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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Joseph- Now I have seen the fishing from a habitat that was unbelievable, would you
belive that you could take a man and put at the bow of a boat, with a rod and reel.
Now remember that it was the same rod and reel that it is now. We had to make reels
that held about 25-75 yards and the line was hand made also out japense silk. The
strongest line you could get was 25 Ibs. tes Alot of times the line would have flaws and
break. A little trick I used to do was get bees wax and rub it on the line. And would
cast ten times better. We would go to the meat market and the fat from the cow belly
and scrape it to get the rine and get all the yellow off it. There was no artificial lures
back then so we cut them into stripes and place them on hooks. You could buy
hooks at the stores but that was about all. Now back to guy in the boat, he could cast
37 times, 37 times consectively in the creek, and you gaurantee someone if they could
cast 20-30 yards from the boat with a shimmy-wiggler. That was the fatty lure on hook
with a little spinner on it. And that is still the most productive fresh water lure. You
could gaurantee that if could cast into the hole he could'nt come back with out a fish.
Now that was back on the1920-30's. That was back when there was natural habitat
that had never really seen man or hooks or that many boats for that matter. The old
saying stand behind a tree to bait your hook, well it was true. We would to find if there
were any fish in the pond or lake take a hand full of grass hoppers and throw them in
the water and by the time they hit the water they were gone. ---
Getting back to what really is our problems and it doesn't matter if you are a sportman or
a professional, per say. Because there are a lot of fisherman that think they are
professionals but they really don't know anything. The thing about it is that today we
are facing a delema. They can tell you that know what is kill the reefs, and that the reef
are dying. But what is really killing the reefs. None of the reefs were dying none of the
fish had sorse on them until we started using clorine in industrial products.Now you all
that studied chemistry, know that clorine is an acid and it is heavier than water. So it
will sink if you don't adgitate it, but when it is it mixes with the solution completely so
that they eye can not see it. When sunlight hits clorine it destroies it, True. But if you
take a million gallons of clorine and dump it in this river what little percentage of
sunlight hit the clorine. Now look at your habitat clams, shrimp, all of the crustaeans.
They live in the mud where they have the greatest concentration over a long period
time. Now we don't destroy things quickly, it has taken me about 75 years to notice a
change in the environment. I did know what was going on, just like you don't see it. But
25-35 years you reflect back and notice the changes. Now have seen a flock of ducks
that would block out the light? I have. The same time you kill the fish life and marine
life you ruin the entire system. From fish to birds and animals. I can tell ya I have
been on the St John's river and its tributaries since I was two years old. We have had
the biggest fish kill about four years ago, the fresh water area. about to clewisten. Now
I have seen that fresh water destroyed.
Fishing I don't think you can completely live off of. There are to many changes.
Climate,things in the water, sometimes you had good seasons, and some dry seasons.
Just like farming sometimes you have good and bad crops. And now they have
banned the nets. It is true we do have an overfishing, but we also have over popluated
world with people so i am not quite sure what might happen.
You had two resturaunts that used about 100 Ibs. of trout a week. At 25 cents a
Ibs. that was $25 week and after the war was like 125 now. I would catch my own
shrimp with my own nets that I made with my own hands. After the war I gathered
things together so I could start fishing. Nobody went hungry in Mayport the boats
would come in with flounder at a nikel a pound, yellow mouth trout, and even shrimp if
they came in with 35 bushels but they might only sell but 10 so they would get rid of
the rest or just give it away. So nobody had to worry about where they would get fish
So when I started working by myself in my little putt-putt rowboat. Now I could
make 100 dollars a week fishing. As long as I had few hours at night and in the
morning. I caught red fish, red fish used to be so thick I would get chum from the
shrimp boats and throw it in the water then just keep throwing my line in there
grabbing red fish over red fish. If you put a crab or shrimp on your hook, in no time you
had a bass. I caught enough bass for my gas money. And now that money would'nt
get me anything. Crabs were just as easy to come by, they were so thick that you
could take two chicken necks tied to a string and throw them to the side of the boat and
by the time you pulled one up the other one would have a crab and then the other and
SAM FLOYD: Remeber back in the forties before the had the little out board motors,
they used two sets of 12 foot oars to make the sane hauls on the beach.
Brown: Me, Billy Nick, Toad and Fat Floyd George would hit the South Jettey Jam and
but one day Bill said, half filled with shine, "nobody's made the North Jetties in
awhile." That was because the big boats could'nt make it. You had to row. So the
weather right and me and Billy rowed, Toad had to bail all the time because it was
leaken and Floyd fixed the nets. Finally you would get across the mouth of the river
and you would catch the right tide then you go behind there and get in the jam. We
decided to go, there was calm weather no breakers on the beach to bother you. It was
summer time. Then you need to get a running line of about 300 feet of line. So a guy
would go over board and walk out with line above water as much as possible, so not to
spook the fish. So Bill said lets back into here, now Fat Floyd jumped out. You have
know about Fat Floyd to really understand. He was man that weighed 300 Ibs. and
was short, I have never seen with a pair of shoes on, his britches would be over his
stomach and was always chewing some kind of tobacco. We back in to the Jetties
that started where the dry beaches are and run out 1000 feet and get to 10-12 feet
deep. There was a rock that we get next to and Bill would say "That's it Fats get over!"
