Florida celebrates big fish and fishing in series of old photos

Florida is known for its great fishing. For that very reason, renowned authors Zane Grey and Ernest Hemingway, both avid fishermen, fell in love with the Florida Keys in the early 20th century.

To preserve the memory of fishing and big fish along the Florida coast, the State Library and Archives of Florida posted a series of old, black-and-white photos entitled “Hooked: Florida’s Big Fish.” A whale shark weighing 30,000 pounds and a manta ray weighing 1,200 pounds are among the highlights. Take a look:

Title: Mr. John Hachmeister and Mrs. Earl Baum admire a 1,200-pound manta ray caught by Forrest Walker.
Date: 1938.
Details: Walker was a Florida cracker, fishing guide and a dear friend of Baum. The handwriting is Hachmeister’s.
Comment: The ray has the wingspan of a 747. One wonders how long it took to catch.

Title: Whale shark recovered from shallow water.
Date: 1912.
Details: The fish weighed 30,000 pounds and was 45 feet long. Presumably it was found dead.
Comment: Thoughts of the Biblical Jonah come to mind.

Title: Portrait of author Ernest Hemingway posing with sailfish: Key West, Florida.
Date: 1940s.
Details: Two sailfish of unknown weight.
Comment: Hemingway, who wrote the famous book entitled “The Old Man and the Sea,” was an avid fisherman.

Title: Group assembled around great white shark: Key West, Florida.
Date: 1950s.
Details: This is the only great white shark caught in Key West waters. It was a legal catch back then.
Comment: Even today, everyone is enthralled with great white sharks.

Title: Leffinwell and Warren celebrate their catch of tarpon: Sarasota, Florida.
Date: Circa 1903.
Details: The tarpon probably weigh more than 100 pounds apiece.
Comment: Enjoying a toast to tarpon.

Title: Florida’s Schultz Heitman with a 185-pound tarpon.
Date: 1921.
Details: Presumably caught in the Florida Keys.
Comment: Nice fishing outfit.

Title: A day’s catch: Palm Beach, Florida.
Date: Circa 1900
Details: Fish species unknown.
Comment: Obviously, they didn’t have limits back then.

Title: Grouper caught in the Halifax River displayed at Gene Johnson’s TackleShop: Daytona Beach, Florida.
Date: 1920s.
Details: The biggest grouper probably weighs around 360 pounds.
Comment: Ah, the good old days.

Photos courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.