6 Tips to Stay Safe Around Wild Alligators

There isn’t a more beautiful place to enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife of north central Florida than on the St. Johns River. When you’re boating, fishing or hiking trails near the river, you’re likely to run into longtime residents of the river – alligators. If you do, we offer these tips to stay safe around alligators while you’re enjoying the St. Johns River.

Don’t Feed the Alligators

This is the most important alligator rule. Alligators are naturally afraid of humans. Feeding them with food other than their natural prey only makes them bolder and makes them want to seek out people to find more food. So keep the people food to yourself. You also don’t want to feed ducks, turtles or other natural wildlife along the St. Johns River.

Be Cautious During Mating Season

Alligators can be a bit testy and do peculiar things during mating season, which happens in the spring and the summer months. Alligators only leave their marked territories this time of year to look for females, so you may see larger alligators more frequently and in places you don’t normally see them. Just wave to them, give them their space and leave them alone.

Never disturb alligator nests or baby alligators because their mom is always nearby ready to protect her babies.

Keep Your Dogs on a Leash

Everyone likes to take their dogs boating and fishing on the St. Johns River. Just be sure to keep them on a leash when you disembark the boat for a restroom break. You don’t want them running off alone, especially during alligator mating season.

Keep your Distance

Alligators may look lazy and slow, but when they want to move, they can move fast! You should stay at least 60 feet away from alligators at all times. If an alligator hisses or lunges at you, you’re way too close. Also, never disturb alligator nests or baby alligators because their mom is always nearby ready to protect her babies.

alligator on the river
Don’t swim in areas where you can’t see your arms or legs to avoid alligators.

Water Safety

The cool refreshing water of the St. Johns River is enticing when you’re on the boat and want to take a swim. But if you can’t see your arms, legs and feet when you’re in the water, you shouldn’t swim in the water. Stick to swimming in the cool, refreshing springs like Silver Glen Springs and other springs you can access from the St. Johns River. The water is shallower, crystal clear and alligators aren’t likely to be there.

Fishing Around Alligators

Be cautious when casting a line near alligators. Some alligators will try and grab a hooked fish. Also stay away from fishing in heavy vegetation and near the water’s edge where alligators like to hang out. You don’t want to catch an alligator on your line.

Plan Your Trip

It’s time to plan a trip to the river. Rent a hotel room or book a cottage at Castaways on the River to make your trip perfect. Once you step outside your room, there’s a variety of rental boats sitting in the marina waiting for you to cruise the river or go fishing. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3422 to plan your fishing trip on the river.

6 Must Make Pumpkin Fish Recipes for Fall

Pumpkin is the rage right now. Pumpkin everything is on grocery store shelves, in coffee and even corn chips! Why not combine your love of fishing with all things pumpkin? Pumpkin is a delicious squash that adds a lot of nutrition to your plate. If you’re ready, we have the six must make pumpkin fish recipes to turn your catches into fall season entrée masterpieces.

pumpkin fish recipes
We have the six must make pumpkin fish recipes to turn your catches into fall season entrée masterpieces.

Baked Fish With Pumpkin Curry Sauce

This is the time of year to reel in some large mouth bass in the St. Johns River. We have the fall bass fishing tips guide you need to prove it. Once you bring home that bass, ignite your taste buds with this baked fish with pumpkin curry sauce recipe courtesy of Budget Girl.

This recipe can also include a ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice if you want to kick the pumpkin in your recipe up a notch. The main course pairs nicely with some brussel sprouts as a vegetable and some pumpkin pie for dessert.

Pumpkin Risotto with Salmon

Add a pumpkin risotto recipe with any great fish dish to make a more fall festive dinner. Yummly’s Pumpkin Risotto with Fish and Cherry Tomato recipe creates a hearty meal with a Parmesan cheese mix twist. Serve immediately with fish, cherry tomatoes and a lemon wedge.

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Book a stay at Castaways on the River to catch some fillets for pumpkin fish recipes.

Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry

Looking for a pumpkin seafood recipe with some Southern charm? The Food Network’s Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry recipe satisfies your cravings. The recipe calls for shrimp and salmon fillets. This dish pairs nicely with a nice fresh loaf of French bread to sop up the flavorful curry at the bottom of your bowl.

