Cooking the Fresh Catch of the Day

A day of fishing out on the St. John’s River could net a great dinner to be prepared back on dry land for a few or many. Fishing is a favorite pastime in the area and many travel here year round to cast their lines.

So the question becomes what’s for dinner? Or better yet, how are we cooking dinner? Here in these parts of the Deep South, a favorite way to cook a fresh catch is too deep fry it, of course coated in a great batter.

Beer batter is always one of the best so let’s hash out a quick beer batter mix you can prepare easily.

Beer Batter Receipe:

Mix 1-cup of all-purpose flour

1 egg

A touch of garlic powder

A little bit of black pepper

1-cup of beer; add more beer if the batter is too thick

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl; dip your fish and deep fry until golden brown

Now for the big question, what beer should you use in the batter? Here are some fun fish-themed recommendations, and yes, all are available here in Florida.

Largemouth Bass

A summer favorite, you caught some trophy largemouth bass.  For this pinnacle catch we recommend a lager, Ballast Point Longfin.  A lighter beer, this will complement nicely with the flakiness of the bass.


You caught a mess of perch to make a nice meal.  Congrats!  Some may be turned off by the black dots on the flesh but a good strong beer batter will cover that right up and make for a delicious meal.  Feel free to play around with this one and add in some cayenne pepper to the batter for an extra kick.  For an even stronger batter we recommend pouring in some beer named after a saltwater variety catch, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.  If you love hoppy beers this is for you. Enjoy the rest of your 6 pack with your meal; you’ll be glad you did.

Bluegill or Bream

Another small catch that makes a great fry, bream calls for a lighter batter.  Make yours with Florida’s own Stump Knocker American Pale Ale from Swamp Head Brewery. Its moderate flavor will be an easy compliment to the crunch of your fish.

Channel catfish

Hooked a huge channel catfish?  Then you must stir in some Alligator Pale Ale from the Alligator Brewing Company.  Light and drinkable, it would go well for a lightly seasoned fish on a muggy summer night.

Striped bass

Make sure you add some Cajun seasoning to that striped bass batter before you deep fry this delicious fish.  Try it with New Crustacean Barleywineish Imperial IPA Sorta, the lightness will balance with the spices in the batter.

Grass Shrimp

Grass shrimp the catch of the day?  Deep fry those little critters with some Sweet Water Brewing Company’s Spinnerbait.  The caramel flavors will blend seamlessly with the crunch and light texture of the shrimp.

The cottages at Castaways on the River include fully furnished kitchens ready to bring your feast from the river to the table. Or cook outside on one of the grills in the pavilion to enjoy the beautiful landscape. And don’t forget we offer a variety of rental boats to get to your favorite fishing spot. Learn more about us in our blog and keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter.

National Fishing & Boating Week on the St. Johns River

The weekend of June 13th and 14th are the last days of National Fishing and Boating Week 2015.  We’re always happy to celebrate a week that spotlights our two favorite things – boating & fishing! Especially since fishing season never ends here in Florida, especially on the river! Call us and book your getaway today!

Set off for a great day of boating and fishing from Castaways on the River in Astor, FL.

Fishing is a great way to spend your recreational time.  More than 30 million of us across the United States think so according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (NSFHWR).  That’s how many people went on at least one fishing trip in the past year.  Freshwater fishing made up 81 percent of those trips just like our favorite spot, the beautiful St. Johns River.

So why are we all fishing obsessed?  It relieves stress! No ringing cell phone, no constant streams of text messaging, it’s your unplug time. It’s well-deserved YOU time!

Fishing is about friendship. For those who love fishing, there is nothing better than spending a long day on the river with friends and family and good conversation. Fishing brings laughter as we try to reel in the one that is just a bit smarter than we are and joy when we finally catch the trophy we’ve been waiting for all day.  There’s also the moment of shared disappointment when the one that got away is the only one we wanted.

Fishing licenses in in Florida help fund the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Anglers are outdoorsmen and women. They love the river and will work to conserve it and the life teeming in these waters.

