In November, I stumbled upon these clam fishermen in Cedar Key as they filtered their haul from the morning. I only wish I had found them earlier in the day to ride with them on the water.
These clammers are some of the muscles behind Florida’s fishing economy, and to say it looked backbreaking is an understatement. Only taking Christmas Day off, one could argue these third- and fourth-generation fishermen are called to their work.
In a wanna-be-NPR-Planet-Money-T-shirt-project way, we visited the Indian River Seafood Company, which distributes Hathcox’s clams. I cannot tell you how many times I checked Google maps as we got close.
The company is located on a thinly paved road with little else on it. However, the uncomplicated but pristine cleanliness of the Indian River Seafood Company must be the reason behind its success, supplying great food to restaurants and locals alike.
Baby Cakes was named for Gary Hathcox’s grandson’s first words, and his other boat is smartly named, Sheila Baby, after his wife.
“He’s been fishing since Moby Dick was a minnow,” Joseph Cannon says of Gary Hathcox (pictured), who runs a clam-fishing operation out of Cedar Key. Before the net ban, Hathcox was a commercial fisherman.
Phillip Campbell, a fourth-generation fisherman, pulls a net full of clams from the boat.
It takes generations of families working side by side to make clamming into a tradition. Here, Jonathan Miller, left, works alongside his father-in-law, Phillip Campbell.
Jonathon Miller sprays the clams as they come off the boat.
“Mr. Gary taught me to look at the moon for tides,” Joseph Cannon says of his boss. Cannon, a fourth-generation Florida fisherman, has a deep respect for the fishermen who came before him.
One day of fishing can yield up to 5,500 pounds of clams from these fishermen.
Gary Hathcox can’t help himself. Despite the enormous quantity, he cleans up a barnacle he finds on one of his clams.
Found ’em! Gary Hathcox’s Cedar Key clams are distributed here at the Indian River Seafood Company in Sebastian.
Clams go through another filtering process to ensure quality. They are then held in one of Indian River Seafood Market’s walk-in fridges before making it to plates anywhere from Florida to Canada.
This friendly reminder on the door of Indian River Seafood Market makes me happy.
Manager George Fornash mans the store with a smile. Like the Cedar Key clammers, he is passionate about his operation. We bought some Mahi and smoked Mahi dip and it was delish.
Written & photographed by Molly Dempsey and edited by Pamela Staik.