Apple-Stuffed Baked Fish

Add some fall apples to your fish recipe! The Cooper Cookin’ Apple-Stuffed Baked Fish Recipe, courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Everyday Cookbook Almanac, creates an apple-based stuffing that pairs well with a number of fish fillets.

Pumpkin Seed Fish Sticks

How about a fall take on the tried and true fish sticks? Yummly’s Pumpkin Seed Fish Sticks recipe allows you to toss in some pumpkin seeds along with your breading mixture to create a nice crunchy, fall fish stick.

pumpkin fish recipes soup
Fish fillets and seafood pair nicely in pumpkin-based stew and soups.

Pumpkin and Fish Stew

Seeking to enjoy some of your fresh fish on a cool day? Keep warm and enjoy fall with A Day in the Life on the Farm’s Pumpkin and Fish Stew Recipe. Fish fillets pair nicely in the pumpkin-based stew with tomatoes and chicken stock.

Book Your Fall Fishing Visit

Your fall fish recipes are in place and will excite and wow your friends and family. Now you need to book a stay at Castaways on the River to do some fishing and catch some fillets for those pumpkin fish recipes. The marina can handle all of your boat rental needs. We offer cozy cottages and motel rooms so you can enjoy fall on the St. Johns River while you go fishing. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and fishing adventure today.

St. Johns River Fun Facts

It’s BIG

The St. Johns River is the longest river in Florida at a whopping 310 miles long.  It flows through 12 counties, moving from northeast Florida to the Atlantic Ocean.  At its largest point, the St. John’s River is almost 3 miles wide.


It is also separated into three river basins and two watersheds.  The Upper Basin of the St. Johns engulfs approximately 2,000 square miles, and the largest basin is the Lower Basin covering 2,600 square miles. Thanks to its massive size, the river transports about 16,000,000 tons of freight through the ports in Jacksonville, Fla. per year.

It Flows North

The vast majority of rivers in the world flow from north to south.  This is usually due to the river’s source, mostly mountains, is to the north of the mouth causing the water to flow downward.  However, it is said that fewer than 30 rivers in the United States are the exception to the rule and flow northward, including the St. John’s River.


The reasoning behind the unusual flow is the slight slope in the river itself.  Beginning in the Saint John’s Marsh, the rivers course slowly lowers about 30 feet to the mouth meeting the Atlantic Ocean.  This extremely gentle slope causes a very lazy river; it’s actually one of the slowest in the world.

It’s VERY Connected

About 3.5 million people live within the various watersheds that feed into the St. Johns River.  It’s the main water body in the St. Johns River Water Management District that covers about 21 percent of Florida or about 7.8 million acres.


It has a Salty Side

The St. Johns River begins as a network of marshes, consolidating into a blackwater stream.  This means that due to its groundwater and marsh beginnings, the River is predominately fresh water.



It’s not until the River hits the Jacksonville area that the water becomes brackish.  This is due to the sides pushing seawater into the mouth of the St. Johns River, creating a estuarine ecosystem in the area.  This means animals usually seen out to sea such as dolphins and sharks are sometimes found thriving here.

It has…monkeys?

Where the St. Johns River meets the Wekiva River, troops of Rhesus Monkeys can be found monkeying around.  Known for their adept swimming abilities, the origins of the Rhesus Monkeys transports remain unknown. However, several theories exist. Many believe they were brought in during the 1930’s filming of Tarzan. Whatever the case, they have adapted well to their new Florida home off the St.Johns River.


It’s Fun

There is never a shortage of fun in the sun on the St. Johns River, known as the most significant recreational river in Florida, and for good reason.


Known as the Bass Fishing Capital of the World, the St. Johns River is rich in fisheries including ample crappie, bluegills, catfish and other varieties freshwater fish. During the spring and summer months, visitors can enjoy clear waters for swimming, boating, and scuba diving along the river’s connected watersheds.WWW.CASTAWAYSONTHERIVER.COM (7)

Ashore, the St. Johns River Water Management District maintains approximately 700,000 acres of land for hiking, camping, hunting, biking and equestrian riding.

Blue Springs State Park

The St. Johns River is also linked to 14 lakes and numerous Florida Springs including Blue Spring State Park, a protected Manatee Refuge. During the winter season, hundreds of manatees inhabit the surface of the spring for onlookers to enjoy.



