Frogmore Stew and enjoying Hunting Island
This is our third trip to Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina. Oceanfront campgrounds are few and getting campsites at one is even more difficult. Case in point: we are here three nights but will have to move to different camp sites two times. It was impossible to get the same campsite for all three nights. All three nights are inside the campground but within comfortable walking distance to the ocean.
A camper and his well decorated vintage travel trailer on the oceanfront at Hunting Island State Park.
Getting here hasn’t changed. We take a bypass around downtown Beaufort, past Paris Island Marine Corp. base and then through tiny Frogmore on St. Helena Island. This is Gullah country and several mom and pop restaurants here feature low country specials. Locals are selling baskets and other crafts native to the area in roadside stands.
The recipe for the famous low country boil is said to have originated here. Called Frogmore Stew (there are no frogs in it and it is not a stew), a local shrimper supposedly combined a bunch of left overs into a boiling pot of water with seafood spices. Frogmore stew works wonders when shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn are combined . Most anything that can be boiled is added to Frogmore, such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, crab legs, crabs and crawfish.
Deer frequent the park and take handouts from campers.
Leaving St. Helena we take a tight grip on the steering wheel and drive across an extremely narrow bridge onto Hunting Island and South Carolina’s most popular state park with the same name. The entire 5,000 acre barrier island is a state park and has remained undeveloped. Also on the island is a 19th century lighthouse and several miles of unspoiled beaches that has been rated in the top 25 by TripAdvisor. The area was originally a hunting preserve for low country plantation owners, hence its name. We are meeting Canadian RV friends here for three days of touring the area.
A couple of dinners will be prepared outdoors and we will finish each night sitting around a campfire, enjoying a few adult beverages and the cool ocean breezes.
The Hunting Island Lighthouse shines the way home for a couple of beach strollers and their dog.
Florida’s popular spring shrimp run at Mosquito Lagoon
Florida’s popular winter and spring shrimp run in the intracoastal waterway near Oak Hill, FL., will find campers filling the RV parks and fish camps in the Mosquito Lagoon region. While most of the camps and parks here cater to winter residents and some full-timers, a few sites can be found if shrimpers make reservations far in advance.
The popular pink river shrimp harvested here is one of four Florida varieties, and smaller than ocean food shrimp. However, those who brave the elements and usually crowded shrimping conditions, swear the pink variety is sweeter and holds its flavor longer when frozen. And catching them is easy.
Although the run usually starts on the first full moon in January, locals says it can start earlier or later. March has been successful for us the past half dozen years and usually the weather is more cooperative–at least warmer. Spring rains and cold fronts, however, can bring nighttime temperatures into the 40’s.
While shrimpers in north Florida use large cast nets and catch brown shrimp during daylight hours, the Central Florida run of pink shrimp travels at night on its migration to Ponce Inlet and the Atlantic ocean. They are caught by fishermen using hoop nets strung at the end of long handled aluminum poles in dip net fashion. While some shrimp are caught from docks, the majority are caught from boats anchored just outside the ship channel and deploying underwater lights. The shrimp run shallow and as they swim across the lights they become visible to shrimpers who catch them with long handled dip nets. Some nights shrimpers might fish the entire six hour outgoing tide and catch only a handful of shrimp. Other nights, they might fill a five gallon bucket in 30 minutes.
Five gallons of Mosquito Lagoon shrimp are iced and ready for cleaning.
The state mandated recreational limit is five gallons per boat, regardless the number of fishermen on the boat. Five gallons should weigh about 40 pounds of shrimp.
The Oak Hill area is popular because shrimp leaving the wide and shallow waters of Mosquito Lagoon are squeezed into the narrow intracoastal waterway making them much easier to catch. While shrimp can be caught throughout the area, it’s Riverbreeze Park, a county picnic area and boat ramp, that attracts most of the shrimpers. It’s not uncommon for 50 or more boats anchored within a one mile stretch of the boat ramp.
We camp at either Indian Mound Fish Camp or Riverwood RV Park, located just north of Mosquito Lagoon off U. S. 1 between Edgewater and Oak Hill in east central Florida. There are fishing guides in the area who will take parties shrimping. Some use pontoon boats which are more convenience for group fishing.
Canaveral National Seashore is visible across the intracoastal waterway from Oak Hill, and is accessible by boat. Visitors can access the northern end of the park at New Smyrna Beach or to the south at Titusville. The pristine beach is one of only 10 national seashores in the country and includes 57,662 acres of land that once served as a buffer zone for Kennedy Space Center.