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Fishing Tampa's Courtney Campbell Causeway in the fifties

harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
Fishing Tampa's Courtney Campbell Causeway in the fifties

Courtney Campbell Causeway was commissioned by the owner of a local dredging company, Ben T. Davis, in the late 1920s to provide a more direct link between Tampa and Clearwater.
Costing $900,000 in total, the Davis Causeway was opened on January 28, 1934 with a 25¢ toll per car. In 1944, the federal government seized the Davis Causeway as part of America's war effort, paying its previous owners $1.1 million and transferring ownership to the state of Florida.
In 1948, the Davis Causeway was renamed for Courtney W. Campbell, a Clearwater Beach resident, U.S. Representative, and member of the Florida Road Board who spearheaded efforts to ensure needed repairs and beautification of the Causeway were completed.

When I first fished the Courtney Campbell Causeway it was still called Davis Causeway. 
As we approach 'Davis Causeway' from the Tampa side...

The oyster were plentiful:

We harvested them by the bushel and knew what to do with them:

As the sun came up we began to think about fishing:

The miles of grass flats were teaming with hungry Trout and Red Fish just waiting to be caught:

And catching them was just the beginning. 
A true southern tradition... Fried fish & grits:

Talk about Heaven on Earth:

As the sun dove into Tampa Bay the Tarpon were ready for a fight:


  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    And the Blue Crabs came out to play:

    Crabbing along the Causeway with a powerful lantern and net was most rewarding:

    We would stop only when our basket was full. 
    It did not take long:

    And we knew what to do with them:

    In our basket would be a few soft shell crabs. As the crab grows the hard shell is shed to make way for a bigger shell. In order to shed is shell the crab forms an inner soft shell underneath, swells is body with water to break its current shell, crawls out, and begins the process of forming a new shell. This is when even the shell can be eaten. 
    For the crab lover the Blue Soft Shell Crab fried to a golden brown is as good as it gets:

    As the weather cools we begin to think about Sheepshead fishing around the bride pilings:

    Our bait of choice the ever so plentiful fiddler crab:

  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    edited September 13 #3
    In the fifties inshore fishing was very good; it till is.
    Recent inshore catches:
    The hard fighting Jack Crevalle:

    Although a thrill to catch the Jack Crevalle is often considered a junk fish not to be eaten. However, when properly prepared and cooked correctly they can be delicious.
    And yes! Our Sheepshead are still around:

    While Sheepshead will never jump, Snook will often leap for the stars. What a thrill to catch such a beautiful fish:

    The battling Red Fish:

    They may not be as tasty as soft shell crabs, but blackened Red Fish comes close:

    Like your fish mild and bursting with flavor?
    You will love the Speckled Trout:

    Fishing the Courtney Campbell Causeway in the fifties

    Today the Causeway looks a lot different from the fifties:

    This scenic Courtney Campbell Causeway is one of the longest over-water Causeways in the country.
    Today over 50,000 cars per day travel on this scenic route which also has a separate trail for walkers, bicyclist, runners, birdwatchers and anyone looking to admire Tampa Bay's wildlife and waterfront. 

    Have not fished CC in decades. Can't help but wonder what fishing the Courtney Campbell Parkway is like today. Anyone know? 

    Alamy Design
    Tampa Bay Times
    Captain Dylan Hubbard

  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 18,060 AG
    edited September 15 #4
    The two bridges (and new spillway) along the CCC are still wonderful fisheries, even if the fiddlers and grass along the causeway are mostly gone these days.

    The other night, we were going through some old video footage of tarpon fishing up under big bridge and I'll try to post it when we get it all edited up -- I think you'd enjoy seeing it, Bob.   I think we went 1 for 9 that night or something terrible like that, but the tarpon were chewing.
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    Thanks so much for the update. 
    Would love to see the tarpon footage. Have never fished under the CC brides for tarpon. Did hook a few on the flats way back when. 
    What video editing materials do you use?   Always looking for something new & better.
    I use Sony Movie Studio 13 & 16.   They now have a 17 & 18 version which I have not tried. 
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 18,060 AG
    edited September 15 #6
    I'm not the video editor -- I man the digital camera, like this shot from under that same bridge:

    I use Photoshop for my pictures, but I will ask my friend what he uses for videos.
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    Just curious about the editing. The learning curve is huge. Been editing video for years. Still have a great deal to learn. Always looking for advice. 
    Know little about Photoshop; would like to know more.
    I have been using Photobucket for years.  
    That tarpon picture is absolutely outstanding. One of the best I have ever seen. 
    Really miss being on the water. Been balancing on boat decks & charging through swamps for 70 years. My legs are shot.  Thanks to people like you I still feel like I am on the water. Thanks again! 
  • triumphricktriumphrick Posts: 577 Officer
    edited September 16 #8
    Yes sir...I was eight years old in 1955 when the old man got stationed at McDill....and we fished all over the bay.

    We spent many weekends "camping" along the Davis causeway. We would park the car next to one of those big concrete pavilions and spread a tarp out over both of them. It kept the dew off when curled up in an Army blanket!