Boat Rentals on the St. Johns River

At Castaways on the River, we offer boat rentals at our Lake County location in Astor, FL. Looking to stay awhile? Rent a cool cottage or a motel room today at Castaways on the River, which is right on the St. Johns River.

Share your Favorite Spot

Do you have any favorite spots along the river? Leave a comment, below.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to tag us! We’d love to hear from you.

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Snorkeling In the Springs

The network of freshwater springs along the St. Johns River in the Ocala National Forest provides visitors with spectacular opportunities to explore this unique environment and the life that thrives there. Snorkeling in the springs is a popular way to get an up close view of this underwater paradise.

Visitors are drawn to snorkeling in the springs along the St. Johns River since the crystal clear water maintains a constant average temperature of 72 degrees year round. And be sure to do your homework ahead of time to learn whether snorkeling is permitted in a particular spring.


Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving

While snorkeling is permitted in a majority of the freshwater springs in the Ocala National Forest, those same springs largely prohibit scuba diving. So what’s the difference in the two activities?

Snorkeling – uses a snorkel tube that extends above the surface of the water for breathing while the face is submerged.

Scuba diving – the diver is equipped with an independent source to breathe while totally submerged underwater.

In addition to a snorkel tube, those wanting to take part in the activity should also be outfitted with:

Mask – properly fitted so you can see clearly while underwater.

Fins – a set of fins to move around better in the water like the fish.

Optional equipment may include a wet suit, snorkeling vest and additional gear designed to block the sun.

Springs for Snorkeling

Snorkelers flock to the popular Silver Glen Springs off the northern shore of Lake George in the Ocala National Forest. The spring is located north of Astor, Florida and is known for the sightings of manatees warming up in the winter. Silver Glen Springs produces an average 65 million gallons of water each day from two vents. The spring is home to a wide variety of fish.

Did You Know: Silver Glen Springs is an important archeological site and considered sacred space for Native Americans?

The depth of Silver Glen Springs is shallow in comparison to other springs in the region so children can explore it too. A number of other great springs for snorkeling in the area include Juniper Springs and DeLeon Springs.

While snorkeling consider taking photos of what all you see underwater to capture the moment. A good waterproof camera can come in handy.


Getting To the Springs

Most of the freshwater springs along the St. Johns River in the Ocala National Forest are best reached by boat. In case you are wondering when you’ve arrived at the actual spring, most are marked with signage as you enter the spring run. However a sure sign that you are close to a spring is that the water will appear crystal clear and seem to bubble to the surface. In fact that’s exactly what it’s doing as it flows from the spring head.

Snorkeling From The Boat

Coming to visit us in Astor soon and you want to plan a couple of fun days in the area? Make sure to reserve a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River and get ready for snorkeling in the springs. Castaways On The River in Astor, located on the edge of the Ocala National Forest, also offers accommodations either quaint cottages or spacious motel rooms. Contact Castaways On The River at (352) 759-3442 or to reserve a rental boat, a cottage or hotel room or need assistance with other plans.


Plan A Perfect Summer Barbecue

Enjoying lazy days in the sun and on the water is a great time to plan a perfect summer barbecue party. Family and friends will want to be included in all the fun, and of course the main attraction will be the food.

As for what is on the menu, it will depend on a variety of factors like who is doing the cooking, how many people are attending, and what time the food will be served? Will it be an all-day affair or have a designated timeline? Will food be served in shifts? Served at a specific time? These are questions you’ll need to answer up front so your guests know what to expect.

It’s best to have an idea early on of how large the gathering will be to determine how much food will be needed. This will help with the overall food shopping and delegating who can supply what item.

Before we get too far along, let’s clear up a question that may be a matter of preference. Is it a barbecue or cookout? Technically the two can be considered the same in terms of events. There is no right or wrong menu item when it comes to chowing down. A barbecue just means cooking outside on the grill.


How to Plan A Perfect Summer Barbecue Party

So now that we’ve settled that, let’s move on to figuring out the menu. The typical summer barbecue party menu includes burgers and hotdogs. Some gatherings may include more elaborate fare to enjoy such as the days’ fresh catch from the St. Johns River.

