Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Paradise Spoiled

The Gulf of Mexico..Middle Grounds

Captain Hubbard has been running fishing trips out of John's Pass since 1928. The population of Florida in 1928 was less than 2 million. It was before air-conditioning and when clouds of mosquitoes would eat you alive if you ventured out after dark. Inside Hubbard's shop there is a tank of lobsters. You can pay two dollars and maneuver a claw and try to catch a lobster. Outside there is a hurricane stimulator. For two bucks you can experience a 76 MPH hurricane.

Back in 1953 when I moved to Tampa, It was covered with swampy areas, orange groves and ponds. Once I walked back into a swamp and caught a 13 pound large mouth bass on a rubber eel. All those natural areas of  beauty have been filled in and covered with tract homes. The population of Florida has grown to 19 million and the old empty two lane blacktop roads of the 1950s have become bumper-to-bumper six lane gridlocks.

My father took me out into Tampa Bay in the 1950s to gather endless clumps of oysters in burlap bags. I had a friend named Buddy. When we were 13 we would hitchhike out to the causeway, buy some shrimp and end up with a big stringer of trout that lived in the sea grass. Once we rented a boat and motor. You could see down 20 feet in perfectly clear water and see the stingrays swim away as the boat shadow passed over.  We could hitchhike back home with the stringer of trout...the "stranger danger" thing was not there then...I'm not sure why it's here now.

By the 1970s, pollution of the Bay was so bad that all the sea grass and fish had disappeared. We would ride our bikes along "Bayshore" and see clumps of things at low tide  that looked and smelled like feces...a friend in a big CPA firm told me that it was only "malodorous substance".

So...anyway...Captain Hubbard has been running fishing trips since 1928. The "overnight" departs at 8 PM on Friday night, runs out 120 miles and starts fishing in the "Middle Grounds" at 4 AM. You fish for the next nineteen hours and then  run back to shore, arriving 6 AM Sunday morning. I met a few interesting people (Rusty and Curt) and caught about 30-40 pounds of Red Snapper. Back 50 years ago, you could go out a couple of miles and get a good catch. Now you need to go out to the middle grounds.

Mrs. Phred liked the Red Snapper I cooked for her last night...very fresh...


  1. but did you have a good time....and can you keep the fish...sil

  2. I would have liked that red snapper too. That's a lot of fish.