I have always had a love affair with the great outdoors. I used to spend my summers in Tampa with family and it gave me ample opportunity to experience it, especially with my Uncle Paul and Aunt Gladys. Their home was nestled behind an orange grove just off of Gunn Highway in Odessa Florida, set against the backdrop of a beautiful body of water, aptly named Lake Calm. I have many wonderful memories of this place…of fishing, swimming and just experiencing nature in such a way that would rival the adventures of Huck Finn himself.
Most mornings on the lake, I was up at the crack of daylight and out the door to the dock. I would have recovered all of my catch from the night before and have fresh lines in the water before Aunt Gladys left for work. I was barely six years old when I started fishing on that lake and before I was ten, I was paddling a boat hundreds of yards out and back before most people even got up out of bed. I had become a skilled fisherman at a very early age and I cannot think of many things I would have rather done at that age than fish. But even more vivid than fishing in my memories of the Lake, I can recall the friendly and sometimes animated atmosphere, much like Mr Rogers neighborhood, with warm and unique characters that brought the entire place to life. There was Ginger, the very old and blind wire-haired wiener dog…and Charlie, a black German Shepherd. They followed me around that place like a couple of keystone cops trailing a suspect, Ginger constantly bumping into things and Charlie stopping every few steps to scratch the itchy dermatitis that plagued his backside. Bonnie and Mr. Fritz lived next door and Mr. Bob lived on the other side next to them. He once raised a couple of young raccoons that he had caught in a tree in his yard and I would go over and visit from time to time, just because they were fun to watch. Mr. James Eady was another good friend of Uncle Pauls who lived on another smaller Lake nearby. James taught me how to make an incubator out of a golf ball bucket with a light bulb and how to clean a turtle for turtle stew. When I would catch big snapping turtles on the Lake, we would take them to James and he would clean and cook them. I miss the smell of turtle stew! Then there was Mr. and Mrs. Creighton. Mrs. Creighton was sort of like Mrs. Howell on Gilligans Island, only a bit more eccentric. I rarely heard Mr. Creighton say much more than two words…yes dear. There were a few other folks around the Lake that I knew but these were the main characters that made up Uncle Paul’s neighborhood. TBC 😉
The little trail that led through the orange grove to the Jeske house was called Bonnie Cove Lane and was named after Bonnie Lutz who lived just next door to my Aunt and Uncle. Bonnie and her husband, Mr. Fritz, were a jolly old couple who I am still reminded of today every time I see Grandma and Grandpa on old reruns of the Walton’s. Every morning and again in the afternoon, Uncle Paul, Ginger, Charlie and I would walk the trail to see Mr. Fritz and Bonnie, and we would all sit under the shade of a massive old oak tree while I would fill them in on all of the adventures of my day. No matter what time of the day it was, all three grown-ups would take a time out for a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Bonnie would wrap it in paper towel and I wondered sometimes if she thought that she was hiding something from me. Ginger and Charlie would get their treat and I would get an ice cold Coca Cola, unwrapped of course. Nothing to hide there.
The Coke in those days came in the old six and a half ounce embossed bottles and we would play a game where everyone would try to guess the name of the bottling plant city that was embossed on the bottom. I think Mr. Fritz would always get a peek before we came over because he always seemed to guess the right answer. When it was my turn to guess, whether I was right or wrong, the prize was usually a lady finger banana, which he picked from a bunch right off of the tree in their yard. They were small but were the sweetest bananas I ever ate.
I truly loved to visit them and sometimes twice a day was not enough. If I caught a really big fish and Uncle Paul was not within eye shot, I would run with all my might to see Mr Fritz and Bonnie. Having never had living Grandparents, I loved those two people as if they were my own.
We lost Mr. Fritz sometime around 1975. I remember going to see him while he was in the hospital and though I did not get to go in to the room, I was excited that he knew I was there. As we were leaving, I looked up at his third floor room and saw him come to the window and wave at me. It was the last time I would see him alive.
I continued to go to see Bonnie, though less frequently, but it was never quite the same without Mr. Fritz. Bonnie became a little grumpier and I grew to be a little harder to entertain. Still, on the days that we would visit, there was always an open chair and it was as if Mr. Fritz was still there with us, drinking his beer and enjoying good company under the shade of that old oak tree.
Those that are making the most noise about this are simply uneducated on the basic principles of wildlife management in the conservation effort. They have watched too many Disney movies and most have never given a dime to the preservation of any of these species. Continue reading
FWC is proposing a change to a statewide regulation for largemouth bass that would be a five fish daily bag limit, only one of which may be 16 inches in total length or longer. This means that each person would be allowed to keep five largemouth bass less than 16 inches OR four largemouth bass less than 16 inches and one largemouth bass 16 inches or longer each day.
Prior to any regulation changes we are looking for stakeholder input. Your input is needed to help guide the agency on this proposed statewide regulation change. The goal is to manage our bass fisheries with the best regulation to sustain our fisheries and conserve trophy bass while reducing the number of regulations currently being used. Please answer the following questions regarding the proposed change.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to hear from you. Please answer the survey questions here.
Changes in Fishing Regulations Subject of Public Hearings
Public input is important when considering any changes to fishing regulations. Public hearings provide an opportunity for interested citizens to hear information about proposed changes and the reasoning and research behind those changes, and have a chance to provide their opinions. Continue reading
Memphis, Tenn. – July 2, 2014 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released its report on 2014 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. Continue reading