Fishing the Everglades in the Sixties

Recreation in the Sixties

In front of the family fishing boat after a day on the Atlantic Ocean
In front of the family fishing boat after a day on the Atlantic Ocean | Source

Family Outings

Living in the southernmost city in the USA provided easy access to some of the area's best fishing places, including Big Pine Key, Sugarloaf Key and Islamorada where we often launched our boat.

Friday night before our Saturday outing, we'd pack the fishing poles, life jackets and safety gear safely into the bow of the boat along with the rubber anchor, then, check our tackle boxes to be sure we there was an adequate supply of leaders, sinkers, lures and hooks.

Memories of those days return with the smell of diesel gasoline and the salty brine of the ocean's spray.

Three Proud Fishermen with a Redfish

After a day in the Everglades, the fishermen display this prized Redfish. Standing at the head of the fish is my Dad with two men from The Herald.
After a day in the Everglades, the fishermen display this prized Redfish. Standing at the head of the fish is my Dad with two men from The Herald. | Source

Getting an Early Start

The morning would start at four am with the smell of fresh brewed coffee perking in Aunt Jessie's tiny kitchen. On the counter, tall thermoses waited to be filled with the steaming liquid, one prepared black, for Uncle Forrest. A second six-cup thermos, with cream and sugar added, was for the rest of us.

Aunt Jessie would prepare fried chicken, sizzled to perfection in her cast iron skillet the night before. The pieces, neatly wrapped in foil, were tucked into the picnic basket along with slices of homemade pound cake, boiled eggs, oatmeal cookies, dill pickles and other goodies from her pantry.

Uncle Forrest and Aunt Jessie

Uncle Forrest and Aunt Jessie at a wedding in 1967. Notice the white gloves.
Uncle Forrest and Aunt Jessie at a wedding in 1967. Notice the white gloves. | Source

Secret Fishing Spots

Uncle Forrest ran one of the largest paper routes for The Miami Herald. His vast memory included the names and addresses of thousands of customers. In the circles of management at The Herald, he was highly regarded for knowing the best fishing holes in the mysterious Florida Everglades.

Many weekends, the newspaper executives chartered a fishing trip on his boat, footing the bill for fuel and bait. If we were visiting from the Keys, my Dad, brother and I would be invited along.

Aunt Jessie's Pound Cake

Aunt Jessie's homemade pound cake waiting to be sliced and packed up for the picnic basket.
Aunt Jessie's homemade pound cake waiting to be sliced and packed up for the picnic basket. | Source

Don's Bait and Tackle

On the way to the Everglades, we stopped at Don's Bait and Tackle and filled up the gas tanks for the boat. Uncle Forrest was a regular, which ensured that the largest, zippiest shrimp found their way into our bait buckets. Within the green-encrusted walls of the bait vaults, thousands of live shrimp swam freely. The odor of brine filled the air as we scooped up dozens of shrimp for the day. We'd load the coolers with crushed ice and canned sodas and pick out a candy bar to enjoy later.

Dawn would be peeking over the horizon by the time we''d launch the boat at the Flamingo dock in the Everglades National Park. Once on board, someone would move the boat trailer from the launching area and we'd set out on the high seas.

Uncle Forrest motored slowly through the No Wake Zone, using the time to apply a heavy coat of red lipstick as protection from the blistering, tropical sun. He made no attempt to stay within lip lines which gave him a distinctive, if odd appearance.

At the point where he turned his ball cap around with the bill toward the back, it was time to grab hold of something solid if we wanted to remain on board. As the throttle went all the way forward, we'd soar to top speed under the power of twin Mercury outboard motors.

Packing the Lunch

A thermos of hot coffee was always on board for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon.
A thermos of hot coffee was always on board for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon. | Source

In The Zone

The boat slowed to a creeping crawl as we inched closer to the lone group of mangroves. The mosquitoes that found this place first made a strong play defending their territory. The noise of slapping and swatting in the boat would surely drive any fish out of the area.

Uncle Forrest calmly baited his hook and without regard to the biting insects, he cast a perfect arc into the still water near the bank. Moments later, a fish struck. With practiced skill, he reeled a nice sized snapper into the boat, at which point, we grabbed for our fishing poles and headed to the bait bucket, no further thought to the horde of blighting buggers. We were in the zone.

By psyberartist (live bait  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By psyberartist (live bait Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Live Bait

My job was to capture the live shrimp from the aerated bait buckets and hand the bait to those who were fishing. They would skewer the wiggly creature on their hooks weighted with a lead sinker to carry it to the bottom. Baited lines in place on the bottom, it wasn't long before a series of small tugs would bend the poles as fish took off with the bait. That began the battle of an arduous struggle with nature and survival of the fittest.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken in the US, By Arnold Gatilao from Fremont, CA, USA (Fried Chicken) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Fried Chicken in the US, By Arnold Gatilao from Fremont, CA, USA (Fried Chicken) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

At The Dock

The day would always yield an ice chest filled to overflowing with their salt water catch of Snook, snapper, reds, grouper, yellow tails and grunts. Catfish and barracuda never made it into the boat. Instead, they met their demise at the hull keeping their dangerously sharp and poisonous appendages out of harms way.