Keeping with the spirit of the National Fishing and Boating Week, we urge you to pass this love along. Bring out that fishing novice friend for some time in the boat.  Summertime is high season to bring in bass from the St. Johns River! Take a friend out on the river and share the excitement of getting a bruiser channel catfish. Plan a weekend boil and go out for the day to get a bucket full of blue crab. Castaways on the River offers boat rentals right on the St. Johns River for your convenience.

We would love to be part of your long weekend or week-long escape. Give us a call at 352-759-3422 and make National Fishing and Boating Week 2015 one to remember. For more great information follow our blog and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.





A Relaxing Getaway Close to Major Attractions in the Region

Telling visitors how to get to Castaways on the River in Astor, FL typically means using the cities of Ocala and Daytona Beach as landmarks. Most tourists have heard of these locales since both regions host several events gaining national attention year round.

Our guests come in March for Bike Week & October for Biketoberfest.

Of course, the world famous Daytona Beach is home to NASCAR’s Daytona 500 in February, Bike Week in March, CokeZero 400 in July, Biketoberfest in October and other racing events. The beach along the Atlantic Ocean is known as a Spring Break hotspot for college students.

The area is less than an hour drive from world class golf courses including Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, home to the LPGA Coates Golf Championship in January. The tournament is the newest stop added to the LPGA tour. Ocala’s equestrian ties also attract large events including the Ocala Breeders Sales, HITS Ocala Winter Circuit and the Live Oak International to name a few.

Nestled on the eastern rim of the Ocala National Forest off U.S. 40 on the St. Johns River, Castaways on the River is a relaxing getaway but within proximity to enjoy great tourist destinations.

Blue Crabs are popular in the St. Johns River

Eco-tourism plays a big role in this region thanks to the St. Johns River and the Ocala National Forest. The river is a fisherman’s paradise, home to several species of fish like Black Crappie or Speckled Perch to Largemouth Bass and Stripped Bass. The river, which flows south to north, is also known for White Shrimp and Blue Crab. Yes, that means you can catch lunch or dinner in just a few hours and prepare it on one of our outdoor grills on in the kitchen of your cottage.

The Castaways on the River can accommodate small or large groups.

Our guests can enjoy lodging in one of our quaint cottages or one of our luxury motel rooms. Whether you choose to spend the day boating or fishing on the St. Johns River or take a daytrip to a nearby tourist attraction, Castaways on the River is your headquarters to do it all!

The Black Crappie Is a Fish Known By Many Names

Fishing for Black Crappie is popular in Florida all year, but now during the winter months is when this freshwater fish is likely to be most active in parts of North Central Florida. Area lakes and slow moving rivers provide a preferable habitat to feed in schools and of course spawn.

There are two categories of crappie. The White Crappie is not found in Florida. Black Crappie is abundant statewide, except in the Florida Keys.

And while locals and snowbirds are on the water hunting for the same fish, they likely know the species by different names. The most common name Florida folks know this fish by is “Speck” or Speckled Perch. The moniker Black Crappie is used primarily by non-Floridians and others refer to it as Calico Bass.

By either name, Black Crappie or Speckled Perch is highly sought after by fisherman making it one of the state’s top fish. The Black Crappie thrives in this region during the winter in water temperatures between 58-64 degrees.

Prime fishing time for seasoned anglers is near a full moon typically within the first week of a month, or a new moon, usually by mid-month.

Our backyard along the St. John’s River in Astor, FL is a gateway to many nooks and crannies in the region to find this prized catch. The river’s slow moving flow, sprinkled with semi-submerged trees along the shoreline and lush vegetation provide optimal feeding spots for Black Crappie.

Castaways on the River serves as the winter home to guests from around the country, many looking to snag stringers of this great tasting pan fish. Bag limits vary throughout the state so fishing enthusiasts need to check for most current guidelines provide by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Plan to push off from our dock in the shadow of the Astor Bridge for a few hours in one of our rental boats or bring your own. And consider one of our spacious cottages or hotel rooms for a longer stay to maximize your fishing time.

Share a photo of your catch with us on Twitter and Facebook and we will help brag about you snagging the “Big One!”

