Capt. Roscoe Mikel knew the secret in the 1950s.
Captain Roscoe Mikel was one of the best fishermen ever to captain a vessel out of Destin. He had a secret weapon and I’ll share it with you later.
Consider when Destin fishermen began to take to the gulf waters there was nothing to help them but a compass, wrist watch, and God given intelligence in great abundance.
They were capable of going to where the fish were without the electronics in use today that most folks couldn’t find their way home without.
They were very serious and careful for they knew they were at the mercy of the Lord. There was no modern Coast Guard to come to their rescue when in danger.
Today, our USCG is the finest ever with the most fantastic equipment. They have jet airplanes, sophisticated helicopters, vessels of all sizes from outboard propelled small craft to large cutters with huge turbo charged engines that can “flat move out.” And most of all dedicated and trained men and women who often place their lives at risk for those in trouble at sea.
When Captain Mikel and other captains also took to the gulf, their vessels were handmade and powered with automobile engines that had been modified for marine use.
I can remember from my childhood the sound of the exhaust as it blubbered water almost as if it was timed. If salt water wasn’t made to go through the exhaust to cool it, a fire could be the result. Fire was the only thing my dad feared while at sea.
Captain Mikel, like the other captains, was all ears when he started the engine. Later, when I was operating our vessels, I also listened carefully as I could for any strange sound could turn into a huge repair bill if allowed to continue.
These captains could navigate by sounding lead readings. They knew from experience what the depth was supposed to be in certain “fishy” areas for they had memorized the bottom contours and never seemed to be fooled.
Inshore, where he could see land, Captain Mikel could look at the shore and knew instantly if he needed to be more offshore, inshore or a bit to the east or west. The landmarks for each fishing spot were engraved into his mind. If he ever fished a place on a clear day, on another clear day he could go right back to it.
These men were also very strong and could fish all day with hand lines and land thousands of pounds of red snapper and grouper, not counting trigger fish, white snappers etc.
Now, I’d like to tell you their secret.
These men had wives that loved Jesus. Kathleen Mikel lived within reach of her Bible and enjoyed a “hot line” to God. You could tell by looking at its worn cover she read it daily, keeping her faith strong, and was a faithful prayer warrior for her husband and family.
When Roscoe came home, she had a meal ready from a “soul food” menu. Meat or fish, plus fresh collard greens, beans and cornbread with some strong iced tea would be a favorite meal for Roscoe. I know it was for my dad and me.
So, let’s go ahead and admit, Destin’s great fishing history success can be attributed to men like Captain Roscoe Mikel whom God blessed with fine minds but with even greater wives who took care of them spiritually and physically.
Destin’s early captains were men of faith that knew Jesus was their anchor and their safe harbor, too. May all who go forth across the bar into the gulf know Him as well and with wives that love Jesus, too.
Capt. Ben Marler, a longtime Destin resident, fisherman and author of “Old Destin Through the Eyes of a Child,” “4 o’clock in the morning,” and “I Am Not Ashamed of Jesus,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.