We'd pull into the dock near dusk with sunburned heads, necks and arms, our throats parched from tasting the mist of the ocean's spray. Once the boat was loaded onto the trailer, we'd choose our pick of the catch from where the fish rested on ice in the cooler. The men, who sharpened their knives on whit stones, would begin gutting the fish, tossing aside the waste to the squawking horde of sea gulls at the dock.

On the way home, listening to music on the AM radio, singing and reliving highlights from the day, we made the hour's journey back to Aunt Jessie's, towing the boat behind the 1959 Rambler.

The Florida Keys

First sighted by Spanish adventurers on May 15th 1513, the Florida Keys were named Los Martires (The Martyrs) - a name which was to prove prophetic over the next few centuries.

Selling the Excess Catch

Once home, Uncle Forrest backed the trailer down the long, gravel driveway where lines of people would form following his return. News traveled fast in the small community of South Miami.

We'd unload the coolers, while he pulled the old weight scale out of the battered wood barn, held upright by decades of clutter and debris. Its musty depths housed an array of spiders and slithering creatures disturbed now by the search.

The sale of fish would start with the first customer in line pointing out his favorite fish. Uncle Forrest would toss it onto the wobbly scale and announce the weight to the waiting buyer. The price, never more than couple of dollars, defrayed the expenses of the day's adventure.

How To Do the Florida Keys

A Fish in Every Pan

As evening turned into night, Aunt Jessie would retrieve the choice fillets we'd set aside for our family, destined for a fish fry in the near future. While neighbors inched ever closer to the diminishing supply of fresh caught fish we would drift one by one to the house to shower and head for our sleeping bags on the terrazzo floor of their Florida room.

Uncle Forrest always made sure that everyone left with a nice fish to cook whether they had enough money with them or not. Beneath the booming voice and smear of lipstick under a sunburned nose, a generous spirit and the kind heart of a true fisherman rested.

Still Fishing After all those Years

Fishing in Florida
Fishing in Florida | Source

Notes

  1. Redfish, a common name for several species of fish. It is most commonly applied to certain deep-sea rockfish in the genus Sebastes, or the reef dwelling snappers in the genus Lutjanus.
  2. Ten key facts about Red Snapper
  3. Islamorada, Florida

© 2011 Peg Cole

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Comments 34 comments

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

What a fantastic story. You have shared one of your treasured memories, thank you. Ice chest full of fish and lines of happy customers, sounds like a wonderful way to spend the days of summers, now passed.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi mckbirdbks! Thank you so much for stopping by. We did make a lot of incredible memories at the time that seemed just like everyday but now live in special places. Writing this really brought back some nice ones and even better, nice people to share them with.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Oh, for the love of the fifties and early sixties, Peg, and your Uncle Forrest must have been a man among men! One of those people we all treasure. Thanks for a really great trip down memory lane. Enjoyed the 11 seconds of Forrest Gump too. Great hub, Peg!


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Growing up in the 60's was a Good time and this Hub is truly a testament to that. This was such a Fun read PegCole...Your Aunt and Uncle seemed like such Wonderful people who enjoyed life and Fishing! Thanks for sharing your fond Memories.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi SubRon7,

Nice to see you here and thanks for reading this bit about Uncle Forrest. He was certainly a character. I hold dear so many memories of visiting them and the road trip we made to get there from the keys. Good times. And I loved Forrest Gump too - "That's my boat!"


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

What a wonderful vivid picture you paint of South Florida "back then" and the lifestyle of the day. Well done. Lynda


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello B.

I loved them both. Aunt Jessie was an amazing woman, so much fun to be around and funny too. Actually she was my Grandmother's sister, my Dad's Aunt. She told me so many stories about our family and her family being one of 14 children. I spent some time with Aunt Jessie's mother who was born in the late 1860s; she was nearly 90 when I met her and she told me stories about the Indians visiting towns carrying their papooses on their backs.

Retelling these fishing stories really brought back some great times for me. Thanks for reading and for your sweet comments.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Lynda, Why thank you. It was how we lived and grew up in the Keys. Everything was on Key West time, no rush, no hurry. I rode my bicycle to get everywhere. I miss those simpler times. So nice to see you here today. Sure miss our old timers here as well.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

This is a wonderful account of precious,fun times. I really enjoyed this hub. Rated awesome.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hey there Pamela99, Thank you so much for stopping by today. I appreciate your kind words.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California

I love this hub! Such wonderful visual aspects and rich content about life surrounding salt water fishing.

"His old weight scale would find its way out of the battered wooden barn, standing upright by sheer will power alone; its musty depths held an array of spiders and slithering creatures disturbed now by the search."

Now that's writing!

UP and everything else Peg.

Cheers~

K9


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Well I'm blushing, K9. Thank you for the high praise and for stopping here today. The smell of that old barn still lives in my mind, as pungent as it was then. It's funny how smells bring back memories, fresh mown grass, ocean mists, early garden dew.

Again, thank you for your generous words.

