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.