October 18, 1995
(Brown) "We told him, Fats, get up on the damn rock. So finally old Fats climbed up
there. Well, all these rocks are covered with barnacles. They'll cut you to pieces. So
finally he got up on the rock. He had no a choice. He was over his head if he stayed
down there. He had to get up on the rock. So finally we slacked the line off and
waited until he got up on the rock and got where he could get some footing. And then
we caught 4 or 500 pounds of speckled trout. That was the advantage of making the
north jetty jam in those days. It was the choice of fish you caught. Trout always bring
in price and pompano. Sometimes you'd have 100 pounds of pompano back there.
But the main thing, the advantage of making the north jetty jam was to catch trout for
the restaurant trade. Well then after we caught fish, you see, you'd ground the boat.
You'd run the boat in on the beach and you've got all this net strung out. Then you've
got to load the net back in the boat. At the same time you've got to keep the boat afloat
in the water. It takes 2 men to handle a boat, to keep the bow under the waves at all
times. Then it takes 2 people to boat the net. Well now, you get all this in there and
you've caught 4 or 500 pounds of fish, which is additional weight you've got to carry
back. And then you've yet got to roll all the way around to the south jetty jam."
(Borstelmann) "How long did it take you to row?"
(Brown) "About 4 hours. And we didn't have any ice in those days. We used to try to
catch the fish before daylight, pick them up before daylight, and get them over here to
Mayport to the market. And we never had any trouble."
(Floyd) 'There used to be a little shack right on the base of the south jettys called
Chadricks. All the fishermen would sit in there and play poker while they were waiting
their tum to make the....."
(Brown) "Waiting for the tide to get right."
(Floyd) "And some of them would get so drunk by the time it was their turn they'd have
to skp their turn."
(Brown) "Well, like one time I remember, that was new to me. Net fishing in that
manner was new to me. I'd done some, all cast net fishing back where, home, I came
from. You know the thing that's odd about then and now. We had plenty of fish. You
could make an absolute terrible mistake and still come home with fish. Nowadays you
can't do that because the fish volume is not here and changes. Well, we're restricted
to what we can do and when we can do it. There's no net fishing anymore and no
seineing. In fact there's no, other than these cast nets. That cast net right there is as
big as you can make. That's 12 foot by 6 inches. That meets the required law
* measurements. I guess that's about the only thing you'll be able to do from now."
(Floyd) 'That's what most people don't understand. That for the first time in hundreds
of years this will be the first year that there's really not going to be any more
commercial fishing in the state of Florida. For the first time in all these hundreds of
(Brown) "You know, the thing about it is. I was going to tell you all about what was the
most devastating thing that ever happened here for the fish habitat. It was a slow
progressive thing. St. Regents paper company. There was always speculation, some
paper mill. The reason a paper mill wants to come to a place, say for instance, on a
river, is the abundance of water that's required. They have to have a volume of fresh
water. All right. Now, another thing that they don't tell you when they're endevouring
to get a site or anything. They don't tell you a thing in the world, even now, what their
residue volume is going to be. What their pollution potential is. That's the last thing
that's ever mentioned. Well now with the environmental things and people that's
interested in the environment. In which to live in the future. Everyone of us is going to
have to do it. Because the environment is our livelihood, our status. If the environment
is destroyed, we're destroyed. It used to be it wasn't like that because you weren't
overpopulated, you didn't have a tremendous volume of people fluid, moving around.
You could go and if you wanted a rabbit for supper. You took a shotgun and went and
shot you a rabbit. If you wanted a mess of fish, you went and caught a mess of fish.
You could take 2 chicken necks and catch 2 dozen crabs in 30 minutes. You can't do
that anymore......... The thing that really perturbed me. Now here I am a young sailor
in the Navy. And I'm stationed, or sent, down here to Mayport. The way this
happened. I was at the army up here in Jacksonville. I was a lifeboat instructor. Now
see I had a pilot's license when I came in the Navy. That's maritime. I had come to
Jacksonville when I was 19 years old. And you have to get a cosigner, which my
father was a licensed captain of a vessel. So Spencer L. Howston and Cebril, old man
Cebril, used to have an inspection office. You didn't operate any boats if they were
machinery driven unless you had a pilot's license or you had an engineering license.