The Holidays By Land, Water & Back In Time: Astor Has it All

Just because the town of Astor, FL does not have snow on the ground, and none is forecast, the festive holiday spirit is in the air — Florida style! Take a picture and send your family and friends a holiday postcard of the Astor Bridge on a sunny winter day!

So get your boats, floats and other holiday gear and spend some time over on the beautiful St. John’s River enjoying all that the region offers this time of year.

Holiday Time On Land

Start out with Astor’s Annual Holiday Christmas Street Parade sponsored by the Astor Area Chamber of Commerce. The parade loops through the laidback streets of Astor showcasing walking/marching units, floats by area businesses and organizations all in the spirit of fun. The daytime parade, traditionally scheduled for the first Saturday in December, is followed by an arts & craft show.

Boats Glow Floating By

Then, get ready to enjoy the Astor Parade of Boats! This nighttime event features boats decorated in festive themes all aglow as they navigate along the St. John’s River. The boat parade, presented by The Blackwater Inn Yacht Club, is typically planned for the same day as the street parade. Yes, that’s two parades on the same day!

Christmas Past

A step back in time to see Christmas past is a holiday season treat at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement for “A Florida Christmas Remembered” in December. The daylong event features the sights and sounds of Christmas during the days of the state’s pioneers.

The Barberville Pioneer Settlement hosts events throughout the year giving visitors a taste of Florida’s early days – a look at old Florida.

So whether you visit us in Astor, FL for a holiday event in town, on the St. John’s River, or a nearby point of interest, there is always something to do in this neck of the woods. Castaways On The River also makes a great escape from the harsh winter weather for brief stays or longer periods to enjoy boating, fishing or just relaxing away the day.

A Glimpse of the Natural Side: Florida’s Black Bear Scenic Byway

The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is a nationally designated byway. This 60 mile byway winds through parts of Marion, Lake, Putnam and Volusia counties in what’s known as the Big Scrub.

As the name suggests, Florida’s Black Bear population is the most concentrated in this region of the state. Yes, it’s common to see a black bear or two along the way, especially in the spring, summer and fall, so keep your cameras ready but keep your distance.

The east-west segment of the byway takes visitors along State Road 40 from Ormand Beach west to Ocala. The north-south sector stretches US 19 from Palatka down to Umatilla. The byway includes a network of scenic roads and interpretive trails.

The Florida Black Bear Scenic byway takes the traveler through several forests including the Ocala National Forest and the Lake George State Forest.

There’s an App & More

Visitors can download a phone app for the travel guide covering the area by the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway.

The app also has a wealth of maps, videos and other resources to help plan a trip to explore the byway.

A Popular Trek

The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway is popular for birdwatchers, as well as those wanting to explore the various hiking trails.

The byway also draws many a motorcyclist to the open and winding roads. A loop along the byway is often an excursion for the annual biking events in Daytona like Bike Week in March and Biketoberfest in October.

By The Water

Here at Castaways On The River in Astor, along the St. John’s River, we are sort of at the crossroads of SR 40 and US 19, right in the middle of the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway no matter or which direction you are traveling.

We have great accommodations to fit your needs regardless of how you are planning to visit the byway. Our boaters will find a wealth of resources about how to access the area springs included on the byway.

Let us help make your visit a fun and comfortable one! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about us and to keep up with the latest happenings at Castaways!

Lake George: The Perfect Day Trip from Astor, Florida


Lake George
Lake George is Florida’s second largest lake, following Lake Okeechobee.

Load up the boat at Castaways on the River and head a few minutes north along the beautiful St. Johns River to spend the day exploring picturesque Lake George. The area calls to fisherman, sport and recreation boaters alike. Not to mention, the water and shore offer visitors a variety of activities to suit many interests.

Lake George: Did You Know?

Lake George, at approximately 6 miles across and 11 miles around, is noted as one of Florida’s largest lakes, following Lake Okeechobee. The lake is fed from the northern flow of the St. Johns River, along with Juniper Creek, Salt Creek, Silver Glen Springs and Lake Kerr.

The Ocala National Forest provides the western boundary of Lake George while the Lake George Conservation Area lies to the east. By far, the best way to see the lake and enjoy its many unique features is by boat.

