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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Tuesday October 17, 1995
New Berlin interview number one
interviewers: Melissa Adams, Stetson Kennedy, Wendy Myers, CJ Tyree
photographer: Ivy Bigbee
interviewee"Boo 'immons, Wi/.L, Ifi /
The transcript is word for word, except for the deletion of unrecognizable words or sentences
and the occasional irrelevant sentence. If a large passage is deleted the text wiii note it.
Questions from interviewers appear in bold. Boo's rhetoric appears in standard print.
(approaching a large old home near Boo's residence in New Berlin)
When you say it's one of the oldest houses, how old's that?
It's a hundred years old or better.
Who's living in it now?
Nobody. My sister's just storing.
(a conversation about fishing)
The shrimpers were commercial fishermen. The gili net fisherman has got no by-catch. if it is,
it's nothing but like snake shed and fish that you can't eat. Ninety, well, eighty-five percent of the
by-catch of a shrimp boat is baby fish that you can eat when they grow up.
is there any way in the world that you can not waste so many of them? Is anyone working
They don't care. They should have been, years ago, ail sh-rimp boats should have been put...at
least two miles off shore. There should have been no shrimp boats allowed back inside the
inland waters in the state of Florida. One shrimp boat wiii destroy more, right here in the river,
than every giii net fisherman in the inland waters of St. Johns River. A shrimp boat wiii destroy
more baby fish than we catch in a year.
is there any way on earth to not destroy the fish?
They claim that they're coming up with, Mr. Tehan, in charge of natural resources, now he's got
a, calis it a fish iock, that goes in that net, but he don't do it. i've seen them with, they've got a
turtle shooter. But i've seen them right out of here catching, this year, in fact a couple of weeks
ago, was catching a thousand, two thousand pounds of baby fish....(tape gets very windy, can't
(continuing the conversation about fishing)
i know it's going to sound like i don't know what I'm talking about, because i'm not real educated,
any time you go to pass a law, know and research what you're doing. Don't think "i read this in a
book," because the book ain't going to be right. You can't have free thinkers in the world, and
that's the kind of people who made America great, were the free thinkers. If you're go and make
it possible, what you read out of a book, then you're not a free thinker. I mean, nobody's right,
including the Bible. i don't get into religion but there's nothing absolutely, nothing's absolutely
perfect. (tape is turned off for a few minutes so interview can be moved to a less windy spot.)
(fishing conversation continues)
Pollution had a lot to do with the decline of the fish. Over-fishing by the shrimp boats on your
juvenile fish in the river and the pollution is what's causing the decline.
What causes it?
The city of Jacksonville. And the washout from the homes up and down the river. I've also
called up different people. You know you've got sores on the fish in the river. I'm sure you've
read about that in the books. Them in the St. Johns River. Big sores on them. And I never saw
no sores on fish until about nineteen and seventy. Well, seventy-one, seventy-two, they started
showing up when Hans Tanser was mayor of Jacksonville and he said he was going to clean the
St. Johns River up. Remember that? They put so much of that stuff that clears the water up,
chlorine, they put so much chlorine in the water, dumping it back into the river, I just saw
something on channel 7 the other night that explained the sores on the fish, but we know that it
was caused, commercial people, know those sores was cause by one of two things: the chlorine
in the water, the pollution of the city of Jacksonville, either that or spraying the hyacin up the
river, killing all of the hyacin.
Are they still spraying?
Yeah, and that's what wrong. Those two things is what's causing those fish. The other night I
was watching a show that was finally exposing what the government's doing, you know with
pollution. In Tennessee, I think the name of the river is the Blunt River, there's so much dioxin in
that river, caused by them using chlorine to wash the big generating station they've got up the
street from those people.
They're getting sores up there too?
They're getting sores and also they've got a high cancer rate. There are people dying from that
dioxin poisoning. That pollution, you can't get nothing done about this. The hyacin, as long as
you have the hyacin in the river here, you could go out before they put the chlorine in the river,
you could go anywhere up and down the river, the moss on the bottom, you know the moss, you
could pick that moss up and there would be thousands of them, of marine critters, there'd be
shrimp, baby shrimp, just wiggling. After they sprayed the hyacin, by nineteen and seventy-five
that moss was dead. No more life left in that moss. The moss is there, but it's dead. It smells
bad when you pick it up. Then up in the creeks, where your juvenile fish go, before 1975 you
could go to those creeks and cast a cast net, a hand held cast net, and get a five gallon bucket
of baby fish, of red bass, speckled trout, you know the whole range, but now there's hardly any
juvenile fish because the roll is not hatching. The fish that roll the eggs is not hatching. In the
speckled trout, that's where I really noticed it, in nineteen and seventy-four, when the pollution
first started getting real bad, the trout roll, which is eggs and fish, was so hard it was just like a
rock There would be no way that fish could lay those eggs because it was just like a piece of
cement caused by the pollution. It was just like a rock. Now I'm not talking about all of them. I'm
talking about just part of them. Part of them got like that by pollution, you see there's no study
done about how many eggs there were, I don't even believe they'll hatch. I think that the
pollution poured, and it sank down through and it has done the same thing to the fish as DDT
done to the bald eagles. It's sterilized the eggs. Ask anybody that's fished on this river, makes
their living, you go out here and make your living for fifty years and you know what you're doing
and if you don't you're going to starve to death and you're going to get you a job. That's very
expensive out there and you really got to know what you're doing. Or you're going to starve to
What did they start spraying for?
The hyacin? That's the green weeds you see floating up the river. Let me tell you what. In
nineteen and seventy-four, and they started spraying, and I seen what was happening, I called
the attorney general in Washington, D.C. This is federal government. I wanted to find out how
to go about getting a juncture against the core of engineers to stop them from spraying those
hyacin Make them get a different method of controlling them. Like baling up, you know,
grinding them up and putting them on a barge and letting people use them to absorb oil spills or
whatever. They said that wouldn't be cost-effective. And they said that I would never be able to
get the spraying of the hyacin stopped on account of people wanted to run their boats up and
down the river. They wanted to have docks alongside the river. People weren't going to put up
with that hyacin along the river when they wanted to use it for recreation. The thing about this,
this was in the paper. I'm fixing to prove my point. Before they started spraying, Florida was the
fresh water bass capital of the world. They come from all over the world to fish in the state of
Florida for bass. Now you, it almost doesn't have none. Up the river you had, I forget how many
fish camps and restaurants, there were about thirty or forty of them, on the St. Johns River. You
got one that's open part-time now. You could go up there and see the man catching grass
shrimp, we call them hard backs, used to he could get out there over his little side and catch a
five gallon bucket in no time. Now he can't hardly catch a gallon when he does it all day.
These hyacin you're talking about, they didn't bother big ships coming in. It was no
problem for them was it?
No, not the ships and the tugboats. But those dockhouses down there, you got those small
boats you couldn't get through them.
As far as the fishing industry goes, was the hyacin a problem?
No. If we could find a hole, you know, when the tide slacks, and that's when you use a net, you
don't just go out there and run these gill nets twenty-four hours a day, I mean, a fisherman
respects their equipment and the fish don't, you take them out there and you've got a small
window of time when that tide goes down you got to put that net down and get it back up. During
that time the hyacin would come apart and you would get you a place to turn at, you'd drop six
hundred foot of net in it, and there was fish everywhere.
