St. George Island (SGI)
known to the locals as “the island”
March 2-13, 2022 and April 14-19, 2022
Photos below…click a photo to open the photo gallery.
St. George Island (SGI) ahhhh….so beautiful! It’s a 28-mile barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. It is only one mile wide at its widest point, so you can easily walk from the gulf side over to the bay side. It’s another Forgotten Coast town without a single traffic light. There are no high rises anywhere just breathtaking beaches and miles of shallow oyster reefs interspersed by white sand. We walk hundreds of yards in the shallow, clear water and fish endlessly. The State Park has a great campground with nine miles of untouched, unspoiled, white-sand beaches.
Because SGI is one of our favorite places to fish, we’ve decided to visit twice on this trip…one time mid-travels and making it our final stop, as well (the proverbial “icing on the cake”). Boy are we glad we did! On our return stay we found a great hole just a yards from the shore near the boat ramp. It was an awesome hotspot with Sheepshead and Redfish.
We had some extremes of weather. Most days were clear blue skies with beautiful sunshine and warm temps. Then towards the end of our stay in mid-March, the rains and winds came. The rain sounded so loud in the RV, we could hardly hear each other…. or at least that’s what I told Cary LOL. A few days later when the rain finally stopped and after about 6 inches of rain had fallen, the winds came. It turns out that 40mph gale force winds are a great time to dry out leaky waders. 🙂 We walked over to the Gulf of Mexico side and walked down the deserted beach. Along the shore break there was a really cool pattern in the sand that was due to the waves receding to the south while the wind was gusting from the north. It kinda looked like wall-to-wall carpeting.
SGI is a great place to hang out with the locals. Harry A’s Bar in town, is our favorite. Outside in the back is the restaurant, live music venue, nightclub (mostly for spring breakers). But on the inside, the restaurant is a laid back old bar for locals who’ve lived on the island for over 30 years. Come to the bar around 4pm when many of them have already knocked back a few and the stories of the past come out.
At Harry A’s we met the ex- Fire Chief, Jay Abbott and his best friend, Kevin, the current Fire Chief, and their friends, Kim and John who bought the old Fire House (across from the new firehouse) that they now live in. Back in those days, these locals were among the 75 families who originally inhabited the island. It cost $2 to cross the bridge that connected the island to the mainland, and so when one person was going across to provision, the others would give him their shopping lists to avoid the $2 fee.
Jay Abbott’s stories kept us captivated. He was originally from Virginia. When I asked him where he moved after VA he answered, “Vietnam.” After Vietnam Jay lived in Louisianna where he was an offshore, hardhat diver. He’d go down 325 feet to work on the oil rig valves. He was also an underwater welder. Cary knew all about this, but it was the first time I learned about this kind of work. It would take seven minutes for Jay to descend, where he’d work for a maximum of 30 minutes. Then he would be raised to the surface. It took four hours for him to ascend and then he’d have to go into a decompression chamber for an additional four hours. Jay spoke to us for a couple of hours. He told us stories about his treatment for a nitrogen gas embolism that caused paralysis; his ownership in The Dungeon – a legendary NOLA French Quarter bar; his 30+ years as Fire Chief of SGI (and medic) treating thousands of cases of stingray injuries. He said, “Any size or age, man or woman, will immediately go down and cry!” HOT WATER is the only thing to lessen the pain. During his time as fire chief, he was the only person remaining on the island during hurricanes. He had many stories of emergencies, but one in particular was for a venomous snake bite victim. He carried the person to his truck and raced to “Apalach” for the anti-venom. Jay’s stories captivated us not only because of how interesting they were, but also because of his small-town, easy going way of telling them.
Favorites: The unspoiled island with miles of white sand beaches. Wading out in the shallow, super calm and glassy water fly fishing. Canoeing to last year’s honey hole where Cary caught a flounder. Cary appearing during the worst of the torrential rains, that began after I showered in the bathhouse, to rescue me bringing my raincoat and carrying an umbrella. ❤️ Paddy’s Raw Bar yummy baked oysters is the fastest service anyone has ever had. Literally, Cary leaned forward to order a dozen raw oysters from the bartender and within a split second, before he could even sit back on his seat, a server reached over Cary’s shoulder with the tray of oysters. It happened every time!
Fish we caught: 1 flounder, 2 sand perch, 15 spotted sea trout, 23 redfish, 8 channel catfish, 4 pinfish, 1 Gaff topsail catfish, 4 stingray, 5 sheepshead. The largest sea trout, Cary caught was 26” but became our 5th “got away” when it broke loose from the stringer. Luckily we had taken a picture prior to its escape!