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Spring Fishing


April 2013

by Ken DeBarth

It is that time of year again! Spring is here and it is time to go fish­ing. After the long winter, you are probably anxious to get out on the beach and to start the year with a memo­rable catch.

April and May are great time to fish Ocracoke’s waters. The red drum and bluefish are very active in the spring. The big drum that have spent the winter in the ocean will move to the beaches to feed and into the sounds to breed and spend the summer. Bluefish that moved south in the fall are following the warming water temperatures north again. Big specimens of both species are available in the spring.

With a very few excep­tions, fish are cold-blooded animals. This means their metabolic processes, needs and demands are depen­dent on their environ­ment. The cold water tem­peratures of winter slow a fish’s metabolism which means they do not require as much food to survive. In the spring, as the water temperature rises, a fish’s metabolism will speed up and they require more food to meet this demand. What this means to you is hungry fish aggressively feeding.

Big drum spend the win­ter in the ocean and move through the inlets into the sounds in the spring. April is the main month for this migration. Even though the drum move through the inlets, they can be caught anywhere along the beach in the spring.

Use large pieces of fresh cut mullet on 4/0 to 6/0 cir­cle hooks on a bottom rig. Crabs are good bait, too, but it is sometimes hard to find crabs for bait.

Circle hooks move to the corner of the fish’s mouth before hooking the fish. This prevents deep internal injury to the fish and allows you to release a healthy fish to breed and hopefully to be caught again. When fish­ing a circle hook, allow the fish to run with the bait and then slowly pick up the ten­sion on the line and begin to reel. Jerking the line to set the hook like you would with a “J” hook will pull the circle hook out of the fish’s mouth preventing a hook-up. If this doesn’t make sense, ask someone at the tackle shop or another an­gler to show you how this works.

Be sure your bait is fresh. You want a lot of blood, oil and scent in the water. Se­rious drum anglers will re­place their baits every 20 to 30 minutes.

April brings some of the year’s biggest bluefish to the beach. Blues are very aggressive feeders.. Larger blues will not hesitate to eat smaller blues so they travel in schools of like sized fish.

Use the same bait and rigs for blues that you use for drum.

It is a good idea to keep a second (or third) rod rigged with a metal casting lure like a Hopkins, SlingSilver, or Gotcha ready. Occasion­ally a school of surface-feeding blues will suddenly appear and you need to be ready for the quick shift to lures. Casting a lure into a school of jumping, slashing, feeding blues is not only very exciting, it is very pro­ductive.

Watch the birds. They will follow schools of bait and predator fish. Cast lures toward the birds, and it is a good idea to keep a bottom-bait rig in that area as well.

Be sure to check size and bag limits. Anglers can keep one drum per day be­tween 18” and 27”; smaller and larger fish must be re­leased unharmed. Blues do not have a size limit but bag limits vary based on the size of the fish.

Spring is great time to fish the waters around Oc­racoke! Good luck and tight lines!

Ken DeBarth lives and fishes on Ocracoke Island.

Ocracoke’s unexpected visitor


April 2013

 by Pat Garber

Ocracoke Island had an unexpected visi­tor on the afternoon of Monday, January 21. An­nounced by the pings from her tracking device, a North Atlantic Great White Shark swam along the island’s shore and briefly entered Ocracoke Inlet. The shark, sixteen feet long and report­edly weighing an amaz­ing 3,456 pounds, was one of 36 sharks—22 of them Great Whites–be­ing tracked by scientists from the research facility, Ocearch. The mature fe­male had been captured, tagged and released on September 17, 2012, off the coast of Cape Cod, and the researchers had followed her travels since then.

Mary Lee, named for the mother of one of Ocearch’s expedition leaders, Chris Fischer, had headed south from Cape Cod and had meandered her way down to Jackson­ville, Florida before turn­ing around and returning north. The tag, or beacon, which is attached to her dorsal fin, pings off of a satellite, giving exact de­tails of her location and allowing Ocearch to track her movements. Fischer   said that when one of the sharks swims too close to populated areas he gives notice so that people can stay safe. That is what he did when Mary Lee ap­proached Ocracoke on Jan­uary 21.