(discussion turns to pollution again)
My opinion is the fish is damaged by the chemicals in the water. It messes up the protective
mechanism. If you talk about some kind of parasite go into the fishes meat, it's just like a, you
know what causes red mange on a dog. That's my opinion. There's some type of germ that
those fish keep, matter of fact, trying to protect themselves. You know up until the last three or
four years I never saw those sores on a mullet. Then last year when we was catching mullet,
some of them...it would make you sick. Especially over here when you run a school of those
mullet and caught a thousand, fifteen hundred pound of mullet, fifty or seventy-five pound of it
was rotten. I'm not talking just a few sores, but the whole fish was rotten. You know another
By both sides. This is something we only remember. All your life you'll figure this out. You got
people out there who hates everything in the world. It don't make no difference. Something that
you like, somebody hates it. Down the line, furthermore, these people get together, and the
more people they can hate at one time the happier it makes them, and a lot of them's got nothing
better to do than get mixed up in politics and you'd be surprised if you make a little racket how
much confusion you can cause in politics. There's people willing to believe anything out there
and there are people who can make them believe it. When I have my trial in court, if it comes
up, later on, and I'll be there, it would be interesting just to see what happens.
What do the fisherman think about what industries are doing the polluting?
The city up and down St. Johns River. And the core of engineers with their spraying the hyacin,
is the major thing. The number two is the people living along the river. You don't see this lawn
sprayed, you don't see this fertilizer, but it's for this simple reason that all this lawn killer, and
people living on the river have got these beautiful lawns, and they spray those lawns with
different kinds of insecticides to keep them up. A little bit don't hurt, if you were just spraying one
particular lawn, but if you take Jacksonville's, all the homes along the river, the pollution from all
the insecticides going into the river... see that right over there?(gestures to a plant across the
river) They use all different kinds of poisons. I'm talking about deadly stuff they wash those cars
with over there. Now where do you think that goes? It goes right in the river over there. That's
Blount Island over there.
Where all the cars come in.
That's the city light plant down there. That boat (he points to a boat), that's my cousin's boat.
Me and him were shrimping out here. We come through this hole by the light plant, and we dug
up about two bushels of shrimp out of that hole, and it looked just like they'd been boiled. We
called up the, the environmental people of Jacksonville and brought them down here. Well, they
looked at the boat and they said, 'Well you people could've boiled them shrimp." Well, this is
environmental people telling us this. We told them to get on the boat and go out with us. We
got them on the boat and went down and cut through that hole and got about another bushel of
those shrimp and some crab. And the caustic acid that they used to clean those boilers, found
out they was dumping right back into the river.
Didn't the environmental people do anything?
No. If the city'd let them. If your government or your city is doing it they don't care. Right now,
the county can issue me a permit to go ahead and fish. But they won't do it. Because it's not in
the best interest of the county.
That's what I want to know. It don't make no sense to me. There's a lot of stuff in this world that
don't make no sense to me.
Well can you go out there and fish?
With a hook and line. Now think about this, I gill net fish. The nets I use are very selective. I
target a specific species when I go out there and fish. That drag boat dragging out there is
catching everything. They say, when I call them up and complain about this, they say that those
fish belong to everybody in the state. They belong to everybody. Everybody owns those fish.
All right. If everybody owns the fish in this river, why don't they own the crab? And the shrimp
and other marine life? Why can't we go out there and catch those shrimp and crabs? The fish
that you can sell, with those drag boats, I can't catch them with my net because everybody owns
them. Does that make sense to you? That don't even make sense to myself. The thing about
that, this is the law, what I told you all about a while ago, when you get a law passed, later in
your life, make sure you research it and go to the people that know. Don't never take nothing out
of no book, don't take nobody's word for nothing. Number one, never believe nothing you're told.
Or read. Nobody. You can never believe, no matter who it is. Listen to your father and your
mother. Do what they say until you get old enough, which you should be at least sixty before you
get old enough. Then you got your own opinion. Believe what you think. Believe what the
person in the mirror tells you to believe.
You're saying that the gill nets are selective but that these shrimp things are killing
everything that gets in their way?
Well of course. It all goes right back to greed. Remember what I said about the snapper when
we talked? How many people can go out there and pay a big price for shrimp? Who controls
politics? Think about this. Who controls politics? Money. If you've got enough money, O.J.
Simpson just proved that, you can buy anything you want with money because I've known that
ever since I was this high. You know, this has got nothing to do with nothing, but all this racial
business that's going on. You know when I was born, now I'm half Indian, they hated a half
breed worse than they hate a nigger today. Believe me I was raised up in racial pressure. I
know what it is. So that's got nothing to do with whether you know a man's race history or not. I
believe everybody should be treated equal.
You've got all kinds of different races and nationalities of people on the water.
We get back to greed I was talking about. Me, you can check my taxes for the last, since 1970,
and you'll see that I only made what money it took me to live. To pay my bills and buy my food
and that's all I took. I could go out there and wipe the river out with what I know, and the nets
and equipment I use, I could catch any amount of fish I wanted. I could be rich. But I wouldn't
do it. I caught what I needed to live. Because I was brought up and taught by my great-
grandmother's people to only take from life what it takes to exist. As far as, you know, taking
from the animal population and everything.
Is that the Indian part of your family?
Yeah. Cherokee. Up in the Carolinas and Tennessee. We're out of Carolina. But that's we
were brought up that you didn't kill an animal if you weren't going to eat it. And it's the same.
You know the young people are the ones that's going to run the world and the shape that I see
some of them coming up in now, it's gone. Just think about this. The first thing you got to have
is respect for yourself. When you look in that mirror you are number one. You are the one that
means everything to me. The person looking back at you in the mirror. And whatever you do, if
it satisfies that person in the mirror, that's who you got to satisfy. You don't satisfy your father,
your mother, or nobody else. Because if you satisfy that person in the mirror, then you're going
to satisfy your father and your mother. Am I right? If you don't respect yourself, nobody else
going to respect you. Especially young ladies. I know this is getting off of fishing but this is part
of life. If you don't respect yourself ain't nobody going to have no respect for you. You hear all
this sex discrimination, what causes that? If the girls would have respect for themselves the
boys would, well, ninety percent of the men's going to respect them. And if you don't, demand
respect. Demand respect. Demand it. Just like I tell my granddaughter, I got granddaughters
and daughters. I raised three daughters and I got two granddaughters. If you don't respect
yourself nobody's going to respect you.
Boo, what kind of, do you have any kind of a split going through the different sections of
the fishing thing? Is some for the net ban?
Well, you've got all kinds...you see, this has got nothing to do with the snapper fishermen. All
this done was took the small, just took the gill net fishermen out of the river. And the sangs was
never in the river. The sangs was never in the inland waters. except the beach sangs. So why
didn't, if they were going to do that, why didn't they just say we're banning beach sangs and
we're banning gill nets? Why go through all this rigmarole trying to smokescreen people? Why
get out there, who had the money to run these big ads on television? You should have saw C-
Span and all the publicity that went against the gill net fishermen. It was mad as a presidential
race. Millions of dollars was spent. Who did this money come from to do this? Somebody
somewhere had a reason.
No, the sports fishers was sucked into it. They had, they were just sucked in.
I thought it was the environmentalists.
It wasn't really the environmentalists. Five hundred different changes was coming in nineteen
and eighty-nine in the government, some of them, let me show you something...(Boo pulls a red
card out of his wallet)...Who does it say that was issued by? The environmentalists. First year
it's been on those licenses.
What is that card?
That's your card. If you really want to get into a nest of snakes, you try to find out between the
state environmental and the federal. That's your nest of snakes. They'll tell you that federal
environment's got nothing to do with state environment. But when you try t go down and confront
them enough you'll find out that federal money comes in and pays the state environmental
people. So if federal money is paying it, then who do they work for? I don't know. I think this
law, I don't know, it should have never been. The law you're seeing, my attorney says that if he
had of gotten this law when the, you know, before it was put on, that it would have been no
problem to hold it back. Because it targeted too many things in fishing and...an amendment can
only target one specific thing. I'd like to, I wish you was all from the law department, you know,
of the college, because they say it can only target one thing. It's going to cost me a lot of money
to find that out.
