James Wood Davidson.

The Florida of to-day; online

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private plants are now being made, especially on the


South Atlantic and GiiK coasts, notably in the
Cedar Keys region. Canning has been begun, with
considerable capital employed.

Turtles. — Four or ii^e kinds of turtle are very
plentiful, especially on the south Atlantic and
south Gulf coasts. Of these, the green turtle —
Chelonia mydas — is perhaps the most prized ; but
there are also loggerheads, hawkbills, and trunk-
backs. They weigh from a few pounds up, it is
claimed, to 1,200 pounds each. The turtling busi-
ness is varied. The turtles are captured mainly
with nets, but are also caught while on land, and
trapped in various ways. Turtle-turning is a sport
for the boys as well as profit-pursuit. The turtle-
boats spend frequently two months on the turtling-
grounds, and the business, it is said, is worth some
$400,000 ; but such estimates are vague approxima-
tions merely.

Turtle-eggs^ of which the turtles lay from 100
to 300 in each nest, are also valuable as food, and
in their season make an appreciable item in the
provisioning of the far south pioneer settlers. In
Key West the beef and the turtle markets stand
side by side, and many prefer the latter as a
regular meat-suppl3^ Turtles are shipped alive
to the I^orthern markets from Key West, Lake


Worth, Biscayne, and several points on the GnK

A species of tortoise or terrapin, that bnrrows in
the sandy soil, and popularly known in this State as
the gopher, is commonly eaten ; and considerable
shipments in a retail way are made from the Gulf
coast to the Key West markets. Gopher calij^asTi
is a popular dish in some neighborhoods.

It is a somewhat singular philological fact that
the animal here called gopher is known in the
West as the salamander; while the burrowing rat
that in the West is called gopher is here known as
the salamander. The derivation of the word gopher ,
from the French gaufre (honey-comb), doubtless led
to the confounding.

Sponges are gathered in several parts of the
State, especially in the far south regions. Appala-
chicola, Rio Carabelle, St. Mark's, and Cedar Keys,
do a good deal in that way. Key West claims to
export 600,000 pounds a year, the bulk of it going
to Paris. There are a hundred and fifty sponging-
boats that center at Key West. The sponge-trade
of the State is stated by some tropical writers as
fully $1,000,000 a year, but this is probably some-
what over the mark. The sponges are taken in
waters from five to twenty feet deep. They are


dislodged from tlieir beds with hooks, taken ashore,
and lodged until life is extinct ; then beaten, cleaned,
and dried — altogether a most unsavory work. Some
spongers make as much as $1,000 in a month of
the sponge season. Manj of the fine and expensive
Mediterranean sponges sold in our Northern mar-
kets are gathered in Florida, shipped to Paris, re-
touched, and exported thence to America — to dem-
onstrate the superiority of European wares !

Shells of divers kinds and corals are gathered in
many places ; the farther south, the richer and more
numerous they are. Groing southward, these prod-
ucts of the sea increase in color, size, and value.

Alligators from their amphibious domain con-
tribute teeth and hides, and these have been much
sought of late years. The shooting of alligators
ceased a few years ago to be a sport worthy a re-
spectable sportsman, and is now a legitimate busi-
ness pursuit, but not very extensively pursued, be-
cause not easy nor very profitable.



Fishing. — Writers on sporting, whether in the
field of fin, fur, or feather, agree almost unani-
mously in pronouncing Florida a paradise for sports-
men ; although, as between land-sports and fishing,
the latter is unquestionably the finer. One of the
ablest and best-informed writers of to-dav, Mr. S. C.
Clarke, of Marietta, Georgia, widely known as an
angling naturalist, holds that " the coasts of the
Peninsula of Florida afford a greater variety of spe-
cies of fish, and probably a greater variety of valu-
able food-fishes, than can be found in any one region
in the IJnited States." Dr. Charles J. Kenworthy,
of Jacksonville, the ^'Al Fresco^'' of the sporting
journals, a leading authority in sporting matters
in Florida, bears ample testimony to the supreme
excellence of that State's piscatorial advantages.
Her 1,200 miles of salt-water coast, added to her
fresh-water bodies — lakes, rivers, ponds, springs,
havens, and bayous — give both variety and diversity