Old man Cebril was a little short fellow. And I had a big party boat down home. Take
30 passengers and I ran passengers. You can't believe this, talking about what's
happened years ago to now. I ran parties on the weekends. Thirty passengers from
Leesburg to Silver Springs. We'd leave Leesburg at 5:00 in the morning, eat dinner in
Silver Springs, leave Silver Springs at 2:30, and get back home at 11:00 at night.
Now that was a special. I didn't do it for everybody. But there was a judge down home
and people, a church group. And there was about 4 months out of the year that you
could do this. And it was mostly in the summertime. Because moonlight nights, that
was the time. Every weekend there was any moon or anything I was all booked up.
And 3 dollars a person. So 3 dollars a person, you got a full house, 90
dollars......(talked about working on the dredge boat)....Fish would come, yellow mouth
trout, croakers, and red bass, you get in the river, after they blasted up there, with a dip
net. And you could load a boat."
(Floyd) "We had a bad reputation for dredge boat workers though because that one
S particular year there wasn't any brownie season so everybody went to work on the
dredge. Most of my friends. When I got out of the service that's where everybody was
at, so that's what I did too. And in about the middle of October..."
(Brown) "Well, they never did really blast that rim out up here."
(Floyd) "No. We used to row our batows out to the dredge. A lot of us did. Three or 4
of us in a boat. They had a crew boat but we'd rather row the batows. James Stein
was even on the dredge that year, Frankie Harrel. So we'd all eat together. And I
think it was 22 or 23 of us. The first day we saw the first school of mullet come down
the river we all quit. The captain said, you all can't leave the dredge. The hell we
can't. It's mullet season. We left the dredge. They had to shut the dredge down until
they got another crew. The first mullet. That wound that up."
(Fatta) "I was wondering did you, or any other fishermen have any superstitions?"
(Brown) "Regarding superstitions in the boat?"
(Fatta) "Right. Can you recall anything like that?"
(Brown) "No, well, not in particular."
(Fatta) "About net making, did you use, before the net ban, did you use the same nets
year after year? Or did you make new ones every season?"
(Brown) "Well, nets have a long and a short life depending on what you use them for.
Okay, there's nets that you use in regards to certain species of fish that actually don't
deteriorate. Say for instance that you have a seine on the beach and you're puling it
in, the bottoms clean, there's nothing there of obstruction. The only thing that's going
to cause a net to deteriorate is the type of fish that you catch. Like blue fish and sharks
and things of that nature that have a tendency to tear things up or eat the webbing.
Okay, now there's many methods of fishing. The skill of the whole thing is whether you
make a living at it, something like a farmer. If you don't know your weather, if you don't
know your conditions, both from the habitat standpoint of everything and then the
structure of the bottom. You've got to know all that."
(Fatta) "So basicly the nets will last longer if you know what you're doing."
(Brown) "And you got to know the tides. There's nothing any more complex than a
commercial fisherman trying to make a living. Because he's got to know many, many
things that the average sportsman doesn't bring into play in the situation. A
commercial fisherman is a dying breed. Because you used to study everything. Now
the weather reports are given to you and there's many things now that used to be very
complex and used to take a lot of your skills and time and everything. That now
people take for granted. It's just like the sports industry. They take for granted that if
you take a net and you put it out there and it catches everything. They've been
brainwashed. A net is the only way that you can retrieve a certain volume of fish of a
certain size from a body of water. Okay now, let's say for instance that you want to
catch a marketable trout that'll go to the market. And you know that that's the sellable
size and you know, you've first got to know their habitat, time of year that their
traveling. The sports industry, they consider the fact that the fish are here all the time
and that's not true."
(Brown) "Fish are migratory. They're sensitive to the weather changes and a lot of
climactic things that you don't bring into focus."
(Fatta) "In years past, how did you track the weather when there wasn't news reports
on every half hour?"
(Brown) "Well, we used to ,we had many, many, say 40, 50 years ago. No doubt in my
mind now, with the weather patterns we're studying now and they're showing on
television and everything, with relations to northeasters for instance. You had many
instances here where hurricanes passed right within a 100, 200 miles of the coast,
following the Gulf stream, which is a warm water current. And we would have what
you'd call a northeaster, or a humdinger. And that was always a lucrative time for us
because the fish would move and things would change. Tides would change and
they'd bring about many things of change."
(Fatta) "So it's best to be out fishing when there's a storm coming?"
(Brown) "Well, it depends on the species of fish you're fishing for."
(Fatta) "Oh, okay."
(Brown) "Allright. Mullet, mullet is a scavenger and the barometer has a great deal of
affect on fish habitat as to when they move. Now a lot of times the new generation
today, they think well, Lord, there's nothing going on. Why are these fish biting so
well? If they'd just realize the weather's going to change, the barometer going down.