Getting anything out of the Constitution is not easy.
Well, if I can prove that it violated my religious beliefs, then I got them. When it makes me feel
closer to my creator to go out there and fish, if I can prove that, then I can get them.
You'd be a first to say you've got to fish for your religion. It's a good idea. People will
They've got to listen.
What about the house? It looks like there's furniture in it. It looks like it's sort of well-
kept. Does anybody live here?
My sister bought this house. She's a pack rat, she lives up the street here. And when she was a
little girl, we'd, we was raised on that island down there, what you see out on Hecksher drive,
that island out there behind the marsh grass, the house on it? That's where we was raised. We
was real poor people, and my older brother and her would sit in the boat, you know, two or three
year-old little kids would sit in the boat, and that creek right by the store was right there and this
was a fancy, this was the rich section at that time, and she'd look up here at all these beautiful
houses and we lived in a shack, and she'd think how she'd like to own one of these. So she
bought this. You know, she finally was able to buy this. And if you offered her ten million dollars
for this today she wouldn't take it. They offered her ninety-thousand dollars for this lot, they
would take this house and move it over in Black Hammock Island and put it on a waterfront lot
and it was ninety-thousand dollars for this lot.
What'd she pay for it?
I don't know what, she didn't pay all that much. I could've bought that lot with half as much on it
for seventeen thousand dollars. So I imagine she paid ten thousand for it. Which was like two
hundred and fifty now.
A lot of fishing people now having to sell out because of taxes?
Well, I imagine they will be.....Well, what else did ya'll want to know? Is there the pollution
We'd like to know about how long you've been fishing and were your pa and grandpa in
My father fished and all my family that's down here fish. My brother lived on the island there, he
married a, one of the Barcett girls that was raised on the island there. There was a big spread in
the paper about old man Barcett come down here from New Orleans and homesteaded the
island over there and raised a family. My brother married one of those.
Your father fished before you?
Yeah. Well, see, he didn't fish that many years. Mostly he was a farmer. He went back to
Tennessee and farmed. But I come back down here when, I come down here in 1962. I started
really fishing full-time in 1970.
What about most of the other families in here? They've been here a long time?
Well, most of them don't fish anymore. You know, all the old people retired and all of the young
ones, they go out, they work for, and that's another thing: you have people that will go work jobs,
like mill rights and hat fitter and everything, making big money. Well, you've got about, around
here, three months that you can make good money fishing. I can make good money during
those three months.
Which three months?
Well, it's different. When they show up they're here and then they're gone. I got to be ready for
them. The fish will come and go. Well, when the fish show up here's when you can make your
money, then these people will quit jobs paying fifteen or sixteen dollars an hour, come and get a
net, then go out there and catch fish! Well that's not right. You know, they could, it doesn't
make no difference. That's why you see the nets staked in the river. Them people working jobs
they can buy their rigging, come out here, and if they put it up, if they made enough to buy them
a six-pack of beer, that was well and fine. They didn't pay for them six packs or cases they drank
when they were out there messing around. What did they care? It was relaxing to them. And
that's getting on a sore subject. So when the fish left, they was back making all this big money
again and we're sitting here with half of our living gone because they come out here and
destroyed it. They didn't care how much it...you know, one thing that hurt this fish industry a lot
was, if you go up the river, and from Jacksonville as far up the St. Johns River as you can go,
you'd find nets run off-shore. Just staked there and left. Well, when you call up the marine
patrol and told them, they wouldn't enforce it. They didn't care about it. I called up there many a
time with my boat and run through those nets and just cut then all to pieces and tied on to them
and dragged them out there into a deep hole and just cut them loose. Now I've done that, you
know, and you couldn't get nothing done about it. That was wrong. that should have, stuff like
that should have been stopped. Just like the proposal now says they ban it, they said that thirty
minutes from the time a net goes out the boat it should be back in the boat. It should not be
allowed to sit out there. Because it runs the fish off. You go in a creek, you take a creek where
there's a lot of fish in it, and you go in there and you take a net across that creek and completely
shut it off, do it two times, and that fish, that creek is dead. Those fish won't go back in there for
ten years. That's a fact. That's why you see people like me won't stake a net. But these beer-
drinkers I'm telling you about, they don't care. Another thing, you see this card that I just showed
you? That red card? When they was trying to get something done to protect the fish, this shows
you how politics is, you had people with fishing with hooks and lines, which we can do, you
know, but they're not sports fishermen. My idea of a sports fisherman is a man that goes out
there and catches what he can eat and if he catches beyond that he turns them loose. Now
that's what I do when I go up home and fish for rainbow trout, when I got more than I can eat I
catch them and I release them. Always did. Now that's a sport fisherman. The man that goes
out here and catches all the fish he can catch and there's a bunch of them, catching speckled
trout, that's so against commercializing the fish, and this is really what started the downfall of
commercial fishing. All right, they was catching so many small trout and them baby bass, they'd
just wipe out a school of bass, no law against it, there was bass, croaker size, about that big.
People shrimping in the river?
No, I'm talking fishing. Everybody fishing in the river. With hook lines. All right, we passed this
law, that supposedly, and I carry this card in my pocket, you had to make one-hundred percent of
your living commercial fishing before you could sell these fish commercially. Then, people got
so mad about this, because they wanted to go catch all the fish they could catch and bring them
in and sell them, they'd give them away, or sell them for higher than what we were selling them
for, and they got mad about that. Especially the guides, some of these saltwater guides would,
you'd pay like fifty dollars to fish there for awhile, and they'd catch a hundred dollars worth of
speckled trout and they'd pay their way and they'd sell them. Well, they got mad about that and,
but they finagled this thing around that the license I got in my pocket, all you had to do is pay the
state fifty dollars and anybody could go get that license, Now is that right? Just because the
state wanted that fifty dollar allowance? They didn't want no type of conservation out there,
proposed by the commercial fisherpeople out there in the river, they didn't want it. Money.
Greed. Fifty dollars you can go get that license.
How do you catch them without a net?
But if you ain't got a job, you can't. You might go out there one day and catch a few fish but you
cannot make a living. All right, we'll get back to this now. This is something else. You live in the
state of Florida. If you never pick up a pole to go fishing, it is your right to be able to get a fresh-
caught fish. Because even though that's your fish, if you may have to pay to be able to eat it,
you should be able to get that fish to eat because you are part-owner of that fish. It should be
your right for me to go out there and catch that fish and sell it to you. Supply and demand. Now
I, it should be regulated, don't get me wrong, there should be regulations placed on me and
enforced, with a penalty heavy enough where if I do wrong, my license took away from me
forever. And I'd never be able to, not six months, not a five-hundred dollar fine, that license
should be taken away from me and me never be able to get another license. I'm talking about a
serious infraction, I'm not talking about something that comes out here that some game warden
dreamed up. You know, one time I taught police, I taught young policemen, you couldn't' teach,
the hardest part I had teaching a young man was authority. When you are able to enforce your
rule on somebody, how far do you go? I tried to teach them. That I could go out there and stop
a person in their car, issue them a citation for anything I wanted to, and show them that person
would thank me when I handed them the ticket, they'd say thank you, that same person I could
stop and go up there and before I got the ticket wrote could get out of the car wanting to fight me.
That's what I tried to teach.
