My Menorcan Fisherman’s 1950’s
by Mike Usina
If you think for one moment that the Menorcan fisherman were only interested in mullet on the beach think again. I will
start with Jan. and go through my Menorcan fisherman year. I remember right after the first of Jan. going to Marine
supply and oil and buying a 600 Ft. spool of 1/4 In. manila rope, 100 Mustad 11/0 hooks and a one pound spool of size
18 nylon twine. Now I was ready to start putting my Drum line together.

For those of you who do not know I’m talking about the Black Drum that come into north river in late Jan. or early Feb. to
spawn. These are a very large fish that for the most part range in size from 20lbs. to 80lbs. I would put my drum lines out
from Mid. Feb. to Mar. first. Drum season lasted usually till late Apr. The lines were baited with crabs and run on each
slack tide. I have very fond memories as a young lad in the early 50’s spending the weekends on the Guana with my
Dad and others with the late Herman Short at his drum camp. The drum fisherman built cabins from shell bluff south to
Sombrero island. By the mid. 1950’s the Guana was closed to public use, In 1957 I moved in with Joe Pomar Sr., Speck
Hartley, Joe Andru, Clyde Usina, Raymond Usina and Billy Usina on Sombero  island.   

After Drum season it was time to go flounder gigging, I remember again in the early 50’s carrying the croaker sack and
walking with my Dad and older brothers from the back of salt run out to the St. Augustine inlet, it was not long before
they would have too many flounders in the sack for me to drag. Flounder gigging was done at night using an old broom
stick with a straight rod drove into the end with a point on it, gigs were not allowed back then. A Coleman gas lantern
was used for light, the fisherman would stick the flounder then put his hand under the fish grabbing the rod to pick it up
as no barb was allowed. By the mid. 1950’s the law changed allowing up to a five prong gig, so now I       could flounder
out of my flat bottom boat opening up unlimited areas to go gigging. I would tie a gas lantern on each side of my boat
and had no problem in gigging 30 to 40 flounders on a good calm night.

When June rolled around it was time to start turtle egging, this was done after dark. The sea turtles would crawl out of
the water and up to the edge of the sand dunes where they would dig a hole using their back flippers and deposit any
where from 70 to over 100 eggs. Once the turtle had started laying you could dig the sand away from the freshly dug
hole that the turtle had made and catch the eggs as they were laid. When the turtle had finished laying she would cover
the empty hole up before returning to the sea. A good Menorcan would scrape the barnacles from the turtles shell and
stay with her until she all the way back into the water.

By mid August it was time to head to the
St. Johns and cast your net for shrimp, this was also done at night. For those
that did not have a boat they would build a platform out from the shore line that they could climb up on to cast their nets
from. I always had a boat so I could follow the shrimp as they would move up or down the river. I would drive a stake at
each end of the boat to tie the boat to, this was done in around 6Ft. of water. I found that crushed up oysters were the
best bait how ever to much work to do every night. So I would use fish meal mixing 5Lbs. with 5Lbs. of plain flower and
adding just enough water to make a firm mix. I made my bait flat like a small pancake and would bait 3 spots on each
side of the boat just before dark. The shrimp came out of the channel into the shallower water to feed, it was nothing to
catch a number 3 wash tub full on a good night.

When September came and the first northeaster ran the shrimp out of the St. Johns it was time to do what us Menorcans
are famous for and that is mullet on the beach. After a northeaster huge schools of mullet would come from the north
heading south along the beach, the cast net fisherman and sane fisherman would be out in force to harvest the
unsuspecting mullet. The best time of all to catch mullet was from around mid Oct. until Dec., that is when they were the
largest and would be full of roe. A Menorcan feast is fried mullet roe chopped up in grits with butter and ketchup.
Mullet are found in every ocean in the world, mullet is the only salt water fish that has a gizzard like a chicken. Mullet
range in size along the beach from finger size to 3 to 4 pounds or larger. Our Menorcan ancestors must have felt right at
home here to see the abundant schools of mullet as they left plenty of mullet back home in Menorca.

Us Menorcans were also good at gathering oysters, digging clams, catching crabs, marsh hen hunting, catching whiting,
trout, red fish just to name a few and when time permitted pulling gophers. What a wonderful year it was.


                                                    Mike Usina          


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Shrimping on the St. Johns
Mullet on the Beach
British Period
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History of Cast Nets
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Minorcan Made Cast Nets
Growing Datil Peppers
Captain Jack Usina
Golden Book of the Minorcans
Cathedral
Menorcan Fisherman in the
1950s
   
Benet Family
Menorcan Black Drum Line
Fisherman
The Legend of Carl Canova
Menorcan History and Culture