- O. A. Mygatt, 1889
In the late 1980s, editor Frank Oppel put together a collection of magazine articles about Florida, titled "Tales of Old Florida."
The original were between 1870 and 1911; the majority average around 1889 and 1903. The book was out of print for years and has recently been reissued.
This is a fascinating book about the early history of Florida. Many of the articles are about fishing, and many of those take place on the Indian River, thanks to Flagler's railroad.
The quote above is from an article written by one of two fishing buddies weary of New York City winters.
The richness of wildlife in the Indian River of the time is stunning - the author puts more than 300 pounds of channel bass (redfish) in his boat during a solo afternoon trip.
The articles describe tarpon killed and scaled by the dozens. Sharks are harpooned for sport.
Manta rays are described as sea vampires and hunted with fear, though the thought of leaping mantas next to the creaky wooden boats of the day might indeed shake some nerves.
Even at that time, there was some wrestling with the concepts of conservation and wildlife management, though not at today's standards.
One article about a cruise up the St. John's River describes "wicked" passengers shooting rifles at anything that moves. Another article mentions that the wildlife along the river has become scarce due to cruising shooters.
There is no commentary before each article; each is presented as-is, with just the title and year, giving full immersion into the time period.
This includes the warts of the time: race relations are all over the map, from outright derision to casual, and often patronizing, acceptance.
For modern Florida anglers, the book is a history lesson of how things used to be when local fishing areas were just beginning to be tested, and fish such as snook and tarpon were starting to be considered worthy of battle for sport. The excitement of these early fishermen will be familiar to us all.
"Tales of Old Florida," edited by Frank Oppel, published by Book Sales, Inc. is available online and at local bookstores.
Cobia are spreading out well in area waters. Catches are being reported all over Brevard, from Port Canaveral to Sebastian. Eel-like lures, blue crabs whole or half, and live pins are working if the water is clear and calm enough to see them. Red snapper are being caught from 120 feet on out.
Whiting are the most reliable surf fish lately, and are being caught from the beaches to inside the inlets, even well into the river. Fish live shrimp or sand fleas off the coquina rocks from Patrick AFB to Eau Gallie, and pompano and sheepshead may join the whiting.
Trout and redfish are biting well as the river warms. Live shrimp or small pins work well for the trout and redfish. Gold spoons may get a few strikes as well. Snook catches have been scattered along the river, especially in their comfort zones near mangrove roots. As the weather stays good, the snook should stay warmed up.
Speck catches are still good on cut worms and small jigs. Bass are starting to bite in Brevard lakes when fishing around drop-offs. The depth change doesn't have to be huge, just enough to generate an ambush point.
Peter Krause has fished all over the Florida ever since his childhood, when he pulled bream out of the Everglades canals .He has fished Brevard waters for more than 10 years. Peter can be contacted at email@example.com. Pictures of great catches can also be sent to him at that address.