Monday, July 03, 2006
Fraternal Fish Fame
If you went to Schooner's restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida, (where else?) ...you could sample some of the best Minorcan style clam chowder and fried shrimp around. You could also see this picture hanging on the wall. The walls at Schooners are decorated with pictures of local fish and fisherfolk. (Clarification update: the recipe link above is not Schooner's recipe. You might get that idea from the linked post, but it is from a different St. Augustine eatery that published their recipe. Whatever Schooner's actual recipe is, it is definitely the best in the Ancient City)
This photograph shows my Dad on your left, my big brother in the middle, and my Uncle Richard on your right. The fish are schoolsize red fish (red drum). It seems like a lot of fish, and it is, but Florida's population in the late '50's was something like 3 million and fish were abundant. The fact that fish are still abundant here after the exponential population growth is a success story I suppose.
Redfish have a history that is repeated often in the fish/human interface. For generations, redfish were mostly used only by the folks who caught them. They were not commercially fished, there were no limits to how many you could keep, and you would never find them on a restaurant menu. In the 1980's all that changed.
Out of Louisianna came a restaurant dish called, "Blackened Redfish". Suddenly, the redfish became trendy as restaurant after restaurant added Blackened Redfish to the menu. Commercial fishermen adapted and targeted the huge breeding schools of larger reds.
In a typical "Boom and Bust" cycle, commercial fishermen raked in the fish and money, even as the redfish population began to crash. Finally, regulations were put into place which limited the take. Meanwhile, the public moved on to the next fishy trend...Swordfish, Orange Roughy, Chilean Sea Bass. In each case, the boom bust cycle repeated itself as we decimated breeding populations.
With the pressure off and some protective limits, redfish have bounced back in a wonderful way. They are off the market here in Florida so they are no longer targeted by the commercial takers. We sport fisherfolk still chafe under a "one redfish per day per person" limit even as reds swarm again in our local waters. That one fish limit has lasted for a about two decades now without change. Maybe someday the regs will adjust a little and let us keep two or three per person...enough for a family dinner.
Now for the big question...why did they take my big brother and not me?
Well, looking at my brother's age in that photo, I was either on the way or at home in diapers. Story of my life...
...either late or underdressed.
Posted by R.Powers at 7:14 AM