And the fish feel this way before we do. So, from the standpoint of a commercial
fisherman, you have to know all these facts. And now the new generation of people
who have destroyed the commercial industry, put it out of business through ignorance.
And there's going to come a time when with the red tides and everything, you can only
have a certain volume of fish in a given area of water. Now, the good Lord provides a
balance. And the mankind comes along and he thinks he knows more than the good
Lord does. And he tries to either have one species above all the other or else don't
allow a take a certain volume of fish from a given area. And you end up with
something that, well the modern theory is the red tide. Now, 40 ,50 years ago, we
didn't have red tides. Now red tides are man made. It's a series of many things that
causes this. One of these is the impurities that we place in the water through our
modernization of our livelihood. And the main culprit is chlorine. Chlorine's destroying
all the reefs and the natural barrier reefs where we have organic life and you don't
really understand. And we put chemicals in the water and then we throw everything off
balance. We don't remove a certain volume of fish from the water every year in a
* certain given area. Then along comes a lack of oxygen in the water and we blame it
on the red tide. Now there's a fish killed in Tampa Bay here a few months ago that's
baffled all these learned young professionals, college graduates. I have nothing
against that, being a learned person. But there's 2 ways to look at the learned person.
There's got to be common sense in life. Now the catfish is a scavenger. And why did
just all catfish die in Tampa Bay? Now, the basic facts is you've got to go back to who
put what poisons where. Did it come out of a golf course? Did it come from a mill? Or
was it something that was put overboard illegally? Now, we have environmental laws
in the state of Florida now because a lot of changes in our methods of livelihood and
there's nothing in the world more expensive today in manufacturing than disposing of
material that, you know, that you're supposed to abide by the law with. And they have
a method throughout all the countries. If there's a cheaper way to get rid of it or if you
can hide it at night or if you can flip it overboard or pump it out while nobody's looking.
This is the thing that perturbs me here in Jacksonville. As long as we had commercial
fishermen in the river we had some method by which we could survey the river and tell
when any of these big industries were not abiding by what is the rules. The rules have
been so lax in the last 50 years that we haven't come to the realization that we've got
to live with it. We've got to change. We've got to protect the environment. Money
rules. And money's not going to allow this thing to be, let's say, instituted without some
loopholes. Now I can relate back to the time the St. Johns River had plenty of fish life
in it. Now the thing that's the policy now is we've got fish dying by the ton that we don't
ever see in the St. Johns River. Here just last month they put out a brochure and
published it in the paper that fish life in the upper regions of the St Johns River, which
is........., had the biggest fish kill there last summer that they've ever had in those lakes.
And the thing about it is they turned all the sewage disposal plants loose and all the
chlorination and everything like that. And it killed all the algae or it sets off something
that upsets nature's way of balance. And then the fish can't get oxygen and then
maybe they're overpopulated to begin with because of all these crazy rules that the
public has now. We're trying to protect the environment. That's why I say there's logic
to be played in this thing, common sense. If a body of water will only take care of a
thousand fish breathing, then you've got to know something about it. You've got to
stop all these crazy rules and let the balance be brought back to bear. You can't ban
net fishing persay, but it has to be controlled. I agree with that. But the thing about it is,
we're not going about it in the right way. There's more fish in the lower St. Johns River
that's inflicted by poisons and chemicals than there is in any other reaches of the state.