of field, and supply a variety and diversity of fishes
altogether exceptional. Our knights of the rod find
here some migratory fishes that are common on the
Northern coasts, such as the striped bass, sea-bass,
blue-fish, sheepshead, and weak-fish ; others that do
not usually range farther north than Delaware, such
as the black and the red drum ; others that are local
in their habits and range, such as the groupers and
snappers ; others again of a more tropical character,
that appear on the Florida coast only in warm
weather, and whose home is the more tropical lati-
tudes, as the tarpum, cavalli, and the lady-fish. All
along the ocean and Gulf coasts, where the fresh-
water lakes are near the sea, there are to be found
within a mile or two both salt and fresh waters,
with their separate and distinct families of fishes.
In other places, notably at Lake Worth, in Dade
County, there are three classes of waters — the ocean
which is salt, the lake which is semi-salt, and the
lakes inland which are fresh — all within less than
three miles ; thus affording three classes of fish.
'^ Nowhere," says Mr. Clarke, " in our broad coun-
try can the angler find greater variety of game or
more or better sport than on the coasts of Florida.
In an experience of more than fifty years as an an-
gler, reaching from Canada to Florida and from


Massachusetts to Colorado, the writer has found no
region where fish were so abundant as on this [the
East Florida] coast."

An exhaustive list of the fishes of this State
would cover the whole scope of Southern waters,
both temperate and tropical, and both salt and fresh.
Dr. Henshall, in his racy book on Florida, gives a
list of one hnndred and twenty species found by
him in these waters. Of course, the fish vary with
the latitudes, the southern waters having more kinds
and larger fishes, and the sportsman that wants the
finest sport in this line will go to the far south,
either Gulf or Atlantic side.

The most attractive fishes, taking the common
ground of both fun and food, seem to be the fol-
lowing :

T\iQ 2)ompaRO is generally known by that name,
although the early French settlers in South Caro-
lina called it the crevalle. It is the most valued
food-fish of the Southern waters, and in the JN^ew
Orleans markets it ranks first. It is a bottom-fish,
and the angler that expects to hook it must be alert.
Mr. Joseph B. White, of New York, writing from
Lake Worth Inlet, in Dade County, reports, during
the present year, his capture of a pompano weigh-
ing twenty-one pounds. He used a bass-hook with


concli bait. This is probably the largest pompano
ever caught in Florida waters. The usual average
weight is perhaps less than half that.

The sheejpshead ranks close to the pompano as a
sport-fish, and is somewhat more easily and more
frequently caught.

The channel hass is called red drum in Yir-
ginia, spotted bass in South Carolina, and red-
fish in ]New Orleans. It is considered one of
the best game-fish in these waters, a strong and
persistent fighter, and sometimes weighs forty
pounds, and on the line feels as if it weighed
two hundred.

The salt water trout or spotted trout — the
Cynoscion maculatum of the books — is easily
caught with hook, weighs from three to fifteen
pounds, and is an excellent food-fish.

The red gro%i])er is a bottom-fish, of fine qual-
ity, strong, wary, and is best caught with mullet-
bait ; and when hooked generally makes for his
covert under the roots and rocks, whence only the
smaller sizes — say five-pounders — can be hauled by
ordinary man- power.

The cavalli frequently weighs ten to twelve
pounds. It is finer as a game-fish than as food,
and will take almost any bait, but will fight to the


death before it will leave the water, and dies as
soon as landed.

The mangrove snapper is a secretive and shy fish,
like the grouper, and is caught in the same manner.

The Spanish mackerel in its season is a prince
among fish ; and many consider it superior to the
Pompano, and it is much less frequently caught.

The lady-fish^ or skip-jack as it is sometimes
called, is the most agile and acrobatic of all these
Southern fishes ; and, while almost useless for the
table, gives her captor sport galore.

The harracuda — the Sphyrcuna harracuda or
jncuda — is a strong fish, of good quality, and a
great favorite with anglers. The smaller sizes usu-
ally caught are excellent for food, but the large
ones are unmanageable on the line and rather
coarse sometimes.

The tarpum or tarpon is a herring-shaped fish,
often five or six feet long, of giant strength, and
generally takes the tackle with him into the ocean.
It weighs from a hundred pounds up to several
hundred, and is too coarse ordinarily for food, but
always attractive to adventurous anglers. The Jew-
fish also is a large fish ; so also are the sharks /
albeit anglers do not usually care to cultivate or to
tackle either of them.


The mullet swarms in most Florida waters, and
can be caught best with cast-net or seine, for it re-
fuses all kinds of bait. Fishermen frequently catch
the mullet with, cast-net or dip-net, and use it as cut
bait. The mullet is fair food, but the netting for
them of course injures the fishing at that place.
The silver or white mullet is the one that abounds
in Florida.