Ocearch, the organiza­tion conducting the re­search, is a non-profit dedicated to studying the giants of the ocean. Begun by Fischer, who hosted the Emmy Award-winning television series, “Offshore Adventures,” it provides support for leading re­searchers and research in­stitutions to conduct shark studies. Its 126-foot moth­ership, the M/V Ocearch, is equipped with a 75,000 hy­draulic lift, a research plat­form, and an at-sea lab.

Fischer and the crew at Ocearch are very excited about following Mary Lee, calling her “the most his­toric and legendary shark” ever tagged. They hope to learn more, from her and their other tagged sharks, about the medium and long range movement patterns of Great Whites. They are also interested in their re­productive behavior, the behavior of juveniles, in­dividual movements, the location of coastal aggrega­tion sites, and general life history. This knowledge will be useful in conservation efforts to protect sharks, which on a world-wide lev­el are in decline.

Sharks are among the most awe-inspiring, feared and misunderstood crea­tures on earth. They belong, along with rays and skates, to the class of fish, Chron­drichthyes, or “cartilage fish.” Their structure is sup­ported not by bone, but by cartilage, a flexible, elastic material full of cell spaces. They have tough, abrasive skin and are, contrary to common lore, are quite in­telligent. Of the more than 300 species, most are too small to pose a threat to hu­mans, and some are benign plankton-feeders. Great Whites are among the po­tentially dangerous species.

Great Whites, known to biologists as Carcharodon carcharias, are found in the coastal waters of all the great oceans. They belong to the Lamnidae family, also known as Mackerel Sharks, because of the shape of their tails. Portrayed in the book and movie, “Jaws,” as ferocious man-killers, they seldom attack humans, pre­ferring a diet of fish and marine mammals such as seals. They are not actually white, but may range from off-white to dark gray-brown, with white under­sides. They have a circula­tory modification known as a “rete mirabile” (wonder­ful net) that allows them to maintain a higher body temperature than the wa­ter around them. This gives them extra energy for high speed chases and attacks.

When Mary Lee ap­proached the Ocracoke coast Ocearch contacted the Hyde County Sheriff’s Dept., which called the Cape Hatteras NPS office at Ocracoke. Josh Vann, who took the call, immediately posted it on Facebook. He then drove the beaches to make sure there were no surfers in the water, and he warned several fishermen who were fishing in the surf.

Ocracoke is no stranger to visits from sharks. In July of 2011 a young girl was bitten by a shark while swimming off the island’s coast. She was air-lifted out and made a full recov­ery. Farther north, off Cape Hatteras in 2004, a man was attacked and killed by a shark. Spiny dog sharks are common inhabitants of the island’s waters in winter, often filling the fishing nets of commercial fishermen and providing a winter live­lihood. Long-liners catch Mako, Black-tip, Dusky, and Sandbar sharks in Oc­racoke’s offshore waters, and huge whale sharks and basking sharks occasion­ally wash up on the beach. In May of 1997 islanders streamed by the Fish House to see a ten-foot, six-inch Great White caught ac­cidentally by a long-liner fishing for smaller sharks.

Great Whites and other sharks, at the top of the ocean’s food chain, play a crucial role in maintaining a balance in marine ecosys­tems. Over-fishing threat­ens a number of species. With up to 25% of the great sharks facing extinction, re­search such as that being done with Mary Lee could play an important role in preserving them. As Mary Lee continues her jour­ney north, researchers and interested followers will continue to track her prog­ress. At last report she was headed for her home state of Massachusetts.



The April Blues


April 2013

by Ken DeBarth

After a long cold and quiet winter, many fishermen feel the blues. By the time April arrives most of us will have checked our reels, emptied and cleaned and repacked our tackle boxes, while dreaming of the big fish we will catch in the upcoming season.

