There was a time not so long ago when folks from the Southern states gravitated not toward massive theme parks with their claustrophobic crowds and endless parking lots, but toward fish camps on the rivers, lakes, and coasts, where they could find a rental rod, some serenity, and someone to fry up their catch for dinner. These fish camps were places where dads taught their sons and daughters to cast, where husbands and wives could escape for a weekend, and where children could live out the stories that they would tell their own kids someday.
Our family settled in Florida during the Great Depression, right here on Old Clearwater Bay, and learned what bounty the local waters had to offer. At the time, before high-rise hotels on Clearwater Beach and high-rent condos on Sand Key, a person could wade from the mainland to the barrier islands and rarely encounter water more than waist deep, netting mullet and casting for redfish and snapper the whole way.
There was once a large barrier island directly west of our restaurant called Hog Island, where settlers in the 1800s attempted to raise pigs. But in 1921, a hurricane split the island in two, prompting the town of Dunedin to rename the south island Caladesi in 1928 and a developer to lure visitors to the north island in the 1940s by calling it Honeymoon Island. Even so, folks around here don’t let history fade too quickly, and old-timers still referred to Caladesi as Hog Island into the 1970s.
At Hog Island Fish Camp, we hope to offer a glimpse back to the times when families could bond over a simple fish dinner, freshly caught from local waters. And if we do our job right, you’ll be able to walk down the street to the marina, take a look out over Old Clearwater Bay to where the sun sets over Hog Island, and see that at least part of Florida still is what it used to be.