JB is no longer with us. He lost his battle to cancer in 2015, but we are beyond honored to keep his legacy alive here at JB's Fish Camp!
RIP JB (August 7, 1950- August 1, 2015)
My restaurant is dedicated to the finest seafood available. Quality and Consistency is our motto. Catching, cooking and serving all takes time – but here, there is no hurry. Relax and enjoy the best!
I bought the fish camp property from the Goldman's in the late 70's. Back in those days, it was just a screened-in building, with no real kitchen and more of a place to service fishermen 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 hand-painted sign and stored clams, oysters, and crabs in tanks around the back. We kept live shrimp in the building where the restrooms are now. We used our only microwave to heat up sandwiches for the fishermen. 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. 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 would recognize the people in a passing car from a previous trip! Always on a budget, we ate mostly vegetarian. The steamer we used at the fish camp was for restaurants that steam 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 fish camp is beginning to gel. We still had the tanks out back and added some ice chests to store fresh fish and shrimp. 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 around the fish camp (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 at 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 seafood is always available. You can fish with a local guide who will tell you all kinds of stories or take a kayak tour on your own.
John "JB" Bollman
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