April brings warming tem­peratures to the air and the water. It brings migrations of red drum and sharp-nosed skates through Ocracoke inlet. Perhaps the best cure for the winter blues, however, is the arrival of the annual migration of Bluefish.

As Bluefish make their an­nual migration from the waters off Florida, they pass Ocracoke in April and early May. Blue­fish travel in schools and are aggressive feeders. As they follow the warming water tem­peratures north, they eat any other fish they encounter, in­cluding smaller Bluefish. They are extremely predatory and are the only fish known to kill for the sake of killing.

Anglers can catch Bluefish on baits or lures. When Bluefish are feeding on the surface, they can be seen jumping and chas­ing baitfish into the air. There are almost always flocks of birds over the feeding schools. Bluefish have been known to chase baitfish right up onto the beach, in some cases following the bait onto the sand. A “Blue­fish Blitz” is exciting. Bait and predators thrash the surface and birds wheel and dive. You can watch this activity work its way along the beach to your lo­cation or you can move to the action. Either way the anticipa­tion is a big part of the excite­ment.

During a surface feeding frenzy, Bluefish will strike just about any lure (expect those significantly larger than the baitfish). Metal lures like Hop­kins and Slingsilvers work well. They provide for long casts and are durable. The Bluefish’s sharp teeth will scrape paint off of coated lures and tear up wood and some plastic lures. Large jigs work well, too. Plas­tic trailers on jigs don’t last long and will require frequent replacement. One article I read claimed that during a blitz Bluefish will strike coins and sometimes bare gold hooks. Subtlety is not needed when a feeding frenzy is underway.

Surface lures and popping plugs are an exciting and pro­ductive way to catch Bluefish during a blitz. This type lure is more difficult to cast for dis­tance, but if the Blues are near shore there is nothing more exciting than a surface strike from these fish.

Live baits also catch Bluefish. Mullet, whole or chunked, and menhaden are common baits but squid and clams work as well. Subtlety is not required here either. If Blues are present and feeding, they will strike.

Be very careful handling any Bluefish. They have very sharp teeth and you should never get your fingers near them. Pliers or forceps will keep you on the beach instead of at the health center getting stitches!

Stop at Tradewinds or your local tackle shop for advice on rigs, hook size and, of course, fresh bait. Pick up your fishing license, check on bag and size limits, and get up to the minute information on what works and where the fish are.

We have had great Bluefish catches on Ocracoke the last two years. They should be here anytime now and they will be just what we all need to get over our winter blues.

 Ken DeBarth lives and fishes on Ocracoke. He can’t wait for the Blues to cure his winter blues

New manager from Hyde County is from Ocracoke


April 2013
by Connie Leinbach

It’s a new day in Hyde County and islander Bill Rich, as the newly ap­pointed county manager is eager to help. Rich, who began officially on March 1, has hit the ground running, attending many meetings, including all three ferry toll hearings, since he began.

“So far I love it,” he says with his ready smile. “There’s something new every minute. I love the pace of it. ” Rich, who lives on Ocracoke with his wife Jennifer, will spend four days a week on the main­land where he will stay at his family farm near the Pungo River. He will be on Ocracoke Friday through Sunday.

Rich, a Hyde County na­tive, a 1968 graduate of Bel­haven High School and of UNC in 1972, has spent his career as a real estate man­ager and developer in Hyde County and all over Virgin­ia and eastern North Caro­lina. He is the proprietor of The Rich Company, which has offices in Elizabeth City and Washington, and Rich and his brothers Bob and Cy own Rich Brothers Farms in Hyde County.

“I’ve never had to apply for a job in my life,” he says with a laugh when asked about his resume. “I had to craft a resume. Rich expects to use his four decades in business to better the coun­ty.

“I like putting projects together,” Rich says about his real estate career. “I got to put together zoning, in­frastructure, helping fami­lies…” As such, he had to attend many city or county commissioners’ meetings to get approvals for his proj­ects. So he knows how gov­ernments work.

