Shell Point Used to be the Gateway to Tampa Bay

By Jonie Maschek

In todayís world most peopleís minds are focused on the future growth of this area.
As fast as Hillsborough County is growing, the events of yesteryear are fading away.
Shell Point was the only gateway to Tampa Bay and was used by the first known settlers of this area, the Indians.

It is now used as a gateway to good fishing, to Cockroach Bay and Bay channels.
From the pioneers I hear the stories of how the Indians had mounds of oyster shells along the waterfronts.

Oysters were plentiful and very edible back in the 1900s. An entrepreneur named Ben Moody came from the north. After viewing the oyster mounds he took the opportunity to build an oyster canning plant at Shell Point. The building was 20 by 40 feet and employed about 30 to 40 people. This small business started in the late 1800s and ended around 1904. People were paid 10 cents per gallon for shucked oysters.

Today it is not safe to eat oysters. Is it because of the growth? Iím sure some of you out there would tell me that they eat them. Iíve been told that they must be completely covered with water and look good.

Many have related stories to me about the days when there was no place to go in this area and it was too far to go to Tampa or Bradenton. They would take their girlfriend to the shores of the Bay and have an oyster roast. Memories of those campfires and white sandy beaches...they seem to have gone away forever.

Weekends of digging clams and scallops and eating shell fish from this area no longer exists.

I am told that at one time there were so many fish in the Little Manatee River, that anglers could throw a net and get so many fish it would take three men to pull the net up out of the water.

The days of mother and child spreading the fishing nets out to dry and then the mother mending the holes, is past history.

We still have neighborhood fish fries and I hope your neighbors are as friendly as ours.

After much writing about the past history of the Tomato Festival it has returned, which is great. Also the days of oyster roasts, white sandy beaches, rivers thick with fish, drying dozens of nets and digging clams and scallops ó they are gone forever.

Now back to reality, I hope everyone made it through Labor Day weekend without an accident.
I did see some wind and rain in the late afternoon and many boats came in before the showers.
People were catching fish as well as being out for boat rides.

Have you ever cleaned a fish and found a smaller fish inside? This happened to one angler last week.

I have a big fish I call Sam, who will never go into our pan. I feed him daily and it visits me often. It has grown through the years and I always fear someday someone might catch it.

There is also a blue heron in my backyard I call Ikky. I try not to feed it too often, so it doesnít depend on me for food. I just like to visit with it.

Fishing has been great this week, even though some did not go out because of the rain. I found that most anglers went out early in the morning before the bad weather set in.

Snook season is in full swing, but reports I have heard is they are either to large or too small. Some anglers say snook are scarce.

Redfish are still a great catch and are a game fish which will give you a fight before being boated.

Grouper are still being brought in from the deep waters.

Snapper are in schools in the channels.

Flounder are being caught.

Bass are plentiful as well as freshwater cats.

Oops I goofed:  Doug Fox is still the owner of Ruskin Bait and Tackle and Danny Guarino owns Shell Point Bait and Tackle.

Observer News Front Page