Whitey’s Fish Camp

Review by: Michael Stern


When we began researching Roadfood, someone told us about a place off Florida’s St. Johns River called Whitey’s, open since 1963. It was here we learned to savor all you can eat catfish — wild-caught in particular. A few forkfuls let us know just how different whole ones are from fillets of farm-raised mudcats that restaurants present as easy-to-eat fillets.

No doubt, pond-raised catfish can please an appetite no end. Their polite character makes them receptive to all kinds of character-building treatments. You can blacken them or Cajun-spice them and wind up with a very yummy dish.

But farm-raised cannot compare to the wild ones at Whitey’s. Here you savor the flavor punch of genuine, bottom-feeding river shovelheads. Forget fancy seasonings. They don’t want it.

All You Can Eat

Around here, more than a few restaurants serve fish AUCE style. (That means All U Can Eat.) At Whitey’s, when the order is catfish, you can specify what size you want. If you don’t, each plateful holds one or two big ones and two or three little ones. The tiniest are so fragile that experienced diners eat even the tender rib bones, leaving nothing but vertebrae. Big ones, with a skeleton that demands respect, provide supremely easy access to meat. Simply poke the tines of a fork through the sandy cornmeal girdle just below the backbone, then pull downward. A nice mouthful slips cleanly off the ribs. Atop the patch of brittle crust on your fork you find a nugget of dense meat as luxurious as prime beefsteak.

The Magic of the Mudcat

Both sizes of fish deliver freshwater sparkle that evokes vacation campfires and balmy summer nights. We have never eaten anything so indisputably outdoorsy in a normal cloth-napkin restaurant. (In lieu of napkins, Whitey’s supplies each table with a roll of paper towels.)

Whitey’s made its reputation on all you can eat catfish, but its menu offers just about any seafood you’ll find in the South. Name your favorite fish and they will broil it, sautee it, fry it, blacken it, stuff it, and serve it filleted or on the bone.

Whitey’s is a community as much as it is a restaurant: boat launches, bait and tackle shop, oyster bar and beer bar, campground and RV park complete with hair-styling salon.

Directions & Hours

11am - 9pm
  • Monday: 3:00 – 9:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM

What To Eat


Red Beans & Rice

Pineapple Slaw

Key Lime Pie


Whitey’s Fish Camp Recipes


What do you think of Whitey’s Fish Camp?

One Response to “Whitey’s Fish Camp”

Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

November 18th, 2010

Do you really love catfish? Do you enjoy working for your dinner? If so, Whitey’s Fish Camp is the place to try fried catfish that has not been farm raised. These beauties are caught wild, then fried up whole (but headless and skinless), and brought to you until you tell your waitress to stop. The catfish are on the small side, so you’ll have to pick and nibble your way through them. It’s worth the effort, however, for the cornmeal crust is highly seasoned with a wicked crunch, and the meat is creamy-textured, and it’s fun discovering all the hiding places for the edible parts. Our waitress Tara asked if we prefer them large or small, informing us that many of her customers like them as small as possible, so they can be eaten bones and all. We chose to leave the bones.

With the catfish comes heavily seasoned fries, good coleslaw, and some of the best hush puppies we had in Florida – fluffy white, onion-laced, and tender-textured. Part way through our pitcher of Bud, Tara rushed out with a bag of ice to drop in the beer. Nice, thoughtful touch. All manner of other local water creatures are available to eat, including the ubiquitous (in Florida these days) alligator tail, local frogs legs, and turtle. There’s even something called soft-shell turtle (in season), and we have a hard time imagining how that would be prepared. Boned and filleted catfish are also available, in or out of sandwiches.

Whitey’s is really a fish camp, rather than a fish-camp-themed restaurant. You can purchase bait, rent a boat, and catch your own, and there’s an RV park on the grounds. The restaurant has an outdoor covered deck in back, along the water, and it’s here we recommend you dine. The area around Whitey’s is no longer a remote wilderness. You’ll pass by shopping centers and country clubs and senior housing developments on your way here. Don’t be concerned by that – Whitey’s is still a taste of old-school Florida.


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