In Elizabeth City, The Rich Company has changed that city’s landscape with several waterfront and commercial projects since 1975. Rich Brothers Farm used to manage almost 100,000 acres of farm and timber land in Hyde Coun­ty.

“We farmed it until it was ready to be leased out,” he said.

At the same time, Rich served as president and overseer of the Mattamus­keet Drainage Association with controlled the pump­ing and drainage of more than 60,000 acres of land.

Among his other proj­ects, Rich owned and oper­ated Agriworld Farm Man­agement, which managed thousands of acres of farm and timber land for sev­eral German, Austrian and Japanese owners in Eastern North Carolina. He also de­veloped and managed the Woodlake Golf and Coun­try Club community out­side Pinehurst.

Rich’s experience help­ing families come to agree­ments over land bequests should be useful in dealing with the conflicting view­points that often arise in the world of local govern­ment.

But as a local native, he already has an edge. “I know most of the people in Hyde County,” he says.

On Ocracoke, where Rich has vacationed all his life and has had property since 2007, Rich helped se­cure the land that will lead to a baseball field for local youths. He has been chair­man of the Ocracoke Plan­ning Board, and though he had to give up that position, he will still participate as the county manager.

“We need to find more money other than through taxes,” he says about Hyde County. More sales tax rev­enues and more jobs are some goals, and he’s con­fident in his department heads.

“I’m very impressed with our employees,” he says, of which he has 150.

Rich is excited about all of the challenges ahead.

“They got someone who understands the business side of government,” Rich says about his appoint­ment. “It’s good for me and I hope for the people.”

Want to Learn Spanish? Teach Some English


May 2013
by Peter Vankevich 

Imagine wanting to learn another lan­guage when you live in an area where there are no evening classes that provide that opportunity. Yet, you note there are neighbors that speak that language and could use some help in improving their English. Why not try to help each other? That is exactly what has happened on Ocracoke this winter.

Like many communi­ties, Ocracoke includes native Spanish speakers these days. Some of them who live here have not had much formal education in learning English and have some trouble speaking, understanding or writing English and again there are no formal classes for adults to study English. Since there are many Oc­racokers who would like to learn Spanish, why not set up a program that could help someone with im­proving his or her English and get a lesson in Span­ish in return? This spirit of reciprocity was embraced this winter by many and generated both a lot of in­terest and success. So far, more than 50 people have been participating in most­ly one-on-one hour-long sessions.

You could call this a nontraditional volunteer grassroots effort in that those helping to teach a language have for the most part little or no for­mal training of teaching a second language. Rather than having that serve as a deterrent, it was – perhaps in moment of exuberance – embraced as a positive with observations such as ‘how many two year olds had to go to school to learn to speak?’ In a briefing that took place at the Ocracoke library on a cold January saturday morning a few basic yet important con­cepts were conveyed. One was to create a positive friendly atmosphere on the first meeting and the other was to just try to commu­nicate. A suggested ice­breaker was to have each person talk about him or her self, listening carefully for needed vocabulary and grammar structures that could be improved. Pro­nunciation was another important concept to work on. A wide array of exer­cises for learning English and Spanish were gath­ered from the Internet to be used as handouts since participants’ language levels were varied. In ad­dition, practical exercises such as using a cell phone and discussing a sick child or trying to establish an ap­pointment have been used.

This informal program has received a lot of sup­port. The Ocracoke United Methodist Church has permitted the use of their small classrooms and the BHM Regional Library sys­tem of which the Ocracoke Community Library is a member, rushed a lot of learning materials for both English and Spanish. The program is geared around the island work cycle and many will go on hiatus and resume the program in the fall after the busy tourist season winds down. A celebratory potluck fi­esta took place recently in the Fellowship Hall of the Methodist Church to thank Pastor Laura Stern for the support of the church com­munity. Participants Lulu Perez did a dramatic po­etic presentation in Span­ish of El Regalo by Abra­ham Rivera Sandoval and Jubal Creech did his own funny story in English about a frog and mosqui­tos. Guitarist Reyes Go­mez performed two songs in Spanish. An important benefit of this program are the new friendships that have been made. Over the next few months, we’ll be assessing how to improve this “each-one-teach-one” program and find appro­priate training techniques and learning materials for both English and Spanish.


