Kayaking Ozello Keys
Located on Florida Nature's Coast near Crystal River, Florida

Picture of Ozello Florida
As we drop the kayak at the North End of Ozello Keys near the boat ramp, we are surprised that it almost seems cool on a grey September morning.

Ozello Keys Florida
When you kayak at Ozello Key, you can observe these islands in the estuary. We are not sure where all the palm trees came from.

kayak drop point at Ozello Keys Florida
There is a failed hotel and restaurant near the drop and a park that is maintainted by Citrus County, but no facilities so stop at McDonalds for a bathroom stop before heading out to the keys.

dolphins swim by the kayak in Ozello Florida
As we head out into the grey morning, we have no expectation of how great a day today will be. Various sizes, kinds, shapes and sizes of fish will be caught and we will get a chance to see a pod of dolphins hunt for lunch in our midst (see dolphin section below for additional dolphin pictures). Almost every time we head to Ozello, we also see large sea turtles that come in from the Gulf of Mexico to find a lunch of small fish or crabs in this beautiful estuary. Today we had an amazing encounter with marine mammals that we will never forget in a lifetime. We once had a very large manatee almost tip us over when we scared him and woke him up on a lazy winter day, but this even topped that.

The crystal river nuclear plant in the distance as shot from a kayak floating in Ozello Florida
Through the early morning haze, you can see the cooling stacks of the nuclear power plant at Crystal River. I have been to Ozello 15 or 20 times to paddle our kayak, and have never really thought about the contrast between nuclear power generation and the fantastic clean environment on the Nature Coast before doing this webpage.

Ozello Kayak trail
Acres and acres of grass islands punctuate this area.

Houses in Ozello Florida

Ozello has quite a few houses but thankfully it is not too habitated to be one of the best paddles in Florida.

Close up of grass islands in Ozello Florida
Unlike Tampa and south, you have islands that have a little elevation with tall grass running right down to the water. In other places there are mangroves like further south in the State.

Kayaks float in Ozello near the Crystal River Nuclear Plant
The cooling towers are a fixture in the skyline for most of the day. The power company has applied to build more, but they may or may not be approved.

Here the tide is usually running in or out there are not too many slack tide times due to the flatness of the offshore shelf.

mangrove islands in Ozello Florida
Smaller mangrove islands because the winter weather can be cold in this part of Florida. Oysters are all around along with vast grass flats and shallow water make this a kayak paddling paradise, but watch your water or you will scrape the kayak. The Florida kayaking joke goes like this. What should you do on your first day of kayaking so you don't worry about scraping your bottom on the oysters? Take the boat out and run it aground on an oyster bed, then you won't worry about scratching the bottom anymore.

5208 E. Fowler Ave. Suite 1A
Tampa, FL 33617
(813) 988-6211

Book your hotel, car and/or
vacation package with us and
your kayak advice is FREE!

Links for more information

John says, the Nature Coast is one of the best
kayak fishing spots in Florida!
26.5 inch redfish caught 9/14/09

Where to Stay

Days Inn Crystal River
$55 to $99 a night

call (813) 988-6211 or
email john@vacationtc.com

Quality Inn Crystal River
$50 to $90 a night
call (813) 988-6211 or
email john@vacationtc.com

Best Western Crystal River
$60 to $99 a night
call (813) 988-6211 or
email john@vacationtc.com

Econo Lodge Crystal River
$50 to $60 a night
call (813) 988-6211 or
email john@vacationtc.com

All hotel rates plus local taxes
and subject to change on your dates.

5208 E. Fowler Ave. Suite 1A
Tampa, FL 33617
(813) 988-6211

Book your hotel, car and/or
vacation package with us and
the kayak advice is FREE!

