For me, fishing is mainly an excuse to be around boats and water. Catching something is almost irrelevant. Nevertheless, I love staying at Shell Island Fish Camp when I visit St. Marks.
You can’t beat toddling down to the marina’s store for a cup of coffee and enjoying it on the docks as the sun comes up. A knot of eager fisherman and boaters gather in front of the shop, mulling over the weather as they gas up, ready to get their crafts out into the river and on to the Gulf for the day’s adventures. Friendly regulars tell you fish tales about ones that got away and ones that didn’t. If you scrutinize the photos behind the coffeemaker, you’ll see one of the more remarkable ones that didn’t: A black bear cub rescued as it paddled, lost, through the water years ago. Ask any of the Shell Island employees about that saga: It’s a story you won’t want to miss.
Owned by the Hobbs family for more than 35 years, Shell Island is the oldest family-owned fish camp in Florida. People come for the speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, cobia, rock bass and redfish – you can rent a boat and a guide, if needed, or pay a small docking fee for your own – but I come for the Old Florida atmosphere, the proximity to the Tallahassee-St. Marks Rail Trail, and the incredibly serene waterfront views.
The rates aren’t bad, either: Motel rooms start at $55, while cabins and park model rentals offer even more space that’s perfect for groups or families. Cabins have two bedrooms, a kitchen and a screened porch and are heated and air-conditioned and start at $72. Camping spots for RVs and tents are also available for $20 and $10, respectively.