Zenfolio | April L. Gustetter | BULLFROG CREEK / HILLSBOROUGH BAY - Gibsonton, Fla.

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Bullfrog Creek Bait & Tackle
11307 Us Hwy 41
Gibsonton, FL 33435
(813) 671-8226
Free Parking (no time limit on roadside)
Port-o-potty inside gate

Immediately south of the Alafia River and leading to Hillsborough Bay, Bullfrog Creek was purchased in 2001 and co-owned by Hillsborough County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District as part of the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.

The 85-acre site is comprised of approximately 30 acres of oligohaline (water with salt concentrations from 0.5 to 5.0 parts per thousand, due to ocean-derived salts), estuarine and freshwater wetlands, and the remaining acreage is predominately pine flatwoods and oak hammocks. The Lower Bullfrog Creek site is unique within Tampa Bay, containing both freshwater wetlands and pin flatwoods habitats. Species such as the White Ibis utilize both habitats to live and raise their young. The uplands are home to many animal species, including the endangered Gopher Tortoise, Eastern Indigo Snake, and the Bobcat.

Approximately five acres of the site lie along the shoreline of Bullfrog Creek, supporting significant natural systems including oligohaline areas and freshwater wetlands. The oligohaline habitats maintain mangrove communities which are primary nursery areas for juvenile fish, such as Red Drum, Snook, Mullet, and Tarpon. Shellfish, including oysters and bivalves, flourish in these low-salinity areas as well. Bird species, including Comorants, Herons, Egrets, Anhingas, the Brown Pelican (a species of special concern), and the endangered Roseate Spoonbill depend on the mangrove habitats to feed, rest, and nest.

Like all estuaries (often called "nurseries of the sea"), Hillsborough Bay is a place where freshwater and saltwater mix. It is also famous for its wildlife, including its bird population and the opportunities it offers fishermen. Located in the northeastern corner of Tampa Bay, with life-giving nutrients pouring into it from strong river flows from the Hillsborough River, the Alafia River, Bullfrog Creek, and other streams, the bay is rich with nutrients, which foster millions of tiny plants and animals, the beginnings of a vibrant food chain. Located next to the City of Tampa and its port facilities, portions of Hillsborough Bay are well known nationwide for hosting large populations of migrating and wintering birds, as well as the fabulous bird colonies on the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary and the Tampa Port Authority Spoil Islands 2D and 3D. Industrial facilities including the Mosaic Fertilizer plant in Riverview, two major Tampa Electric Company power plants (Bayside and Apollo Beach), phosphate, metal-recycling, chemical storage, and gasoline terminals, ship maintenance operations, and large cruise ship terminals border the bay. Since the Clean Water Act of the 1970s, major efforts to filter stormwater and reduce pollution entering Hillsborough Bay, and the completion of the advanced wastewater treatment facility for the City of Tampa, have successfully resulted in cleaner water.

As a result, seagrass beds are again growing in portions of Hillsborough Bay. Oysterbars along shorelines and in the Kitchen, McKay Bay, and south of MacDill Air Force Bay also improve water quality by filter-feeding. Schools of fish are frequently noted, and the entire bay ecosystem is recovering in health. Crabbers ply their trade, harvesting blue and stone crabs. Restoration projects completed in Hillsborough Bay have created and replanted mangrove and marsh grass shorelines. But the story of Hillsborough Bay is not completed yet. All of us need to dedicate ourselves to continue to protect this beautiful, vibrant, and life-filled Hillsborough Bay treasure.
Hillsborough Bay ranks as one of the most important areas in the U.S. due to its biological significance. This was my tour to and from.Barely out of the launch area and I'm treated to a nook (or was it a cranny?) ... apparently inhabited by less than wild life.Coming out of the nook/cranny was more proof of civilization, though nothing in this area spoke of opulence.This was a huge derelict boat attached to someone's back yard...Had to get closer......to really appreciate it details.A view of the Hillsborough Bay from Bullfrog Creek.And now for a tour through the mangrove tunnels......can't be skittish about tight spaces......or impatient, as it's slow going......and it can get a little buggy in there......and there's a chance of getting stuck......but it is so worth the trip for the adventure of getting to the other side!Another view of the Hillsborough Bay and a little island the water birds love.This guy was hauling a net as he rowed...said he had already caught lunch and dinner!300-500 pairs of Brown Pelicans nest every spring in trees on the Alafia Bank not far from Bullfrog Creek.Mangroves are environmental fortresses protecting coastal areas from erosion and storm surges (esp. during hurricanes).The massive root system is efficient at dissipating wave energy, slowing tidal water......allowing beneficial sediment to remain when the tide ebbs and flows, self-creating the mangrove environment.The unique ecosystem found in the intricate mesh of mangrove roots offers the required hard surface for anchoring while organisms like oysters and barnacles filter feed.