation is the result of "prescribed fire" on the land. They have used "controlled burns" to remove invasive plants that are not native to the area. These fires have resulted in an amazing return to the type of pine forests those first Spanish missionaries saw.

Long_Leaf_Pine_Forest

Pine_flatwoods

Key flowers include the fall-flowering ixia, Catesby's lily and terrestrial orchids.

Rose_rush
Rose Rush

Pickerel_weed
Pickerel Weed

Animal life includes bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker, wood stork, sandhill crane, northern harrier and crested caracara. The preserve is also home to the southeastern big-eared bat, Sherman's fox squirrel, eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise. The Florida panther has even been documented crossing the site!

Sandhill_cranes

Read about the Disney Wilderness Preserve HERE.

Sunset

Next time you visit Walt Disney World, set aside a day for a hike at the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

It looks awesome, I cannot wait to experience it first-hand!



Sincere thanks to VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy for agreeing to share their photos!

March 10, 2012

Disney's Winter Summerland is great for golfing fun, birthdays

kristinford.jpg

A relaxed Santa greets guests at Winter Summerland.
A relaxed Santa greets guests at Winter Summerland.

Walt Disney World guests can choose between two cleverly themed miniature golf courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. My family has really enjoyed hitting the links at Winter Summerland, which is located near the entrance to the Blizzard Beach water park. (Guests can take the Blizzard Beach bus to get there and also park in the water park's lot.)

Winter Summerland opened in 1999 and has two 18-hole courses: the Snow side, where Santa and his elves seem to be getting ready for Christmas, and the Sand side, which shows how they spend his off-season.

Guests who choose to play the Winter Course will see their golf balls travel up and down ski slopes, through a campfire, into an ice hockey game, past a squirty Snowman, and even up a peppermint twist. Along the way to the North Hole, some of your favorite Disney characters can be spotted saluting you. After sinking the last putt on Hole 18, you'll get a special greeting from Santa Claus, thanks to the WinterNet and a computer.

Guests can putt through a giant sand castle at Winter Summerland.
Guests can putt through a giant sand castle at Winter Summerland.

On the Summer Course, expect to see a beach theme for Santa and his elves. Make your golf ball slip past the camper and roasting turkey without disturbing its residents. Hop over a creek, past the opening clam shells, around the sand buckets and surfboards, through a loop, over a sleeping Santa's belly and into a gigantic sand castle.

You can't go wrong with either course. Take a break in between rounds at Santa's "Winterbago," a converted trailer that is home to the starter booth, gift shop and snack stand. There are lots of shaded picnic tables nearby, and cast members even have hula hoops for the young and young-at-heart.

If you're looking for a unusual photo for this year's Christmas cards, be sure to bring your camera. There are so many fun backdrops -- beginning with a big red sleigh that guests can sit inside and the icon Santa on a surf board holding his golf clubs.

Winter Summerland is a great place for birthday parties.
Winter Summerland is a great place for birthday parties.

Birthday parties

Disney World used to organize kids' birthday parties at Winter Summerland, but they have since been discontinued. The "official" parties weren't elaborate -- just pizza, cake and goody bags, plus golf, of course.

A few years ago, we decided we could do the same, which cast members welcome. When I called to inquire, I was encouraged to use the facilities for a party, but it was emphasized that cast members wouldn't be able to organize or facilitate anything the group did. That may be strictly true, but I have to say I found the Disney employees working that day to be really helpful, especially when it began raining and we had to move everything.

We got to Winter Summerland early on a Saturday to set up snacks, cakes and a gathering activity. As the families arrived, kids were entertained with Mickey and Minnie coloring books that we brought, plus a hula hoop contest. By the time we teed off, we had about 25 kids playing and their parents caddying. (It was a joint party for my son and daughter, whose birthdays are two years and one day apart.)

Afterward, we sang "Happy Birthday" and cut into two cakes -- one for each child. My local grocery store decorated each cake to look like a golf course and I found Mickey and Minnie golf ornaments to use for the toppers.

Hit your ball down the ski slope on the Snow Course.
Hit your ball down the ski slope on the Snow Course.

Details

Guests who decide to play both courses get a 50 percent discount on the second 18 holes played on the same or next day by showing their original receipts. Prices are $12 plus tax for adults and $10 plus tax for children ages 3 to 9 for 18 holes. Disney World passholders also can receive a 50 percent discount every time they play; the deal is good for the passholder and up to three guests. In addition, each guest will receive one souvenir golf ball for each round played.

Winter Summerland is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For questions, call 407-560-3000.

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About Recreation

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Recreation category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Golfing at Walt Disney World is the previous category.

Resorts is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.