January 10, 2018

The Big Freeze

Filed under: Outer Banks,oysters,Pamlico Sound,People,Weather — j0jgvm89bj @ 5:47 pm

The 2018 new year came in with a cyclone. It had been nice and peaceful with the holiday season coming to a close, and everyone began bracing for a well-forecast storm.

On the evening of the 2nd it started with about 2 inches of rain, then turned to snow by 4 in the morning. By that time the barometer had plunged to 976 millibars. I don’t think I had seen that since hurricane Emily grazed by in 1993. Gusts were measured in the mid-70’s from the northwest. My house shook. We were in the middle of one of our rare blizzards. Temperatures dropped into the low 20’s then high teens at night.

The warm up before the storm came at Eric and Val Stump’s New Years Eve party. A few snowflakes dropped as did the temperature.

Eric did a great job roasting some crab slough oysters.

Then on the morning of the 3rd, I saw my truck sprayed with icy snow.

The yard became a frozen winter wonderland.

My business banner had been blown away and it’s mast bent.

After snowing 3 inches, it was 25° and blowing a gale.

Oyster gloves were frozen to the clothes line.

My bathroom window had some interesting ice patterns on it.

Bundled up for the coldest conditions, I explored the Salvo Day Use Area.

The Rodanthe Pier pilings were plastered on the northwest sides.

Meanwhile the oyster shoot for Old Christmas had begun. It was low 20’s with a stiff northerly wind.

Everyone was gathering on the lee side of the Community Building, unless they were shooting.

A festive reunion for family and friends, Joey Jr. (left) celebrates with Tom Wiley and Joey O’Neal Sr.

I couldn’t resist shooting my long-time friends Brent Midgett, Willy Smith, and Larry Midgett.

To the victor of the oyster shoot go the spoils. Better eat ’em quick before they freeze.

Emily prepares to shoot as her dad Tom Wiley looks on. As is a proud family tradition here, she serves in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Larry Midgett was helping his daughter Tanya, get ready for her turn to shoot. Tanya is also following in the U.S. Coast Guard tradition, and currently stationed at Hatteras Inlet.

There was always someone waiting to shoot.

Even the young ones got in on the act. Camouflage was everywhere.

The next day frigid temperatures continued. It was 17° at night, and the sound froze out even further, as far as I could see.

From a second story deck, I couldn’t see any open water, only a duck blind on the horizon.

Behind my house the sound was solid. I heard some kids in Salvo rode their bikes on it.

Jon Brown and I marveled at the spectacle. It happens, but not often.


December 13, 2017

Catch of the Day

Filed under: Fishing,Outer Banks,oysters,Pamlico Sound — j0jgvm89bj @ 1:23 pm

This time of year, as chilly weather sets in, my mind always wanders to a pastime I’ve enjoyed for decades. That is the craving for and the collection of oysters. In my  opinion, the Pamlico Sound produces the best tasting oysters found just about anywhere.

Commercially they are harvested either by using a dredge or tongs. Since I’m a recreational user, I hand pick mine from the inshore shallows.

At times I’d collect and carry them in a burlap bag. Other times I’d shuck to a container as I collected, leaving the shells where I found them. When I bought a kayak, my method of “fishing” became paddling and collecting. It was much easier and I still return the spent shells back from where they came.

My 12 foot kayak can haul a bushel or so.

The other day I found a half bushel of nice ones. At 6 and 8 inches long, the two biggest ones on top are genetically strong. My catch and release philosophy is to plant them in my oyster garden for spawning next Summer.

The 8 inch oyster was impressive and I found it stuck in a muddy creek bottom with the top 2 inches sticking out.

I shucked this fat one for an old friend.

Ready to satisfy, these are beauties. The one on the right has a resident pea crab. They live as a parasite in the shell with the oyster yet are considered a local delicacy. The colder the water gets, the better the quality and flavor!

Have a Merry Christmas.




December 26, 2016

Days of Old Christmas Past

Filed under: history,Outer Banks,oysters,People — j0jgvm89bj @ 2:37 pm

When I first moved to Rodanthe, I heard about Old Christmas. It took me a while to understand the roots of this tradition and it’s anachronism to modern times. Dating back perhaps 200 years, it has much to do with the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar and the isolation of the Outer Banks.

I’ve enjoyed Old Christmas over the years and have never seen anything quite like it. These days it consists of an oyster roast, dinner, music, dancing and anything that might come with it.

