Ahhhh, my first #floridafriday for awhile. And what better to kick the series back off than a fishing trip to the Everglades?
My family on my mom’s side has a history of fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands. This goes back to the 1960s, when my mom’s dad’s cousin, Lucy Brinkman (who the rest of us would follow to Florida) came down with her husband Magnus, to Naples.
Lucy, who died last year at the age of 99, was an avid outdoorswoman. In Wisconsin, she would join the men for hunting trips. And in Florida, she loved fishing. Magnus did not love fishing, so she found a guide on her own. I never met C.B. (name shortened to protect the not-so-innocent), but he was the stuff legendary Everglades fishing guides are made of. In the 60s and 70s, drug trade in the Everglades was thriving, and boat captains could make a little on the side by picking up packages dropped in the water and not asking questions. C.B. did get caught and spent some time in clinker, but he provided some great trips both before and after his little prison stint. After my grandfather moved to Naples, he became Cousin Lucy’s fishing buddy. My mom and aunt would join them for trips when they were down in Florida for the holidays. Lucy was a big hit with the guides because she was a gourmet cook (who says tomboys can’t pull their weight with domestic duties?!) and would make outstanding sandwiches and treats to bring on the boat for the captains. Plus, she would pack along plenty of beer.
When I got to college, I was coming down to Florida regularly and became curious in these fishing trips. My mom found a different fishing guide, C.O. who was a distant relative of C.B.s. Her, my aunt and myself went out with him and I loved it the first time. I caught a decent number of fish despite having no experience, and the setting could not be more tranquil and beautiful. We went every Florida visit until I left for Swaziland.
Yesterday, we recreated the experience yet again with myself, Mom, Younes, nephew Matt and yet another guide. H.B. is related to both C.B. and C.O. and provided us with yet another great day.
We left the dock at about 8:20 and powered far into the Ten Thousand Islands. In the morning chill, we tried our luck at our first spot and had no luck. We moved to a trout hole. Ka-boom. The first catch was Younes’ and funnily, he almost missed it. He cast his line and left it sitting propped in the boat and he wandered around taking video and pictures. I noticed something pulling his line. “YOUNES GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW AND GET YOUR FISH,” I screamed. He ran back and pulled in a big, beautiful trout. Next, Matt, started catching trout after trout. It seemed he would cast his line and immediately come up with something. Younes got a few more trout too. Mom and I were having zero luck. She kept getting catfish (freshwater catfish is what’s good to eat; saltwater catfish is not) and I kept getting bites that would steal my bait and get away before I could reel them in (and at one point I think a bull shark got my fish, I brought my line in and it was cut clear through by some very sharp teeth.) We consoled ourselves that we were still earning our dinner more than my dad and brother, who were at home. They both maintain that there is no reason to catch fish when you could go to the store and buy them. Then Mom finally got three trout. Would I be the only one to get nothing? Finally, another pull on my line. I reeled as fast as I could with my damaged left arm (thx cancer surgeries!) and worried aloud “Will this get away too?” “Don’t think about that, just bring it in!” Mom said. And I did. A perfectly good trout, finally. And just in time – we were at our bag limit of 16 per 4 people.
With all us us having at least one catch, we unpacked lunch and ate. I’m not sure the sandwiches I made were up to Lucy Brinkman standards, but everyone seemed to like them. We moved to a fishing hole where we could get some different fish – redfish, maybe even snapper. I got a bite immediately and thought my luck might be changing, but alas, it was a danged catfish. We caught nothing but catfish so we moved on – and only got more catfish, with the exception on the tiny snapper and blue crab Younes got (both of which we threw back.) By 2:30, I was sweaty, tired and over it. Thankfully it was time to head back. I finally cracked one of the cold beers we had packed and it tasted SO GOOD. H.B. declined the beer we packed for him (our routine with C.O. was he would only partake in half a beer on the way back to the dock and C.B.declined no beers, ever). We were back by 3, and H.B. filleted 13/16 of our trouts, leaving Younes 3 whole trouts to cook that night.
We returned sun soaked and happy. I snarked to my brother, “Your child just caught your dinner, what did you do today?” He shot back: “Worked from home to pay for the roof over his head.” CHECKMATE DUDE. Younes roasted the whole trout and we had a very excellent dinner indeed, to cap off a very excellent day.
Grandpa Rothe and Cousin Lucy
From my college days