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Fl. Keys 1960s-1970 Bridges

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When Hurricane Donna the devastation to the Keys and its bridges was horrific ( you tube has great videos). Mid Keys bridges lost pilings and abutments, water lines, electric etc. Islamorada lost many homes and businesses, Ted Williams lost his house and contents, grocery stores removed to bare slabs. The ocean side all though peaceful weeks later was sad, but as some of the comment's from the local "Conchs" clean outs are good. Everywhere in the back country was every form of debris that you could imagine. Cars boats, mobile homes, refrigerator ,stoves and so forth. Much still there, buried or grown over. The attitude of the residents was amazing. Little self pity, In no time things were back, uh, not really. It was 6 months before I returned from Hollywood Fl. after getting word we could get in. When it was just Dad and I we always slept in car as always or on concrete benches in the town beach area bayside, by water tanks. We had water, fire pit, tables, We Tea Table bridge night for snapper, Tea Table II for shrimp dipping on out going tides,The wooden structure Papa Joes at Tea Table survived but was gutted as well as Bud & Mary's oceanside. The first thing we found was that crab life oceanside was gone, and really never came back. Our favorite crab called a fini was a hybrid blue crab. Sand colored ,smaller and swam twice as fast. That was a big part of our very successful permit techniques, We walked out favorite bridge, Indian Key Channel and fish life was normal !!!!!!, Permit, jewfish, snapper, turtles, 5' barracudas called "The Great". Good karma came out at 9 pm first nite back, We grilled/burnt cheap chicken parts then tied them to sticks and flipped in water for an occasional blue or calico crab. Dom't know if he smelled the food or voices, It was "JACK" the local hermit who survived in his tin trailer????He was about 5'5" wet maybe 120 lbs. Barefoot over coral ,sand spurs, never a shirt. We would get eaten alive by mosquitos and chiggers, I think they were afraid of him.LOL He enjoyed the leftovers and a brew. He said he could catch all the calico/spider crabs we wanted! What! We gave a sawbuck and when we got up he had 50 in a crab trap. We walked the bridges sometimes no catwalks, so we used the water pipe, We used Penn squider reels and 50Lb Ande (of course ) and would go from piling to another depending on tide direction, We sight fished and would cast to them or drift back to them. We were good, no Very good, I preach this thought told to me by T. Williams, look in the water, not at it. Polariods, yikes a different world. The permit oceanside from reefs tended to have a more disc shape and back county permit had a broader head and longer body.At this time permit were not a targeted fish, The guides were not into them yet. Now artist Millard Wells starts painting the local fish in watercolor. Born was the famous flats Trio, Bonefish, Tarpon  and Permit ,So mow and fast forward the guide boats were followed us every where we went a foot or in skiff.They would pull to the bridge and tie up. They made so noise that from the bridge the permt were moving 100' left and right of them,So daily we would bring in a permit of 25 lbs to be weighed.(actually 6-12 lbs eat best)We did because the some of those guys were bad egg attitudes. Lastly for this write we tagged a permit with a red and white bobber and released him from the boat and followed him for 3 hours, They would drop back with out going tide a thru the channel around Indian Key and hold in 12' of water then return to bridge and repeat in back county.So when we fished by skiff we new approx. where they would be. Ha Ha , By the early 70s permit were not in tourneys???? we won 5 yrs in a row.    Good Karma!, will do another of the 70s next. Will try to get out photos.

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Edited by RAW
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Another great read.  Thanks for the write up.  25 someodd years ago my family did a couple vacations to the keys when we spent many evenings fishing the bridges.  Great memories and the foundation of my lifelong obsession with tarpon, lol.

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You sir are a legend, thank you for the stories. Florida is a special place I live in NWFL and long for a trip to the keys and glades.  

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Really enjoying your post.... My one and only fishing trip there, was in 1966 (I was 17yr old)... We mostly dove an offshore reef (I think it was called 10 mile reef??) and the harbor for lobster... I wish I could have done more... Your post are bringing back great memories.... Keep it up..

Butch

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Really cool read. Lived in marathon for several years and fished the tea table bridges several times for snook and tarpon at night. Always wondered what the fishing and aquatic life was like years back. 

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Great story... and love the pictures.  Hope you do not mind if I add mine in because reading yours brought back all sorts of good "Dad" memories for me...

