Tag Archives: commercial fishing

Writing about a bygone era of fishing.

Mike Plummer WFSU-TV

IGOR chip- employment 150A few weeks ago we posted a video of a blue crab molting, and about the blue crab reproductive cycle.  The man narrating the video was Leo Lovel.  That video was an offshoot of a segment for WFSU-TV’s dimensions program, which we present here.  As a commercial fisherman and restauranteur, many of the species he makes his living off of are residents of Salt Marsh and Oyster Reef habitats.

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Clay (L) and Leo (R) Lovel outside of their business, the Spring Creek Restaurant.

I heard about Leo Lovel from Rick Ott, a friend of mine who owns a recording studio in Sopchoppy, FL.   Rick was working on a project to record Leo’s books, The Spring Creek Chronicles 1 & 2, to audio files for books on tape or CD.   Rick thought I might be interested in Leo’s short stories about his fishing and hunting experiences around the big bend, dating back to his childhood, so he gave me a copy of the first book. I read some of the stories and then arranged to meet Leo to talk about the books.   At that meeting is where he told me about his idea to publish the All Florida Reader.   Now, Leo’s day job is owner of a restaurant called Spring Creek Restaurant.   It’s a family run business and the Lovel’s have cultivated a very loyal following throughout the southeast over the past 30+ years.   They either catch the seafood themselves or they buy it fresh, only from local fishermen.   It’s a pretty time consuming way to stock a seafood restaurant menu, but it’s the only way Leo Lovel will serve you a meal.

Back in the 90’s, Leo was also a commercial fisherman who was on the front line of the Florida net ban battle.   Although it doesn’t seem like such a long time ago, that era is quietly passing into Florida’s history as those old-timers pass on.   And that’s the unusual value I found in the stories that Leo took the time to put down on paper… these are first hand personal accounts of a specific area and people over a long period of time.   But Leo took his book project a step further.   He turned it into a tool in his personal attempt to help motivate local school kids to “want” to learn to read and write.  That’s the All Florida Reader and I think that speaks volumes about Leo Lovel.

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Leo's marina at Spring Creek Restaurant. Into here will drift boats carrying what will become dishes in the restaurant.

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Enjoy Them While You Can


IGOR chip- employment 150After all the time we’ve spent on oyster reefs, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the little guys mean to us culturally.  The video above is from Our Town, Apalachicola and features the famed oystermen of that town.  The article below is a little more personal.

Roberto Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

We had just finished interviewing John Spohrer for a photography feature and, well, we were in Apalachicola.  So I decided to conduct what our oyster researcher Dr. David Kimbro would call an exercise in predator-prey relationships.  My prey was some of Apalachicola’s finest product, and it wasn’t even an R month.  Me and my wife Amy (who is also my production co-conspirator) decided to try a place with a decent-sized crowd of friendly locals out front, the Hole in the Wall.  Amy did not eat any oysters and this was her last shoot with me for this project.  More on that later.

People in Apalachicola are proud of their product.  The man shucking the oysters behind the bar would excitedly declare “Oh, that’s a good one” as he picked them out of the ice.  The perpetually smiling waitress who brought them to the table would come by every once in a while and ask “How do you like your oysters?”

“They’re delicious,” I’d say.

“Enjoy them while you can…”

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Dr. David Kimbro in Alligator Harbor

I did enjoy them, as I have for years.  People in these parts have for quite a while.  Longer than you may realize.  At nearby St. Vincent Island, ancient oyster shells and pottery shards lie in piles called middens, evidence of a long disappeared people.  The shells have been dated at 4,000 years old or older.  This means that people have been enjoying these oysters for thousands of years.  It’s an impressive legacy, especially when you consider how some of our country’s other historical oyster producing areas have fared over time.  The Chesapeake Bay used to be difficult to navigate it was so cluttered with reefs.  New York City used to be renowned for the oysters harvested there, they were a staple of the Big Apple until just under a century ago.  But while those habitats have been decimated, Gulf oyster reefs retain their abundance and quality.  When we accompanied David Kimbro on the first day of his study in Alligator Harbor, the scientist who had been studying reefs in North Carolina and California marveled at the size of the reefs.  He’d never seen so many.

I fell like I was rubbing it in Amy’s face eating those oysters, even if she had been looking forward to enjoying the local seafood as much as I was.  We had done the research and shrimp were an acceptable food, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids important to brain development in embryos.  This was her last shoot, as the days were growing hotter and we spend some long days on marshes and reefs.  Our child will be born a Floridian, like I was.  I’ve been spoiled by great beaches, a steady supply of fresh seafood, wetlands bursting with animal and plant life.  I wonder in what kind of Florida my child will grow up.  Will he or she have at their disposal what Floridians have had over the last few thousand years?  No one can really say.  Even if the worst happens, there is hope that we can restore it, even if it could never be exactly the same.  In the meantime, I’ll just do what I was told.  I’ll enjoy it while I can.

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