Health and Wellness: The United Methodist Church


April 2013
By Terrilynn Grace West

Churches have exist­ed over time on Oc­racoke and address spiritual wellness. If you attended the Easter Sunrise service on the beach, you will have experienced the collaboration between the Assembly of God Church and the United Methodist Church. Next month I will focus on the Assembly of God church. My intention is to give a brief glimpse into the history and service that these important institu­tions provide on Ocracoke.

The United Method­ist church as we know it today on School Road was dedicated July 4, 1943. Stella O’Neal, a native of Ocracoke reports that she was one of the first group of children to be baptized in the new church building.

According to a history writ­ten by Philip Howard, “The first record of a church on Ocracoke Island is in 1828 when the Ocracoke-Ports­mouth Circuit of the Meth­odist Episcopal Church was established…Over time two churches were built representing different Methodist organizations… In 1937 the different orga­nizations united to form the new Methodist Church. By 1943 both churches had been dismantled and a new building was constructed using much of the mate­rial and furniture salvaged from the older structures… many men and women in the congregation put in ac­tual working hours on the building construction.”

In the present day sanc­tuary, you will see a hand-made wooden cross on the altar which was made by Homer Howard and paint­ed gold by his wife, Aliph out of salvage from the ship on which the island na­tive James Baughm Gaskill served and lost his life. You will see the dedication on the cross is in memory of James Baughm Gaskill, 3rd mate in the USS Maritime service.

Also, the Bible on the altar, printed in 1633, was given by Dr. and Mrs. T.V. Bennett in memory of their infant son, Fletcher Murdock Bennett. The baptismal font and prayer desk were hand-made by members of the congrega­tion: the font by Mike Rid­dick and the prayer desk by Lawton Howard. The final merger happened in 1968 when the Method­ist Church joined with the Evangelical United Breth­ren Church to form the United Methodist Church. (for the entire history ar­ticle see http://www.villagecrafts­men.com/news102603.htm.

Pastor Laura Stern says, “I appreciate the seasons unique to Ocracoke in which the United Methodist Church experiences an opportunity to serve the whole world during the summer season and focus on our local community in the winter.”

Pastor Laura, who studied at Emory School of Reli­gion, said that this last winter the focus on community took the form of a se­ries on encountering God on Ocracoke . She particularly likes the many different back­grounds and walks of life that form the body of Christ in the church.

Talking with several church mem­bers and attendees ranging in age from 30 to 80, only a couple of people came from Meth­odist backgrounds. Other people came from South­ern Baptist, Lutheran, Epis­copalian, United Church of Christ, Quaker and Catho­lic.

I asked, “What brought you to this church?” How­ard Bennink, lay leader, said “I wanted to give back to the church which gave so much to my children.” Phil and Jennifer Hamlin, who direct the adult choir, express how important it is to bring the joy of music to honor the Lord.

The church is provid­ing space for a cooperative English and Spanish 1:1 language program which Peter Vankevich has orga­nized.  Peter says, “I love the community of the church.”

Being from a Quaker back­ground, I especially find the Taize-Style Service mean­ingful with its combination of music, meditation, scrip­ture and prayer.

“I contin­ued my family tradition,” says Stella O’Neal who is the president of the United Methodist Women. This group of women provides everything from upkeep of the parsonage and church to community lunches and dinners and the an­nual November bazaar. In many local shops you can find their cook book. This last Christmas the women raised money for the Unit­ed Methodist Children’s Home.

Outreach to both the local and wider com­munity takes many forms. There is a special bulletin board located in the en­trance of the Sunday school building for people to post community needs. Recently, a visitation afternoon was organized to visit elderly or homebound in the commu­nity.

