The “Scoop” – The Early Years of Shrimping on Ft. Myers Beach

AUTHORS NOTE: I wanted to apologize for the obvious lack of attention having been paid to this site during the last few months. I was going through a bit of personal drama, which has been resolved, so expect to see regular postings from this day forward : )

With the diverse population we have here on our island paradise, there are undoubtedly more stories than there are grains of sand on the beach and I’ve captured a lot of them at the Sand Paper. Such stories are important because they make up the fabric of who we are as a community. One tale is that of island historian Deacon “Scoop” Kiesel – who moved to Fort Myers Beach with his brothers shortly after World War II to cash in on a new kind of gold rush that had recently been discovered off our shores – pink gold that is – known as Florida Gulf Shrimp. Scoop, who throughout his long and storied existence has worn more hats than you can fit inside his 89 years of life, has agreed to tell me his tale, and the following is the first of several installments during which Scoop shared with our readers the his fascinating story. In this piece, Scoop shares with me the saga of how the shrimping industry came to Fort Myers Beach, and how his life would become forever linked to that pink gold.

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Raising Cane – A History of Big Sugar in South Florida

      6,000 years ago, the Everglades were created when a receding ocean revealed a bare limestone plain that covered south Florida. Fed by heavy rainfall, subtropical plants made their home on the low nutrient soil. Rain falling across central Florida made its way to Lake Okeechobee, which frequently overflowed its southern boundaries, creating a slow moving ‘river of grass’ that once covered most of present-day Dade and Broward counties as well as the southern part of the state. As this ‘river’ slowly made its way towards Florida Bay, impurities were flushed from the water and Florida’s aquifers (large, underground limestone caves filled with fresh water) were replenished. Plants and animals thrived in this very unique ecosystem for

thousands of years. Then the white man came…

  The saga that is the tale of Florida’s sugar industry and its effect on the local environment is one of greed and power, of farmers and politically savvy wealthy foreigners, of bribes and Huge cattails clog the Evergladesshady deals, all wrapped in the southern pride of the tiny town of Clewiston. It reads like the script to a Hollywood movie with no one, Democrat or Republican, being spared from ensnarement in the decade’s long legacy of abuse. Its rippling effects reach residents of both coasts, from Ft. Myers to Jensen Beach, but is primary victims remain the non-human residents of Lake Okeechobee and the long-suffering Everglades.

 

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