But yet we condemn Tampa Bay and Lake Apopka and Lake Okechobee when
actually right here in our own backyard, if the public were aware of what's going on
and how bad it is. They wouldn't even put their toe in the St. Johns River. Now this is
the thing that perplexes me. If part of the St. Johns River is so polluted that they tell
pregnant women not to eat them on account of the mercury and pcb and lead, what's
wrong with the rest of the river. It's the same river right here at our door as it is 200
miles from here. We got more industry here in our immediate vicinity than they have
down there. But who's trying to fool who? I've seen fish that were eaten up with sores
S in the last 2 or 3 years here that I didn't even want to put my fingers on. The thing
about is it, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to let the same pollutions
be extended into the river? And most of it's from golf courses and paper mills and
sewage disposal systems. Now, there's no clean-up of this river as we live today. It's
only going to decline. Now all this thing about banning the nets and everything was a
farce. That's like shutting the door after all the hens been killed. We've got to look at
this thing different. Now who's going to monitor the river? Who's going to know when
a lot of fish has been killed? We don't have any nets. You don't catch sick fish on
hooks. But we catch sick fish when we have nets. Okay. If we don't have any method
by which we can monitor what's dying and what's healed and what is to die, then what
are we going to do. The state's not going to get into this because it requires money
and also it steps on the wrong people's toes. Now we want all the real estate to be
sold on the river and all the marshes and creeks and everything. Now we're building
houses out in the marshes and putting them on piling. And them we come along and
we aerial spray for mosquitos. All right. It's good. Nobody likes to be bitten by
mosquitos. But let's look at what they've answered for nature. They're part of aquatic
life for fish habitat and also for the birds. You kill that chain and we eliminate the birds,
eliminate the mosquito hawks. We're eliminating the frogs and everything that's part of
nature's balance. Now what I've seen and what you, as a young lady coming up now
in this environment, you're not going to see or relate to what I've already seen. But I
can relate to it because I have already lived and seen it. But the thing about is, what
we're going to do in the future is not going to be answerable with the methods we're
using today. We're not going to reclaim the river. We're'going to make purer water
and we're going to take some of the discoloration out of it by ponding all of the run-off
and all that stuff. But still the main culprits is the chemicals which we live with every
day. Now until they come up with some system to deal with sewage and not treat it
with chlorine and put it back in the river to burn the fish's gils up. It's like I told you the
other day when you were down here. Chlorine is a product that's heavier by gravity
than water. Okay. What about the tons and tons of it that's settled in the mud strata
and the tributaries and the lakes and everything. What are we going to do? Are we
going to let it keep building up in the mud and kill all the vegetation? We're spraying
the hyacins up the river. We're spraying the mosquitos. We're treating all the sewage
and we're putting it all in the river. Now what can you ask for and common sense will
tell you that you can't do this. And the packages that the mosquito control receives all
their material had skull and crossbones on it and tells you plainly not to allow this
product to come within the habitat of fish, ponds, or streams. But yet we don't think
nothing of putting a ton of it on a helicopter and spraying all the marshes. Now one
way you fool the public is you come out with this encephilitas. Lived in Florida all my
life. And how do you stir up the publics opinion and get a bureaucracy going? You've
got to claim that there's some unknown disease prevolent in mosquitos and it's so
dangerous we can't afford not to spray the mosquitos. And then the federal
government comes in and they set up an allotment of money and the state matches
that. Pretty soon we've got a thing going and it's like a tiger. You've got the tail and
you can't turn it loose. And that's the same thing with spraying for hyacins up the
(Fatta) "During our last interview you talked about how you would put beeswax on the
(Brown) "Yes. During the twenties there were very few rods and reels available. You
had to have somebody make one normal. The rod and reel industry sprung up in
Indiana, Terre Haute, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Chicago. That's where it sprung up
from. Now, there was a lot of old-timers, professionals, that used to but a certain type
of bamboo from Japan and China. And they curred it themselves. They split it. And
can you imagine a person with that caliber of mentality. They split the bamboo into
little switches and then they had to glue it together. And then they had to tape it with
silk and that would make you a rod. A rod used to cost you anywhere from 5 to 20
dollars. Hand made. Now a reel. A fellow by the name of Meek, he was a jeweler
from Terre Haute, Indiana, made the first reels on the market. And if you had one of
Meeks reels. First it was fly rod reels, which are very simple. But then they came out
with a level line reels. Now Fluger was one of the early manufacturers of the little reel,
as we know today. Now Shakespeare came in there to, along about the same time as
Fluger. And if you got an artificial lure back in the twenties, somebody made them.
You had them made. There was many many people that would tie flies. I used to
shoot with ducks and all the kind of birds with all the fancy feathers on them. And you
used to save a bag of feathers and some of these fellows would come back home and
us kids. They would give us a couple dollars for a bag of feathers. And that was what
they made the early lures out of or artificial baits. They were all individually made.
There was, I'm trying to think of, Heading. Heading was one of the early bait
manufacturers that got into this back in the twenties. There was a fellow by the name
of Al Froth. I never will forget him. He was a young man about 30, 40 years old. He
came back home. I used to guide all these people. And every year they always had
something new in tackle or methods or some of their, so say inventions. But Al Froth is
one of the outstanding ones in constructing early lures that were enticing to black
bass. And they kind of drifted away from fly fishing. Fly fishing was more advanced in
those days than fishing for black bass would be. Conventional level line reels. Then
we got to the old thumb buster, the old knuckle buster, which was. Fluger came out
with those back in the twenties and the early thirties. It came out with a reel, we used
to call it the monster. And it had no slip clutch in it. When you got a hit on a tarpon or a
big fish or anything, you had to thumb the spool with your naked thumb and later they
got a little piece of leather and attached it to the reel and that was a great improvement
to keep your thumb from being blistered. But yes, I have taken many people and
guides and they'd hit a tarpon or a tarpon would hit the lure. We'd use live mullet and
things. And the Gulf and over here. And the thing about it was, the man, in less than
10 seconds, had got a blister on his thumb about the size of a nickel. But the thing
about it is, there are many improvements in fishing tackles, just like anything else in
our modern society. And I've seen it all. But there's nothing we can do today, the
methods we're applying. Banning the nets is not the idea of the whole thing. We've
got to produce a certain volume of fish life and habitat from the water, to keep a
balance. But we've got to know something about the balance. We can't just get out
here and condemn a type of fishing that's been going on for more than al00 years and
say, well that's the culprit that did all the damage. And that's not it. The net fishing has
not done any damage, materially. When you balance it all out industrial waste and all
the encroachment on nature's habitat has done more damage than we can ever blame
on any commercial fishing method. Now there's no method that I know and I've done it
all. You ask about deterioration of nets and how long they last and everything like that.
