The Waterways Are Filled With Boats of Every Size, Shape and Color

By Jonie Maschek

On a sultry summer day I have viewed many boats on the waterway.

I found boats of many shapes and sizes: house boats, sailboats, canoes, catamarans, pontoons, mullet boats, yachts to plain o’ row boats.

Gone are the days of hand made boats. Is it a dying art? Not really, I remember Ken Robertson who lived south of Ruskin, who built custom made boats. He finally sold his business and I really don’t know if he is still building boats or not.

He learned the craft from older men such as Eddie Roberts of Pass-A-Grille, Dick Catletta and Gene Turner both of St. Petersburg. These men have either retired or have passed away.

In Tarpon Springs many of the o’timers built their own boats.

There are people on the East Coast who custom build boats and many are built in California and Europe.

I’m sure today boat builders use machines instead of their hands as the o’timers did.

Back in the 1800s the Florida Indians made their boats out of logs. They carved out the center and used poles and paddles to move them in the rivers.

Many fish were speared in the early days of fishing. Indians also used bow and arrows to catch fish. They made their spears from oyster shells and the arrow heads from stones.

In today’s world, the first time some people heard of poles was from C-Bug, who came up with poles to pole boats in Cockroach Bay so as not to disturb the seagrass.

As I look back in history, I recall the days before boats had motors; the days of commercial fisherman who poled their boats and set nets; it was the days before fancy reels, poles, lines, thousands different hooks, lures, jigs, bobbers and bait shops. It was the time when they went fishing, taking a cook with them, making a lean-to for the crew to sleep under and would camp out for days at a time. Some had big wooden barrels to salt down their catches. Other had smaller boats and the anglers would take their catches to the ice house in the middle of the Bay. Someone at the ice house would take the daily catches to a boat anchored in the Bay who would then take a load of fish to the markets in Tampa.

Stories from pioneers relate the multitude of fish in the waterways. They said there were so many fish that they jumped into their boats.

Others boasted of the huge amount of catches netted in one hour.

Did you know Florida was not a state until 1845 and became the 27th state.

Our present roots lie deep in the past. Fishing has not changed, but times have. We must look at our past to find out how today’s present came into being.

Many people have never known any job but fishing. Some had to find another profession when net fishing was banned.

Fishing goes back thousands of years and fish has always been a great table fare.

Some reason there are people who think that fishing is an idle pastime but it has made Florida the tourist capital of the world.

It has become one of the top sources of revenue for the State of Florida.

* * *

This is my 15th year of writing Fish Tales and I have talked some incredible voyages through the years with you, the reader, and you, the fisherman.

The hot rainy weather has not stopped anglers from fishing this week.

Mullet have been plentiful and thanks to Mike for giving me two good sized mullet, which I fried. He was smoking his but I no longer have a smoker.

Redfish are still churning the waterways and being caught by many anglers.

Some huge cobia have been swimming in the warm waterways and many are being boated.

Black tip shark have been landed and cut in fingers and deep fried.

Many anglers are smoking their fish this week and tell me they smoke all the fish they catch.

Keep fishing, they are out there.

Observer News Front Page