Mullet are famous for being excellent jumpers. In fact, Florida Fish and Wildlife states “it’s often easy to identify their locations by simply watching for jumping fish.” Me? When I see a mullet jump, I have a tendency to personify thinking, “now there’s a happy fish!”
This beautiful jumping mullet-sunset photo was taken by my brother, Todd Thurlow, this past Saturday evening, October 10th, 2015 just off of North River Shores.
Former Stuart News editor and river advocate Ernest Lyons wrote about mullet jumping in his essay ” Never a River Like the St Lucie Back Then.”
There was never a river to compare to Florida’s St Lucie I when I was young….the river fed us. You could get all the big fat mullet you wanted with a castnet or a spear. If you were real lazy, you could leave a lantern burning in a tethered rowboat overnight and a half-dozen mullet would jump in, ready to be picked off the boat bottom next morning….at the headwaters of the south fork of the St Lucie….the waters were clear as crystal… (Ernest Lyons 1915-1990)
Today, the water of St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon are anything but clear, but “hail to the mullet that are still jumping!”
In the opening chapter of Nathaniel Osborn’s soon to be published thesis, “Oranges and Inlets: An Environmental History of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon,” he quotes Herman Herold in 1884: “It is a wonderful river…immensely deep and very fine sweet water; the beauties of nature are here very manifest , in fact it is a wonderland…”
In 1964, Stuart News editor, and iconic award-winning environmentalist, Ernest Lyons, wrote something similar, in his piece “Life is a Changing River.”
“And what a marvelous river it was, with the pelicans diving into the mullet schools, bald eagles screaming as they robbed ospreys of their prey, a river teeming with interesting things to see and do, and such good things to eat…Pompano jumped into the boats. Tasty oysters were abundant–‘squirt clams put hair on your chest.’ How sad it is to see it change. But life, too, is a changing river. I suppose the river today is just as wonderful to those who are as young as I was in 1914.”
Lyons was born in 1905.
I was born in 1964.
The river, as life, is always changing and even though we are fighting for the river’s life and it is not well, it still provides wonder to all.
After graduating from University of Florida in 1986, I wanted to get as far away from “boring” Stuart as I could so I lived and worked in California, Germany, and Pensacola. Nonetheless, I always considered the Indian River Lagoon Region “home,” and after growing-up and realizing Stuart was actually paradise, it was “to its shores” in 1997 that I returned. But it was not the same. Stuart had grown up too. Things change.
Today is my birthday. I am fifty-one!
It is interesting to be 51, only because when I was a kid, I thought someone who was 50 was “really old…” I had no idea that although “weathered,” and “dried-out, “by the storms and rainbows of life, being old is really quite fun and can actually be an advantage.
First of all, no one is telling you what to do, as much as when you were a kid; and second of all, for me anyway, there is a much deeper appreciation of this life. This gift. This wonderland…
A quick run though of my early memories of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and why its memories are powerful for me, would include:
….every day at sunset, climbing the gigantic tree in my parent’s yard so I could see the river and the ocean and the sky; sneaking on my bike to the “black-road, “Riverside Drive,” in Stuart, so we kids could play in a fallen Australian Pine, pretending it was a ship and we were pirates; fishing under the bridges and then later making a pact with God that I would never do so again after the blow fish grunted so much I thought it was talking; after school, visiting the shoreline of the river, never thinking of who owned the property because it was all wild, to find hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs and any number of small and amazing creatures; seining with my classmates at the Environmental Studies Center; long summer days with my best friends in high school, learning to slalom; spending the night on the spoil islands and talking until sunrise under a gigantic shining moon; traveling from the river through the inlet into the dark blue ocean while accompanying my father fishing for sailfish, straddling front bars of the boat, to see an enormous manta-ray jump so close that I could see its eye….
Today my Indian River Lagoon adventures are less so, but still remain wondrous. This past weekend Ed and I went out in the boat at sunset with my brothers’ family and my nieces. We took silhouette photos against the sky…One day my nieces will be old too.