Category Archives: Fishing

Shad Boats

Since my early days on Hatteras Island, I’ve been drawn to remnants of the times past. Old wooden boats have been particularly fascinating. Some are still operating and some lay derelict or forgotten. One of my favorite designs is the shad boat.

They were first built in the 1870’s on Roanoke Island by George Washington Creef. Designed for local sound waters and commercial fishing hauls, demand for shad boats increased. So other regional boat builders began constructing their own versions.

On June 15, 1987 the North Carolina General Assembly adopted the Shad Boat as the official State historical boat of North Carolina.

On a 1992 visit to Wilmington, I saw a newly built replica sailing down the Cape Fear River.

When I took this shot in 1980 at the Beasley fish house in Colington, surviving shad boats had long since had their sails replaced with motors.

One day the same year, I photographed the Beasley crew long-hauling Pamlico Sound at Rodanthe. They caught 10,000 pounds of fish, and bailed them by hand into a boat called Old Shad.

The Rodanthe harbor was Beasley’s base of operations. That’s OLD SHAD on the left with REDFIN rafted up next to it.

Hatterasman Michael Peele uses his shad boat for pound net fishing. I took this photo in 1982. To this day, he still uses it.

About the same time, I had a job at Mike Scott’s Buxton Woods Boat Works where we restored Lee Peele’s old workboat. More recently built, it had a hull with hard chines rather than the more traditional rounded bottom. It was beefed up with a durable West System epoxy treatment.

On the Outer Banks it’s not unusual to see a boat in someone’s yard. In 1999 while riding my bicycle around Ocracoke, I admired this beautiful boat blocked up for maintenance.

Spring of 2000, I shot an assignment for CoastWatch Magazine, concerning the Museum of the Albermarle’s restoration of a 1904 Shad Boat. It was built by Alvirah Wright, a logger, decoy maker and boat builder from Camden County.

The restoration was extensive. All good wood was left intact, but most of the boat was replaced. Today the finished product sits in the lobby of the museum as a permanent exhibit. Before that, it had been in a Wright family relative’s yard, rotting away.

In 2002 the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Manteo had an 1883 George Washington Creef Shad Boat on display. It was used as a model to build a new boat with the same lines.

The new boat was built next to the 1883 boat.

Fully planked, it was made with scarce, aromatic Atlantic White Cedar, commonly referred to as juniper.

Just before it’s christening, I saw the new boat all finished except for the bottom paint.

When I first met John Herbert, he was one of the Rodanthe old-timers. I knew him as a friend, a former duck hunter and the Keeper of Ole Buck. He was also a cook at Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station during the 1918 Mirlo Rescue. He told me how they used to have sail boat races on the Pamlico Sound and most of the time he won with his shad boat. It was a bit smaller and faster than most, and must have been a grand sight under sail. In 1985, I marveled at it, high and dry in the marsh at Rodanthe.

 

 

 

No Shark Fishing

Back in the seventies shark fishing was relatively popular, but as time went on there was less and less of it. One thing for certain was that you could walk out on the Rodanthe pier and count on seeing some friends. They were usually fishing for king mackerel, cobia or red drum. Throw in an occasional Budweiser and everyone was happy.

The  steamy Summer day I snapped this picture in 1987 was no exception. Russell Warren on the left  was in good company with a shirtless CE Midgett. The other three guys I recognize, but don’t recall their names.

Even to this day, Russell can still be found at the end of the pier.

Larry and Jimmy

One of my first jobs on Hatteras Island was with John Luke’s construction crew. It consisted of a few local guys and a reputation for well-built beach cottages. Two people on that crew were Larry Midgett and Jimmy Hooper. Both grew up in Salvo when it was a much more rural town than it is today.

Much like their fathers and forefathers before them, they spent time fishing and hunting. One Fall day in 1975 they invited me to a Salvo creek to photograph a shark they had just caught on the Rodanthe pier.

It was the start of a friendship that I would keep even to this day.

Forty One on the Outer Banks

Recently I read how George Bush, as a young Navy pilot, would see the Hatteras lighthouse from the air during flight school training out of Norfolk.

It made me recall our forty-first president returning years later as a visitor in 1997, then in 1998 for the rededication of the Wright Brothers Monument.

In the Fall of 97 I had a chance to meet him fishing at Harkers Island. The Core Sound is a fisherman’s paradise and President Bush arranged to go with Sam Sellars, a guide who would take him fly fishing for false albacore.

Before getting underway, Sam demonstrated some new tackle for the former president.

After an hour of tedious casting, the president finally hooked up near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.

Of course, Sam and the president were elated when he boated a nice one, and released it.

The weather deteriorated with some passing rain squalls, but the president still managed to pull in a few more. At one point he noticed a styrofoam cup floating by and directed Sam toward it. President Bush then leaned over and plucked it from the water. That little gesture really impressed me.

The following May, President Bush flew in to Manteo Airport and was greeted by local resident Andy Griffith and his wife Cindy. I was given the responsibility to take pictures for the First Flight Commision, and rode with them to the Wright Brothers Monument for the rededication ceremony.

There were other dignitaries present, including our State Senator Marc Basnight.

Senator Basnight and astronaut Buzz Aldrin were seated together on stage as speakers addressed a large audience.

The highlight was hearing President George H. W. Bush deliver the keynote speech.

The event culminated with relighting the beacon atop the monument and a spectacular fireworks display. It was the first time the beacon was shown bright since being cut off during the Second World War.

 

Asa

I was originally attracted to Hatteras Island because of the pristine, uncrowded beaches. It was the perfect place for a young surfer. The locals had been here for generations and much of that in relative isolation. They were a unique self-supporting people. It took me a little time to assimilate into the community and I soon realized it was so much more than just about the beaches.

The people became a big factor in my love and appreciation for the island. Over the years, many of those folks have passed on and my feelings have evolved with those losses.

I first met Asa Gray in the early 70’s, out in the waves surfing. Everyone called him Buddy. At the time he must have been 14 or 15 years old. Long haired, lanky yet stout, his surfing was noted for its power and daring to take off on waves that didn’t seem makable.

Earlier this month, Buddy passed away at the age of 60. The realization of not seeing him again is unsettling. Even though I hadn’t seen him surf in years, only until recently I could drive down to the harbor in Rodanthe and see what fish he caught. He had commercial fishing in his psyche and an old-school Hatterasman attitude to go with it.

This scene of the Rodanthe Creek was taken during the passing of Hurricane Charley in 1986. It reminds me of the morning I went to the harbor to see if any fishermen went out to their nets. Northwest winds were gale force as I watched an incoming boat skipping over the tops of the foamy waves and getting blown sideways at the same time. It looked as if the vessel would flip over as gusts got up under the pounding hull. He had pulled all his nets in the boat and was loaded to the gunnels. I never saw such a harrowing approach from that channel. As the boat reached the shelter of the harbor and settled down, it was Buddy Gray, soaked and glad to be back ashore. I’ve never seen any thing like it since.

Buddy was pulling a rockfish onto the beach in Rodanthe when I took this shot in 2004.

Rest in peace my old friend. Things will just not be the same as they once were.