It is a masterpiece of storytelling and environmental awakening, South Florida’s Fishing Paradise, by Jim Stenson
By Skip Clement
Stenson treats readers to an intimate view of characters that mentored him through childhood to manhood because parenting was AWOL. The front-row seat Jim provides is not one of autobiographical despair; it’s one of joy. He never criticizes his absent parentage; he believes it was what it was, preferring instead to live in the now.
His being molded and finding purpose in life is baked by a cast of Runyonesque characters like Frank the Net, a trailer park Woodstock hippy couple, and several others you will enjoy meeting. Some of these personalities are friends for life, others passing guides at critical stages in his upbringing that influenced his becoming the environmentally clued outdoorsman, and gifted chronicler he is today.
Stenson’s growth as a person, writer, outdoorsman, conservationist, and businessman is hatched in the pages of his autobiographical book. What makes South Florida’s Fishing Paradise most remarkable is not only because it is a page-turner but because he nails what happened and continues happening to Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ The Everglades: River of Grass.
The raison d’être of South Florida’s remarkable fishery is the Everglades, which begins its flow just north of Orlando, Florida, in Reedy’s Swamp and impacts every square acre of land and water as it traverses south to The Florida Keys and east to the Atlantic Ocean, and west to the Gulf of Mexico.
In his first-person narrative, Jim Stenson weaves into his story what Florida’s fishery of tarpon, snook, and many more of the world’s great gamefish was like and in many places remain today. Stenson gives readers an unconfined view of South Florida’s fall from being the Breathmaker’s masterpiece, as Buffalo Tiger, former chief of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, put it in 1975, to today’s governance of hostility towards anything that smells like environmental common sense.
Florida’s power brokers remain undeterred by reality like the loss of over seven million acres of pristine wetlands, the corporate welfare unwittingly paid for by taxpayers to the sugarcane industry, the abomination of large-scale citrus farming, and the Corps of Engineers’ reckless ‘straightening’ and dredging the Kissimmee River, to the anathema of damming and diking of Lake Okeechobee. The politics of men and women of power in Tallahassee continue to ignore everything beyond what’s for lunch today at the club, Mr. Lobbyist, sir?
If you like a good read, get what might become a classic of Florida’s failure to care for its Breathmaker-gifted environmental one-off masterpiece and fly fishers paradise.
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