Peg


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California

You are really on to something when you talk about our sense of smell. It is the one sense that we carry with us that has life-long memory. From a law enforcement point of view, many successful investigations have been solved around what a witness had "smelled" during a crime. It truly is a gift as well as a curse, the sense of smell. (Thank you Mr. Monk!)

I Really enjoy your work Peg~

K9


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Sniffing out criminals? Hunh! How cool that you have a background in law enforcement. And it may be the basis for the saying, "Something just doesn't smell right".

Thank you again, for dropping by with a nice word or two. I enjoy reading your work as well. You know I would, being such a dog lover. Cheers.

Peg


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

This was so beautiful. Very well written and I am glad to know that you love fishing. Actually I had wrote about fish. I thought we have the same passion with this topic. Well done, my friend. Rated up!

Prasetio


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Prasetio my dear, How nice to see you today. I will look up your hub on fish as I have not seen it yet. It's been a very long time since I went fishing but it really was an adventure back then. Thank you for the nice comment.

Peg


Howard S. profile image

Howard S. 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas, and Asia

Very interesting. We must be not more a year apart age-wise and a mile or two apart when we lived in S. Miami. With a barn and a dirt drive, though, I think you were the other side of the tracks. I guess I don't really know where Perrine was apart from the shopping center. We lived a bit south of that--Franjo at Caribbean.

Back then, I hated salt water, but in my 20's developed some expertise in plants native to the everglades hammocks. Years later, I learned to enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving coral reefs on small islands in the SE Pacific. Can't do any of that here in Dallas!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Howard, really, Franjo Road? We probably stood at the bus stop together to get to high school. That is mind boggling to run across someone from the old neighborhood. Amazing. Cutler Ridge Shopping Center on Caribbean was where I started my first job at Neisner's! Wow.

Aunt Jessie lived on the "other side of the tracks" and had moved there in the 1940s when it was still a good neighborhood, although mighty close to the highway. That was it. That's all there was to Perrine. You didn't miss it.

Snorkeling and scuba diving sounds great. Good thing you got over your salt water thing and was able to enjoy some of the interesting places you lived. Nice to see you today.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Great new avatar Peg!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hey Mck - Thanks! That one always makes me smile. Nice to see you today. I'm off to the Farmer's Market for 1st Saturday of the month. Enjoy the day! Peg


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Peg,

Loved this personal account of fishing in the Everglades back in the 1960's with your Uncle Forrest. I'll bet that those fish fries made by your Aunt Jessie were wonderful at the end of a busy fishing day. Sounds like your uncle was a really generous man sharing his catch of the day with people whether they had enough money to pay for it or not. Really enjoyed reading about your memories of those fine days.

I added a link from this hub to my latest published one about The Water World of the 3 National Parks in Florida. Hopefully more people will find your excellent hub and read it. Sharing it with my followers plus voting this up, useful, beautiful and interesting.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Peggy, what a wonderful surprise to find you here today on this fishing hub. Aunt Jessie and Uncle Forrest were great. I miss them both so much. Thank you for sharing this hub and for the link to yours about the National Parks in Florida. I will be checking that out and linking as well.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

This account of your days fishing in the everglades was such a joy to read. I will certainly share this so that others can enjoy it as much as I have.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Peg, you sure know how to put memories into an interesting story. Those must have been awesome days with your uncle. I enjoyed reading.


Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

The Keys is a place that I have always wanted to see but haven't been there. I laughed when I saw the picture of the thermoses because I remember them well. My mom probably still has one of those in her house. We didn't fish in our family but have other similar stories. Enjoyed this.


esmonaco profile image

esmonaco 2 years ago from Lakewood New York

What a very interesting story, thanks for sharing your memories of fishing. I think I would have gone just for the lunch your aunt packed :)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Audrey, Thank you so much for finding this hub and commenting today. It gave me an opportunity to review and reread it as well as relive the memories. Strange that just today I again ran across this picture of Aunt Jessie and Uncle Forrest in my box of family photos.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Phyllis, Well, thank you very much. I certainly appreciate your visit and thoughtful comment. Uncle Forrest and Aunt Jessie were favorite relatives from my childhood, that's for sure.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi there Paula, Growing up in the Keys was an incredible experience that I never imagined at the time it happened. Looking back, there were so many extraordinary things associated with living near the water and a Navy base. Thank you so much for the lovely comment about the thermos your Mom may still have hidden in her cupboards. I still use mine when I can.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Esmonaco, Indeed, Aunt Jessie made a wonderful lunch and her pound cake was definitely the highlight of the trip. Thanks for dropping by and for taking time to comment.


PapaJohn2U profile image

PapaJohn2U 2 years ago from New Jersey

Peg, thanks for yet another exquisitely well told story! You are truly a master!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello PapaJohn2U, Those truly were the good times, weren't they? Nice to see you here, brother.


Redneck Lady Luck profile image

Redneck Lady Luck 11 months ago from Canada

What a wonderful place to grow up.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 months ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you, Redneck Lady Luck. I appreciate you taking the time to drop by and comment.

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    Peg Cole (PegCole17)1,335 Followers
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    Peg is the daughter of a military officer who served in the US Navy. She grew up in a variety of cities throughout the southeastern U.S..



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