All right. We used to make our own cast nets to catch live bait years ago, back in the
twenties. They were made out of cotton. And linen thread company used to be a net
maker in the United States and you could buy what we used to call the funnel, the was
the body of the net, from them. And then you had to hang your lead line on it and finish
it. That was the first method that came out."
(Fatta) "About how long would it take you to finish the net?"
(Brown) "It would take you sometimes a day to 2 days because it was real tedious work
and you knew very little about it. In those days it was just a learning thing. But that
was one of the things to survive. You had to have live bait and you had to have a
method to produce them. Now before nets we used to catch all our live bait with a
little hook, a hook and line. All of shiners and bull heads and things of that nature from
the fresh water were caught with a hook and line. And then they came along with a lift
net. There was a great big frame we built by the dock on 4 pilings. Was about 10 foot
square. We used to build a net. We'd bait the fish, little shiners in about 4 feet of
water. Then all of a sudden you'd have a block and tackle effect up around the net,
about 20 feet in the air. And you could jerk the rope and pull the net up and catch the
shiners. Well, that was all right in the summertime, but in the cold weather the shiners
moved to deep water so you had to have some other method. Like I said, the hook
and line was a slow thing. You'd catch a dozen in an hour. When we used to take
parties, we'd have about 20 or 30 passengers. And each one of them was fishing a
* pole, either a rod and reel or a cane pole with a live shiner on it. So there was no way
you could produce enough shiners to satisfy your customers. So we had to come up
with some method to catch them in the winter in deep water, which was the cast net.
Now that's the way I became aquainted with the method of making nets. Back in the
twenties and thirties, that's the way we made our living. Shiners used to sell back in
the 20s and 30s for 25 cents a dozen. Now, about now I think shiners probably are
selling for $5 a dozen. Now there's a scarcity of black bass throughout the reaches of
the fresh water realm in the state of Florida and a good many other places. But the
thing about it is, what has destroyed bass fishing is these tournaments we've got.
Take 100 boats and turn them loose in an area where there's a certain habitat of fish,
mostly during their spawning time. And what fish they catch they catch off the bed,
take them back to the weigh station. And it looks good to the publics eye because they
turn them loose. But some of those fish were caught 10, 20 miles away and that fish is
in the spawing mode. They're going to spawn within a day or a week or 10 days from
the time they're caught. And the sports industry in the state of Florida is so far in the
dark. They're really destroying an industry and I don't know whether they consciously
realize it or not. But we can't keep having these tournaments and continue with the
method we're using today, during the time the fish are in row or in their spawning
frenzy. And go out there just for the sake of having a bunch of prizes and making a lot
a of hullabaloo over the television and showing off a lot of people that are actually
destroying nature. Now those fish, when they catch them like you see, and you've
seen it, they bring them in to a weigh station. And they're in water. They're alive. But
due to the stress on the fish, just like anything else that's alive. A certain percentage of
them are going to die, just from the natural stress. Now there is a certain percentage
that are going to die because they've been hooked in a organ or a part of their body
that's vulnerable. Now that's another 20 to 30%. It has been estimated that one of
these tournaments will wipe out a lake. Now I came off a lake that was 5 miles by 16
miles. That's a big body of water. Now you turn 100 or 200 boats loose in an area like
that in one of these tournaments. It devastates the lake for 5 years. Now unless you
live on the lake and you understand what was there before and then what you have in
the present time and what you come up with in the future, then you don't realize the
devastation that occurs. But the tackle people in the United States today sponsor all
these high pressure tournaments. Now yes it's big money for them. They millions of
dollars out of them. But what about the people who own the real estate around the
lakes and are paying high taxes because they live on the lake, thinking they're going
to have something in bounty from the production of the water. Then the man that lives
10 miles from the lake who pays less taxes. See the thing's not fair. Right here on the
St. Johns River. If you live on the water you pay 10 times as much taxes as a man that
lives out in the woods. But yet you think because you're living on the water that that
waters bountiful. It's clean. If you've got a boat you can go fishing and all that. But
now if the facts were known, you're in more detriment living on the water than the man
living in the woods. Because you have things in that water and conditions are going to
get worse. It's actually against your health. And it plainly states and has stated for the
last month or 2, that in many areas of the state of Florida the fish habitat is not safe to
eat. It tells you that women are pregnant and small children don't eat maybe a fish a
week or once a month or none at all. Now we're in the bottom of the chain right here.