The Uue-fish is first-class game, and also ex-
cellent food.

The drum is a rather coarse fish, and in the
extreme south is not commonly eaten, although
about St. Augustine its quality is better. The
largest sizes weigh as much as forty pounds, and
can pull like a horse. The red drum^ called in
East Florida the channel bass, is perhaps the Sglce-
nojys ocellata of Gill. It is an omnivorous fish,
bold, strong, and intelligent, weighing sometimes
fifty pounds ; but this size is not often pulled in
wdth an angle line. The habits and fighting meth-
ods of the drums are similar to those of the sheeps-
head, and it takes both skill and strength to land
either quickly.

A fine fish of the flounder or the sole family
has been caught on the Atlantic shore of the sub-
tropics, but it is by no means common.


Bream is in miicli favor, and is very abundant.

Besides these tliere are scores of fishes more or
less common ; as the moon-fish and the sun-fish,
the pike, the bonito, red-fish and whiting, snapper
and snool^, gag and gar, sucker, eel, grunt and por-
gee, the dainty needle-fish, the wonderful flying-
fish, the formidable sword-fish, saw-fish, and sharks,
the hateful rays and stingarees, cat fish, and hog-
fish, angel-fish and devil-fish, anchovy, menhaden,
sailor's choice, and minnows.

A list of the fishing-grounds of Florida would
embrace almost every place situated on water ; and,
in view of the extent of coast, number of lakes, and
multitude of islands and keys, it is evident that the
number of such places is rather large. Dr. Ken-
worthy undertook several years ago to make a list ;
and he na'.ned over thirty places, scattered from
Fernandina round to Pensacola, and all through the
numerous lake regions and meandering rivers. The
fact is that, while some places are better situated
for fishing than others, there is hardly anywhere
that good fishing can not be had. Other things be-
ing equal, the best grounds can not be expected
near cities and large towns, where steamers and
various sailing-craft frequent and scare away the
finny game ; nor in waters wliere the cast-net, the


dip-net, the gill-net, and the seine are industriously
plied. Business interferes with pleasure, liock
Ledge, St. Lucie, Lake Worth, Biscajne Bay, Cape
Romano, Charlotte Harbor, Tain pa Bay, Cedar
Keys, and so on — every port, bay, river, lake, and
bayou, from the St. Mary's to the Perdido — are
all, with the if above named, fine fishing-grounds ;
and each several one (some enthusiastic dweller
there will confidently assure you) is the fisher-
man's paradise — whatever that is. But it is true
that wherever the sportsman may please to go, at
the proper time for fishing there — be it ocean, gulf,
bay, bayon, channel, sound, river, lake, or spring —
there he will find interesting sport. He may have
angle, net, seine, gig, or barb — in boat or from the
shore— by day or with torchlight — whether he is
fishing for fun or for fish — and he will find on this
continent no better theatre for his piscatorial feats
than these Florida waters.

With regard to tackle. Dr. Ken worthy says that
the game-fish of Florida are uneducated, and make
no distinction bstween a mist-colored leader and a
clothes line. The great desideratum for Florida
fishing is strength of tackle — stout lines and large
hooks. A heavy bass-rod is all-important; if fly-
fishing is indulged in, the rod should be not less


than eight ounces. As the fish are not particular,
expensive flies need not be used. For hand-line
fishing, resident experts use cable-laid cotton and
braided cotton lines.

Hunting. — Game is plentiful in most parts of
Florida, though less so than fish, and both are
more abundant in the sparselj-settled south than in
the older regions farther north.

The best game seems to be deer, duck, turkey,
bear, panther, wild cat — in that order — and lastly
small game. In this class may be named the hare
or rabbit, opossum, raccoon, squirrel, quail, and the
host of birds.

The deer abounds especially in the far south ;
and experienced sportsmen have written up several
localities — St. Lucie and Eoek Ledge on Indian
Kiver, Lake Worth, the Caloosahatchee Yalley,
Ivissimmee, Clear Water Harbor, and so on. The
hunting is generally without dogs ; and the hunter
or party of hunters, having reconnoitred the field,
moves cautiously through the woods, standing at
selected points, and thus finds the animal without
alarming it. This is the Indian method; and the
Indians are always successful hunters. The deer
has certain hours to feed, to drink, and to take
salt ; and is easily found by those that study these



hours carefully. The moon affords favorable light
at certain periods, and showers direct the game
to certain pastures. The hunter that heeds these
little indicia, apparently trifling though they seem,
need rarely return home gamelqss anywhere in the
game region. But the visiting sportsman will fre
quently bring with him his own special code of
field-ethics, and is likely at the outset to despise
the simpler and more primitive tactics of the resi-
dent hunter. But, whatever be the ethics or the
tactics, the main point and purpose of hunting will
be the same — abundance of game.

