As a young lad of 9 or 10 I fondly remember the months of Feb. through April. Friday afternoon trips by boat up the Tolomato River to Herman Shorts drum camp on the Guana island. Here with my Dad and several other Menorcan men we would spend the weekend drum fishing. On slack tide the drum fishermen would bait the hooks on their drum lines with blue crab, then wait until the next slack tide to run the lines.
Now as not to get too far ahead of this story let me first tell you about all of the work and preparation getting ready for drum season. First you had to make crab traps, these were made out of wood laths as there were no wire traps available. You would have to find where some one was tearing down an old house as this is where you had to get the laths.
Now these traps made out of wood would float, so they had to be waited with red bricks and let soak in the river tied to a dock until they would sink before you could set them out. The crab traps were baited with any fish scraps.
Next you had to make your drum line, this meant a trip to Marine Supply to get your ¼ In. manila rope, 11/0 fish hooks and heavy cotton or nylon line for the leaders. Now you needed weights to hold the line down and a heavy anchor of some sort for the outer end. The inside was secured to a pipe driven in the ground at low tide. Most Menorcans would pour melted lead into a cup cake pan, put a brass or copper eye In it to secure it to the line, you needed one of these after every 5 hooks. Most drum fisherman had at least 50 hooks on the drum line.
Now back to my story, The Guana island was home for Bob Cats, Black Bear and Fla. Panthers. It was also full of pigs that were put there by the Mickler family from Palm Valley. They raised them, then would trap them to take to market. Every week we would bring bags of stale bread to camp to give to the pigs, they also ate the crab scraps, and any of the fish scraps and there were plenty of them.
Uncle Herman as we called him was some one that you could never forget, always laughing and having a good time, he was also a good cook.
Every year Bryant Mickler would butcher a big hog and have a barbeque for all of the drum fisherman that fed his hogs for 3 Mo. This fun time came to an end in the mid. 1950’s when the island was bought up and every one had to find some place else to camp.
The Guana river was dammed in 1957 and ruined the spawning grounds for so many fish and shrimp.
This story was about another of those lost treasures that we once enjoyed, drum lines are no longer allowed to be set. As for I started Drum line fishing on my own in 1957 and continued till the mid. 1960’s. I’m the last living member of those gone but not forgotten days of Black Drum Line Fishing.