In the early 1980's we had a huge set of wild clams in the river, everyone I knew was treading clams. Even people who did not own boat, if they had something that floated and they could tie a bag of clam on, they were clamming. We made good money doing this. Treading is feeling them with your feet and reaching down to get them.
Then again in the early 1990's we had another set of them. This time my husband did not go but I was taking an old man, Eddy, with me. He would crawl on his hands and knees digging the clams with his hands. I also took one of my daughters and her boyfriend with me. Eddy would tell me I should keep an eye on them, they look like they are to close together. I would just smile and tell him I know all about it.
I had stopped clamming but our daughter still wanted to do it, she was 14. We let her take the boat and she would spend most of the day getting clams. One day she came home early and I asked what was wrong, she said she went across the river but where we clam at was hundreds of stingrays she said they were all on top of the water and she was not getting in the water with that many stingrays. I think it made her mad because I started laughing at her and told her they were not stingrays but what we call brown bats. They look like a stingray but have thin tails. She did not care she never went back.
I always had the kids in some sort of sports, baseball, softball, football, cheerleading, and one played La Cross, There is an award in her name at the high school. I would fish all day, rush home, take kids to practice, go home, cook dinner and go back pick them up to go home and if there was a game that night I would be back at the field working the concession stand or if I was lucky I got to watch the game. The one thing that really pissed me off was coming home to an unkept house. They would come home from school and wherever they took their shoes of that is where they would be. Dirty dishes would be everywhere. I never understood how the could dirty so many. I should say they were all in Jr High and High school. These are what I call my run ragged years.
Jeb Bush was running for Governor of Florida and made a stop in our small town. Our oldest daughter went to the park that he was speaking at and wiggled her way all the way to the front of all of the people. She asked him what was people like her parents going to do if the net ban passed, she told him we had fished all our lives and it was all done in the river and along the beach. He told her, tell them to get a bigger boat'. I told her she should not have wasted her time with him, we knew he was a big sport fisherman that hated nets. But truth be told, I am proud of her.
When it was time for people to vote on the net ban, I kept them all out of school that day. I had all of them help make posters telling people to vote no. The way it was drawn up it confused many people, if you wanted to keep nets you voted no, if you wanted to ban them you voted yes. They did a good job on their posters, saying things like if you like fresh seafood vote no. Two elderly women came up to us and asked which way they were to vote and I explained it to them but as they were walking away I could hear them discussing it, one would say yes to keep people fishing and the other would say, no you have to vote no to keep them fishing. We lost.
They used commercials showing shrimpers catching turtles in their nets, but they did not say that it was a study some University was doing as they tested TEDS, A TED is a device they put on trawls where if a turtle did get in it, he had a way to escape. The way they did things was like a lot of things in politics, it was very crooked.
We did buy a bigger boat and tried fishing the ocean but we were losing more money than we were making. We were putting a lot of miles and burning a lot of fuel for nothing.
We gave up on the ocean fishing net fishing and started shark fishing offshore, we fished them for a year and the state passed the law if you did not have a certain number of sharks caught by a certain date they were taking your permit. So that was the end of that.
We started growing clams, we would buy them when they were the size of beach sand and raise them to what is called a top neck. That would be a little smaller than a tennis ball.
We built raceways and paid the fish house so much a month to keep them there and paid so much on their light bill. The raceways were 24 feet long and four inches deep. We bought a jacuzzi pump and put it at the end of the dock and PVC pipes would run the water to the raceways, the water went in one end and out the other. Clams are filter feeders so by pumping water over them, they could eat the algae from the water. If it was very windy, I had to clean them every day. I did this by gently patting them and the mud would flow out the end. When they got to be 6mm we would put 50k them in each bag and take out to our clam lease and plant on the bottom of the river. When they reached 8mm we would put 800 to 1,000 to the bag and plant them. To plant them all we did was roll the bag out and put a pin in each corner. Then we put a cover net over all of the bags until they sanded themselves into the bottom. We left these until they were the size we wanted to sell.
We had been seeing bull sharks on our lease but the water was clear so we just kept an eye on them. Then one day I was on the boat and my husband and his brother were in the water. The water was dirty and had a lot of fish swimming around. I could see the bull shark fins come to the top and told my husband that they were there. Then I started seeing the boils were the sharks were coming up to my husband and his brother and boiling off of them. I told them they needed to get out of the water and I don't think they thought the sharks were as close to them as I was saying. My husband came to the boat to get another roll of clams to plant and while he was standing there a bull shark boiled within 3 feet of him. I looked at him and said that is what I am talking about. He told his brother lets go, we are not doing this today. we put the clams back in the raceway and he went home and designed a shark cage to work out of.
He made a big box that would reach the top to bottom in the river, the box was made of PVC pipe and he put wire fencing around it to close it in. He put four wheels on it so he could push it around. He would stand in it to walk it from the boat to the spot he wanted to plant the clams. These were not little bull sharks they were 9 or 10 feet. The cage gave both of us peace of mind.