Sam Floyd told me that some of these marine patrol people down here are pretty rough
customers in that way, they stopped him and the man told him "If you don't stop I'm going
to shoot you."
That's possible. Now you have two sides to these stories. You got to understand that I've never
had too much trouble with the marine patrol, they know me, the captain over there knows me for
years. They know that I respect the law. And there's a lot of them out there that don't.
Those nets that you were running over, those nets were against the law, wasn't it?
Well, to my notion it wasn't against the law, to my notion they violated the...that's another thing.
People in the St. Johns River. For years I been trying to get them to do a survey on the St.
Johns River. They won't do it. They're supposed to have all these licenses, that's another thing.
I keep forgetting a lot of this stuff. I should have put it down. The licenses, the commercial
licenses, that money was supposed to be set aside for research. To do marine research in the
state of Florida. All this stuff, all the sores on the fish and all the reproductive cycles of the fish,
also your saltwater anglers license, that money was supposed to be put in research. Where did
it go? They ain't got no research done. They ain't done no research. One girl done some
research, but she was from the government, her name's...but she works out of Tallahassee.
They've done it for, it was government research you know, down in back-end of the shrimping
industry. Another thing, the baby fish, now this is really important, in the St. Johns River, I don't
know what part ya'll are studying, but the dragging of that shrimp boat that you just seen
dragging, those boats can drag from the mouth of Clairbome Creek, to Jacksonville's shipyards,
you know the, up at Jacksonville, the Trout bridge, all right, where you catch all these hundreds
of tons of baby croakers, trout, and spouts, and all that, all those baby fish, so grown-up people
can eat them, is between Clairbome Creek and Trout River. Above Trout River you can catch
very few baby fish. I'm not saying you'll catch that all the time, but at certain times you'll catch
them. They should have closed the river from Clairborne Creek to Trout River, there should be
no dragging allowed by shrimp boats: tet them open it up from Trout River over on out to the
naval air station off of Jacksonville like it used to be. See, it used to be, but wealthy people with
influence in Jacksonville had enough clout that they got it closed south of Jacksonville.
They didn't want it by their houses.
That's right, they didn't want it by their houses. Those fish drifting up on the beach dead, there
was a big uproar about it.
How many fishing families are still here in New Berlin?
Uh, full-time there was about, one, two, three, four, about five families here and two or three
more down by Browns Creek.
And how many quit fishing?
Fifty or seventy-five.
What are they doing now?
(tape ends here, switch to side two)
(Boo continues a conversation about fishing)
I don't know how to put it. You can't abuse what you what you give. It's a gift, it's not no work.
If I was greedy, if I' gone out here and got some...done more than I was supposed to, but if you
abuse something, you get so it don't work. You know, it used to be funny, [a name]'s husband
used to fish with me for years, and most of what I fished for was speckled trout, it was too much
work picking all those spots and croakers up for me, you know, that was hard work. So I did just
speckled trout, that's all I fished for. And I was the best. Regardless of what anyone said, I don't
care who he is. I am the best. Speckled trout with gill nets in the river. I ain't saying that I can
catch more all the time than everybody, but as far as knowing them, I know them. And one other
man, he's a sports fisherman, I learned from him. I learned from old time people
What's his name?
Woods. He's old. He's retired. You should talk to him. I" tell you what. Ya'll got my phone
number, I'll take you out there and you can go boat riding, because I'm going to be doing some
fishing, you know. And if you all want to go, whenever, just give me a call. My schedule's my
own. That's the reason I do this. I was a policeman. The last years that me and my wife
worked, this was nineteen and sixty-nine. Both of us was working. When it come time to pay my
income tax, I had to go borrow fifteen hundred dollars to pay my income tax with. I said this will
never happen again as long as I live. And I quit. Went commercial fishing. With that tax money,
let me tell you something, this is getting off of fishing but this goes right back to your, what we
talked about. I don't know how to put this, when you're out there, putting your life on the line,
everyday, and when you're a policeman you do it, when you walk out that door and your life's on
the line for the public, you're a public servant and they pay you money and they demand respect
from you and you should be doing your job. But when you're out there doing your job, this is
what causes so many policemen to go bad, when you're out there doing your job and you see all
these people in government doing all this stuff wrong and they're a bunch of thieves, the whole
bunch of them, then you turn over and you see this man out there, now this goes on, and you
see, this is being prejudiced but you see a black man, and you see plenty of them, you see him
out there and he's living with five women and they all got kids, they're collecting welfare on all
these kids and this man is getting all the money, every bit of it, he's out there wearing these
shoes that cost more than I make in a month, and my tax money supports something like that?
You know, that's not covering fish. I'm just giving you a little bit of life now. I can tell you
anything about fishing that you want to know, I could show you that, used to, your salt water line,
you know this has never been changed, the river was twenty-six foot deep, twenty-seven foot.
The salt water line was Jacksonville, the railroad bridge in downtown Jacksonville, that was the
salinity change in the water. Well, ninety percent of the time, that water right here, right here at
Dames Point, that was less than one percent salinity. That's another thing you've got to learn. If
you going to catch speckled trout you've got to learn salinity. But all kinds of hyacin was in here
by those weeds I was talking about. I'll show you some, I'll take you up the river and I'll show
you some. They was here so bad you couldn't even run a boat through them. The water was
fresh, when made low tide in the river this fresh water would go eight miles straight offshore,
there'd be a area of fresh water going offshore. When that tide turned and started to come in,
those, all the ocean fish would get in that sweet fresh water and follow it right back up the river.
Now then, you got sharks all the way to ? Bridge, you've got jelly fish going to there. You got
sharks going to there. Because of salinity.
What's the cause of the salinity?
They dredge the river! They dredged it, it's forty-two foot, it's not deeper, you see Blount Island,
that big thing over there, see they said they were going to make offshore power systems when
they were bringing that in. That was supposed to be built. A nuclear power plant. But I had a
friend who was in Navy intelligence, and he told me, this goes no further than between me and
you but this has got nothing to do with offshore power systems. This is being built to service
submarines. King's Bay. This was supposed to be King's Bay right here. But when they started
in the St. John's Bluff, they started blasting, they had to blast the channel out because, you
know, they had to get it deep enough for those submarines to come in submerged. And they run
into rock down there and it was jarring people's houses off St. John's Bluff. Walls was crumbling,
the windows was going off and everything else. But anyway they got it forty, forty-four foot deep
near St. John's Bluff.
That's still not deep enough for a submarine.
No, they come on up and they digged about forty foot all the way up next to the Heart Bridge.
And you know, back in the seventies, when they closed up the river to drag it, they tried to close
the river to fishing. The St. John's River. And the reason that they did this, and this goes right
back to long-term people, CSX railroad, which used to be there, and Blue Cross Blue Shield had
controlling interest of the shipping industry in the shipyard at Jacksonville. They wanted to make
the port of Jacksonville a deep-water port. To bring in all this business. And to make it a deep
water port, they had to get a lot of environmental rules changed. And OFA fought them so bad,
which was the fishing organization. And also, used to, they pumped all that paint from
Jacksonville and the shipyards. But organized fisherman, the organization, was instrumental in
stopping that. Okay, they told OFA we are going to stop this, this is big business and we're
going to stop the fishing. Where did the money come from? To wage the war against gill nets in
the state of Florida? It had to come from somewhere. Big money put it up for some reason.
Why I don't know.
(there was an irrelevant conversation about Jacksonville homeowners.)
