Key West Island Eats: Tackle Box II

Key West Island Eats: Tackle Box II

Photos by Josie Koler

The Weekly Newspapers has heard the chant at numerous pool parties scattered around the islands.

“O-H-I-O!”

We’ve seen the likes of Chief Wahoo plastered inside Florida Keys businesses, and we are all becoming familiar with “Put-in-Bay Days” which started here this past February.

There’s a reason.

Though many of you believe Ohio is inundated with corn and cows, the area is actually a resort-like paradise once the ice melts and clears the way for ferries to take you to the Lake Erie Islands to frolic with your friends.

The landscape is Duval — when unthawed!

Just check out this place where the drinks are ordered “to-go,” the attire is tank-tops and flip-flops, transportation is either a jet ski or pontoon boat, and the menu is focused on fish!

“My wife says, ‘no.’”

No—to a jet ski!

That hasn’t stopped Hopewell Louden sixth grade world history and language arts teacher Tony Swanagan from jumping on the back of his buddy’s new Kawasaki 1100 STX and cruising 10 miles down the Sandusky River from Memory Marina-Jimmy Buckets.

“That’s why I don’t have one of those,” his buddy and colleague Brian Rothrock decked out in a bathing suit and life jacket chimes in, “a wife.”

The fact is, Swanagan’s mother-in-law brought them here, to the Tackle Box II over ten years ago when he and the missus started dating. The Hopewell Louden sixth grade world history and language arts teacher fell in love with Krista, and with the food.

“I usually have the perch.”

Across the outdoor seating area, under a sign that reads, “Cabana Dan’s,” Tammy and Scheryl Rader have ordered the Walleye, by the pound.

“I like sitting out here relaxing in the outdoors,” the mister says. “We usually get the perch or walleye. It’s a nice casual atmosphere.”

This Sandusky River restaurant seats close to 200 inside and out. Cherished seating capacity, especially during lent! The Tackle Box II started as – you guessed it – a bait shop in the town of Fremont then expanded with a small kitchen and 17 seats in 1994. After rebuilding after a fire, six fryers were added, more seating, a waterfall, a pelican, and an electric palm tree!

“It used to light up at night,” exclaims manager Lisa Babione.

Her boyfriend is also the owner, Dan Stephens. The property isn’t all they own, but Young’s breading, used to coat the perch, walleye, and frog legs!
“They come from Taiwan,” she divulges. “We thaw’em, and bread them lightly with flour!”

Interestingly, the fish hasn’t sunk gills in the river or the lake. The cost of Lake Erie perch and walleye is astronomical. She buys the fish from a farm in Ohio or Michigan and ships the walleye in from Alaska.

“This keeps prices down. If we were to go with Lake Erie fish it wouldn’t be affordable.

This way we can sell it for $7.75 per pound. Attracts families and old people on fixed budgets. When they come here and see water they want to eat fish!”

Hmmm. Sounds familiar!
The Tackle Box II goes through 25 cases of beer per night and 200 pounds of fish!

 

Cooks
  Server Evelyn Griffin (left) with cook Terry Westerman. “Frog legs are my favorite! I love’em. Deep fried,” Westerman raves across the kitchen.

 

 

Couple
Terry and Scheryl Rader celebrate their eighth anniversary under the sun in the outdoor dining area dubbed, “Cabana Dan’s.” 

 

 
Exterior
The entrance is around to the left and up the stairs, but you can’t pull into the parking lot without passing the pelican and plastic, electric-palm tree.

 

 

 

Frog legs 2
Mary shows us Kermit is all the rage in this kitchen. She’s ready to batter these lily pond limbs in egg and breading.

 

 

 

Walleye
Lake Erie Walleye wows the diners from around the globe just as the Keys Fisheries’ Lobster Rueben leaves them licking their lips for more.

 

 

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