The seasonal fishing calendar forecasts it’s a good time to catch Bass, Bluegill, Redear, Specks, Stripers and Catfish. So anglers let’s see what you add to the barbecue. When you return to the boat dock here at Castaways, use the convenient fish cleaning station to get everything ready for the grill just a few steps away.

And don’t forget about all the great side dishes to go along with the main entrees from salads, beans, and other tasty treats and appetizers. Invite everyone to provide their favorite dish to help feed the masses. Get ready for recipe sharing or be prepared to protect the secret ingredient.

And since we are talking about summer time, get the ice cream churn out and put the popsicles on ice so everyone young and old can enjoy a variety of cool goodies.

A good grill master must be included to plan a perfect summer barbecue .

Barbecue Grill Duty

Before everyone digs in to enjoy the spread of food, make sure to thank the person who handled the grill duties. This is often a hard, hot and thankless job. Remember without someone on the grill, it’s just eating out. Tips to show your thanks is to make sure the grill master has a cold, refreshing beverage close by to enjoy. It’s likely to already be hot, then add to that the heat and smoke from the grill. Keep the cook cool and comfortable.

It’s also a good idea to designate helpers for the grill master so they can play close attention to the food and not have to worry about carrying it to the serving area. They may need other tools and supplies so extra pairs of hands are often appreciated.

Plan Ahead

Consider creating a list of all the items needed to pull off the perfect summer barbecue party. It’s always the little things like forgetting a special condiment that can derail a good plan. If you are heading to a remote area, it may be difficult to run to the nearest supermarket or big box retailer to pick up a few items. So pack what you’ll need ahead of time to ensure everything arrives at the barbecue.

Also who is bringing the plates, cutlery, napkins, drinks, ice etc.? Yes those are all the things that round out your barbecue that need to go on the plan ahead list.

It may also be wise to have a backup plan in case of rain on the day of the barbecue. A quick rain shower or rolling thunderstorms is a daily occurrence in Florida during the summer months. Check the local weather report to see when rain is forecast. The information can help if you need to change the start or end time of the barbecue. You’ll also want to keep a close eye on the clouds if those attending the barbecue go out on a boat.

Barbecue Party Accessories

Bring a few board games for all to enjoy or a deck of cards to see who has the best hand. This is where the fun begins with plenty of laughter and great memories are made. Pose for a selfie or two to capture the moment.

Board games also come in handy while waiting for the weather to clear up outdoors.

And what’s a party without some good tunes on the speaker? Designate a DJ to make sure the music is playing and everyone gets to hear a favorite song. Create a play list to get the party started. Dancing is a good way to work off a few of those calories you enjoyed from the grill.

Don’t forget to plan for everyone to enjoy time in the sun or get out on the water. All that fun is sure to work up hearty appetites which will be ready to feast on a barbecue spread.

Let us know how we can help you plan a perfect summer barbecue party here at Castaways.


Plan Your Party Along the St. Johns River

Castaways On The River in Astor, Florida has space, outfitted with grills, to plan the perfect summer barbecue party. The resort has rental cottages and motel rooms to accommodate guests. Also inquire about our fleet of rental boats to get out on the St. Johns River to fish and to enjoy nature at area attractions like nearby freshwater springs. Castaways is nestled on the eastern edge of the Ocala National Forest, located between Ocala and Ormond Beach along State Road 40. Call Castaways On The River at (352) 759-3442 to book a rental boat, reserve rooms and to arrange additional plans.



What to Do During A Storm On A Boat

Storm season presents many challenges to Florida boaters. It’s best to be aware and prepared for what may come rather than being caught by surprise without an action plan.

A saying in Florida is true, it’s not if a storm is coming especially during the busy summer months, but rather when is it coming? Typically you can set your watch by Florida’s predictable afternoon summer storms. If you are heading out to enjoy a fun day on the water or to get in a little fishing, there are a few tips to follow to ensure you know what to do during a storm when boating.

Make Your Boating Plans Known:

Make sure someone knows your boating plan for the day. Whether it’s a family member not on the boat with you or the staff at the boat rental facility, inform others of where you are headed on the boat. In case a storm rolls in and you are unable to return, they will be able to notify authorities of where to search should you need assistance.

Make sure everyone has on a life vest. It’s Florida law for children age 6 and under to wear a life vest at all times on a boat.

