Thursday, December 29, 2005

Salt Run Memories



Salt Run is the lagoon located behind Anastasia Island over in St. Augustine, my home town. Anastasia is about 14 miles long and parallels the coast from the St. Augustine Inlet to Matanzas Inlet.

The photo is looking east towards the back, or west shore of Anastasia. I took this photo while home for Christmas so this is not one of those "here's what it used to look like" essays of mine. The St. Augustine lighthouse is behind me, as is one more body of salt water, and then the town of St. Augustine.

The pier with the fisherfolk has been there for a very long time. It has been "prettied" up for out of towners, but it is essentially as it was when my grandfather and I used to fish it. Pa was my "yankee" granddad (my mom's from Pennsylvania) and we loved each other dearly. We also loved fishing together and this pier was convenient, even if not the very best place to fish. He grew up catching and getting excited over brown trout whose size would qualify them for bait down here, so he really enjoyed the power and size of saltwater fishes. He is just one of my Salt Run memories.

Another memory tickled out by the chilly, salty air was Bill N. and his gasless boat. When we were teens, Bill had the money to have his own boat, but none of the experience needed to run it well. On one sunny day, a handfull of us went for a ride in his new boat, which promptly ran out of gas..."Gee, I put gas in last weekend". This might not seem like a big deal, but the tide was beginning to flow out and promised to carry us out to sea or to the boat grinding boulders that lined the inlet. We jumped in the water and became motors, swimming and pushing on the stern until finally we made it across Salt Run and terra firma.

My best Salt Run memories were my teen age solo trips at night to gig flounder. I would load the canoe atop my green Gremlin and hit McDonalds at about 11 pm for a cup of coffee. My friends were often in there winding up a date..."You're going out there now?" they'd ask. There wasn't really time to explain about how the right tides and dark moonless night had coincided with my weekend, so I'd nod my head and they would shake theirs.

At the same point shown in the picture, I would launch the canoe with a car battery, a gig (fish spear), and a homemade flounder light. My dad made it and it consisted of a section of PVC pipe, a car brakelight bulb, a cool whip bowl reflector, and wire with alligator clips.

After paddling across to the dark wild side of Salt Run (Anastasia State Park), I would get out in kneedeep water and tie the bow of the canoe loosely to my beltloops. Now the canoe would follow me as I waded. Next the flounder light was clipped to the battery bringing forth bright light which caused much mullet jumping and shorebird screeching until submerged. Held by the PVC handle with the bulb/bowl light beneath the water, there was no glare and I was ready to hunt for flounder.

Flounder are ambush predators and move into the shallows to eat small fish as the tide drops. With light in the left hand and gig in the right hand, I'd walk quietly, the canoe silently following me. When a flounder was sighted lying on the bottom, a quick stick and it was in the boat.

As a predator, I remember the flounder I gigged, but when I think about floundering it's the night marsh sites and sounds that make up most of that picture. Shore birds turn out to be very active at night and they were constant companions as I moved quietly along the shoreline. Lifting the light from the water would cause mullet to jump in all directions and more than once a fat one jumped into the canoe. Beneath the water, the light revealed amazing creatures going about their nocturnal business. Some like burrowing anemones would never be seen by the daytime marsh wader. Others, like the needle fish were blinded by the light and could be picked with a quick snatch. It was never, ever boring...even if the flounder did not show.

Somewhere, early in the predawn morning the wind would switch and the land breeze would start to flow out to sea rippling the surface and making it hard to see the flounder...or the stingrays that lay in the same mud. That was usually my cue to get in the canoe and paddle back to the ramp, usually with a handfull of flounder to clean.

Salt Run is a lagoon near St. Augustine, but for's filled with more than salt water.
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pablo said...

Didja ever stab yourself in the foot with that flounder gig? That's what I want to know.

Floridacracker said...

No, but a stingray once struck a blow for fishdom against me.

roger said...

thanks for the memory jog FC. the pacific ocean was a twenty minute drive from my home when i was in high school. i could go fishing when class was out. either on the beach (run down with the outgoing wave to cast out and run back from the next incoming wave, letting out line) or off a rock outcropping. a grand time of life. well, that nuclear destruction thing was a bit worrisome.

Floridacracker said...

It still is...don't forget how to duck and cover.
Surf fishing must be pretty exciting with the size of your Pacific breakers.

Deb said...

That's part of why we need places like that, so young people can have adventures like you described. I can't imagine what a different person you would be if gigging flounder had not been a part of your experience. We are all the richer for it!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

This is a wonderful piece of writing. No wonder you used to go "pro" at it.

Laura said...

See, if we let all the developers continue to ravage Florida as they have, we'll have entire generations of people without any memories like this one that you have of Salt Run. It will all be poluted water and golf courses instead.
(i'm a little ticked off at the developers at the moment, can you tell?) lol

Loved this piece!
Also, even though you didn't want to do the meme, I'm glad you did! Enjoyed reading through the lists. I've done the Habitat for Humanity on a house in Tampa, really enjoyed the whole experience and hope to do it again soon.

And one can never have too many labs, can they? Unless, of course.. there's a limit on their food bill! LOL

Floridacracker said...

You are right, We need places to stretch our limits and get away. Kinda glad I grew up before video games.

Thanks. I hope your return means that Quest has got their act together!

You are so right. The developers would leave nothing but 1/4 acre lots with cookie cutter houses...and golf courses (ugh) for "green" space.
I agree, the food and vet bill are the only reasonable limits to the amount of Labs one should own.

Hick said...

This is a good piece of writing.

It kind of reminds me of my adventures in the forests up in Tahoe when I was young...except for the fishing part

...and the wading around in the water part

...and the going out at night part

...aside from that...

Floridacracker said...

You crack me up...LOL!

rick said...

Salt run is a great place. Launched at the lighthouse ramp one night and floundered south along the west bank.Somehow ended up high and dry for about 6 hours tide left me stranded.The worst night of my life,then the boat would not crank after the tide came back in.Had to use the gig and pole back to the ramp.Some probley thought that you were susposed to do this at night.Not at 8 AM

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is tacky or helpful, but I'll post it anyhow since you seem to have an appreciation, like me, for 'Salt Run.'

This post is rather old so maybe you'll see it, but maybe others won't. Maybe that will make it less tacky. :-)

Anyhow, a book I wrote about 3 years back.

'Salt Run' - some additional info here:

I'm hardly anonymous since the book was written by me, but I don't have a blogger id.