(Boo continues to discuss fishing)
Just because, you know, what really put me on to start with, my brother-in-law come down here
from Tennessee and caught fish in my net, and said well why don't we run the net right here? It
looks like there would be fish everywhere. I said it don't work like that. You know, might even be
one day I'll take you all out and I'll go in another boat and have somebody run my pleasure boat,
and I'll put a net on board there and show you how it works. Really, I don't care about the law. I
got no intention..the law...I don't think I'm going to obey that law. That's all there is to it.
Don't they enforce that law? What's the penalty? What's the fine?
I don't know. Don't care about it either. You know, I can lay on my couch and watch television
twenty-four hours a day and it don't bother me. And I can sit in a jail cell and do the same thing.
You know it's a kind of sad state to say, but when I was in service, I was in the stockade, and
back in those days, you know you had people coming up, I guess I was, my generation was the
first start of, really the downfall of the American justice system. I know we were instrumental in it.
I spent a hundred and ten days in solitary confinement. Because I wouldn't get out there in the
hot sunshine and push a lawnmower. I wanted to show them that I was just as tough as...they
told me, they put me in solitary confinement and said in seven days you'll be on your knees
begging for us to let you out of there. A hundred and ten days later when I got discharged of the
Army I still hadn't come out of solitary confinement.
You said you were one of the best for finding speckled trout. Tell us your secrets.
Well, the thing of it is, and I learned a lot of this from Woods, the weather, barometer pressure
and controls the action of speckled trout. With a high barometer, the fish is under the water, they
will feed, they'll eat your shrimp and stuff, you cannot catch them during that time in a net. I'll
take you to where the man sitting right there and I'll do it, I'll catch twenty-five and thirty trout.
And that tide will slack down and I'll put my net out there and I won't have a fish. Woods has
done it. All these places I have, he's been sitting there catching fish and I'd pull up and anchor
with my gill net, but when it comes time to put those gill nets around those runners, he'd pick his
anchor up and go off to the side. I'd put my net around there and I started taking it up and he'd
come back and anchor, before I'd get to the last bit of my net back in the boat he'd be catching
speckled trout again. I might not get two or three in my net. He'd be catching them, and I've
seen him anchor up inside the circle of my net. My brother, he catched trout, speckled trout, in a
net, in the daytime, That barometer has got to be in the twenty-nine hundreds. Twenty-nine
ninety-nine on down. Once it goes thirty, three thousand up there, you can forget catching
speckled trout with a gill net You can catch them on an open line. When you got down in here,
when the water blows, if you got a southwest wind blowing, you knowing, that a way, you come in
this section here down this island on the back side of these islands away from that wind, that's
where you catch your fish. Now then, that's your falling barometer, you know. Also, when it
picks up and starts blowing out of the northeast like it did now, you catch over in here going back
the other way. Now, we go back to salinity. When I first started fishing speckled trout I used a
depth recorder and a salinity tester. I was the first person in the St. Johns River to use a depth
recorder. I also used a salinity tester. I was told to where it said between one and a half and two
and a half percent salinity, that's the salt content of the water, I drug my net in twenty-six foot of
water and that's where I caught the trout. Providing the bottom was blue clay with shells mixed
in with it.
How do you know all that?
You don't. You get out there and you starve to death and you learn. Plus, it's a gift that you're
gived, I can't explain what it is, just like I told you. I started to tell you, if I fished with my nephew,
we'd leave out of the creek down here where my boat's at and run above Jacksonville, that's a
long way. And that involves, you know, quite a bit of expense. I about pulled up up there where
we was going to put the nets for speckled trout and making circles with my boat and turn around
like this and come back like that and never throw the net overboard. And he couldn't figure out
how I knowed if there was any fish there or not. And I proved to him, I put that net overboard and
there was nothing there, like I said there was. How did I know there was none there? I don't
know. Something told me there was no fish there. It's something you can't explain, and it
sounds like it's a lie, but you can do it.
So you never missed?
Never. I can put a net overboard and tell you within three fish how many fish I'd catch.
That bottom, shell bottom that you were looking for...
I already know where that is. You already know where the places are, and it's something...what's
the difference if you're gambling, or playing cards with a bunch of people, if you don't know what
you're doing you're going to lose your money. But, if you know how to gamble, you stand a
better chance of winning ...it's perception. You know, so it's complicated to explain all of that. I
can take you in my boat with a gill net, and I've got a depth recorder that will show a crab
crawling on the bottom in two-hundred foot of water. Now that's how accurate they are. If you
can read it, it will show it to you. It was funny, I called up the, the headquarters in Alabama,
Hummingbird, told their engineer that it would take Einstein and Jesus Christ three days just to
figure out how to turn that thing on. It's complicated. He thought that was the funniest thing he'd
ever heard. But anyhow, I can take you out there and put my net out and show you hundreds of
pounds of fish, go inside the circle of this net, we'll drop the weights overboard and drag around
slowly so they can get in the net. You see those fish on that, they'll go right over that net where
they'll be sitting up like thing off the bottom. You know, it sits about five or six foot off the bottom.
That net maybe in thirty foot of water. Won't be over five foot off the bottom. You'll see those
fish get into that net, when they get almost to it, they'll raise up just like that and go right over the
top of that net and you won't catch them. Barometer. They won't hit that net when the
barometer's wrong. Now you go out there when the barometer's right, you can beat those fish
out, you can see them go right to that net and you can see them go in. You can see them in the
net. Don't sound real. How do you make people believe this?
Something you said a little while ago, and that was about killing the creek, you said it
would be years before the fish would go back in there. How did the other fish learn about
it? How did they know that creek's bad medicine?
I don't know. Let me tell you this, animals are the most smartest things in the world. Just
because you're a human, this goes back to my upbringing, my people got taught this, everything
has got a life. From the smallest insect to the largest, it's got a life. And you know, they know,
they're smart. How does a dog know what you want it to do? I raised game chickens here at the
house, I've still got the pens, I raised them there for years, you don't see no dogs or no cats set
their feet on my lot. I killed them by the pickup truck loads. Dogs and cats, if they stepped on
that lot, they were shot. And I guarantee you no dog's will come on my lot.
(conversation about photographing nets)
(continues to discuss fishing)
Do some on the pollution part. That's what it needs to be done on. It needs to be done, all this
needs to be done especially on the pollution. Because gill net fishermen, you know, we're going
to be here, but if something ain't done about the pollution, there's gonna be nothing here. Gone.
And you know, you got extremist. And things should be done in moderation, you know. You've
got to coexist with the environment. You can't close a farm down because crab grass grows on
it, you know.
Have you got a family album that's got some old fishing pictures and things in it?
My sister has got the stuff up there. I'll get with her and she's got it.
(Boo and Stetson discuss more photographs)
People don't understand. If people understood this net ban it never'd been voted in. But you
show people pictures of turtles, that they're killing turtles and they're killing the birds and they're
killing the manatees. You know all this is well and good. Those manatees, that's another thing,
this is the biggest uproar. I've been on this river now for over fifty years. I've hit one manatee in
all that time. I hit one in the creek down here because they pumped the creek full of sand, and
there was one little channel left coming out, and that was just a little bit wider than the boat and I
went right in there and hit a manatee. And that's the only one. I've fished up the river at them for
years. And they'd be inside the circle of my nets, you know when I had my net out, and you don't
make racket because you don't want your net tore up. They'll knock a hole in the net, big as that
pile of stuff there when they go through it. You don't want that.
(Stetson and Ivy must leave, tape is turned off.)
Tape three interviewing on Boo's boat. Interviewers are Melissa Adams, Ivy Bigbee, Stetson Kennedy,
Wendy Myers, and C. J. Tyree. The subject of the interview is Boo Simmons.
