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By Liz Reed

The Catcher’s Net is a great new sports bar and grill on Highway 19 in Palmetto, and the continuation of a family business that goes back over half a century. Lee Cline opened the Sea Hut on Snead Island in 1971. The business had a few boat slips, sold bait, and had a crab house. Cline got the idea of offering sandwiches that fishermen heading out could grab and take with them, and business really took off. Gradually, more items were added to the menu, and the Sea Hut became the local destination for seafood.

In 1979, Cline sold the original location, along with the Sea Hut name. Not one to sit back and take it easy, he quickly bought a new property in Terra Ceia, just short of the Sunshine Skyway. At the time, the existing business was little more than a dive bar, with a pool table and a jukebox. Cline named his new place the Crab Trap and set about expanding the building. He created a full-service seafood restaurant that could seat about 165 diners, and it immediately gained a strong following.

Lee Cline passed away in 2006 at the age of 92. His daughter Donna James and her sister took over the business. They renamed the restaurant the Sea Hut in honor of their father.  After Donna’s sister passed away, Donna’s son Jarrett became the co-owner.  

In February of 2024, after a brief hiatus for remodeling, Donna and Jarrett reopened the location as The Catcher’s Net. It still has that Old Florida feeling, and seating indoors and out. Some of the favorite Sea Hut selections are on the menu, such as perch and crab cakes, along with a variety of new budget-friendly choices. Being a sports bar and grill, of course it has a variety of spirits. However, some of the spirits you encounter when you visit may not be the ones you were expecting.

In life, Al was a manager of the Sea Hut who loved his job. He was also a proud Navy veteran and has been known to tap out messages in Morse code. When he seems to be around, the staff will mix up his favorite drink and leave it out on the counter for him to enjoy. Mary was also a previous manager and a great friend of Donna. She’s still there and will happily talk with Donna for hours.

You might meet Tom. In life, he was a Sea Hut regular who really enjoyed his drinks. He lived a short distance away and would arrive by boat and tie up behind the restaurant. Sometimes at the end of the evening, he’d be barely fit to navigate back home. Other times, his boat would stay for the night, and someone would drive him. During a recent investigation in the building, we were joined by Travis Webster from the show “Supernatural” and soon the movie The Red Man’s View.  We were also joined by Manu Inytiramyi from “Star Trek Voyager,” and who you’ll soon see in “Z.I.R.” that he’s also co-producing. They had a great time communicating with Tom. They got high fives and had a drink with him. They could have stayed there all night talking with him. We’ll have to check in with Tom sometime, but we’re sure he’ll enjoy the new theme of his favorite hangout.

We have noticed that spirits seem to come and go, moving through the area. It’s not surprising, given all that has happened there. There have been many fatal accidents out on U.S. 19, and of course the collapse of the original Skyway Bridge in 1980 that killed 35 people. Native American burial mounds can be found close by, and the large Skyway Cemetery is just across the street. After heavy rains, funeral flower arrangements have been washed from the cemetery into the inlet behind The Catcher’s Net, creating an eerie spectacle. The inlet, and all the water that surrounds the area, may be making it easier for spirits to move around and make it a place they want to return to.  These frequent visitors often seem to reach out. They want you to know they’re around.

We have encountered a woman and her son who were killed in a car crash. They’re occasional visitors and show up in the rear dining area. Another visitor is a man who committed a murder, and then took his own life on his father’s grave across the street. He regrets what he did, and especially that his daughter had to discover his body.

During a recent séance we conducted there, a great deal of spirit energy came through. Some spirits were the deceased relatives of those who participated. Others were from accidents that happened on U.S. 19. One, for example, was a gentleman who was killed in a motorcycle accident within sight of The Catcher’s Net. A few others came through, but we were not sure who they were or why they were there. The Catcher’s Net is open from noon til 10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday as of this writing. Stop in sometime and have lunch or dinner. Stay and watch the game. Bring your friends, and maybe make some new friends.  Just remember, you may make a new friend who is not quite of this realm

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