Lake George map
Follow the map from Lake George to Castaways on the River.

A Lake Named After a King

This region is steeped with history. In fact, it is a part of the area where the Timucua Indians settled in Florida in the 1500s. In the 1700s after the sale of the Florida Territory to the British, John Bartram, a botanist, explored the St. Johns River and named the lake for King George. In later years, Lake George became a popular destination for northerners to escape the harsh winter temperatures.

Known For Being a Home to Many

Lake George is known for being a sustainable habitat for a wide array of marine animals and wildlife. It’s one of the state’s most popular bass fishing areas. In addition, the shores of Lake George are home to one of the state’s largest concentrations of bald eagles, as well as a host of migratory water birds. A good resource about the area we like to share is Jim Porter’s Guide to Bass Fishing.

A unique aspect of Lake George is its salt content from area feeder springs along the St. Johns River. It’s this mix of fresh and salt water that provides a sustainable habitat for marine life ranging from Atlantic stingray to various species of mullet, striped bass and blue crabs.

In fact, outside of bass fishing, the blue crab population in Lake George supports one of the only freshwater blue crab fisheries. And the nearby town of Palatka hosts an annual Blue Crab Festival.

An Abundance of Activities

Lake George’s abundant shoreline features other activities appealing to explorers. One of these activities is the Lake George Trail in the Ocala National Forest, which gives hikers a view from land.

Another point of interest is the nearby Lake George State Park. The park, lacking shoreline access to Lake George, does have easy access to the St. John’s River. Lake George State Park is a part of The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, and the Trailwalker Hiking Program. Visitors can explore a network of nature, hiking and horse trails, camp, launch a canoe and fish.

As you can see by now, Lake George offers a day’s worth of fun that can easily stretch into several more days. It’s a good trip to plan with a family or group because there will be more than enough to do. Let Castaways on the River be your home base while enjoying Lake George. We have a fleet of rental boats, along with lodging accommodations to fit your needs at Castaways on the River. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about us and to keep up with the latest happenings at Castaways!


Safety On The Water Takes More Than Driving A Boat

With such close proximity to the ocean, the Gulf, lakes, and rivers, it’s boating season all year round in Florida. Typically, the summer season, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, is a popular time to get out on the water especially with families taking a break to have fun and relax. This busy summer holiday season is a good time to remind boaters of safety tips to make sure everyone enjoys the water.

Always Be Prepared

An important step to boating safety is being prepared before heading out on the water. Make sure there is a properly fitting life jacket for everyone on the boat. Each state has different requirements regarding life jackets worn by children. Know the rules and comply.

The “Boat Responsibly and Wear It” campaign by The National Safe Boating Council  urges boaters to be alert while on the water, be prepared and wear a life jacket every time you’re out on a boat.

“According to the most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, over two-thirds of fatal accident victims drowned. Out of those who drowned, approximately 90 percent were not wearing a life jacket.”

Keep an Eye on the Weather

Keep tabs on the weather forecast for the area where you’ll be boating. Consider bringing along a weather radio to stay up to date on the latest conditions. Plan how far out you want to go in case you need to return quickly due to an approaching storm. Stay mindful of where you are located so you can share the location if an emergency arises.

Know the Rules

Navigating the water is much different from driving a vehicle on the road. It’s important to know the rules to operate a boat, such as safe speed and how to pass another vessel. The driver of the boat must be on constant watch to avoid dangerous situations. Just like driving on the road, the operator of the boat should avoid alcohol use while on the water. The National Safe Boating Council estimates that 70-percent of recreational boating accidents are caused by operator factors such as: failure to pay attention, carelessness, recklessness, inexperience, excessive speed, and failure to watch for hazards.

Boat Safety Education

A number of organizations provide boat safety courses, along with a variety of tips and additional resources. In Florida you must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft. In addition Florida requires that anyone renting a personal watercraft must be at least 18 years of age.

Florida also requires anyone born after Jan. 1, 1988 must obtain a Boating Safety Education ID card before operating a boat. There are several ways for Florida residents to obtain a card. Visit the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to learn more. Out-of-state visitors can obtain a temporary certificate by taking a test.