    We caught everything imaginable. Trout, snook, redfish, big drum and even a tarpon found one of our 1/2 blue crab baits we were using for drum.

    We would gather up the best secret sheepshead bait possible.....big hermit crabs. Crush the shell and toss a bobber rig up against the pilings of the bridge and pull them out before getting cut off.

    Looking at the food pictured brings back even more memories.....the old man would make a big pot of Dutch chicken corn chowder...all from scratch, including the dumplings.

  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    "We would park the car next to one of those big concrete pavilions and spread a tarp out over both of them."
    Spent many weekends doing the exact same thing.  Times long gone but never forgotten. 
  • permit_mepermit_me Posts: 1,179 Officer
    edited September 17 #10
  • triumphricktriumphrick Posts: 577 Officer
    If you're talking catwalks, you must mean the old Gandy bridge. And that's another place that I have some great memories of. Again, dad and I would travel to the StPete side, go to the end of the catwalk and climb up on the bridge....go another two or three lights down and fill a bucket with speckled trout. We caught so many of them it was crazy. Lots of ladyfish as well. We had an old Penn 68 that we would fish for sharks with, using cut up ladyfish. The problem was you had to walk them all the way back down the catwalk to get them loose..
    Once done fishing there was a bar down near the end of Gandy that was open until 2am or so....they had the best smoked mullet...and we would wrap up our evening eating one.
    Talking about reminiscing...who remembers the big jumping tarpon on the sign advertising Webbs City at the  outpost?

  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    "If you're talking catwalks, you must mean the old Gandy bridge. And that's another place that I have some great memories of"
    Know what you mean.  Spent many days & nights there:

  • The_Bearded_AnglerThe_Bearded_Angler Tampa native living in GaPosts: 190 Deckhand
    Spent many, many 70's/80's weekend all-nighters on the Tampa side Gandy catwalks fishing/drinking while the drag races were going on up on the bridge. Good times. 
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    Was indeed the best of times! 
  • triumphricktriumphrick Posts: 577 Officer
    I was a kid here in the 50's and early 60's. Graduated from high school (Robinson) in 65. Left for the Navy shortly thereafter and came back to NW Tampa. My kids were born in 73 and 76....and they had a good fun life growing up here.
    Nowadays I dont care too much for Tampa, and live up in Hernando County where things still move a little slowly. I like it that way...

  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    Graduated from Jesuit in 61. Went to, and still go to, many Jesuit / Robinson football games. 

    I remember the first time Robinson played Jesuit. It was before Robinson had a stadium. The game was at Plant. I did not like the outcome all the much. 

    Have been living in Carrollwood, North of Tampa, for 40 years. Not as bad as Tampa, but still too crowded.
    My three daughters grew up swimming & fishing in my pond in back of my house.  The best of times! 
  • The_Bearded_AnglerThe_Bearded_Angler Tampa native living in GaPosts: 190 Deckhand
    Hillsborough High School c/o '84. I lived in Carrollwood late 80's and throughout the 90's, first off of Orange Grove Drive and then on Lake Magdalene (which btw is a pretty good fishing hole). Nice area of town, especially back then when it was still on the outskirts of town. 
  • triumphricktriumphrick Posts: 577 Officer
    OK guys....who remembers SuperTest fairgrounds at the corner of Dale Mabry and Columbus? You would buy their gas and get tickets to spend at the fair/carnival...it seemed like Dale Mabry ended there. But it did continue north as a two lane highway. Into what would later become Carrollwood.

    Funny how looking back on those days always brings back great memories of days on the water. That seems to be our common thread.

    For the longest time we had a picture cut out of the old Tampa Tribune with me holding a chicken rig that had a spanish mackeral and a speckled trout.....caught at the Ballast Point pier! Tampa Bay fishing was awesome in the 50's. 

    I had access to McDill AFB and would ride my bike to the crash boat docks just inside the McDill ave gate. We had schools of mullet so thick you could walk across them. A treble hook and spinning rig got us a mullet we would use for redfish or shark bait. To be continued......

  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,210 Admiral
    Remember the Super Test fairgrounds well. That place was huge. Major fun!

    "Tampa Bay fishing was awesome in he 50's"   
    That's for sure.  The Courtney Campbell Causeway was my stomping grounds. 
    Never could figure out if I liked crabbing or fishing better:
    Guess much more study work needed.
    MacDill  AFB:   Anyone remember the B-52's stationed there?

    Talk about HUGE!  They looked like a city flying over roof top level. 
    How about...

    When I moves off Gunn Highway some 50 years ago the 'Plantation' was then a dairy farm called Turner's Plantation Dairy. They had a little store on Gunn that sold the best ice cream you have ever tasted.
    Went dove hunting there many times.  Probably not a good idea to go hunting there now.

    Anyone remember Mr Culbreath? 

    He also let us go dove hunting on his property.
    Was the best of times!
    Try that today

    & we would probably be the ones getting  shot. 
    One good thing about living this long; you remember things most can't even dream of. 

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