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Duck Key in the Florida Keys

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 Zane Grey and Duck Key

Zane Grey writing in the Florida Keys
American author Zane Grey discovered the Florida Keys in the early 1900s and began fishing the local waters of Long Key , Duck Key, and Grassy Key. He first visited the Middle Keys in 1910 to stay at the posh Long Key Fishing Club built by Henry Flagler. Thanks to him we gain a picture of what the Florida Keys were like before development.

LONG KEY FISHING CLUB

This "camp", a luxurious fishing resort which attracted famous and wealthy sportsmen, was located on the Oceanside of Long Key and included thirty some small cottages, a post office and a railroad station, a store and a large several-story wooden hotel or lodge. The accommodations and service were of the highest quality. A tunnel constructed under the roadbed connected the camp with the docks on the bay side. The Club was frequented by politicians Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, and such wealthy notables as Andrew Mellon and William Hearst.

The lodge pictured above and camp were all demolished by 180+ MPH winds in 1935. In the wake of this hurricane and the destruction of some 30 miles of Henry Flagler's railroad tracks, three years after the storm, the railroad bed became the Overseas Highway. For pictures of hurricane destruction to the camp and railroad tracks CLICK on ONE and TWO.

 

PANORAMA VIEW OF LONG KEY FISHING CLUB

PIcture above is a panoramic view of the East Coast Railroad Hotel - Long Key Fishing Club 1912 from the water. The picture can be purchased from http://www.cirkutpanorama.com in black and white and sepia color. CLICK on the image for a better view.

 

This text on the postcard above explains the view is the Florida East Coast Railroad, Key West Extension, Tropical scene, coconut grove and cottages on the Keys, Florida. It is most likely a scene of the railroad hotel cottages which later became the Long Key Fishing Club.

In 1903 at age 31, Grey wrote the first of many novels. By the the 1920s Grey was earning $500,000 a year from writing books. He owned several homes in California, a fishing camp in Oregon, another in New Zealand, and a hunting lodge in Arizona He was the first white man to visit Utah's Rainbow Bridge when he camped under its cathedral arch in 1913. He fished off Catalina Island for blue fin tuna, and hunted the rugged wilderness of Arizona, Utah, and Oregon. He also fished the waters of Mexico and Cental America and sailed to New Zealand and the South Pacific and Tahiti.

LONG KEY

While Zane Grey traveled widely throughout the world, he always returned to Long Key. Grey was not only drawn by the marvelous fishing on his frequent trips to the Florida Keys, but found Long Key a quiet place to write. It was there that he wrote Wild Horse Mesa and Code of the West.

In 1919 in his book, Tales of Fishes, he wrote about "Gulf Stream Fishing" and described using light tackle fishing gear to catch sailfish and kingfish off of Long Key and its neighboring islands. Up to that time most sport fishermen wanted to catch kingfish and considered sailfish to be a nuisance. Fishermen began calling the sailfish the "boohoo" because of its propensity for crashing the bait used for catching kingfish. Grey enjoyed fishing for sailfish on light tackle and because of his enthusiasm and the following of others sail fishing became popular and the sport of sports for fishing enthusiasts traveling to the Florida Keys.

Picture of a sign which hung of Long Key Club defining "Good Sportsmanship", limits on specific fish in game fish and food fish categories. Bonefish is not listed in either category.


TEXT OF SIGN ON LONG KEY FISHING CLUB

GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP Does Not Consist in A BIG CATCH.
But in The Use Of Light Tackle and a REASONABLE CATCH.
To Preserve The Species and To Keep This Place What it is Today - The Best Spot in Florida For Big Game Fish.
IT IS SUGGESTED
That a Sportsman Should Limit Himself To

3 AMBERJACKS
5 BARRACOUTA
2 SAIL FISH
5 TARPON

GAME FISH

6 KING FISH
10 MACKERAL
6 GROUPER
__________

FOOD FISH
Any Fish Caught Above The Number Of Each Above Specified Should Be Carefully Returned To The Water.
PLAY Your Fish instead of GAFFING Him. Work For A "BUTTON" FISH.
RELEASE THE SMALL FISH.

THE BONEFISH BRIGADE

Click images for larger representation.

Pictured above is one of Zane Grey's rarest works, "The Bonefish Brigade" which first appeared in the Izaak Walton Monthly. Privately printed in book form as Zane Grey's Christmas greeting in 1922, and a first edition, thus, "The Bonefish Brigade" is considered one of the rarest of Zane Grey's works. At a recent auction on ebay in 2001 one sold for more than $2,200.

The group described in the Bonefish Brigade were Zane Grey's fishing companions at Long Key Fishing Camp. While Grey uses the character names, Lucky Stickem, Loosfish, Roundelay, Crownshanks, Fishermanz, and Lone Angler, his description of each character's traits humorously described leave the real identities of individuals at Long Key Fishing Camp only thinly deguised. In Bonefish Brigade, Grey makes fun of himself and his fellow fishing fraternity and their obsessive quest for the elusive bonefish.

 

BONEFISHING AND GREY

Zane Grey was a pioneer when it came to fishing the flats of the nearby islands such as Duck Key for permit and bonefish. In his book Tales of Fishes, Grey describes his obsession with bonefishing,

If I spent another month bonefishing, I would become obsessed and lose my enthusiasm for other kinds of fish.
Why?
My reasons range from the exceedingly graceful graceful beauty of the bonefish to the fact that he is the wisest, shyest, wariest, strangest fish I have ever studied; and I am not excepting the great Xiphias gladius - the broadbill swordfish. As for the speed of the bonefish, I claim no salmon, no barracuda, no other fish celebrated for swiftness of motion, is in his class. As for the strength of the bonefish, I actually hesitate to give my impressions. As for his cunning, it is utterly baffling. As for his biting, it is almost imperceptible. As for his tactics, they are beyond conjecture.