Wear Life Vest While Boating:

This next tip is common sense, but few take time to heed it until it’s too late. Take a moment to put on a life vest or other personal flotation device (PFD). It simply can save your life if the weather turns bad and you are separated from the boat. And remember, it’s the law in Florida that children age 6 years and younger must wear an approved life vest while the vessel is underway.

Check the guidelines for life vests, life jackets, or personal flotation devices. Note: inflatable personal flotation devices are prohibited.

Note: The National Safe Boating Council promotes National Safe Boating Week annually in May.

The Boat U.S. Foundation is a reference for free online boater safety courses. In order to rent at boat at Castaways On The River, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 must have a boating safety card.

Check The Weather Before You Leave The Dock:

Be sure to check the weather for your planned boating day. A storm prediction may mean altering your plans a bit. Instead of going out in the afternoon, it may be best to boat in the morning and return to shore well ahead of the storm.

Be prepared of what to do in a storm while on a boat.
Be prepared of what to do in a storm while on a boat.

Be Prepared – Know What To Do On A Boat During a Storm:

It is not uncommon in Florida to have a fast moving storm approach without any warning. If you are caught out on the water, a survival kit of sorts may come in quite useful until you can make it back to shore. Include:

  • A secondary source of communication should the boat radio become disabled.
  • A backup power source is a good item to include in your kit.
  • Extra water and food to tide you over just in case.
  • Flashlights, a first aid kit.
During a storm it's advised to take down the top to prevent damage from high winds and lightning.
During a storm it’s advised to take down the top to prevent damage from high winds and lightning.

Take Down the Boat Top:

Usually the roll of storm clouds in Florida means lightning in most cases is not far behind. If your boat has a top, the high winds may make it dangerous to navigate and it becomes a target for lightning strikes. At the first rumble of thunder and increasing winds, it may be best to stop and take the boat top down. It may mean being wet as the rain falls, but it may make your return to shore safer.

Florida’s tropical climate and warm water temperatures are the perfect ingredients for lightning strikes. The state has the nickname as the Lightning Capital of the U.S. So when you see storm clouds moving in your direction keep an ear out for thunder and prepare to get to safety. It’s better to be cautious than to deal with the consequences of a lightning strike on open water.

Head to Shore Out Of The Storm:

Take a look around to see where you are when you realize a storm is approaching. Once you make the decision to head back, your return route may be altered to ensure the quickest and safest path. This is not the time to speed recklessly, you could cause unnecessary damage. During a storm, take your time and guide the boat safely back to shore.

Plan Your Boat Rental and Stay on the River

Spend the day boating along the St. Johns River from the dock at Castaways On the River here in Astor, Florida. We can help you with a checklist of Florida boating regulations, navigating what you need to know to rent a boat, and plan your stay with us. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and area travel plans today!

Your Ultimate Florida Boating Regulations Checklist

“The best boat to enjoy in Florida is someone else’s boat.”

The cost of ownership and upkeep for a boat is pricey, which is why Floridians and visitors alike enjoy the peace of mind that comes with renting a boat. The experience allows you to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the St. Johns River without the expense of boat ownership. Follow our Florida boating regulations checklist to help you get out on the water faster.

Florida boating regulations
Follow our Florida boating regulations checklist to help you get out on the water faster.

Check for a Valid Marina Rental Boat License

In Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) requires charter captains that rent boats to hold a valid boat license. This license allows rental boat operators to carry between four and 11 boaters on board, depending on which boat license they hold. Make sure you check with the charter captain before you rent a boat to inquire there is a valid boat license. Make sure the rental boats also have proper boat rental insurance.

Florida Boat Rental Age Cutoff

Each state is different when it comes to the requirement age and license requirements for boaters. Those wishing to rent a boat in Florida along the St. Johns River must be born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.

Complete an Approved Boating Safety Course

Those seeking to rent a boat and head out on the water must complete an approved boating safety course. The completion of the course allows you to obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the FWC. Find out answers to your boating card questions to help you pass the course.

If you are visiting from out of town and have boat certification from another state, you can receive a temporary Florida boating certificate from this list of Florida vendors.

Florida boating regulations
Floridians and visitors alike enjoy the peace of mind that comes with renting a boat.