S It's true. We have a tidal flow here and everything like that. But common sense should
tell you that there should be more chemicals here than anywhere else because we are
in the bottom of the collection of them. And I think that the politicians, so to speak,
throughout the state don't want to cqme up with a sensible answer to this and say
anything about it because it would affect the realtors and sale of property and
everything concerned. Now there's lot of things that we're going to face in the future
that we haven't even thought about. And it's about time we think about them."
(Fatta) "I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about different types of boats that
you've fished out of throughout the years."
(Brown) "Boats that I've fished out of?"
(Fatta) "Right. Like way back in the 20s compared to 10 years ago."
(Brown) "Well, I had a big party boat down in Lake Griffin named the Seminole. It was
55 feet long and could accommodate 30 passengers. And when I was a young kid, I
was in high school, my father had a fishing camp and he had a party boat about the
same size. And there was a lucrative time in the party boat business down home and I
would say it was in about 1929 to about '35. Now there were no boats on the market.
You couldn't go buy a boat if you wanted to go fishing. You would normal seek out
some person. Like my father had a fishing camp. We had all kinds of boats. We built
S them. But there was no such thing as going like today and buying any kind of boat.
You had to have somebody build it for you. Okay. There was no outboard motors. If
there was any, it was almost impracticle to try and get out on the lake by yourself
without somebody who knew what to do when they broke down. Because they broke
down everyday. And of course, as a young man I had to learn all this."
(Fatta) "So you basicly learned all this from your father?"
(Brown) "Well, the laws are and they have been for all time, in regards to the operation
of a boat for hire on the waters of, well the waters anywhere. There are 2 kinds of
licenses that's required to navigate a vessel and carry passengers for hire. One of
them reads inland waters and it has limitations to it. My original license was from the
ocean, all the waters and tributaries of the St. Johns River, including the lakes, Lake
Harris, Griffin, which was considered all the head waters of this river system. Now my
first license was issued whem I was 21 years old. Up until that time I had to be upon
that vessel, or my father had to be aboard. Like when we had 20 or 30 passengers
aboard or something like that. We were inspected normally once a year, then it got to
be 2 times a year, long before the war, in the late 30s. And you had a hull inspector, a
Mr. Cebril, and you had a Mr. Howston. They were both here in the marine office in
Jacksonville and you had to keep in touch with them as you had a big boat. Vessels
were classed in 2 or 3 different classifications. On tonage and the #of passengers you
were allowed to carry. The vessel that I had would carry 30 passengers. That meant
you had to have a certain type of fire extinguisher system which was automated. You
had to have a life jacket that they inspected every year for each passenger. You haad
to have a certain type of fire apparatus on the engine. You had to have a certain kind
of enclosure for your gasoline and it had to be in a certain place on the vessel. Many
many restrictions applied even back in the 30s. Now you had a different classification
if you had a vessel and you were carrying passengers on the ocean or outside. It was
normally in the confines of the legal limits of the United States, which was, well for a
long time it was only 12 miles. Now it's 200 miles. But yes, there are different
qualifications, different classifications, different licenses and requirements. Now in
regards to a vessel, it had to pulled out on a dry dock and the hull inspected once a
year. At a specific time. The inspectors would notify you when they were available
and when you should have it out. I don't know. Now we've gone into a system of
which the coast guard has a hand in all this. And the red tape now. There's no way a
person today with the investment you have, in regards to the revenue which you might
incur, that you could even consider taking passengers for hire. They have what they
call a six-pack license now, which is a farce in a way, because anybody can get them .
I don't say totally anybody, but if you've got a little bit of mentality and one eye and you
can hear out of one ear you can normally get what they call a six-pack license. Which
means you can carry 6 passengers and a lot of the retired military fall under this
category, which I'm one of them. But knowing what I now about the future and what
we've got now and the requirements and everything. There's no way now in the
modern way of looking at things that a person can carry passengers. Now you've got
to think of about 100,000 dollars worth of liability insurance. It used to be, back in the
S 20s and 30s, we didn't even know what insurance was. We'd have, well the vessels
that I had back in the 30s cost 500 dollars. It was a second hand vessel that I picked
up. It had been submerged and had an accident on it. I had to put a new engin in it.
And anyway, now that same vessel would cost you 150 200 thousand. So to give
you an idea to what we've evolved into in that way of investment. To make a meager
dollar there's no way now, with everybody owning their own boats. The big thing now
is you can go to any of these boat places and that sell boats and you buy one just like
buying an automobile. And you've never been on the water. This is the thing that
perturbs me today and I see many times right here and I've known a lot of people that
were involved in this. A man lives and he says, well one of these days I'm going to
have a boat. And that's the attitude in Florida. That's the reason so many people
move to Florida because they want that experience. All right. Now you go but a boat.
