BY NIC MOSTYN -
The following is an essay written by 14-year-old Nic Mostyn, a local boy who won the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic essay contest describing what fishing means to him. He and three friends won spots on a boat in the Kids Classic, sponsored by The Cradle, an 89-year-old child welfare agency in Evanston, Ill. that has facilitated more than 15,000 adoptions. Their captain will be Capt. Waylon Mills aboard the Blaze on May 19 when they compete in the tournament.
Fishing on the front dock is one of the best experiences you can have in Boca Grande. The front dock is the dock at Whidden’s Marina where you can buy bait, hang out, and tell fishing stories. When I was growing up, going to Whidden’s was my favorite thing to do. Hanging out there is the ultimate Boca experience and people have been making memories there for five generations and great memories on Boca Grande for over 100 years.
The front dock has something to do no matter how old you are. From being a toddler to being a senior, you can always have a good time on the front dock. Any local or tourist that has hung around the front dock can tell you the atmosphere is great and can make you feel like you are back in time in true paradise. Once upon a time, there was even a monkey named “Chico” who ran around the front dock.
When I was a little kid my fondest memories came from hanging out at the front dock. I would ask daily if we could go to Boca. I used to think that Whidden’s Marina was Boca and Gasparilla Island was called Whidden’s. As a little kid no more than 4-years-old, Sammy Jay and I would get on buckets and play in the bait tank. We spent hours catching shrimp with our hands and then putting them back. We tried to catch the pinfish and crabs, too. Then, when I got a little older we would fish with the captains off the dock with little poles. When we got old enough where I could go there by myself with a pole, Isabelle would let me take the dead shrimp from the tank and fish off the end of the dock. I could sit there and catch snapper all day long with friends and then take the keeper’s home for dinner.
Then, when I got older, I would take my little cousins that were on vacation from up north to the front dock. I would let them enjoy the same experiences I had my whole life, one of the few places that reflected the true Boca Grande. I would let them play in the bait tank and then we would drop a line and catch fish. Most of the time, I didn’t even have a rod and I would find a long piece of fishing string, a spare hook laying around, and drop a shrimp down. My cousins would always go home with a huge smile on their faces to tell their parents how much fun they had and that they should stay longer.
Every Sunday when the shrimp boat would come in to sell shrimp we would wait until the end of the day when business slowed down and ask to jump off the boat, which seemed pretty high up to us as kids. We would jump off the top, doing twists and flips, then climb back up and do it again until our arms couldn’t pull us up anymore or it got dark. The only fighting or yelling that ever came from the front dock was when we would run too fast and the adults thought we were going to fall.
As we ran around and played silly games, locals would sit around and talk about fishing stories. Old time Captains that had been fishing their whole lives and had fathers and grandfathers as fishermen would sit down and talk about the latest catch or even their fondest memories. Just by sitting there and listening, you can learn a lot about the history of Boca Grande. You can hear stories about back in the day or recent stories.
They will tell you what going through town used to be like. Anybody that has been around long enough still remembers when the gas tank outside Hudson’s was 13 cents a gallon. The environment is always friendly when you’re on Boca, or out fishing and people are always willing to lend you a hand whenever you need it.
Tarpon tournaments in the summer are frequent and the stories of the winning tarpon always end up being told on the front dock. Every year, the BoMo Youth Tarpon Tournament goes on in the summer and is run by the people at Whidden’s. It is one of the many activities that illustrate the “Kids Classic Mission” which is basically to go out and have fun, be competitive, show sportsmanship, and conserve the environment. The BoMo and most other tournaments are catch and release, showing conservation.
Everybody shows good sportsmanship and nobody ever goes home without having fun. All people, especially kids get to have fun and be competitive, while experiencing a fun day of fishing. For one dollar you can enter into the BoMo and no matter what everybody wins a prize in the end. It just shows the kind of people that live here and the sportsmanship. The tournament has been going on so long that my mom won the tournament when she was my age.
The front dock isn’t the only place that great memories are made. Another great memory I have is going to the Mutton Minnow Hole with friends and family. Sometimes we would go there to catch the Mutton Minnows to use for tarpon bait. Other times, there would be several boats of all generations there, and we would play football in the water, fish, and sometimes even tube. When we made our way to the Boca Grande Pass, we would have competitions on who could catch the most crabs in one day. We also used those for tarpon bait. These were some of the best things in my childhood.
I’m not the only kid that has ever done these things though. Kids before me have fished off the front dock, listened to the stories, and gone fishing in the Bayou. I still stop by every so often to hang out and I see kids fishing. It makes me remember the good times I used to have and what they are going to think about when they get older. Usually, I’ll help them out and show them the best place to drop their line.
These things will never change and will always be something that kids can have fun with and make memories of.
Memories have been made by every person that has ever hung around at the front dock. My family has been around Boca Grande for a long time and has many stories about the island and the good times they have had there. Anybody that ever visits Boca can see what a wonderful paradise it is and get a glance at the history. Some things out there never change like the powerful tarpon or the shark-filled pass and it makes it a very unique place for people all around the world. As generations of kids go by, more and more memories are made. I still anticipate many more memories of my own to be made and hopefully I can tell the local kids what it was like when I lived here. Maybe going out on a charter boat to catch the winning tarpon can be one of those fond memories as well.
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