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Miami, FishingOfficial Directory of the City of Miami and Nearby Towns
On Friday, the second day of the New Year, we went on a fishing trip, sailing through Biscayne Bay, through the Keys and out into the ocean some 12 or 15 miles. The day was nearly a perfect now, and standing on the beach the almost inspired words of the port passed through our mind:
"Sweet day, so fair, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky,
The stars shall note thy fall tonight,
For thou must die."
As we stood upon the shore of this beautiful sheet of water, the rippling waves as they broke at our feet, told no story of section or country, no north, no south, no east, no west, but all united in one grand refrain, singing the battle hymn of the Republic.
Our trip was made on the good sloop Clara, owned and commanded by a most worthy gentleman, Com. F. D. Hughes. His estimable wife, a highly cultured and accomplished lady, by her kindly graces and courtesies, added very much to the pleasures of the occasion. The sloop sailed away as gracefully as "the swan on still St. Mary's lake" and as we stood upon its prow, the sea all glittering and resplendent in the bright sunlight, and we breathed the pure and invigorating atmosphere, one of the most perfect of all His creation, we felt compelled to thank and praise the Creator for the simple luxury of physical existence.
The day we spent on Uncle Sam's salt water farm will long be remember as we plowed o'er Old Neptune's fertile fields. As we sailed along we noticed flocks of pelicans, and on a little farther a school of porpoise disporting in the water. After sailing about five miles, and through a gap in the keys into the ocean, we got out our fishing tackle to get ready for business. You have to go to certain places in the ocean for certain kinds of fish, their haunts and feeding grounds being well known to the sea-faring men here, and particular kinds of bait and tackle are also required.
We went out for the Kingfish, which is of the game variety, and very often attain a weight of 40 or 50 pounds. For these we used an artificial bait called a squid, which is a large pike hook firmly fastened into a triangular piece of white metal three or four inches long, and its it is drawn or trolled through the water, and glistens and attracts the Kingfish which strikes at it and is caught. No rods were used, but a strong, heavy cord about 75 feet long, which we held in our hand, one end being fastened to the boat. There were two lines trolling so that two could fish at the same time.
After about two hours' sail we were in the home of the Kingfish, and the way we caught them would simply paralyze some of our local sports. The line would be no sooner trolling than a fish would strike it, and we would hale to commence hauling in. It requires considerable strength to land one of these fish from two to three and a half feet long and weighing from 12 to 20 pounds and, some of the boys who did not have gloves got their hands badly blistered. We averaged a fish about every six minutes and in a short time had caught 133, the writer leading in 28 of them. The party then decided that we had all the fish we wanted. They weighed in the aggregate 1,200 pounds, weighing from seven to twenty pounds apiece. In steering through the schools of Vista they would be constantly jumping out of the water as high of 10 or 12 feet, and looked very beautiful glistening in the sunlight. When hooked the sharks would often follow them to the stern of the boat where we could get a good look at them, some being 10 to 12 feet long. Other parties make much larger catches than this, some catching as high as 260 a day.
A married lady from New York was in the party. As she was drawing in her first fish her husband came proudly forward who, from his hen-pecked apperance seemed to be, and in fact was, Mrs. Jones' second husband, and exultantly said that this was the first fish Mrs. Jones had ever caught. "No, indeed," said Mrs. Jones, "this is not my first fish; I caught you; but then I was fishing for the sucker variety."
On the Saturday preceeding Colonel Reynolds and your correspondent set out for an alligator hunt. The Everglades are full of them. Some attain a length of 10 and 12 feet, and are killed in great numbers by the Seal Indian who live in the swamps. They sell the peltry to the local dealers who ship it to New York, where it brings a good price, and is tanned and worked up in purses and other forms of usefulness to gratify the wants of civilized men.
On a small water craft we sailed on the Miami river a distance of five miles. This is a very beautiful stream of clear, limpid water, and with historic memories. Its banks on either side are fringed with the mangrove, a small shrubbery tree whose branches droop, take root again and sometimes cover a considerable space of ground. Here the Colonel and I disembarked, as we were just then on the outskirts of flat, far-famed Everglades, which with the help of a field and be seen stretching southward, apparently at succession of lakes and islands for a distance of sixty miles. We got heavy gun boots for wading through the water and slush, employed a negro to carry our outfit and an Indian with his canoe to guide and pole us through the swamp. In places we would all have to get out and a push our canoe, the slush and slime being too shallow for the loaded boat to pass over. As the boys say "the woods are full of them" and we had not traveled more than a mile and a half before we saw one of our quarry lying on the small tussock, his body partially concealed in the water and thin, straggling grass. His mouth was partly open, exposing the glistening rows of white shining teeth, and he was certainly ready for business, to swallow all the flies and insects that would alight within this inviting cavern. They are not at all wild and by moving quietly you can approach within easy gunshot. The skin is a black brown color, broken by yellow spots. He was lying with his head from us, and knowing it is useless to shoot a 'gaitor in the back, we quietly pulled around to the right until we could get a fair view of his pupils. The darkey became very much excited, his big eyes shining like snow balls. There are only two places where a ball will kill, either in the eye or where the backbone joins the small, elongated head.
"Shoot him in de eye, Massa Reynolds; Shoot him in de eye," exlaimed the darkey, all quivering with excitement. "Which eye?" asked the Colonel, well knowing the fatality of his uneering markmanship.
"Left eye, Massa Reynolds, de left eye!"
The Winchester was hardly to his face when it sharp whip-like report was heard and the old alligator turned upon his back, like the Populist party in the western states. He was certainly a "daisy," between seven and eight feet long. The Colonel is going to have the hide tanned and will fill with relics and mementoes of his Florida trip to distribute among his long list of lady admirers.
T. W. HALE.
Miami, Fla., Jan. 6, 1903.
Excerpt from "Fishing at Miami" Official Directory of the City of Miami and Nearby Towns, 1904.
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