Support to the minis­try of the United Method­ist General Board of Missions, who work with ex-combatant children in Liberia, takes the form of money, education and par­ticipating in work projects. Leslie Gil­bert who has served as a Sunday school teacher over the years now is the chairper­son of the Adminis­trative Council.

She and many others described the youth programs with enthu­siasm. Pastor Laura is writing the Sunday School curriculum which is designed in a creative way: All ages study the same Bible story: the younger children drawing pictures and learning songs, the older children creating a skit, and then acting it out for the younger chil­dren. Many teachers help with the morning Sunday school for children 3 years old through fourth grade, and adults. For Bible lessons and fellowship, youth 13 years old and up meet on Sunday evening.

Please see the Bulletin Board page in the front of the Observer for specific times for all reli­gious services on Ocracoke.


Observed on Ocracoke: The Fiddler Crab


Fidler crab IMG_0002


Text and Photo by Peter Vankevich


In the late summer and early fall of the year when walking along the marshes such as Molasses Creek or even sandy trails including in the village, you should not have any trouble seeing this month’s featured subject, a fiddler crab. The males are easily identified since they have one enlarged claw called a cheliped and a much smaller one. The females have two equal- sized claws. They  get their  name from the up and down feeding motion of the smaller claw from food to mouth that in the eyes of at least one observer appeared as if the crab was moving a bow across the strings of a fiddle (the large claw). Fiddler crabs are found throughout the world’s coasts, mangroves and salt marshes and make up about 100 species. On Ocracoke one of these is known as the sand fiddler crab (Uca pugilator) and it one you most likely will encounter away from water. This species ranges the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico. Small in size, they are no longer than 2 inches across. In addition to the large claw, another interesting anatomical feature is that they have eyestalks, i.e. protrusions that extend the eye away from the body which provide them a better field of view than if the eyes were unextended. Like their close cousins, the ghost crabs, they will dig burrows along the marsh edges and use them for safety, incubation, and refuge from extreme temperatures. Omnivorous scavengers, they feed on decaying detritus, algae and fungus. They have an important niche in the ecology of the island including being a food source for the rails, herons, egrets and ibises It is also believed that they play a vital role in the preservation of wetland environments. When feeding, they will sift through the sands and aerate the substrate that in turn encourages the growth of marsh grasses. Fiddler crabs are sensitive to pollution which may drastically reduce their numbers and  contaminants  such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and insecticide/fertilizer mixtures will concentrate in their bodies which may then be transferred to birds and fish that prey upon them. The male fiddler crab will use its large claw to defend itself, fend off rival males and during courtship it will raise it up and down to attract females. I found it fascinating that the enlarged claw may be on the left or the right side. Also if the large claw is lost, the small claw will grow into the large size and only a small claw will replace the lost one. Due in part to their small size, they do not have much commercial value though they are sold as aquarium pets and fishermen will use them as bait to catch mollusk feeding fish such as black drum, pompano, and sheepshead. When environmental conditions are right, sand fiddler crabs can be abundant. A female lays as many 2000 eggs. During the two week gestation period she will stay in her burrow usually located along the marsh edges then come out and lay her eggs in a receding tide. If you come across them, take a moment to observe their behavior, see how many have left or right large claws and the ratio of males to females. If you record these observations, I’d love to see the results. Comments or suggestions for a future column, contact me: petevankevich@gmail.com.

Spotted On Ocracoke: A Great Shell Collection 

OPS Sea shell case PS 171
The Ocracoke Preservation Society shell collection

Text and photos by Peter Vankevich

There are many reasons to visit the Ocracoke Preservation Society’s David Williams House Museum at 49 Water Plant Rd.

Passing the white picket fence, stepping onto the porch with the great old rocking chairs, you get a feel that you are walking back into time.  Inside, there are furnished rooms with the look and feel of a bygone era. Carefully displayed on an old bed is the quilt made by the Ocracoke Quilters. Raffle tickets are on sale until the drawing that will take place at the Ocracoke Preservation Society’s annual membership meeting in early November.