In the story Bonefish Brigade, Zane Grey describes bonefishing as

. . . the fullest, the most difficult, the strangest and most thrilling, the lonesomest and most all-satisfying of all kinds of angling. ... bonefishing has all the finesse, the delicacy, the skill, the incomprehensible vagaries, the test of endurance that salmon fishing has. And more! For in bonefishing there is more of a return to the boyish emotions than in salmon fishing.

For the complete version go to Zane Grey's "Bonefish Brigade."

Such accounts by Grey in the 1910's helped add to the popularity and allure of light tackle fishing for bonefish by present day anglers.

 

FISHING ACCOUNTS BY GREY

First editions of Zane Grey's fishing books and phamplets and some reprints are considered rare and bring very high prices. Some first edition collector books recounting Grey's fishing adventures are:

1906 - Tarpon the Silver King
pamphlet, New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Co., New York

1919 - Tales of Fishes:
Harper & Brothers, NY.

1922 - Fishing in the Gulf Stream
Pamphlet, Miami Angler's Club, Miami

1922 - The Bonefish Brigade
Zane Grey, Pasadena

1924 - Tales of Southern Rivers:
Harper & Brothers, NY.

1925 -Tales of Fishing Virgin Seas:
Harper & Brothers, NY.

1926 - Tales of the Angler's Eldorado, New Zealand:
Harper & Brothers

1927 - Tales of  Swordfish and Tuna:
Harper & Brothers, NY.

1928 - Tales of Fresh-water Fishing:
Harper & Brothers, NY.

1931 - Tales of Tahitian Waters:
1931. Harper & Brothers, NY.

1936 - Fly Fishing
Pamphlet, Ibbotson Horrocks, New York.

1937 - An American Angler in Australia:
Harper & Brothers, NY.

AVAILABLE BOOKS

One of America's most prolific and beloved writers, Zane Grey is perhaps best known for his Western novels. His reputation and wealth was derived from writing western novels, but many readers believe his best writing dealt with fishing.

Reprints of many of his books about fishing books as well as used copies are available through Amazon.com. In addition to hard cover and paper back some of his books are now available in audio cassette Audio Cassette and CD-ROM.

Tales of Fishes and Zane Grey : Outdoorswman are two good books to start with. The western, Riders of the Purple Sage and his first commercial novel, The Spirit of the Border , a tale of life on the American frontier are also worth reading.

The magazine, Zane Grey Review is also a splendid read for the Zane Grey fan.

If you don't see a book that interests you use the search box to search for "Zane Grey"

 

 

Zane Grey on Fishing by Terry Mort (Editor)

 

LONG KEY BRIDGE

Zane Grey travelled on the Florida East Coast Railroad Key West Extension to get to the Fishing Camp. Pictures above and below are from old postcards showing a train crossing the Long Key Viaduct. The bridge was 2.7 long and a favorite of Florida East Coast Railroad builder, Henry Flagler.

  

 LONG KEY FISHING CAMP COOKING

Zane Grey catching permit in the Florida Keys.

Grey with catch at
Long Key

Grey considered permit to be a delicious dinner catch, and unlike today's fishermen thought bonefish, despite the many bones that gives this fish its popular name, to be a succulent gourmet treat of firm white meat.

Recipe for Baked Bonefish

Other treats which Grey feasted upon at the Long Key Fishing Camp were stone crab, grouper chowder, conch chowder, conch fritters, fresh broiled king mackerel and shrimp. For dessert he enjoyed mango pie, Key Lime pie, and coconut pudding.

POPULARITY -

Zane Grey's success as a writer lasted more than 30 years. When he died some 27 million copies of his novels and books had been sold. More than five decades later that figure was in excess of 50 million. During his lifetime only the Bible surpassed his books in total sales. Much of Grey's writing was published in periodics also. Many of the 100 plus stories and books in serial form appeared in Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Outdoor America, and Country Gentleman.

More than 100 movies have been made from some forty plus books written by Zane Grey, The first were with silent movies while the most recent one made in the 1990's, Riders of the Purple Sage, starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan was in its fourth version.

Among many of Hollywood's famous actors and actresses who starred in these movies based on Zane's books were John Wayne, Randolph Scott, George Montgomery, Roy Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Buster Crabbe, and Tom Mix.

 

 

THE 1935 HURRICANE 

For all his homes, fishing lodges and hunting camp, Grey had an undying love for Long Key. After the 1935 hurricane which destroyed the Long Key Fishing Camp, in the Foreword to a saltwater fishing book Grey wrote,

"It is sad to think that Long Key, doomed by a hurricane, is gone forever. But the memory of that long white winding lonely shore of coral sand, and the green reef, and the blue Gulf Stream will live in memory, and in such fine books as this."

It is interesting to note that in the early 1920s sportfishing was almost exclusively the pursuit of the rich. When local Keys' residents fished, the fished for food fish and seldom used rod and reel or for that matter hook and line. Rather, they speared or harpooned their catch from the passes between the Keys. Still later up until the 1940s fish were so plentiful that boats were not necessary since a good fisherman could catch all he wanted just off the bridges.

 

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