(Indistinguishable talking) Didn't know how to fish, trap animals. I was raised, from the time I can
remember, I knowed how to do it. It was something that you was taught even before I was big enough to
recognize it. That, we left, see that island right there where that boat's tied up, see that little island in their.
That's where I was raised. In the thirties they used to put overboard there and row right here, and it wasn't
but about fifteen foot, I mean about fifteen yards.
But uh, that wasn't but thirty yards wide here. When they took rowers and rowed the boat, they didn't have
nothing but oars to get across, you know to row fishing with. So they would row their boat across the
island down towards the back river. That was called back river then.
Before kicker came in?
Oh yeah, that was ...
When did kicker show up?
Sometime in the forties.
And when did the oil start?
I remember in the fifties we had a ten horse wizard, that was a fine, that was a super motor back then.
We'd leave out of here, that was on a sixteen foot boat and that's towing two twenty-foot boats we'd go all
the way to Sanford fishing.
You need a big (?) pulling like that don't you? You don't want a speed trap mover.
Well, it was just standard (?) if you wasn't moving, you was mostly going with the tide. You know
we'd leave out, they'd leave out of here rowing at about two o'clock at day on a (?) tide, like it's running
now. And go all the way to near the big Tarbert Island, Nassau River, fish all night long and row back the
How long a row is that?
It's probably ten, twelve miles.
Try to take the tide?
Had to. That's tough people back in them days. Fish all night long, and maybe have fifty cents or a dollar
worth of fish. Of course in those days, that was money.
What's the name of the creek where you grew up right here?
And how old were you when you settled down in there?
When I lived on the island first, I can remember, over there about a year and a half old. That's about what I
can remember, back at that age.
You were telling me the other day that you knew as much as anybody else on the river about the speckled
trout, where to find them. And you were talking about the wind. If there's a souhtwest wind, where are
Well, if it's a southwest wind, they'll be somewhere between the inland waterway, you know, the south
canal, and Chasel, trout river. They'll be in that section somewhere. You just have to find where they're at.
Now when it turns around and starts blowing east, they'll go, they'll be somewhere between ...
But um, those trout are gonna be somewhere when the east wind blows in the salt water, gets back up the
river somewhere between Jacksonville and Palatka. See this salt content, there's no salt in this water here
now, it's just like fresh water.
That's why the fresh water catfish?
Yeah. They used to, when I caught a fresh water catfish dragging in here, me and my brother, as soon as
we caught one of those in here, I had him set me ashore, and I got in this boat and went trout fishing, and I
knew I was going to catch them here in trout river. I could catch between four and five hundred pounds of
And you gotta look for a shell bottom?
Yeah, shell, rock. This time of year look for rock or shell. Different times of year you look for different
things. In, when they're spawning in June, July, and August, you look for about twent-six foot deep with a
shell bottom or blue clay. You gotta have shell mixed with blue clay. And that way, that's where you'll
find you're trout, about twenty-six foot of water. With somewhere between two and three percent salt
So you've seen this boat around for a long time, have you?
How long did they say, how old is it?
This boat here, the guy, this was a sailboat. There ain't no telling how old this boat is.
He said it was made in the thirties.
But they fixed it up for dragging for shrimp in the seventies. They fiberglassed it in the seventies.
I figured them kids would see more with this right here than they would find anywhere else.
My uncle lived on this one (island), we lived on the one over there, my uncle lived on this one. Another
one of my uncle's lived on that one there.
What's the name of them?
That's Brown Creek Island, that's Round Top. A guy named Nylia boston, one of the moonshiners, he
lived on that one right there. He made whiskey up till about the last part of the fiftees on that island right
there. I was telling the kids the other day, that's what my family come to Florida to do was to make
You ever know if they was making trouble up there?
No, they brought us out of, they brought my family out of Tennessee. Al Capone's people brought us out
of Tennessee, brought my family down here to make whiskey. Right where the light plants are. See the
That's where they unloaded the red whiskey that was hauled off the boats out in the ocean. And my people
made whiskey, they had stills all through that part, even on these islands, they had stills making whiskey.
And they'd come down from New York and haul it back to New York.
So you're talking prohibition?
Did President Roosevelt come get some?
So we stopped, went from making moonshine to commercial fishing.
More money in moonshine?
A lot of hard work. There wasn't ever no money in it. Do you know what stopped moonshining? The
government couldn't do it. You know what stopped it? Foodstamps. Foodstamps just about and welfare
Well, why should people make moonshine for something to eat when they's getting it for nothing.
What's that floating over there?
I'm not kidding you, that's it.
What's that floating over there?
It was like work huh?
I went to Tennessee after foodstamps come in ...
Is that a crab trap?
Yeah, that's a crab trap.
You went to Tennessee what?
And couldn't even find no moonshine. Doesn't nobody make none up there no more. That was the reason,
they was all getting foodstamps and welfare.
So your whole family came down?
Where are we?
Well, this is Brown's Creek Island right here.
This tree right here, this one, the kids used, the kids that used to be here had a swing, in this tree here and
this one here. They'd swing out here and drop in this hole and swim.
No oysters on the bottom?
No, there ain't no oysters in here. (?)
How'd you get to the swing, you have to come by boat?
Yeah, you'd have to come by boat to get over here.
Oh neat, it's like a...
Yeah, some kids done made them a hut out there.
Look at the big bird.
See that little old bird up there, that's a didapper.
That thing swimming right there. See him going under the water?
Oh, that thing.
Maybe he'll bite my hook.
There he is. Didapper.
That's a perfect picture.
Ooh, he's under. He went under. Where'd he go? How long do they stay under?
Oh, there he is.
See how he uses his feet.
Look's like he's walking.
He's walking and flying. What's the didapper eat.
Where is he?
He's right over there. Here he goes, back this way. See those little things right there, that's fish
swimming in the water.
There it is, I see it.
I seen a bass weigh about ten pounds go up that sand bar.
You talking about red bass?
Red bass and the red fish the same?
He's out there I see him.
Yeah, I see the water where he's at.
Look here's coming fish. That's bass, see them coming right there. There after them little fish, see them?
Will they bite ours if they see it.
Yeah, they might. But that was a bass after them little fish right there.
Do bass swim in schools?
If you want to take a picture of something I can slwo it down some more.
What creek are we in?
Anybody living in there?
No, there ain't nobody lives in here.
There's enough of them.
Can you get in by road?
No, no roads. Nobody's got a permit to build a bridge over here. They've done tried it two or three times.
We was talking about that the other day. Every time a developer sees a bunch of trees he wants to tear them
down and pour concrete. What's going to happen down the line when the whole world is covered with
concrete and asphalt, where they gonna grow anything to eat?
I heard a story this indian kid. They took him off the reservation, took him to town. He got back to the
reservation they said how'd you like it? ...
Right there, there's another bass. See that one just went right through there. There's another one going
through that crab trap now.
Who's crab trap is that?
You gotta know what you're looking for, that's how we catch them. We catch them with a net. They won't
hardly bite, sometimes they'll bite.
What do they want, live shrimp?
They'll bite live shrimp now. We was out the other day, my brother-in-law was down here from
Tennessee. And we went out, we caught about, I guess thirty or forty about that long.
Did you eat them up or take them back to Tennessee?
No, you have to throw them back overboard. You're only allowed one.
Oh. I thought...
irrelevant conversation and motor
... guy in an office somewhere looks at this river and says "Well that's a good place for a manatee to be. If
it ain't one, it might want to be there one day."
You never saw them there.
That's what I told you, I've been here fifty years and I hit one manatee in the creek in all my life. And
that's because they closed the creek up into a channel about the size of this boat.
Are there manatee up here in the winter or no? Where do they go?
They go up the river and they go down south.