What do you do? First thing you do, you've never been in the water. You've never
been in a storm. You don't know what a lightening storm is on the water. You don't
know what the tidal flow is. You don't know what adverse weather conditions are and
you go buy this boat."
(fFatta) "Have you been caught in many storms yourself when you've been out
(Brown) "Have I done what?"
(Fatta) "Have you been caught in many storms?"
(Brown) "Yes, I've been caught in any kind of weather you can name. Even to the
point of lightening hitting. I had a tin tub one time coming into the mouth of the river
here. Lightening actually knocked that tub off the seat. All it did to me was make my
hair stand up. I felt it. But I was about 10, 15 feet away from it. Yes I've been caught in
all kinds of weather. Sometimes you just know that someone's watching over you. Or
else I'd never be here. Yes."
(Fatta) "So a lot of the time it was just luck that you'd gotten out of it? What do you do
when something happens?"
(Brown) "Well, basicly survival is based on study and experience. If I hadn't been on
the water all my life and I was in the navy all during the war I'd say in many instances I
don't know whether I'd have survived or not. You get caught in the fog. Fog is one of
the worst things in the world to be caught in. And it can slip up on you and you really
lose your senses. And there are few common things that you got to play with the fog.
The first thing you got to do is you're not going ot be able to. Like now with the modern
walkie talkies and radios and all, you're far better off on a survival basis than we've
ever been on a small boat. But the thing about it is, in olden times, we got caught in
fog, yes, just like we do today, but we had basicly a few things that applied. And one of
those things was know the wind direction at the time the fog set in. And to a relative
bearing have some conscious measure of how far you were from shore. Now another
thing is, generally, the ocean is toward the shore. So if you have a little bit of basic
knowledge of operating a boat and weather conditions, you can creep in having been
caught in a fog. Now one of the things that will help you in a fog condition is your
buoys. We have in the mouth of the river a bell buoy and a whistle buoy. Now those
S can be heard on a calm night 2 miles, maybe 3 miles. And that gives you a sense of
direction. But now it's a tedious thing. Coming from 2,3, or 4 miles away, trying to find
that whistle. And it's a good feeling when you find it. And it's bad when you look up
there and you see a big ship passing you by that's about 4 stories high. And he's in
the same fix you are only he's got radar and you haven't. So what you do then is you
tail in behind him and stay with him. So yes, there's a lot of things that you do that are
common sense. And I've turned over in the surf. Everybody that pursues a livlihood in
fishing has had some encounters with boat sinkings and things like that. When I was a
young man I was guiding 2 young fellows down home and they had about a 35 foot
motor launch. We went fishing in July and we were towing 2 batows. One for the other
2 fellows to fish out of and I was fishing out of one myself. And I was about 15 years
old, in high school. And we had gone up the lake about 8 miles, brim fishing. You had
to have somebody to clock the dock. In those days, you remember, the lake was 16
miles long and 5 miles wide at home. Out of the whole perimeter of the lake less than
a dozen people within a distance of the shoreline. We went up to this brim bed and
were fishing there. And we caught 20, 30 brims and then the tide was going to go in.
Mr. Davis and this gentleman I'd known all my life. And he waved to me and said, I'll
come by and pick you up. We're going to go in. And he and his brother-in-law, who
was from Ocala, got in the boat and I was looking right straight at him. He touched the
starter and the boat blew up. Blew them overboard. Mr. *Davis was burnt on his face
and had burnt all the hair off his head. His brother-in-law was blown through a plate
glass window on the side of the boat. Cut him up pretty bad. But more than that, he
couldn't swim. I got over to him as quick as I could in less than 2 minutes and rolled
him in the boat. Now part of his clothes were burnt off. His shirt and everything. And
then I got Mr Davis. The boat was ablaze from one end to another by then. Got away
from it because it had 20 gallons of gas on it that was going to blow up. What had
occurred, the gasoline had gone into the carburetor. The carburetor had flooded and
being in July and all this. It had the condition where the gas had turned to vapor. And
it completely consumed under the floorboard area and all the ... and he touched the
starter and of course, that was the spark. And it ignited. It was like setting off a gas
tank. But yes, that was one of my earliest experiences with gas and ever since then
I've been more than conscious about being around boats. Because that was avery
close occasion there. I had to row about 3 miles to the nearest landing. Luckily, a
deputy sheriff came down there and loaded them in the car. Both of them were
incoherent and passed out. But they did survive. So I've seen a lot of things that
people today never see."
(Fatta) "Okay. That pretty much covers all the questions I had."