Terry Howard in conjunction with his co-author, Donald Root, has just published his third book on the adventures of Fort Pierce commercial fisherman on land, sea and even in foreign waters. This book relates fascinating stories from the lives of four men, Captains J.C. Monroe, Donald Root, Robert Terry and Tommy Taylor.
For these men commercial fishing was not just the means to make a living, it was a way of life. Their love for fishing and simply being on the water comes alive in every page of this book through the stories they tell.
And what stories they are! J.C. Monroe describes the mysterious death of his father, William R. Monroe, the “High Sherriff” of St. Lucie County during a confrontation with Prohibition era bootleggers on a boat full of contraband whiskey. He also talks about serving time on a munitions ship during World War Two and terrifyingly being bombed by the Japanese at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He also helplessly watched his sister ship torpedoed, explode and sink.
Donald Root waxes eloquent about summer fishing off Cape Canaveral and living in rudimentary beach houses on the shore prior to the development of the area into a rocket launch site for NASA. They ate well, he says, living off the land and sea on a diet of fish, rabbits, ducks coot gizzards and even turtle egg pancakes. His descriptions of night fishing are fascinating, tracking the fish by watching for the phosphorous trails in the water.
Bob Terry is a nephew of the legendary commercial fishing Captain (and alleged rumrunner) Terrell “Pappy” Hayes. Terry also spent much time at “the Cape” with the Hayes family as a boy thus adding more color to that experience including a description of periwinkle stew (the snail, not the plant) and the unloading the day’s catch at the shoreline.
Tommy Taylor as a skilled mechanic helped service many of the commercial fishing boats, especially when they ventured up to the Cape. He relates absorbing tales of fishing for goliath grouper and red snapper and sailing 10-foot bantams on the Indian River. He describes the ways in which the men and families helped each other out in perilous times including the daring rescue of people trapped during the hurricane of 1949 and the unshakable bonds of trust and friendship among the fisherman.
The book is lavishly illustrated with pictures and maps all of which are tightly integrated into the text. Even for the non-fishermen (such as myself), there are many fascinating escapades to pique the interest of any venturesome soul.
Before this book was published, two of these commercial fishermen had passed away, and the authors have contributed important material documenting the life and times of Florida east coast fishing and the men who lived it in a bygone era.
Reviewed by Peter Van Brunt
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