Duck-shooting is a science — at least an art — of
the expert that calls for no special discussion. In
their seasons these birds abound in countless hosts
in certain localities, and these localities are almost
everywhere that w^ater and shore present good con-
ditions. Dr. Hen shall found seventeen species of
ducks in Florida. His list embraces the canvas-
back, mallard, three teals — the black, the w^ood, and
the pintail.

Turkeys exist generally with the deer ; and,
w^hile they are scarcer than deer, they afford excel-
lent sport to those fond of that kind. The common
wdld turkey — Meleagris gallojpavo A7nerica?ia—is
the only species reported by hunter-naturalists.


Bears are getting scarce, except in the deep re-
cesses of the southern unsettled country, and even
there bear-hnnting is comparatively rare of late

Panthers and wild cats are hardly legitimate ob-
jects of sport-hunting. They are generally hunted
by the residents in order to rid the country of dep-
redators, and directly in the interests of poultry-
yards and pig-pens. But the hunter for other
game sometimes encounters one of these pronounced
characters, and the amount of fight and run — gen-
erally the run precedes the fight — is ample to at-
tract considerable attention.

In addition to the above-named, the fur game —
including pests and prowlers — of Florida embraces
the following : Lynx, wolf, fox, mink, skunk, otter,
polecat, salamander, rat, mouse, and mole. In Al-
len's " Mammals and Winter Birds of East Florida "
much valuable and interesting information in this
direction may be found ; also in Henshall's " Camp-
ing and Cruising in Florida."

The feathered tribe, besides the bird game above
mentioned, is very numerous, fine -plumed, and
sweet-voiced. There are the blue-bird, the black-
bird, and the cardinal-bird ; the thrush, bobolink,
cat bird, oriole, and the polyglot mocking-bird ; the


titmouse, wren, and humming-bird; the sparrow,
lark, snipe, do7e, kingfisher, and jaj ; the vireo,
shrike, cherwink, grackle, woodpecker, w^oodcock,
and plover ; the crow, eight species of hawk, owl,
king-buzzard, and vulture ; the paroquet, willet,
sandpiper, godwit, stilt, marsh-hen, and rail ; a va-
riety of cranes, eight species of herons, the flamingo,
bittern, gallinule, gannet, curlew, and ibis ; the limp-
kin, pelican, cormorant, and water-turkej ; the gull,
tern, egret, skimmer, and the gnat-catcher ; the
warbler, killdeer, whip-poor-will, and chuck-wilFs-
widow. These are permanent residents ; and win-
ter brings some seventy-four other tourist birds.

Without being game in the ordinary sense of
that word, the alligator, which abounds in all the
available fresh- water streams and lakes in the State,
is extensively hunted, and that too for mere sport,
as well as for hides, teeth, etc. That is, in addition
to being an industrial pursuit, alligator-killing is a
sport, and pursued by a certain class of tourists for
the mere fun of murdering the creatures.

The same is true, to a very limited extent, how-
ever, also of the manatee. This monster amphibian
is strictly subtropical. It is found, on the Atlantic
side, as high up as the St. Lucie Eiver, near lat-
itude 27°. The younger ones have flesh that is


tender and wholesome, and these calves are said to
be much sought by both Indians and whites. The
manatee is sluggish and clumsy, sometimes twelve
or fifteen feet in length, and ten or twelve feet in
girth ; and when well grown will weigh a ton. One
writer gives the maximum weight as 3,000 pounds.
It has two hand-like flippers, small eyes, and a head
very remotely like a cow's. It is pachydermatous,
of dark-brownish color, and has sparse hair ; is a
harmless and docile beast, and is usually caught, as
turtles are, with a strong rope seine. It is also shot
or harpooned.

The grampus is much rarer than the manatee.
This monster has been captured, or killed, and
landed on the Gulf shore, in Hillsborough County,
and perhaps in other places.



