Tupperware Navy – September
Welcome back yak fans, I know I promised a goliath grouper story, but my deadline got in the way! So to celebrate the rich history of Florida’s Nature coast, I’ll share this. Located off US 19 at the southern end of Hernando County, Aripeka is a refreshing step back into time.
Aripeka was founded around 1873, and is named after a Miccosukee Warrior and “abiaka”, meaning medicine chief who lead his people for over 100 years. He most likely wasn’t a chief at birth, but still had a pretty good lifespan for back then. He was also known as Sam Jones, and his camp was said to be about seven miles south of Aripeka. Other notables to have past through the area, were Ponce de Leon around 1513, and Hernando DeSoto around 1539. As I wasn’t on shore to greet them, this writer cannot verify the validity of these claims, but I can verify that the legendary Babe Ruth was a regular visitor from 1919 through the mid 1930’s, and probably helped to start the belief that Aripeka is a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem. The Babe was a cane pole fisherman who was introduced to a casting rod by Billy Conner. It is said that he had to learn to control his powerful right arm, because his cast was stronger than the line that was available at the time, and many a plug was lost. Other notables to visit Aripeka were Jack Dempsey who came there to train and play poker with the Babe and his teammates in 1921. Also of interest Wilber and Orville Wright were said to have visited there as well. Part of the reason for some of the visitors is that Aripeka lays on a section of the old Dixie highway which from its inception in 1915, thru 1927, was the route our northern brethren took to get to such places as St. Pete and Miami. A section of the old road still exists off Aripeka Rd., running toward Hudson.
In 1976 renowned artist James Rosenquist moved to Aripeka and sadly saw his home and studio destroyed by fire on April 26, 2008, and “OH MY GOD”, how did I miss this date line 1988? Singer Anita Bryant returned from seclusion to sing at the Aripeka Elks Lodge. After hitting that pinnacle in her career I’m told she never sang again, or that maybe a rumor.
OK, enough history. Let’s move forward to present day. Aripeka sits at the mouth of Hammock Creek. Between the North and South forks, is Norfleet’s Fish Camp, the most popular store in Aripeka; then again, it’s the only store in Aripeka. Norfleet’s has been there since the1940’ss and is a must see when you go. With memorabilia all over the walls, it’s a kick and worth the trip all by its self. Overseen in the past by Carl Norfleet, purveyor of sage advice and a joke or two, Carl is the unofficial Mayor of Aripeka, and a man I call my friend. Carl retired, so now he can spend all his time busting my chops. Not really, Carl’s a great guy and if you’re lucky enough to run into him, tell him I said, “Hey”.
I first started fishing around Aripeka in the mid 1980’s, and have found for the fisherman, or for those looking for a scenic view and a slice of Old Florida, that Aripeka is it. Going under the north bridge, you have springs and some beautiful scenery. On the outside to the south, you have Fillman’s Bayou, a well-known local fishing spot, home to several nice springs and great snook and red fishing. To the north you have my namesake, Indian Bay. Indian Bay is one of my favorite fishing spots. It’s teaming with reds, trout, snook, sheep head, and cobia. If you can’t catch a fish there, you should take up golf. There is usually a manatee or two on the paddle out, and Aripeka has several resident pods of dolphin. I have some great photos of them and other wildlife on my website, www.IndianBayOutfitters.com. I also offer charters to there and other locations on the Nature Coast. So, if you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at (352) 428-5347.
Well, it’s about time to hit the water for this month.
Bye for now and happy paddling.