Check the Boat for Damage

Before you take possession of the boat, make sure you assess the boat’s condition with the boat rental operator and document pre-existing issues with the boat so you are not made liable for boat repairs. Look for:

  • Scratches and dents
  • Motor or propeller damage
  • Seat and interior stains and tears
  • Windshield cracks

Review Proper Safety Equipment

All rental boats should come equipped with life jackets for every passenger on board. Discuss where the life jackets and other safety equipment for the boat are located before you leave the marina.

St. Johns River
Get on the St. Johns River to do some exploring and fishing in North Central Florida.

Rent a Boat

You have everything you need to take possession of a rental boat and get on the St. Johns River to do some exploring and fishing in North Central Florida. Rent a boat today at Castaways on the River, where a marina full of rentals boats is waiting for you. Castaways on the River also offers cottages and motel rooms along the river. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and area travel plans today!


10 Fishing New Year’s Resolutions

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” – John Buchan

Happy New Year! We know you have big plans to make 2017 another great fishing year on the St. Johns River in North Central Florida. Follow these 10 New Year’s fishing resolutions in 2017 to stay focused on the fish at hand and remember why fishing soothes your soul.

New Year’s fishing resolutions
St. Johns River fishing is all about taking time to unwind and to do some self-reflection.

Study Your Electronics

Let’s face it. If you want to be considered a serious angler in 2017, it is time to get to know the latest electronics that help your sport. An electronic depth finder will help you find where fish are hiding and topographical maps help you navigate the river’s bottom easily.

Barometers also help you measure the atmospheric pressure. When the atmosphere pressure rises or dips over the course of a few hours, fish are more active during that period. GPS and weather electronics should also be on every angler’s boat for safety reasons too.

Fish in the Moment

Fishing is all about taking some time to unwind and to do some self-reflection. Do not stress about where you found fish last year. Take a deep breath, enjoy all the St. Johns River has to offer and trust your fishing instincts while you do some exploring in new areas.

Keep Your Mind Open to New Techniques

We have all said it. “I’ve been fishing here for 10 years and know everything about how to fish here.” That is just not true though. Be open to new technology and take fishing advice from others in the New Year. At the end of the day, fishing should be exciting, fresh and fun. Don’t get stuck in a rut or fishing might become boring for you.

electronic depth finder
If you want to be considered a serious angler in 2017, it is time to get to know the latest electronics that help your sport.

Exercise on Off Fishing Days

We know, we know. Fishing is a sport. But for a good part of the day, you are sitting on a boat waiting for fish to grab your line. Try getting into an exercise regimen on your off fishing days. Strengthen those arms and legs this year and watch as your fishing friends are impressed with your newfound strength when you’re casting bait and reeling in the big one.

Get Your Tackle Box Organized

Most anglers have a mess of a tackle box that somehow works for them each and every year. But imagine if your tackle box was organized and efficient this year! That could make all the difference for an improved fishing day on the water. Take some pride in your sport and follow our tackle box guide to get started.

Help Others on the St. Johns River

There are so many fishers out there that get set in their ways and don’t like to divulge their fishing secrets. We would argue that is the wrong approach in this day and age. One of the best joys in the life of an angler should involve helping others learn the sport and watching them grow to appreciate the hobby as much as you do. Make some friends, be a fishing mentor and enjoy the smiles and appreciation on others faces this year as you teach them new tricks. Try participating in a river cleanup or being a volunteer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission too.

Take a Camera

Anglers are notorious for telling stories about the big fish they caught but never having the proof to back it up. Make a commitment in 2017 to always take a camera with you to document your catches and capture all of your fishing adventure moments with friends and loved ones on the St. Johns River.

man fishing on the river
Follow these 10 fishing New Year’s resolutions in 2017 to stay focused and remember why fishing soothes your soul.

Be More Patient

A true fisher knows fishing is a game of patience. Anglers can always use a little more patience so try to practice that mantra this year. Leave your bait in the water a little longer and don’t give up on a fishing spot too soon.

Make More Weekend Fishing Plans

Commit to getting away for longer than just a day. Plan more weekend or week-long fishing trips this year. Book a stay at Castaways on the River to enjoy a comfortable cottage or motel room that sits right along the beautiful St. Johns River.

Rent a Boat

Castaways on the River can handle all of your St. Johns River boat rental needs this year. The marina offers a variety of boats that are ready for use on the river today. The St. Johns River in Astor, Florida is a great place to do some serious fishing this year and practice your new fishing resolutions. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and lodging needs today!


