Almost like it was yesterday, I can still see the white longhaul boats on the water of Pamlico Sound. The Pamlico is one of the largest estuaries in the United States, and the longhaulers look for massive schools of fish that inhabit those waters near Rodanthe every Summer.

Nowadays this method of fishing is not as prevalent as it once was, but in 1980, I went out with a crew from Avon. The owners of that haul seine fishing rig were brothers, Collins and Belton Gray. Known as “the Gray boys”, they were dedicated, hard workers. You would not meet finer people anywhere. And they knew how to catch fish.

Dawn shines on Pamlico Sound as the Gray boys look for fish. Belton Gray operates the run boat as Charles Farrow sits in the net skiff.

Charles tends the net, as it begins to go overboard into the water.

Collins Gray steers the run boat using a bridle adjustment tied to the end of the net, as Belton Gray Jr. assists. Meanwhile, more net goes out as the other run boat pulls the net skiff farther away.

With a few thousand yards of net out, Collins watches as it is pulled in a big “U” shape along the shallow bottom. The “U” is then closed and tightened, encircling the fish.

Collins signals that it’s getting time to close the net, begin hauling it back into the skiff, and “bunting up”,  putting all the fish in a neat little pocket, before bailing the catch into the boat.

The crew hauls the net back in the skiff.

This had already been a long day and the hard work was just beginning. With most of the net back in the skiff, Belton (center) was ready to bunt up and bail fish. Belton Jr. handles the staff on the end of the net.

Stay tuned for the catch of the day.

4 thoughts on “Longhauling

  1. G

    I love the photography and narration of your blog; it really seems to capture the essence of the Outer Banks.

  2. Katherine Augustson

    The pictures of the men Long hauling are of my Uncles Belton Gray, Sr. & Jr., And Collins Gray! Awesome pictures and I remember when they came out. Can’t remember where what magazine they were published in though?
    Those were the days!

  3. Katherine Augustson

    I failed to mention in my prior comment about who these men are on this longnet rig that in those days it was WAR over the fishing territories due to so many bringing their rigs down here that the waters ended up being OVER FISHED! Today? There are NO LONGNET RIGS IN THIS END of the Pamlico! The bottom and nesting grounds were
    completely destroyed. When it was only “homeboys” fishing their rigs it was fine and done in moderation but then they came from all over the places away from here which didn’t take long it wipe the bottom clean of not just fish BUT OF ALL THINGS ON THE BOTTOM as well. I remember they’d get up really early and hide out in the creeks and laywait until they’d hear the first boats crank up and BELIEVE ME …. The RACE WAS ON TO THE HOT SPOT FIRST! Whoever got to the HOTSPOT FIRST got the CATCH OF THE DAY!!!! there were even some reported that a homeboy from Hatteras Village was packing a shotgun …well, you know the rest! Only a matter OG a short time and it was over alltogether! That’s what happens when GREED SETS IN! I’m sure that all this sounds “far-fetched” but believe me it’s TRUE!

  4. Sharon Meade

    Hello Michael, I am curator at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and am readying an exhibit with a haul seine net used on Currituck Sound. Your pictures of the Gray brothers seine fishing are wonderful.

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