I thought manatee's were in real cold fresh water, like in springs and stuff.
... was pumped and filled by the corps of engineers. This was all marsh grass in here all the way to
Hecksher Dr. That's what was called North Mat, it showed it on the maps as North Mat. And the reason it
was called mat was because when they built Hecksher Dr. they took logs and tied them together and made
like a mat and laid them down and right over the top of them put crokinda shell on top of the logs, mats of
logs and that's what the logs was built out of.
Where are those logs now?
Under Hecksher Dr.
What kind are they?
Probably pine, cypress, anything, palmetto stump, anything they could get for fill.
It's still under there. Suppose in that water and mud they're still...
Well, they're petrified, it's like stone now. But you see all this is fill. I'm fixin to take you over there.
It was all marsh grass, and now, the corps of engineers gave them permits did they?
Well, back then you didn't have to have no permit. But they have filled thousands and thousands of acres
here in St. Johns River. They filled all of this all this back through animals they filled in, marsh grass.
Thousands of acres of marsh grass, the estuaries, where the little fish raises and stuff, they filled it up
before the permitting process went into place. That's just like a mud hole in their where you see them boats
now. There's not but about two feet of water in their. Back when I was a kid there was eighteen, twenty
foot of water all in back up behind these ivies here. Now it's about that thick.
Now it's what about waist deep.
Yeah, in high water, it might be waist deep.
Can they use it for spawning? Can they get in and out?
Well, there's here now.
It's all landlocked.
Well, no it's just nothing left, they filled it all in. See, marsh grass used to come all the way out here.
What's on that on that house, a dolphin?
That's what I was talking about developers, anytime they see a tree they go and build there.
... used to be marsh grass. This whole thing was inland water. There was a big like a canal come back up
and went back up those creeks with real deep creeks and everything in it. See all this down though here
where these trees and stuffs growing, out as far as you can see through here was marsh grass. Now you can
see trees, see that white sand the dredge pumped that on it. See this big thing, all this where you see all this
high sand, all these trees, back in those woods, was pumped in their by dredges.
When did that happen?
From the thirties up until now. They're still doing it.
The corps of engineers, they don't need a permit. They make their own laws. If they say it's good, it's
good. If it's good for the corps, it's good for the people.
You figure they get paid to say it's good?
That's what I was trying to tell these kids, take political science. Every kid should have it. And everybody
should be a politician and change things. If they don't everybody's going to be a slave, working for a
computer. And that ain't no kidding because ten percent of the people's gonna own the computer
companies. And ninety percent or ninety-five percent is gonna be working for them, gonna be slaves is
what it is.
The thing they're in is called the Honors Program. And what they're supposed to do is exactly what you're
saying. Think about citizenship and civic responsibilities.
Like I told them the other day, don't tell me they can't do it. Teenagers changed it in the sixties, they can
change it again. Teenagers stopped the Vietnam War now. Them three or four getting shot at Kent State
Start talking about (?) get Americans to start thinking about something besides money.
And now, you know what gets me now, I hate to talk about the Democrats President, but he wouldn't even
go to Vietnam and fight and now he wants to send everybody's son over there in Bosnia to get shot for no
reason. Stay out there, let them people kill each other down till, they'll stop when enough of them gets
We don't really have any business over there I don't think.
That's just like me. If I want to shoot somebody, if anybody come out and try to stop me, I'm gonna shoot
Everytime I get a chance with an audience at university school kids, the whole thing is whether you care or
don't care about the things in the world.
Well, ninety percent of your kids don't. Ninety percent of them don't care, that's why it surprised me to see
three kids like these.
... learn a job and make money.
Now you know if it had been most kids come out here, I'd have talked to them five or ten minutes and
forgot about it, you know. I ain't trying to swell their heads or nothing, but these are exceptional kids.
It's funny how one generation can care like hell and the other one won't give a damn.
Well, you know if somebody hadn't cared and been willing to sacrifice, England would've still owned the
You know, my ancestors fought on both sides of most of the wars that's been fought. Some of them was
for the British, some of them was ...
end of first side
But you know what it is, professional politicians. If you're not a professional politician, they should
dismantle the Republican and the Democratic party. They shouldn't have no parties no more. They control
everything. Republican, he gets elected to office, the party controls him, he can't do nothing. What they
tell him to do, he better do. Because they done bought him to put him in office. He's bought by, and who
owns the Republican or Democratic party? Rich people that donates the money has got the say-so.
The only difference is that it takes the Democrats maybe three times as long (?)
Well, at least the Republicans are honest about it, they'll tell you they gonna give it.
The only thing 1 got against the Democrats is they wanna give everything away. I believe if a person
hungry, feed him one time. Feed 'em a meal or two, or, like I was telling them when I was raised up, there
was poor people, they come to your house,and you gave them a job of work. And they'd chop wood or
husk corn or something for money. You know to eat. Nowaday, they won't do it. If you don't give it to
them, they'll knock you in the head with a stick and take what they want.
Right there where those two palm trees is. There was a little island, right over there, and there was a stone
house built there. But an old man lived in it, but that was in the thirties. When my people come to Florida,
he lived there. But that was, there was a little island right in here. This creek going up through here, you
could go all the way out and come out down in the inland water way, south canal, through that creek.
It's so beautiful out here, I can't believe it. It's just gorgeous.
Yeah, but just think about what they destroyed. See all these trees, when they pumped all that in there,
they destroyed the trees and the grass. That's like I say, if the corps of engineers says it's good for you, it's
good for you. You know, people's supposed to control the government, but the government controls the
people. That's not right. The environmental people is taking it away. But like everything else, they go
too far with certain aspects.
The net ban. Isn't that the environmentalist?
They don't do their homework very well.
They get radical. They think everybody thinks because what he thinks is so, that's the way it is without any
This creek used to be fifteen, twenty foot deep all the way through here up to south canal. Nowadays, you
can't even get in there.
See all these rocks across here?
Yeah, I was wondering...
That was a bluff. A whole rock line of rocks went up through here years ago. Well, the people here
wanted to catch shrimp, the old people. So they rolled the rocks out in the river to get holes to shrimp out
of. Plus when they dredged the river to forty-two foot, this is where they dredged it. They didn't want to
undermine all this. See up in here where it's falling, that's on account of dredging the river too deep out
You know, I had a teacher that hit me fifteen times with a switch. She hit me fifteen times with a switch
about three and a half foot long and cut the blood out of me nine times. And me with a shirt on, that was
through a shirt. And when I got home I didn't tell my momma and daddy that I had got a whipping at
school. We had a man teacher, see one teacher taught from the first to the fourth grade, and another
teacher taught from the fifth through the eigth. And they was boys, you know eighteen years old finishing
up the eigth grade. Them farm boys they was grown. And they had to have a man to control them, and he
Where was this school?
In uh, Tennessee, the name of the place. It was Wildcat, but they thought if they changed the name, they
changed it to Lamb School. That's where I went to school, a school named Lamb School.
Here around New Berlin, all this area, where do all the kids go to school?
What's the dropout rate, pretty high?
Do the kids go fishing?
No, just I don't like to talk about classes of people, but it's a class of people you got in Oceanway.
And the kids don't stay in school as much?
No. I don't care who it is, when you got a low class of people, whether they're black or white, if the kids
has not learned respect, and the need for education, you gonna have it.
But it wasn't a question of them going fishing?
No, no, no, no. You know, you still got, Oceanway's still a bad place. All of it is bad. I wouldn't let my
kids go to, I got a granddaughter who was supposed to go to Highland, and I would kept her outta school
before I would let her go to Highland.