How to Find the Perfect Christmas Tree in the Ocala National Forest

Oh Christmas tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging. If you have never experienced the fun and excitement of finding the perfect live Christmas tree as a family, we urge you to find and cut down the perfect tree in the Ocala National Forest in North Central Florida. It’s legal as long as you follow these guidelines.

Christmas tree Ocala National Forest
You can find the perfect Christmas tree in the Ocala National Forest near Astor, Florida.

Ocala National Forest Permits

The Ocala National Forest is a great place to find and cut down your perfect Christmas tree. The Ocala National Forest is protected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service. Special forest permits to cut down a Christmas tree can be obtained at the Lake George Ranger District Station or the Seminole Ranger District Station. Permits are $7 and are available from Thanksgiving Day through Dec. 23 each year.

Finding the Perfect Tree Takes Time

The Ocala National Forest has more than 380,000 acres of protected land. It takes a longer period of time to find the perfect tree in a forest full of native plants and wildlife. Rangers will provide you with a map for three Christmas tree harvesting areas that help narrow down your search parameters. Make sure your tree will fit in your living room before you cut it down. Trees in the forest can look deceiving.


Choose a Healthy Tree

A freshly cut Christmas tree will last longer than a tree that was cut down weeks ago and transported to a tree lot. Look for trees that do not have a lot of dead or browning needles. Gently stroke branches to make sure the needles bend and don’t fall off the tree.

Check for Live Animals

Before you begin the process of cutting down your tree, shake it and inspect it for live animals that may have made your Christmas tree their home. The last thing you want to do is place your new tree inside your home and discover there is a squirrel inside it.


Take a Tarp

Place a tarp on the ground on the location where you anticipate your tree will fall when you cut it down. This will help your tree from falling into dirt and grass in the forest, which makes bringing the tree home much less messy.

Christmas tree Ocala National Forest
Make sure you take the proper tools to cut down your Christmas tree.

Bring Tools

Don’t pull a Clark W. Griswold and forget to bring something to cut down your tree. You don’t want to dig up a tree and its root system. Take one of the following with you to make your job much easier.

  • Battery-operated handsaw
  • Battery-powered chainsaw
  • Hatchet
  • Bow saw
  • Handsaw

Remember to bring along a pair of work gloves and some rope to secure the tree to your vehicle.


Do Not Create Trunk Base Friction

Refrain from using reciprocal saws or any blade that moves so fast it creates friction. Too much blade friction causes the truck to get too hot, which seals the trunk up with hot sap that acts like a permanent glue to prevent your tree from absorbing water.

Cutting Your Tree for the Base

Using a handsaw or one of the above methods to cut your tree trunk, cut approximately a half-inch off the bottom of the tree trunk before putting your tree in its base. This allows the tree to absorb more water.

Do not cut the trunk base at an angle or a V-shape and don’t drill a hole in the base. These methods actually make it more difficult for your tree to absorb water.

Mount Your Tree Within 8 Hours

A fresh tree can go without water for eight hours after you cut it down before further water absorption becomes more difficult. Place your tree in a safe stand that can hold a quart of water for every inch in trunk diameter.

Do not remove the bark of the tree to get the base to fit in the tree stand. The bark is the layer that absorbs the most water.

Christmas tree Ocala National Forest
Before you find the right Christmas tree, make sure you spend some time in nature along the St. Johns River.

Allow the Tree to Settle

Once the tree is safely and securely in the tree stand, allow it to settle into its shape or fall, for anywhere from an hour to overnight before you begin decorating the tree. This allows the branches to settle.

Ensure Christmas Tree Safety

Inspect light cords and make sure they are not frayed before you weave the lights into the tree. Keep your tree away from heat sources and also never leave your home unattended with the Christmas tree lights on.


Plan a Holiday Trip Along the St. Johns River

Are you looking to get away for a holiday trip that culminates with finding the perfect Christmas tree in the Ocala National Forest? Before you find the right tree, make sure you spend some time in nature along the St. Johns River.

Castaways on the River offers comfortable cottages and motel rooms right along the St. Johns River near the Ocala National Forest. Castaways also has a fleet full of rental boats for your use. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to book your Christmas tree adventure trip today!


