From The Last Cracker Barrel by Ernest Lyons
There never was a river to compare with Florida's St. Lucie when I was young. How marvelous it was, with pelicans diving into the water, bald eagles screaming as they forced ospreys to drop their prey in mid-air, teeming with sea trout, snook, sheepshead and dozens of other kinds - all good to eat.
The river fed us. You could get all the big fat mullet you wanted with a castnet or a spear.
If you were real lazy, you could leave a lantern burning in a tethered rowboat overnight and half a dozen mullet would jump in ready to be picked up off the boat bottom next morning.
Going up or down stream by boat, you would scare the "golden platter" pompano which would come skipping in the boat.
The river was full of good things to eat.
Tasty oysters abounded and water was just brackish enough to give them a salty flavor. We would hold oyster roasts and oyster fries down at Peck's Lake and along the Indian River, where big "singles" up to a foot long were almost a meal in themselves.
Down toward the Inlet there were legions of "squirt clams," to be dug out of the sand with our hands and steamed in tin buckets over a driftwood fire. That clam juice was sheer elixir. Our river was clean. Nobody had ever heard of pollution.
How sad it is to see it change.
We boys would haul in sea trout and big mangrove snappers off the docks in town with handlines baited with fingerling mullet.
The stillness of dawn found us spearing off the docks.
Nights we speared flounders and blue crabs in the light of a blazing pitch-pine basket from the bow of a rowboat.
I was often out in a skiff under the old railroad bridge, scraping barnacles off the pilings with a hoe to get the sheepshead to biting, then hauling them up by tarred handline. Occasionally a 300 or 400 pound jewfish would observe my endeavors, grab the sheepshead on the way up and break my line. Never has there been a paradise like the headwaters of the South Fork of the St. Lucie.
This book and hundreds of others on the history and scientific study of the lagoon, are available to the public at the MRC Library of the Indian River Lagoon. Please call (321) 504-4500 for more information