Photo: Walt Reynolds
Roland Martin is a Florida ‘Icon'
Mom and dad considered me the black sheep of the family because I wasn’t in a real profession. My mom was a schoolteacher, and she wanted me to become something other than a fisherman. And my dad — he was a hydrologic engineer — couldn’t stand the thought of me being a fisherman. He didn’t think I’d amount to much.
I was winning angler-ofthe- year awards and decided to use the fishing tournaments as a springboard to get into television. I bought some cameras and some other stuff — and pretty much went broke — but then I got on a national network with “Fishing with Roland Martin,” and things started going pretty well after that.
The perception that I wasn’t going to amount to anything was great motivation. It’s what drove me to succeed.
I’d get up at in the morning at 5, starting when I was about 13 or so, and I’d go down to the river about a mile away and trap muskrats. I trapped muskrats in the dark. The first shotgun I bought, I bought with muskrat pelts. The first rifle I bought, I bought with muskrat pelts. The first car I ever had, when I was 16 or 17, I paid for with muskrat pelts. I could see then that there was money to be made on the outdoors.
Every fisherman out there on the lake is going to have some lucky opportunity come by, but half of them aren’t going to recognize the luck. And half of them aren’t going to capitalize on the luck. Really good fishermen capitalize on those opportunities.
When I was growing up, I was a pissant of a kid. I was always doing the opposite of what my parents wanted me to do.
Right now, one of the issues that’s kind of grating me a little bit is weed control. What happens traditionally, in Lake Okeechobee for example, is you spray to control some of the weeds like hyacinths that get in the waterways and plug up the locks. So they have a spray program, but now they’re spraying too much. The lake was really healthy say three or four years ago, with the great weed cover it had, and now I can take you out and show you acre after acre burned up from the chemicals. They’re spraying not only from airboats, but from airplanes, too. It’s overkill. An awful lot of the food chain relies on those weeds.
There’s a recipe I really like. It’s called redfish on the half shell. It’s a Cajun recipe. You take the redfish — not a real big one, just a medium-sized one — and you cut one whole side of it off and leave the skin and the scales on. Then, you debone it and make sure it’s just pure meat and then you take a grill — a gas grill — and get it to 450. Put the fish down flesh-side up and add some olive oil, maybe some Cajun seasons, salt and pepper and stuff, and let it grill. The bottom kind of folds up a little like a boat and all that moisture stays in there.It doesn’t take more than 12 or 15 minutes. The skin and scales become like the plate. It’s a tasty meal, but it only works with fish that have thick scales and thick skin.
My parents and I, we were in Brazil for a time, and we’re on the way back home, and we stopped in Paris and picked up a new car because the government service allowed for a new car for employees like dad. We got this brand new Saab, and we were going to go to Sweden to visit some relatives. The car had these new seatbelts and at that time — this was the ’60s — seatbelts were just across the lap, but this was the first time I saw a harness seatbelt. All of a sudden a car comes zooming at us — we’re in Brussels, Belgium — and hits us head on and kills mom and dad. I was in the front seat. I had just put my seatbelt on.
I do all sorts of hunting — bears, elk, deer — and that’s all fun, but hunting turkey is my No. 1.
Fishing is about being alert and aware. I’m on a lake in Georgia, on the way to a fishing spot, and I see this tree in the water. I ran the boat past it and said, ‘damn, that tree wasn’t there yesterday,’ and I saw these little wood chips in the water. A beaver had just brought down the tree! I stopped and thought that tree had to be full of bugs and ants and just think of all the little minnows that are going to come in to feed, which attracts the bigger fish. I pulled up and fished. I ended up catching seven bass out of that tree.
My daughter just got married this last week. I was really feeling good and I danced my ass off. About 100 people came up to me afterward and said that was the best dancing they’d ever seen. I just had the beat and felt like celebrating, you know? My daughter says, ‘I didn’t know you could dance like that.’ I didn’t, either.
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