5 Must Stop Dining Spots Along the St. Johns River

The St. Johns River in North Central Florida is a beautiful place to enjoy nature and a nice meal along the river. The fall season and cooler temperatures make November a great time of year to experience the area. We have the five must-stop dining spots along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida that should be on your list.

dining along st. johns river feature image
We have the five must-stop dining spots along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida that should be on your list.

Castaways Restaurant

Known as a quaint restaurant near the St. Johns River, Castaways Restaurant offers a great seafood menu selection. Castaways is known for its menu variety. The restaurant also offers a great salad bar, fresh seafood sandwiches, and drinks at the upstairs bar that longtime patrons say are “generous.” Make sure you head to the restaurant on Friday for live entertainment.

Menu selection tip: Try the bacon-wrapped shrimp and the lobster bisque.

Blackwater Inn Restaurant & Lounge

Another restaurant that sits directly on the banks of the St. Johns River, the Blackwater Inn Restaurant and Lounge has quaint outdoor seating areas that are built within the shade of big trees and offer spectacular views of the river. A haven for fresh seafood the Blackwater Inn offers everything from fresh seafood platters and catfish fillets to sirloin steaks on its menu. Longtime patrons rave about the Blackwater Inn’s hush puppies recipe too. Arrive by boat and take a seat at the bar or the restaurant. Looking for something different and unique to the North Central Florida area? Try the frog legs for an appetizer and the grilled quail or gator tail for an entree. Don’t leave the table without trying a piece of the Chocolate Drizzled Key Lime Pie for dessert. You won’t be disappointed.

dining along st. johns river image
November is a great time of year to enjoy fresh seafood dining along the St. Johns River.

Old Sugar Mill & Griddle House

You’ve hit the breakfast jackpot when you visit Old Sugar Mill Restaurant & Bakery. Known as the Old Spanish Sugar Mill to locals, it’s a unique restaurant inside De Leon Springs State Park that has working griddles at each table to make your fresh pancakes. Servers bring you pitchers of homemade Early American pancake batters made from five fresh stone ground flour to pour on your hot griddle and flip right at your table. You can order an assortment of blueberries, bananas, chocolate chips, apples, and more to add to your special pancakes. The restaurant also serves up some tasty sausage, bacon, ham, and eggs. Don’t forget to take home some homemade bread and dessert treats at the homemade bakery before you leave.

The Old Sugar Mill also offers an assortment of salads and fresh sandwiches and burgers for lunch.

Arrival Tip: Unless you’re arriving by boat, entry to the Old Sugar Mill Restaurant & Bakery requires you to pay $14 per person for entry to De Leon State Park. Children under four are free. Before or after your meal, immerse yourself in the history of De Leon Springs State Park, which is thought to be the site where Ponce De Leon discovered his famous Fountain of Youth.

Sparky’s Place Restaurant

Sparky’s Place Restaurant on Highway 40 near the St. Johns River is known for serving the best pizza along the river. Sparky’s makes homemade sauces and fresh dough to serve up pizza that longtime patrons can’t live without. It’s a great place to visit and refuel after a day of swimming and exploring at Juniper Springs. If you’re a burger aficionado, you must order the Swamp Burge on the menu, which comes topped with fries topped with cheese, bacon, and special sauce.

Sparky’s is also known for its breakfast offerings. Celebrate the Florida Black Bears of the nearby Ocala National Forest by ordering some bear cakes (pancakes with berries and nuts) and red neck biscuits, which are served with sausage, fried eggs, and sausage gravy.

dining along st. johns river fish sandwich
The St. Johns River area near Astor, FL is known for its fresh seafood offerings.

Essex Seafood House

Essex House Seafood House is known for its fresh seafood menu offerings. Their most popular offering is their whole belly fried clams appetizer, which can also act as a meal. Many call their New England-style seafood the best you can find outside of New England.

Don’t forget to bring cash. Bikers are welcome here too.

Book Your St. Johns River Visit

Is your mouth watering now from all the fresh seafood and other menu offerings available to you along the St. Johns River? It’s time to book a stay at Castaways on the River to do some fishing and rent a boat. We offer comfortable cottages and motel rooms so you can enjoy the area and spend time on the river and at the local restaurants. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and fishing adventure today.