We are registered with the
State of Florida
as a
Seller of Travel

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Dolphins, Dolphins, Dolphins Everywhere
I have seen this before, but never been right in the middle of Dolphins Feeding
up an estuary. You can hear the dolphins via the blowholes before you can see them usually. The same is true of manatee breathing in the silence of the mangrove estuaries. This was a pack of 12 to 14 dolphins with at least 5 or 6 being juveniles. It is hard to count as they are always in motion.

picture of dolphin pods fishing in Ozello Keys Florida
As they came steaming into our part of the estuary, it was obvious they were actively feeding on the rising tide from the noise we are hearing behind the mangrove islands. At kayak level, you are very close to the animals as they go about their business of feeding on the abundance of baitfish and fat mullet that are located in the estuary in the early fall.

Agitated waters from dolphins fishing in Ozello Florida
The dolphins hunt in packs and the whole pod works together. You can see them herd the schools of baitfish into tighter and tighter balls until sometimes the baitfish literally leap from the water to escape the predators. They always seem so sweet and they are mindfull of kayakers almost in a reverence for the yak since it is kind of dolphin shaped and moves along without a motor. You realize they are not all that sweet when you see the blood in the water when they eat a big fat mullet or trout.

Dolphins herding small fish near Crystal River Florida
Here a couple of adults are herding baitfish into the mangroves. Notice they are working together and using the island to confuse the fish as they drive in for the attack.

Big dolphins swim right past our kayak in Ozello
All around us there are swishes and the sound of dolphins blowing air as they exert energy to chase lunch. These are powerful marine mammals and I would almost use the word marrauding to describe the pack mentality that happens when they hunt fish. It sure puts a damper on the fishing when they come cruising into the bay and everything less than 2 feet long that swims in the bay pays attention.

dolphins push fish into the shallows near Ozello
Here again, another pack is pushing large schools of menhaden or sardines (what fisherman collectively call white bait). After a long summer and a couple of spawns, we have bays that literally are full of these small 1 to 3 inch fish. Sardines and menhaden are an oily fish and the dolphins seem to be putting on as much weight as possible to get ready for a long winter.

A pack of wild dolphins fish near Ozello
Whole families are hunting together and the adults are trying to teach the juveniles to learn this skill and hunt with the pack.

Sometimes, the juvenile dolphins do not seem interested in the task at hand as they split from the pack and do loop de loops around the mangroves.

A dolphin throws a fish in the air near Ozello
This young dolphin is finally getting the hang of it and wants everybody to know. He pops his head up about 15 or 20 times and shoots a fish up into the air on a pillow of water. He seems so proud that he is finally getting the hang of his fishing classes that he displays the catch again and again. My wife is yelling encouragement and clapping each time he comes up which the young dolphin seems to like.

from our kayak, we can cheer his accomplishment of catching a fish.  The dolphin seems to be proud of the fish.
As he repeats the behavior again and again and again, we get a few chances to get shot of this amazing interaction where the dolphin seems to be celebrating the sheer excitement of catching a fish.

From the level of the kayak, we are literally among this pod of dolphins that are going about their business like we are not even there. The activity is so crazy, I see my wife reaching for a life vest just in case one of the young dolphins gets rambunctious and overturns our boat. They always seem to know where we are and do flip turns a couple of times to stay away from the boat, even when pursuing prey but they go underneath a time or two and push a pretty good sized wave into the boat from dolphin wake.

The big bulls get pretty aggressive when chasing a big fat mullet. Note the blowhole mist above this dolphin as we works to catch fast swimming mullet.

A quick nod as if to say goodbye before heading off to a different part of the estuary. Not more than 10 feet from our kayak but we feel really special today with what we have just witnessed.

This is the turn around point at the end of the 14 mile drive from US 19 to the end of the Ozello Keys road. The drive to the drop is as beautiful as the paddling.

When you are finished your kayak trip to Ozello, cross the short causeway and make a stop for lunch.

Pecks is the only restaurant near the drop point and it is famous for soft shelled crabs that it has local crabbers collect but they put them in a tank out back until the molt there shell. This gets crowded on the weekend with yuppie bikers and seniors using it for a turn-around point for weekend drives. Makes a great Manhatten clam chowder.

The upland area coming onto the keys is a stunning vista to observe. If you come early enough, you may see the swamp bunnies up on the road.

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