 

Great stuff!  Love the old photos...

 

I was 12 so that made it 1968.  Jack Kurtz owned Bud & Marys and we tarpon fished out of there with a few of the guides.  We were a group of 3 dads and 3 sons all the same age, went down there every year for about 9 or 10 years... Fished with Gary Register and I think his brother too (whose name I can't remember) a giant of a guy named John Poore who looked so out of place in those little custom wooden flats skiffs.  He had to be 6'10"... and Dave Wilson.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn up the street and ate at the buffet there, picked up fried chicken box lunches from Papa Joe's across the street or Cuban sandwiches from Manny and Isa's and one night we would get a decent sit down dinner at the Green Turtle which had the best conch chowder I can remember..

 

Fishing was all floating live mullet on corks, day and night, under the bridges or off the flats into a channel and we killed some really big fish back then to hang on a scale, take a picture, and send out for a mount.  If Frank the mullet man did not show up with his beat up pick-up with the big tank in the back full of mullet... nobody fished that day or night. My first tarpon hooked up the first night we were there and John turned on this gerry-rigged aircraft landing light he had hooked up to the battery and I can still see that silver monster tail dancing across the black sky and water when it came tight.  Then the line slacked, John started screaming  "reel..reel...reel" with me cranking this old Penn as fast as my 12 year old hands could manage.  next jump was right next to the boat, fish went airborne, slammed down on the bow of the boat, and was dead as a doornail ... whole thing lasted about 45 seconds...  that fish hung in my room at home for as long as my parents owned the old house back in Long Island.  I have to have a pic or two of it somewhere...

 

Got in my first real fistfight with one of the other sons in the parking lot at Bud & Mary's over something stupid and true to form to those days... better days if you ask me... our Dad's let us go for a few minutes to settle it before they pulled us apart.... we were close friends for years after that...

 

Yep... better days.... thanks for bringing them back to me...

 

 

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Awesome, I knew all the guys, Used to get stone crab bodies from the Green Turtle turtle crawls, when legal, Still have 40" shell. Angelo's market in lower matecumbe made best cuban sandwich. Stu Apte, Cecil Keith, there were 20 or so guides

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59 mins ago, fmtuna said:

Great story... and love the pictures.  Hope you do not mind if I add mine in because reading yours brought back all sorts of good "Dad" memories for me...

 

Great stuff!  Love the old photos...

 

I was 12 so that made it 1968.  Jack Kurtz owned Bud & Marys and we tarpon fished out of there with a few of the guides.  We were a group of 3 dads and 3 sons all the same age, went down there every year for about 9 or 10 years... Fished with Gary Register and I think his brother too (whose name I can't remember) a giant of a guy named John Poore who looked so out of place in those little custom wooden flats skiffs.  He had to be 6'10"... and Dave Wilson.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn up the street and ate at the buffet there, picked up fried chicken box lunches from Papa Joe's across the street or Cuban sandwiches from Manny and Isa's and one night we would get a decent sit down dinner at the Green Turtle which had the best conch chowder I can remember..

 

Fishing was all floating live mullet on corks, day and night, under the bridges or off the flats into a channel and we killed some really big fish back then to hang on a scale, take a picture, and send out for a mount.  If Frank the mullet man did not show up with his beat up pick-up with the big tank in the back full of mullet... nobody fished that day or night. My first tarpon hooked up the first night we were there and John turned on this gerry-rigged aircraft landing light he had hooked up to the battery and I can still see that silver monster tail dancing across the black sky and water when it came tight.  Then the line slacked, John started screaming  "reel..reel...reel" with me cranking this old Penn as fast as my 12 year old hands could manage.  next jump was right next to the boat, fish went airborne, slammed down on the bow of the boat, and was dead as a doornail ... whole thing lasted about 45 seconds...  that fish hung in my room at home for as long as my parents owned the old house back in Long Island.  I have to have a pic or two of it somewhere...

 

Got in my first real fistfight with one of the other sons in the parking lot at Bud & Mary's over something stupid and true to form to those days... better days if you ask me... our Dad's let us go for a few minutes to settle it before they pulled us apart.... we were close friends for years after that...

 

Yep... better days.... thanks for bringing them back to me...

 

 

If you got pics,  go ahead and add.

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