Category Archives: commercial fishing, boat, pamilco sound, gillnetting

Pound Nets

A pound net is a fish trap that corrals fish into a pen where they are kept alive. They swim in the enclosure until they can be bailed out. In 1977 some commercial fishing friends of mine were setting up a pound net. 

Eddie O’Neal, Ed Corley and Asa Gray were partners in this venture. They worked under the name Easy Money Fish Company, and constructed their net in an area of the Pamlico Sound, known as Scott’s Reef. 

On a calm day, I rode out with Ed to check it out. They weren’t catching much at the time, but I photographed the basic layout shooting Panatomic-X, a fine grained black and white film.

The fish follow a portion of the net called a lead, which channels them into a pound where they cannot escape.

They’re penned in until the fishermen come to get them. Any unwanted or protected species are then released alive into open waters. Despite the labor intensive work to set up, a pound net is an efficient way to catch fish.

Thirty-five years later I photographed another net near Ocracoke Island. With commercial fishing getting to be a more difficult livelihood, there doesn’t seem to be as many as there used to be.

Years ago, Eddie O’Neal (1982) and Ed Corley (1985) died in separate weather-related commercial fishing incidents. Asa Gray passed away in 2018 after many decades as a waterman. How those guys loved to fish!

Crossing the Bar

December of 1985 I went on a three day fishing trip with Captain Terry Saunders aboard the 80 foot trawler, Richard Wayne. Based in Wanchese, he was going offshore, dragging for winter flounder. For two days, productivity was moderate with calm seas.

That night, lying in a forepeak bunk I felt changes in the tempo of the waves. By early morning the wind had freshened from the northeast making for some choppy conditions.

Stevie Daniels’ Bailey Boy fished nearby.

The captains discussed navigating the narrow shoaling channel at Oregon Inlet before conditions deteriorated further.

They decided to cut the trip short, head back and not take unnecessary chances, crossing the shallow bar into the inlet. I shot Bailey Boy heading over the shoal as it followed us home.

Buoys

Exploring the coast one may notice some curious artifacts. Some are natural and others are manmade. People collect shells, driftwood or beach glass. They’re all brought in by the sea. Some of my favorite collectables are the buoys from fishing nets and crab pots. They’re usually derelict from lost fishing gear and can be found at any time, but especially after storms.

I like displaying them from trees in my yard.

Some hang from an old trawl net that I found years ago.

Some of them are very special to me, like this one that belonged to Mac Midgett.

I D Midgett is my next door neighbor and has fished all his life.

Another buoy belonged to my good friend and neighbor Eric Anglin. He still brings me fish.

Recently this gem was given to me by Steve Ryan. It was Les Hooper’s buoy. Les and Steve were neighbors. Les is gone now, but his spirit remains.

I also have a buoy from Rudy Gray of Waves. He no longer fishes commercially, but is still an accomplished angler.

A few months ago I got a call from Roger Wooleyhan who fishes commercially in Delaware. His fishing buddy, Layton Moore has another fishing friend who came across this buoy in his net near Ocean City, Maryland. It’s a crab pot buoy that belonged to my friend Asa Gray also of Waves. Asa passed away about 2 years ago, and he was Rudy’s brother.

I can only imagine how this arrived so far away. It’s reminiscent of a message in a bottle. It must have flowed from Pamlico Sound into the Atlantic, up the coast and through Ocean City Inlet and on to Isle of Wight Bay. Maybe it hitched a ride snagged to a rudder. At any rate, that’s some journey!

 

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.

 

 

 

Dogs Gone Fishing

One of the best things one can experience is companionship. As pets, dogs are cherished and devoted to their owners. Years ago when I became associated with locals that fished commercially, I noticed a number of them taking dogs out on the water.

The harbor at Rodanthe was a pretty busy place back then. There were gill-netters, crabbers and long haulers working out of that spot, better known locally as The Creek. In the Summer of 1980, brothers Collins and Belton Gray ran their long haul rig out of Rodanthe. In this photo Belton, Sr and son Belton, Jr contemplate after packing out their day’s catch. I don’t recall the name of their black lab standing on the bow.

Dale Midgett ran the fish house and packed out the daily catches for Jimmy Austin Seafood Company with his loyal companion, Titus.

Another fishing friend of mine was Roger Woolyhan. He worked out of The Creek and had just begun a career in commercial fishing after moving here from Delaware in the 70’s. He bought an old wooden skiff and learned to hang his nets. I went fishing with him a number of times and got one of my favorite shots in Spring of 1977.

His female black lab was named Moose. She went everywhere with him fishing, surfing or shopping. It made no difference to her, as long as she was close.

By 1987 after I had finished building my home in Waves, a regular visitor was a young boy named Brian Midgett. He and his extended family lived on property adjacent to mine, and still do. My Chesapeake Bay Retriver named Boca loved Brian and they frequently played in the creek behind his grandparents’ place. Boca always wanted to be in the water.

Boca was a big, beautiful Chessie and I took him whenever I foraged the sound for oysters. When he found a terrapin trapped in this abandoned crab pot, we released the poor struggling critter.

Another creek in Salvo belonged to Burgess Hooper. He was born, raised and fished there all his life. With his wife Zanovah, they owned property and rental units. I used to help him on maintenance and building projects. We were pretty close and he loved his canine companion, Princess. She fished with him every time he went out on the Pamlico Sound.

Burgess was an old school Hatterasman and still fished with traditional cotton nets.

Princess anticipating catches from the bow, had sea legs. She was truly a man’s best friend… unconditionally!