Capt. John A. Bollman, III
My restaurant is dedicated to the finest seafood available. Quality and Consistency is our motto. Our river produces the sweetest seafood anywhere. I depend on professional fishermen for the best fish and shellfish because I think people should be as proud of their catch as we are to prepare it and serve it. Catching, cooking and serving all takes time – but here, there is no hurry. Relax and enjoy the best!
I bought the Fishcamp property in the late 70's from the Goldman's. Back in those days, it was just a screened-in building, with no real kitchen and more of a place to service fisherman with bait and beer. On the weekends, the Goldman's used their 55 gallon drum charcoal grill to roast oysters and clams. I continued that tradition but didn't continue the part where they would close up the whole store at 1:00 to watch John Wayne Theatre on TV!
I renamed it the ‘TurtleMound Raw Bar' with a handpainted sign and stored clams, oysters, and crabs in tanks around the back. We kept live shrimp in the building where the restrooms now are. We used our only microwave to heat up sandwiches for the fisherman and sometimes for fun we put live shrimp, crabs and clams in it for snacks. One weekend, a couple approached me and said that they wanted to have a party on the following Wednesday. Their offer was to buy the party beer from me and in turn I would supply all the oysters and clams they could eat. Well, that Wednesday night I made more money than renting boats and selling bait on my best day!
Now, I should say that growing up my passion was catching crabs. In fact, I still like to do that today. The crabbing was spectacular back then and to think that I could catch crabs and make money doing it was a dream- come- true. We caught so many crabs that I hired a woman to pick them for crab cakes. Now we were talking some volume. About that same time, I heard of a restaurant going out of business and I traded my car for an exhaust hood and some commercial cooking equipment. Now we could make crab cakes and fry seafood. We were not high production as we peeled the shrimp to order but everything was fresh and we did it all "southern style".
In the years before I bought the property, I spent quite a bit of time surfing in California. As air travel was out of reach, we drove between Florida and California in our old cars and would pass each other in the desert; each car bearing surfboards. Looking back, that was a unique time of peace and love and camaraderie. You'd be surprised how many times you recognized the people in a passing car from a previous trip! Always on a budget, we ate mostly vegetarian. The steamer we used was for restaurants steaming large amounts of vegetables, so I had a jump on what you could do with a steamer. It is the purest form of cooking. I became somewhat of an expert steamer and we still use those vegetable recipes and seasonings today.
By now, the idea of the Fishcamp is beginning to gel. We still had the tanks out back and added some ice chests to store fresh fish and shrimp that we bought on credit from Miss Emma Feger. We still didn't have much business but I noticed that we were constantly low on shrimp. I figured someone was ‘helping themselves'. One night I went to put some fish back in the ice chest and found the biggest raccoon I've ever seen powering down on my shrimp! They are clever animals but he was a real masked bandit! We still have raccoons today around the Fishcamp (as well as bobcats, porpoise, manatees; but that's part of the ‘real' Florida that gets lost in the Theme Parks and Condominiums – they don't often come to eat the restaurant!).
Fast forward to 1987. By now the restaurant is called ‘JB's Fish Camp'. Business is good and we decide to expand. We built a new kitchen, expanded seating and decks and brought the building up to code. Our employees became construction workers! I am proud to say that many of our employees have stayed with us and shared the dream for the last 20+ years. Couldn't do it without them. We are one big extended family – the Rolling Stones of the restaurant business!
Today, we are proud to offer a slice of old Florida to our guests. You can sit on the dock and enjoy a beer while the sun slips below the horizon. You can dock your boat in one of our slips and order a great meal in a casual setting. Kids are always welcome. They are our future. If you are lucky, you can see porpoise and manatees playing in the river. Fresh oysters and clams are always available and seasonally you can enjoy the sweetest white shrimp in the world, delicate rock shrimp, Florida lobsters, and Florida stone crab. You can fish with a local guide who will tell you all kinds of stories or take a kayak tour on your own. You may even run into me……