Insects. — Mncli exaggerated nonsense has been
written about the insects of Florida. It is tme that
the earth, the waters, and the air there teem with
life, as they do in all southern climates. But it is
also true that the insects are not aggressive in pro-
portion to their number. Human life is naturally
shaped so as to offset the natural surroundings ; and
no civilized man need succumb to so trifling an
enemy. The same means that suffice to keep off
mosquitoes in ^N^ew Jersey will keep them off in
Florida. The mosquito season is longer in the
South, but these insects can be kept at bay more
easily in the South for the reason that much greater
attention is paid to appliances for that purpose.
Houses are constructed so as to exclude them ; and,
with windows and doors properly wire-netted or
closed with gauze of suitable texture, and beds
properly protected with netting, there need be no
great annoyance from mosquitoes. When they get


foothold in a room, a spoonful of insect-powder —
jpyrethrum, of several varieties — ^burned will expel
or kill them. It can be grown there. Smudge-fires
to windward will always banish the mosquitoes.

Fleas abound in some places, mostly where hogs
and dogs live about the place ; but these can be
readily kept away with pennyroyal and several other
plants, easily cultivated there.

Gnats, flies, and that class of pests, seem to be
about the same as elsewhere. Where there are little
pests, there are usually larger enemies to them to
keep them down. A large insect known as the mos-
quito-hawk destroys countless thousands of gnats, as
do also the spiders, birds, and lizards.

The red-bug annoys those that hunt him up in
the jungles and tangles of weed and undergrowth ;
but nobody need hunt up such pests.

The cockroach about the house is an annoy-
ance, but borax or some similar drug — insect-pow-
der, for example — will drive all roaches away. The
same is true of ants.

Sand-flies are very annoying in places, but no-
where constantly. They come and go, and are gen-
erally so near the water's edge that it is compara-
tively easy to keep away from them. These pests,
as well as all mosquitoes, gnats, and air-flies, may be

PESTS. 225

kept at bay with smoldering fires, popularly kiio\vn
in Florida as smudge- fires, built and burned to
windward of the spot to be protected. Materials of
pleasant-odored smoke abound everywhere, and a
spoonful of insect-powder will insure the desired

Reptiles. — There are three kinds of snakes in
Florida that are poisonous — the rattlesnake, the
moccasins, and the adders, there being two varieties
of the moccasin and two of the adder. These all,
especially the rattlesnake, flee from man ; and years
of life in Florida have been passed without ever
hearing of a case of bite from any of these snakes.
The habitat of these reptiles is the jungle, the
swamp, and the thicket, places that it is rarely neces-
sary to visit. The hunter and the fisherman will
naturally provide themselves with protection against
such dangers, and deserve to be bit if they do not.

There are several snakes that are wholly innocu-
ous — the king-snake, the bull or gopher snake, the
ordinary black-snake, the coach- whip, the ground-
snake, and indeed all except the rattlesnake, the
moccasin, and the adder.

Frogs, toads, and the like, serve their several
useful purposes, as they do elsewhere, and should
be protected and cultivated intelligently.


Land-Sharks. — It is difficult to classify these
pests, as thev are not strictly insects, nor reptiles, in
the herpetological sense of that word. They must
be tolerably known to the intelligent reading public
of to-day ; although, like Proteus, they assume new
shapes with wonderful facility.

The boomer is one variety of these sharks. He
has a wonderful vocabulary of adjectives, both laud-
atory and abusive ; the former for his one little
Eden where his lands are to sell, and the latter for
everywhere, everything, and everybody else.

The paper-town shark is one of the most recent
evolutions. He is multiform and irrepressible ; and
the public would better think twice before reading
his wonderful "circular." The drop-game of the
last generation, and the saw-dust trick of this, are
neither of them so beautiful and attractive as this
stupendous sell of Florida. While there may be
honest and truthful boomers of the paper-town
"' racket," and doubtless there are, the public needs
a volume of admonition and advice ; and that vol-
ume is faithfully condensed in the one word — Be-


As the tourist and prospector for a home in
Florida goes on in his tour of inspection, he needs
to weigh well the testimony he receives. If he do

PESTS. 227

not, lie is likely to settle in the first community lie
interviews ; for every one of these seems to feel
under obligation to belittle every other community
that lies ahead ; and in this behttling there is too
often a deal of belying. The traveler arrives at
Jacksonville, and looks about him. He there is

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Online LibraryJames Wood DavidsonThe Florida of to-day; → online text (page 10 of 12)