Bring Your Own Boat or Rent One of Ours

At Castaways on the River, our guests will find a variety of boats available for rent. Our resort in Astor, FL on the western bank of the St. John’s River can also accommodate guests in a traditional hotel room or in one of our cottages. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about us and to keep up with the latest happenings at Castaways!

Summer Fun on the St. Johns River

School’s out and that means summer fun abounds! It’s time to soak up some sun, get out on the water, and relax! So head on over to the beautiful St. Johns River and see what’s in store at Castaways on the River during the lazy days of summer fun.

Whether it’s just for a few hours, an overnight stay, or a week or two, we’ve got accommodations to meet your needs. We’ve tried to think of everything. Each of our stylish furnished cottages of one, two, or three bedrooms includes a fully-appointed kitchen. The space will help make your stay more comfortable whether it’s for just a few friends or the whole family.

In addition, our recently renovated hotel offers a riverfront view for guests to enjoy. And if you want to bring your own accommodations, we rent RV sites too.

Don’t Forget Summer Fun on the Water!

We have a variety of boats, available for rent. A number of our boats can seat up to 10 people. You can go out for a few hours, a full day, or just a half-day. It’s up to you to map out your summer fun!

Freshwater fishing is a favorite summer fun pastime of many of our guests since the St. Johns River is known for its many varieties of Bass fish like the Black Crappie, also known as the Speckled Perch. Many of the regular fisherman in the area will be happy to share a tip or two before you cast your line.
summer fun image

Thinking of grilling out for dinner? Or perhaps you just want to take in the scenery? Guests at Castaways On The River have access to the propane grills set up around the resort. You supply the meal since we’ve taken care of the ambiance with the up-close view and access to the St. Johns River. Wave at a passerby in a boat or be entertained by the surrounding nature.

summer fun Pinterest pin
There is plenty to do at Castaways on the River to enjoy the St. Johns River.

We’re Convenient to Just About Anywhere

We may be tucked away in Astor, FL but we are on the way to just about everywhere from Daytona to Ocala along U.S. 40. We are located in the eastern portion of the Ocala National Forest and just a few minutes north of De Leon Springs State Park, both offering a host of fun activities to explore.

There is plenty to do here at Castaways on the River to enjoy the sun and water. Take a look at our cottages, hotel accommodations, and boats, and make plans to visit soon. In addition, join us on Twitter and Facebook to see what’s going on!


Day Trip: De Leon Springs State Park

Visitors to Castaways on the River have a ton of options for things to do in the area, with most just a short ride away if traveling by water or land. It’s easy; just pick a direction and there is something to explore.

The staff of Castaways, many of whom grew up in the region, is often asked by guests to suggest places of interest to visit in the area. One such inquiry by longtime Castaways customers Robbie and Paula Worthington led the couple and their adult daughter Kayla Worthington to nearby De Leon Springs State Park.

The trio from Crittenden, KY, spent time enjoying the day along the St. John’s River on jet skis before heading south of Castaways to the park. The Worthingtons, who spend four weeks each winter at Castaways, had never before visited the park.

The warm water of the park’s swimming area, at a constant 72 degrees year round, was too much for Robbie to resist. He described his dip in the swimming area of the spring, known as the Fountain of Youth, as “cool.” The spring, with a 3-foot waterfall, leads to the Spring Garden Run, which connects north into Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge and on to the St. John’s River.

The waterfall makes a good spot to take photographs as does the rustic wooden structure outfitted with a paddle wheel home to The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House. Diners can make their own pancakes right at their table and enjoy a variety of other menu items the eatery offers.

A Visitor Center is also on the grounds and provides a glimpse of the area’s rich history when the native Mayaca inhabited the area for 6,000 years. In the early 1500s, Spanish missions were built in the area. In the 1800s, settlers in the region formed sugar and cotton plantations that were later destroyed during the Second Seminole War.

De Leon Springs State Park is designated on The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and the Trail of Florida Indian Heritage. The park is open all year.

De Leon Springs is one of many day trips within minutes of Castaways on the River in Astor, FL. For more fun in the sun, come check out our accommodations, boats and jet skis.