A New Year Before Us

The New Year is approaching quickly and just what kind of activities do you have to bring it in? In the distant past, a traditional fishing and water skiing trip was the norm at our house. Our father and his friends were dedicated fishermen and the family always seemed to stick its head in when the “boys” went out on the water. Back in the 50’s there was little pressure on the local watersports community. Not many people had boats and fewer yet had boats that went fast enough to waterski behind. The fish were not hard to find and the beaches were not very crowded. Flagler Island, just North of the MacArthur Causeway and West of Miami Beach was quiet and seldom used. The beaches were clean and sandy white. Trout and Snapper were abundant from shore and the water was deep enough all around to safely waterski.

The day would start a little behind schedule due to the New Years Eve Party the night before, but by 8:00 sharp we were all on the way to the boat ramp. My brother and I would have been loading the boat and setting up the fishing rods while Mother and little sister were getting all the other stuff ready. It was just that way at our house. Once we attained the Island, however, things changed while the boys unloaded the boats. So much stuff, grills, firewood, coolers and such, I don’t remember loading all that stuff at the house, Mom did a great job.

We only had one set of skis and the other boats didn’t have much gear either, so when the moment arrived and the towrope was thrown to shore, my older brother always got the first run. I was delegated to the fishing chore. First, get the throw net out and get some bait. The current ran by the South end of the Island and it was not hard to fetch a couple dozen pilchards for the bucket. Even with the boat traffic, you could flat line off the end of the beach and link up with that jerk that we were all waiting for. Sometimes it was a mangrove snapper, a trout or even a snook would do the trick. When my brother would come sliding up close to shore to spray me, I could just hold up that that fish and he would coast to the beach to get in on the action. This left the skis unattended and a father waiting to tow someone around for a while. I learned to not try to spray my brother, as he would throw down the rod and motion for another turn on the water. He usually got priority over his younger sibling.

While we boys were having fun, Mom was busy fixing lunch. She counted on the fish we caught (and cleaned) by mixing the flour and cornmeal breading to fry the fish in. I’ll never forget the small snook I got and when cleaning it, I decided to leave the skin on for crispness. My Pop said something about cleaning the fish all the way and when I began to argue he just said it will be mine to eat, end of conversation. Pop was usually right and when everyone sat down for lunch that clean crisp morning, I made ready for a feast of my own. The first taste got me to wake up a little and my dad was watching intently. The potato salad and deviled eggs got a little more attention than the filet on my plate and when I went to deposit it in the trash bag, my dad stopped me and made me finish the whole filet. Thank goodness it was not very big, snook only had to be 18 inches back then. My brother was laughing out loud and my Mom pleaded with Pop to just let it go, but he was proving a point. I never knew snook were called “soapfish” back before everyone realized, you need to skin that fish every time. The skin makes it taste like a cheep bar of soap, I can tell you from personal experience. My brother said Pop did the same thing to him several years earlier.

Well, we cleaned up the island and headed back to the dock, dad and his buddies had some football games to watch on TV and that took priority over the rest of the day.

Well into the 60’s water skiing and fishing were part of my New Years tradition. I haven’t water skied in years, I still catch a snook once in a while, But eating snook skins was totally removed from not only New Years Day but all of my days thereafter. Let’s all have a safe and great year.