Monday, July 03, 2006

Fraternal Fish Fame


'57
or
'58
-ish









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 Picasa

25 comments:

Hurricane Teen said...

hey! I was at Schooner's last Wednesday and I think I saw that picture! Is it right above the benches at the main entrance? Some pretty nice pictures in there. Great last line, too.

pablo said...

I first had blackened redfish as a restaurant in Atlanta, probably twenty years ago. I loved it, and I look for it all the time now. No wonder I've had no luck finding it.

If you visted a certain McDonald's in Columbia, Missouri for many years you would see a large photo of an ethnic festival at one of the nearby small towns, and in the photo you saw my mother and many of my sibs. You could only see my socks in the photo. For years I thought about trying to acquire the photo, but now it is gone.

As for being a babe in diapers, I'd say if you didn't have the diapers on, you would be underdressed, babies being the way they are and all.

rick said...

has to be my favorite pic of one of many great fishing trips they had.Don't like to let Nat see those pics, because she says what happened to you?

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

The rhyme and reason behind fishing regulations can oftimes be elusive, at best. When I was involved with the Channel Islands Council of Divers (an advocacy group), we frequently ran across a recurring theme: As divers, we witnessed first-hand the decline of many species populations (abalone, rock fish, halibut, to name a few). The response from the Dept. of Fish & Game was always the same - restrictions would be put in place after scientific evidence of the decline was presented. Such studies take many years, and in the meantime, the species in question would be decimated. Only after the commercial take had completely collapsed would any regulatory action be taken, but by then, it would be too late.

I hope some day we will find a way to balance the interests of all parties involved in our fisheries. In the interim, fisheries will probably continue with the boom-bust cycle that you describe.

Leslie said...

Am I the only person thus far who is bothered by the "redrum" fish? redrum...redrum....

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I had blackened redfish for awhile, then discovered that you can blacken just about anything. So halibut met its match in me (lots better than redfish, too).

Mrs. S said...

Great post! I especially enjoyed the old picture of your family fishing day, even if you were excluded. You should post a picture of yourself from the same year (assuming you were indeed already on the scene)... think of the fun you could have writing about different diaper styles and how they've affected the environment! :D

Laura said...

Wow! can't wait to call hub in to see this picture with ALL that redfish. He fishes with a friend of his on the intracoastal waterway at "the redfish hole" at their top secret spot. I don't think they've ever brought home that many of them. Great picture of your Dad, brother and Uncle!

Last years fishing all but died back because of the red tide...I don't think they brought home a single redfish. In fact, at this time last year, we couldn't even swim at the beach on the 4th because it was so disgusting from all the dead fish floating around. Very sad to see. Very smelly to breath.

I think i've eaten at Schooners, IF it is the restaurant near the bridge, where you can see all the big fish swimming around under the deck outside the restaurant. It was almost 15 years ago, memory might be affected here.
We'll have to look it up the next time we're over in St. Augustine.

Floridacracker said...

Hurricaneteen,
I believe that is it's location.

Pablo,
Like Hoss said, you can blacken any favorite fish...try Redfish Magic seasoning mix.

Rick,
Our dad's must have had sore arms after that day.

Hal,
True, those studies go on and on...mainly because the commercial fishermen have more clout on those resource councils...at least here in the Gulf they do.

Leslie,
That's a SHINING example of fish paranoia...

Hoss,
True, any fish you like will blacken just fine. I like chicken best!

Mrs. S,
I am soooooo glad my parenting era was the pampers/huggie era. I think I would have gone insane with cloth diapers.

Laura,
That's funny,...I think we all have a secret redfish hole.
The restaurant by the bridge where you can feed/watch the fish is the Santa Maria.
Schooners is on US1 just north of the city limits.

kevin said...

Schooner's is a great resteraunt that was better before everyone else found it. The guy that opened it used to cook for Barnacle Bill's who used to cook for Osteen's. I'm sure the cycle will continue.

I remember fishing with my Dad and little brother, betweem them they caught about 30 reds and a couple of flounder. I couldn't get a mosquito bite that day. I agree about the limits, it's time to raise them. The fish have obivously come back in great numbers.

Mrs. S said...

