Home > Floripedia > Hunting near Fort Capron
Site Map

Hunting near Fort Capron

Camp Life in Florida; A Handbook for Sportsmen and Settlers.


Having served about two years in South Florida during the last Seminole, or "Billy Bowlegs" war, I think I may safely assert that Fort Capron, opposite Indian River Inlet, is the very place for a sportsman's hotel. Its mild and salubrious climate, together with the abundance of fruit, game, and fish to be found in its immediate vicinity, render it a place of unsurpassed attractions for both sportsman and invalid. There is absolutely no endemic disease at this place. Its mild, genial climate banishes all coughs, colds, and rheumatisms, while a line of hills in its rear effectually intercept the malarial exhalations of the fresh-water swamps of the interior. The chlorinated vapors brought by the trade-winds, which are constantly blowing from the sea, also exercise their powerful sanitary influence. The abundance of game and fish in the vicinity of Fort Capron is truly astonishing. During the prolonged period that I was stationed at that fort we were never, in the proper season, without game, fish, oysters, or green turtle. The fish found in the vicinity are red-fins (a species of drum, commonly called "red bass," the "rouge" of the Creole French about New Orleans), red-snapper, sheepshead, cavalli, sea trout, sea mullet, and the far-famed pompano. These two last-mentioned fish do not take a bait. There are also two other remarkable fish inhabiting Indian river and the adjacent coast, whose scientific names I am unaware of. These are called by the natives the jewfish and the tarpum. The former sometimes attains a weight of two or three hundred pounds, and resembles a bass in its general contour, while the latter presents more the appearance of a dace. The tarpum, owing to its graceful outlines and lustrous coloring, is a fish of most surpassing beauty. The scales on its sides are about the size and the brilliancy of a silver dollar, out of which the native females fabricate beautiful baskets. When a school of these fish are disporting themselves upon the surface of the waves, as is their frequent habit, the bright reflections from their sides produce an effect not unlike that presented by the burnished arms of a squad of soldiers at drill. This fish attains a length of about five or six feet, but is not so heavy as the jew-fish. The bar at Indian River Inlet is an unrivalled locality for short spearing, for those who are fond of that thrilling amusement. I have myself, in a common "Whitehall" boat, aided in harpooning fifteen or twenty in a morning. The rivers and creeks emptying into Indian river are filled with black bass (miscalled "black trout" by the natives). This species of black bass reach a much greater size than any other species of this fish I have ever met with. I have taken them weighing in the neighborhood of ten pounds, and I have seen others swimming in the water, that seemed to be almost as large again. Like the bass of the Upper Mississippi and lakes of Minnesota, and unlike the bass at present inhabiting the Potomac and its tributaries, it will readily rise to spoon or fly. They are apt to have a grassy taste during the summer, but as winter approaches they have as fine a flavor as any other fish of the genus. The streams which they inhabit, flowing as they do through the sandy soil of the "pine barrens," which contains but little sediment, are almost as transparent as the celebrated trout brooks of New England. Indian river, so called, is not properly a river; but rather a sound or salt-water lagoon, being separated from the ocean by a narrow strip of sandy land overgrown with palmettoes and mangroves. It is about one hundred and fifty miles long, and ranges from several miles to forty yards in width. On the east it is fed by several inlets from the sea, through which the tide ebbs and flows freely. Several large rivers enter it from the West, the principal of which are the San Sebastian, Santa Lucia, and Locha Hatchee. No country that I have ever visited affords as great a variety of game and fish as South Florida. Besides large game, such as bear, deer, turkeys, etc., this region literally swarms with snipe and ducks, at least during the winter months. Partridges (bob whites) are also sufficiently numerous to afford sport; but I have never seen a woodcock in that section. The snipe shooting on the savannahs is simply superb. These savannahs (or natural meadows) afford sufficient moisture to attract the birds, without being so miry as to render the walking difficult or fatiguing, as is so often the case at points further north. On one of these snipe grounds of many hundred acres in extent, several miles in rear of Fort Capron, I used to enjoy most delightful sport, seldom returning without a full bag.

I would advise sportsmen desirous of snipe shooting in that section, to take pointers instead of setters, for the long hair of these latter is likely to harbor the numerous sanguinivorous insects which there abound; its mild climate is also more suitable to the nature of the Pointer.

Your correspondent Fred Beverly makes honorable mention of a gallant exploit of one of his followers whom he calls Jim. Now if he alludes to "Jim" Russell, of Fort Capron (and I am pretty sure he does), I am happy to state that I am well acquainted with "Jim," and have had many a jolly day's sport in his company. During a sail-boat trip to Merrit's Island, in company with Lieutenant, now General, Jeff. C. Davis of Captain Jack notoriety, and several others, among whom was our hero, we had occasion to take along a famous pointer of mine, Old Nat by name, for the purpose of varying our amusement by a little snipe shooting. Now, although Old Nat's moral status was none of the best, for he would "steal like a quartermaster," yet his admirable hunting qualities made him a great favorite with all. Like most of his species, he was very fond of consulting his own comfort and convenience. At the fort he was accustomed to sleep in a nice shady spot on my porch, and seeing a similar locality on the boat, produced by the shadow of the main-sail, he soon ensconced himself therein. After getting through with his snooze, and thinking himself, no doubt, still in his accustomed spot at home, he suddenly got up, and, much to our surprise and dismay, leaped overboard. As there was a violent gale blowing at the time, the "white caps" running angrily, and, furthermore as the dog's chain soon became entangled with his legs, his peril became extreme. We luffed up promptly; but in spite of all our efforts the fate of the dog seemed sealed, when "Jim," throwing off his coat, boldly plunged into the seething, surging waves. A few strokes brought him near enough to lay hold of the collar of the drowning dog, but owing to the helpless condition of the latter he could not make much progress on his return to the boat. Owing to the increased violence of the storm, we now became aware of the alarming fact that we were slowly but surely falling to leeward, and our fears now became excited for Jim's safety also. We shouted to him to abandon the dog and save himself; but the gallant fellow would not do it. By letting the sail fall and using the oars with desperate energy, we were enabled to hold the boat in a stationary position, so that Jim, swimming with one arm and aided by the waves, succeeded, after a desperate struggle, in coming alongside with the dog. I soon pulled them both in, and we all applauded "Jim" for his manly daring; but to this day "Jeff" swears that I pulled the dog in first; but this however, I can never bring myself to agree to.


Excerpt from "Camp Life in Florida; A Handbook for Sportsmen and Settlers." Chapter 15. Compiled by Charles Hallock, published by Forest and Stream Publishing Company. American News Company, Agents. 1876.


Home > Floripedia > Hunting near Fort Capron
Site Map

Exploring Florida: A Social Studies Resource for Students and Teachers
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.