... come in here and cut this. See that's all the old channel over there. That's all the old St. Johns River
channel. When they cut this new channel through here, they pumped all that sand and destroyed all that
marsh grass and water back there. All this was marsh grass and water where you see these homes here.
What'd they need another channel for?
Shorter way to Jacksonville. Not as many turns, didn't have to make them turns, didn't have to pump all
Somebody made money.
...for real, what I was telling you, all the way through here. This is the other end, this is the upper end of
it. This was Goat, this was Rabbit Island here. Down here, that was Goat Island. This was all built since
the sixties. All this in here. They started out dredging and they filled all this in. There used to be a big
bay of water back in there.
What is that?
That's Blount Island. That's the Blount Island turn-offto the city. You know,there's a story behind that.
The city council gived, practically gived most of this land to Jacksonville Power System. There never was
a power plant built.
They filled all this in, they pumped all this in. In the last ten, fifteen years. And continue to do so. All this
in here, see this line of trees in here, they pumped about right here, all that. This out in here used to be
fifteen, twenty foot deep. Now then, it ain't knee deep.
Who gets the land? Who gets it?
Well, the state's supposed to, but the city's the one, the state gets it.
This fellow Floyd was telling me about, did I ask you before, you said some years ago, there was a black
fellow that was from New Berlin, he used to work on the pogey boats, pulling by hand and he'd pull the
nets for so long that all the fingers ...
Yeah, that was Son Brille, he's dead, his fingers was just like that.
What's his name?
Son Brille. What happened was caused by arthritis, working in the cold and the water all the time.
They say he's a big fellow.
But he's dead now. How long since those pogey boats, when did they stop doing it by hand?
Probably in the fifties when they stopped pulling by hand. Got the roller rigs, you know to pull them in.
They still catching pogeys?
I don't even know if they catch them or not. If they do, it's over in Texas. They closed down that pogey
plant in Fernandina. The old pogey plant, they used to have a plant over there that made fish meal.
When did they close it down? About what time, what year?
They closed it down in the seventies, the last part of the sixties or the seventies I believe.
And you make the fish meal for what? Fertilizer, or what? Cattle feed, what?
You see that trout laying there? Now you know they can catch all of them that they want to and throw
them overboard. But now, if they catch you, they'll issue you a citation.
They have to be twelve inches to keep, right?
Illegal fishing. See you're not supposed to catch them. Shrimp boats can kill them by the hundred of ton,
and they don't say a word.
He said all the fish he had in the boat were illegal. You know, except the shrimp.
But where do they draw the line? What are you saying? Are they going to arrest us for these?
Well, they'll give you a citation for illegal fish.
But if you throw them overboard, it's okay.
If you're a shrimper and dump them overboard, it's okay.
If you get them overboard in five minutes, they won't issue you a citation?
You know it's just...
What's your answer to that? They catch shrimp, they can catch anything.
I guess if you're a shrimper, you can get anything. You know the governor said he'd call out the National
Guard just to stop us from running gill nets. And two or three days later, he went down and signed a thing
to help the draggers drag two nets instead of one. You know that old man is about senile, somebody ought
to do something about him, I'm not kidding.
My daddy says he's a crook.
He's been out in the sun too long.
Well, my daddy says they might be honest when they go in, but they're crooks when they come out.
Well, old walking Lawton, he's had a sunstroke while he was walking. It's a good thing they can't put you in
jail for what you think, ain't it. I'd tell him the same thing. Like I told my city councilman, I said you're
supposed to be looking out for my interests. He said if you want your interests watched out for, you better
do it yourself. Well, I ain't got time to do it, I said I work for a living. And I said our tax money pays your
salary. He said well I can't help that. He said something and I said well you're just a no good S.O.B. He
said you can't talk to me like that and hung the phone up.
Your dune buggy out there with the boat. Tell me why you wrote that on there and how long... Tell me
That was a show thing. The boys that had it, they drove it. It was over on the Southside for a long time.
It's street legal, you can go out on the street with it.
Some of those books you loaned me have some information about government studies about bycatch,
about what percentage of bycatch and so forth and I can't see how anybody got any idea about how to keep
from doing it. What can anybody do?
They got a, you seen them turtle shooters in them nets. Alright, the first of the year, they're supposed to
come out with a fish shooter. But you see that iron ring that's in there? All you gotta do to get by that is
make that bag longer and put in your bag instead of your net, and just twist that thing when you throw it
overboard, and it don't never untwist. Your fish go down right above it and you still got the whole thing.
You know these people think they can get by with things they don't understand. But they don't understand
fishing, there ain't nothing they can do that can't be got around by net people that know something about
So you don't even have to have that turtle shooter open then if you don't want to.
Well, you're supposed to have. But you can fix it to where you can't, and there ain't nothing they can do
You can just say it got twisted.
That's like some guy, you know if you're gonna help increase the fish. If you got a bunch of chickens out
there and you want to increase your chickens, what do you do? You set the eggs, right? And they hatch
out and make more chickens. Now, say those chickens laid in say June and July, if you eat all the eggs that
they laid in June and July you wouldn't have no damned eggs to eat in January and February, would you?
Because they ain't laid none. They only lay in June and July, think about that. Now then, me and the man
down in Tallahassee, they got some Nigger Rican down there, Puerto Rican or something, that they hired
that's supposed to be an authority on special trout. And he tells me that the trout rolls to five, six months.
And that they don't school for rolls, that they're just out there floating around theirselves. He tell's me that
they don't roll between the fifteenth of June and the fifteenth of August here in St. Johns River. He says
that they roll about anytime they want to. They're closing the season on those trout in January and
February is when the closed season is supposed to be on those trout. And it should be in August and
What the shrimpers are doing is in effect against what you guys in fishing are doing?
When that little bunch of fish you got right there grows up to full size, you'd have well over a hundred
pounds of fish, eatin size fish.
Are the shrimpers arguing with the fishers or what?
Now think about this. This is just minor, that ain't much. Man I've seen it when you'd sink this boat with
two drags with two nets. And you got all these boats dragging out in this river, plus you got hundreds of
big boats right up and down the beach out here doing the same thing. That's what's wrong with this type of
fish, your yellow mouth, your croakers, your spots, your silver trout, and all that.
You all in the fishing business, you're not opposed to the shrimpers keeping on doing that?
Well, what can you do about it? They ain't gonna listen to you. I was against them ever, before they
opened up St. Johns River to dragging, I had forty-five crab traps. And I'd go out there and pull a
thousand pounds of crabs a day. Average about a thousand pounds a day.
How many shrimps?
Forty, forty-five traps I'd get around a thousand pounds average per day.
What year's this?
In nineteen and seventy. All right they opened up the river to dragging, these shrimp nets. Within two
weeks, I had to sell my traps and get out of business, cuz I couldn't even make enough money to pay for
my gas. They caught them by the tons, hundreds of tons.
They all had it done.
And it don't make no difference, they put a sponge crab law, you know you couldn't sell an egg bearing
crab. Well they've not increased none. The crabs has not increased. For the simple reason that there's no
reproduction of the life here in the river. The river's dead.
Now what I was getting at, you'd think that those of you who are fishing would be with the
environmentalists who are saying stop those shrimpers from all that bycatch.
But it's just like the rich man and the poor man. Just like the man told me, we couldn't stop the drag boats,
we went after the weakest one, and we got you. That's exactly what he told me. Because,see, I called him
up and I said look man, I paid five hundred dollars to you all to stop all this dragging and commercial
fishing in Florida. What's wrong with these drag boats are still out there destroying the fish. And that's
what he told me. See, I didn't tell him I was a gill net fisherman wanting the information.