Your response to my previous comment is funnier to me than you probably realize because a) you are the probably the most environmentally friendly (or one of them) people I have ever met and b) I am on the other end of the "environmentally friendly" scale, though I will not say I am COMPLETELY unfriendly... and you didn't cloth diaper, and I have decided (in my typical stubborn way) that nothing will prevent me from cloth diapering my child, come hell or high water.

So, now you know why I'm giggling.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I've never eaten blackened redfish and if I ever see it on any menu, I will give it a try.

Love the old picture of your dad, uncle & brother and you probably weren't born yet.

Floridacracker said...

Kevin,
I think you are right about that cycle.

Mrs. S,
Now it's your turn to crack me up. I give you about a week, maybe two of cloth diapering. Actually, when you consider hot water/energy consumption of cleaning cloth diapers, disposeables come out ahead on the tree hugger scale...so don't feel guilty when you give up on cloth.
It's hard to imagine, until you do it, just how many diaper changes can happen in one day.
Whichever method you use, you are going to do just fine.
:)


Abandoned,
You can blacken steak, chicken, fish, any meat I guess. Makes a lot of smoke and it takes a real cast iron pan to do it right. I do it on the porch so I don't fill the house with smoke.

Mrs. S said...

I'm so taking that as a challenge. One month BARE MINIMUM that I'll do cloth ;)

Actually, I won't be doing the laundry portion myself. There is a service in town that provides the cloth inner parts and because they do a bunch of diapers (and sanitize them, thank goodnes!) in bulk it saves on hot-water that way. But we'll see how I make out... maybe I'll be begging for Huggies after three days.

On a totally serious note, though - I cannot STAND the smell of unsoiled disposable diapers... hence one of my big reasons for wanting to go cloth. Ha! I'm turning your comments into a diaper convo!

Ava said...

What a great picture!!!!

That sure is a lot of fish they have there. It's making me hungry!!!!

Ava

Wayne said...

That's quite a string there, and believe it or not, I had already figured out that our FC was probably in diapers.

Old photographs give me a unique pleasure. My father, a very good photographer, has spent a huge amount of time scanning and bringing together his own set of thousands of family-oriented photos from the last hundred years (well, not all are his own) and producing CD-ROMS for everyone in the family.

He won't believe I've gone through it, several times, but I have!

Floridacracker said...

Mrs. S,
One thing I had not considered is the fact that the design and engineering of cloth diapers has probably improved since the basic square sheet of my babyhood. I bet they are much improved.
Now I had better stop discussing diapers before the male police come and recall my Y chromosome.
:)

Ava,
At this point in my Dad and my Uncle's lives, they probably really ndeeded the free food those fish provided.

Wayne,
Well, I'm not wearing them now of course.
I love old photos too, my dad has a bizzillion Kodachrome slides of us when we were little that I need to get digitized for sharing.

roger said...

okay, i'm late here. nice fish. trendy cuisine has ruined many good things besides fish.

about diapers.....those disposables are creating a mighty big septic landfill mess. and some babies skin is allergic to the plastic part. cloth diapers are WAY better, (imho). i speak from experience. 3 daughters. hot water rinses away everything. the bathtub drain goes to the same place as the toilet. hang in there mrs s.

roger

Floridacracker said...

roger,
not touching the diaper comment as i have sworn off :)

not that this is harmful, but the food trend i see lately is chipolte everything and adobo this, adobo that.

Mrs. S said...

Thank you Dread Pirate Roberts, and FC... I'll stop taking over the comments with Diaper comments now ;)

Floridacracker said...

Mrs S,
Well the DIAPER talk was a nice CHANGE, BUTT I think I'm WIPED out on advice. In the END it will be your decision. ;)

Anonymous said...

Your dad and uncle sure were hotties...particularly Uncle Richard over there.
And that is a completely serious comment by the way.
As 1958 was the year of my personal debut, I, too, was in diapers. Of course, as soon as I learned to unpin them I took them off.
I'll let you guess who left this particular comment.

Floridacracker said...

Anon,
Ya got me...I'm stumped by the possibilities...clues, I need clues.

Anonymous said...

Any clue I might give would give me away...you'll just have to use your spidey senses - like any good ranger would ;)

Floridacracker said...

Anon,
Love a good mystery :)