Decades old photographs that I shot at the event have become windows into a vintage past. Most of the pictures shown here were taken in 1985.

j-henryLocals gathered at the Community Building parking lot to begin celebrating. Anderson Midgett is on the far right checking out a shotgun. Jim Henry, the grey-haired man in the middle who did much at Chicamacomico Station, loved mingling with the crowd.

timIt almost took a village to start a fire for roasting salty oysters. Tim Merritt looks on as Larry Midgett and Rudy Gray get cooking.

dbBill Midgett, DB Midgett and John Edgar Herbert tailgated at the oyster shoot.

larryLarry Midgett took aim to win a bushel of oysters.

jobob“Jobob” Fegundes and Bruce Midgett shared responsibilities over the fire.

macEveryone enjoyed the oyster roast, including Mac and Steve Midgett.

old-buckAnd of course the culmination was the appearance of Old Buck, here being led by John Edgar. There are 2 well-known photographers in this shot too. Drew Wilson, a staff photographer for the Virginian Pilot is on the right wearing a brown hat. David Alan Harvey, a staffer for National Geographic, is behind the man in the tan sweater sitting on the stage. David was loading more film. So I was shooting in good company that night.

This year Old Christmas will be on January 7th, beginning with an afternoon oyster shoot, and continuing into the night.

In Rodanthe, Christmas is celebrated twice a year.

June 28, 2014

New Spat in Town

Filed under: Outer Banks,oysters,Pamlico Sound — j0jgvm89bj @ 6:10 pm

A friend of mine once made the observation that tourists, hot weather and mosquitoes get here at about the same time each year. That acquaintance was John Gillikin of Buxton. He’s no longer with us, but you have to admit his tongue in cheek statement is pretty true. When I have more time, I’ll have to tell you a little bit about Gillikin. He was one of the more colorful characters of Hatteras Island and deserving of remembrance.

Getting back to this time of year when all those things happen, I need to throw in another item… new oysters. They’re called spat, and as the rising water temperatures of the sound hit around 70, oysters here begin to spawn. Male and female oysters emit sperm and egg into the water and wherever they meet, an eyed larvae is the result. It swims in search of substrate to attach and grow. Mortalities are high and those that find attachment, develop a shell and begin their life cycle as a true oyster.

Last week I found 8 new ones on my research tiles out in Pamlico Sound. About a half inch in size, they were just weeks old, perhaps 4 or 5. That was about the time the water temperature was spiking from the low 50’s in mid April to upper 70’s by the end of May.

spat                                                                                                                                   Oyster spat is set on substrate along with calcareous worm tubes.

tubes Similar spat information is collected by dozens of volunteers up and down the North Carolina coast, and goes into a research program with the Benthic Lab at UNCW.

There’s no doubt that we’re hitting our peak season. With plenty of vacationers, the heat and a few mosquitos, the oysters should be spawning for the while.

February 28, 2014


Filed under: Animals,Outer Banks,oysters,Pamlico Sound — j0jgvm89bj @ 1:01 pm

About ten years ago, I began nurturing an oyster garden. It has not been without some pitfalls like high wave action, sedimentation and algae blooms. But despite that, the oysters have thrived and grown into a series of small reefs. The reefs attract a myriad of other organisms, not just oysters. As the oysters spawn and grow, so does the size and complexity of the reef.

I take water quality data around the reefs twice a week and submit the information to researchers at UNCW and ECU. I see shrimp and fish interacting with the reefs. One day measuring salinity, I stood in waist deep water with a school of taylor blues swimming circles around me. I’ve also seen green sea turtles feeding there.

barnacles                                      Barnacles grow abundantly on the reef.

anemone Sea anemones wave arms in the moving current.

eggs A blenny laid it’s eggs in an empty oyster shell.

oyster toad Reef inhabitants include young oyster toads.

mud crab Mud crabs find a bountiful food supply in and around the reef.

spider Spider crabs are common residents.

stone crab I’m also finding some stone crabs in the system.

snappers One of the most interesting critters in the mix are the snapping shrimp. About 2 inches long, they look like a small lobster.

butterfly One late Summer day, I caught and released this butterfly fish.

shucked Some critters live inside the oyster itself, like the pea crab in the oyster on the right. In it’s protected environment, the crab feeds on plankton brought in by the oyster and it’s relationship is  parasitic. Locally, the pea crab in an oyster is deemed a culinary delicacy.