Just back from my annual pilgrimage to one of the most fun spots in the state.

Sebastian Inlet, just south of Melbourne, has been a family favorite since the late 1970s.

In the beginning I was drawn there by its remoteness and all the great fishing it presents. These days we go there mostly to watch the grandkids play in the huge wading pool on the north side of the state park. That cove is perhaps six acres or so and is fed by the rushing ocean water that constantly flows through the inlet.

This year I had trouble getting the boat out with a strong south wind and we were pelted by rolling thunderstorms, but as usual we all had a good time. The kids found star fish, and lots of hermit crabs and other interesting little sea creatures. When they found something especially odd, they ran it to me for identification. Of course, I spent a lot of time teaching the little ones the value of all marine life and making sure we killed nothing.

Each year they leave there with a great memory of their manatee encounters and this one was no different. The cove is mostly shallow and barren of food the sea cows would munch, but regardless they always show up. One would have to believe the manatees come just for the company of the children.

This year two young ones surfaced that seemed to be kissing. How the kids loved that and spontaneous applause erupted from the onlookers.

On the third day a pair of dolphins appeared. Now as a rule, the dolphins are very fast and not quite as people friendly as the sea cows, but these two began brushing up against my 17-year-old granddaughter. The other folks in the park came over to watch. Quite a sight.

Our second day there was opening day of the lobster mini-season and perhaps 50 boats launched from the park. Most of those divers go far offshore to catch large spiny lobsters, but we did find some hiding in the boulders that line the inlet waterway. Fun to see even though keepers were as rare as frog fur.

My daughter Shayla snorkeled there to see lots of sergeant major fish and even some young snook. My son Landan and his wife brought their six-year-old son Oliver and his little sister Lucy from Polk County. Both were enthusiastic and are well on their way to becoming waterbugs as is the Smith family tradition. Oliver spent most of his time watching for pirates.

When I cast netted some bait fish, the kids loved to watch them swimming in my five gallon bucket until I ordered them released.

Folks, Sebastian Inlet is but one of a few great spots that lies not too far away. You can drive there in a couple hours and enter a part of old Florida that is leaving us way too fast.

Our own Ponce Inlet is a natural treasure waiting to be enjoyed. Just a few miles north Matanzas Inlet is truly an undiscovered wonderland. There the water is clear and green with sea turtles and small bonnet head sharks to watch. My family visits there a couple times a month all summer. Nature is all around you. Get out and look for it!

Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to fishwdan@att.net. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.

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