Contemplations on The Cove, a Fort Pierce sanctuary for boaters
Joe Semkow’s cover photo of The Cove, the Treasure Coast’s most popular spot for boating, got me thinking about the history of The Cove and the mangrove environs around it, surely one of the most beautiful and beloved spots on the Treasure Coast.
The photo above shows just how popular The Cove is on the weekends. Semkow tells me that The Cove was so crowded with boats anchored along Coon Island the day of his photo shoot that some boaters had to the circle around a sand bar to anchor their boats. Among other reasons, The Cove is popular because the west side of the entrance into it is one big sand bar, and is ideal for wading and hanging out with friends.
The Cove is located off the Fort Pierce Inlet and is west of Fort Pierce Inlet State Park on North Hutchinson Island. Boaters drive through a narrow channel that runs between the park and Coon Island. The section of the park that juts into the inlet is called Dynamite Point, a name given to it when North and South beaches were used for naval amphibious demolition training during World War II.
The name for The Cove that appears on marine charts is Tucker’s Cove, after one-time land owner G.S. Tucker, son of Will Tucker, owner of Fort Pierce’s first bar, the Tarpon Saloon. G.S. Tucker was wealthy by Fort Pierce standards. He owned citrus groves and other property and was vice president of the St. Lucie County Bank.
My cousin, Gladwin Enns, a regular at The Cove for the last 30 years, says he’s never heard anyone refer to The Cove as Tucker’s Cove. Gladwin is the son of late Fort Pierce Mayor Eddie Enns, and I keep trying to bestow the title “Mayor of the Cove’’ on him, an honor he flatly refuses. “We do have someone we call the queen, though, Lisa Campbell,’’ Gladwin tells me.
Before the Fort Pierce Inlet was opened in 1921, the only nearby ocean access was Indian River Inlet, about a mile north of the current inlet. The tiny natural inlet was unreliable, since rough seas or tides could close it up. Before the big inlet was dug, some citizens sought to create a concrete canal from the Atlantic directly to Tucker’s Cove. Newspaper accounts of the time said G.S. Tucker agreed to donate the land for the necessary canal. Once the canal reached Tucker’s Cove, boats would presumably go through a channel cleared of mangroves and reach the Indian River.
If you can find an open dock space, or if coming by car, a parking space, a popular spot through the mangroves is Little Jim Bait & Tackle, an Old Florida institution on Jim Island [more of a peninsula] that some say goes back 90 years. Once just a small convenience store and bait shop, Little Jim Bait & Tackle is now a thriving restaurant that still sells bait. If friends from out of state come into town, we always take them to Little Jim to get a real taste of Old Florida. Which brings us to the question.
Where did the name Jim and Little Jim originate?
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a definitive answer, though I am inclined to agree with Little Jim Bait & Tackle owner Donna Qvarnstrom that it may be linked to James Hutchinson, after whom Hutchinson Island is named and who settled on the island in the early 1800s under a Spanish land grant.
Little Jim’s lease with the city of Fort Pierce expires in 2025 and there have been rumblings about redeveloping the island and replacing this little piece of Old Florida. Little Jim’s is part of Fort Pierce history.
Let’s do our best to keep it that way.
Reach Gregory Enns or 772.940.9005.
Feb. 05, 2024
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