Jug Creek Marina keeps the tradition going
Steve Johnston took over Jug Creek Marina in October 2019. He said his desire is to keep the tradition of the marina the same as it’s always been.
“We know that this isn’t going to become a massive fish-industry building,” said Johnston. “Our goal is to make it as historical as we can, so that you would enjoy it as a destination as opposed to just a fish market. There are a lot of fish markets out there that are certainly easier to get to than we are, so there needs to be much more of an experience to spend an hour or two, have a beer, and watch the dolphin in the bay.” Johnston said if a fisherman calls the marina after breaking down, someone is going out to get them no matter what.
William Williams is just one of many local fishermen who has spent his life working the waters of Pine Island Sound. According to Johnston, Williams is one of those people who work hard to bring in his haul. He’s made a career out of helping feed the community and keeping the fish market alive at Jug Creek Marina.
Also known for fighting professionally, Williams said he feels fortunate to have only wanted to do two things in life and getting to do them both. He explained that mullet will go into the mangrove when the tide is high, which makes them hard to catch, or drop off into holes where they can be hunted during low tide. Sometimes, he said, fishermen let the birds guide them right to a great catch, while they are dive bombing and feasting on nearby fish.
Simply having spent his life on the water has given Williams an instinct for locating fish; a trait that’s been passed down through his family now for generations.
“I can just look out there and spot fish,” he said, looking out at the bay.
“My mom’s family was born out on Cayo Costa,” said Williams. “They probably came across the Mayan Indians and Spaniards…as far back as it goes.”
His father, Nathan Williams, who’s also a local fisherman, he said, has family roots they go a long way back to the water as well. Williams says he was too young to even remember when his father began teaching him to work the local waters.
“I used to love going fishing with my dad,” said Williams, “especially at night. There were only two things I wanted to be when I was a kid — a professional athlete or a commercial fisherman and I got to do both those things.”
He said he feels connected, as though he’s at home wherever he goes on the island, and credits that with the brotherhood of the sea, and his father teaching him the trade.
According to Johnston, the link between the catch and the truck is Jon Bowyer. He’s in charge of the fish house, said Johnston, running out to the fishermen if they need more ice for the fish, or even if they need another boat.
He also measures and weighs the catch, cleans and cuts the fish, deciphering the worth of each haul for the fish house.
COVID-19 has had a big impact on the distribution, Johnston said.
“We’re at the beginning of that distribution chain. When the restaurants close down, it all backs up. Luckily we have a really good local market here, so we stayed open, but at the beginning of the pandemic, some of our big buyers were saying, ‘Don’t call us, we’re not buying anything.’ We hung in there knowing that would end, and it has. Now we’re back in the run,” Johnston said, emphasizing that the fishermen keep the marina alive.
“If we didn’t meet them and get to know them, we never would have gotten involved, but after you meet all the people, they tell you what they need and how it works. Now we just want to keep the tradition of this place going strong.”