Rays caught on drone video near Marco

Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-24 18:42:23-05

Thousands of cownose rays flocked to Marco Island over the weekend, causing quite a spectacle in the waters surrounding the Pelican Pier, not far from the Jolley Bridge. For Mike Smith, a new resident on Marco, it was a perfect opportunity to capture great footage of the migrating rays with his drone camera.

"I didn't even know what to expect when we got down there," Smith said. "It was something amazing, I'd never seen it before."

The massive school of cownose rays had been hanging around since Saturday. Chris Hadraba, owner of the Pelican Pier, said his employee Kaylee Crisp used a GoPro camera to get video from a different perspective.

"She got a GoPro, put it under the water, and was able to get some great footage of them swimming together," Hadraba said. "It almost looks like you could have walked across the water."

On Sunday, beachgoer Brad Whitlow captured video of a large pack of sharks right off of a beach in the panhandle, only yards away from where his kids had been playing in the water. But the sharks seemed to be chasing bait fish that were trying to escape in the shallows.

"Absolutely normal," said Mike Bauer, Natural Resources Manager for the City of Naples. "They'll follow bait, and someone will catch them when they get in a school of bait and see a feeding frenzy."

Bauer said that like the shark feeding frenzy, the huge gang of cownose rays is perfectly natural.

"They'll migrate to the south in the winter time, and then move back north in the spring," he said.

The cownose rays had already moved farther south by Tuesday.