Historic photographs adorn the walls. What you will also see–and that many may not be aware of–on your visit is a wonderful display of well more than 100 seashells.  These identified specimens representing about 72 species are shells that could be spotted on Ocracoke. The collection was donated by Ruth and Bill Cochran, a friendly and outgoing couple who moved to Ocracoke in 1957. Bill ran a flight service on the island and together they also operated the Silver Lake Inn, a gift shop and shuttled fishermen and hunters along the beach in their Jeeps affectionately named the Good Hunter, The Flying Fisherman and the Beach Comber. Ruth took great pride in her beach driving skills. It was during these forays that they would often collect shells.

I love looking at this collection and much prefer it to looking at images on the Internet or in the field guides such as Nancy Rhyne’s Carolina Shells and the popular Seashells of North Carolina by Hugh J. Porter, Lynn Houser and Scott Taylor.  It’s kind of like preferring a visit to the zoo rather than looking at a National Geographic magazine.  One reason I like looking at the collection is you can see the actual size of the shell. Be aware though that specimens of the same species can vary in size depending on the age that the mollusk died, and the collection reflects that. For example, in spite of dimensions provided in a book, I was nevertheless surprised to see how small the dreaded Atlantic oysterdrill is. Oyster drills are destructive – yet devilishly handsome–little snails that prey directly on other often much larger shellfish, most notably the Eastern Oyster.

Knobbed Whelk OPS PS 158

Ocracoke has been noted by Coastal Living Magazine to be the second best place to find seashells along its beach.   First place, of course, belongs rightfully so to Florida’s Sanibel Island. I find it amusing that there are so many beach combers there that their shell gathering technique has taken on a name that is known as the Sanibel Stoop.

One reason for Ocracoke’s high rating can be attributed to the not too far offshore Labrador Current that descends from the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf Stream that rises from the Caribbean. Both of these systems may carry shells from great distances that may wash up onto the beach, especially after big storms.  There are also plenty  local mollusk shells that may be found, such as moon snails, angel wings, calico scallops, the common sundial and the official state shell, the scotch bonnet.  If you find a shell on the beach that you have trouble identifying, you could take it to the museum and see if there is a match.

This seashell collection is well suited to be at the Ocracoke Preservation Society as seashells have been and still are an important part of the island’s culture.  To illustrate this point, two large univalve shells you will see are the knobbed and lightning whelks. One easy way to distinguish them is that the knobbed whelk has an opening on the right side and the lightning whelk has its opening on the left side. Philip Howard remembers as a child that these two shells were kept at the family house and used to dip the water out of the old wooden cistern, one shell for the convenience of right handed persons and the other for us lefties.

The David Williams Museum is adjacent to the NPS parking lot near the Cedar Island/Swan Quarter ferry docks. It is open from Easter until Thanksgiving, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you have suggestions for a future Spotted on Ocracoke column, feel free to contact me: petevankevich@gmail.com.

The Ocracoke Preservation Society museum, Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach
The Ocracoke Preservation Society museum, Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach




Guess the Gadget


cheese cutter guess gadget


April 2014
By Jim Borland

Welcome to “Guess the Gadget” a monthly reader participation series. Here’s how it works: First examine the photo of the monthly “Gadget” and guess what it appears to be.

You will find the answer under this photo but upside down. Lastly congratulate yourself on your cleverness or not.

We hope that this series will poke at your imagination and enhance your knowledge of historic and unusual objects no longer commonly used and raise appreciation of life as it used to be.

“It’s summer again and peace and quiet are temporarily lost, but not gadgets. For this month, think old timey, like your great grandfather’s day, and think Community Store on Ocracoke!

Answer: “It’s a cheese cutter, used for many years at the Community Store.

The gadget guy Jim Borland is semi retired and has lived here full time with his wife since 2007.


A Fisherman’s Daughter

Unc Charlies Long Haul Fishing Boat


July  2012

By Della Gaskill

Edited by Pat Garber

Della Gaskill, 74 years old, de­scribes what it was like to grow up on Ocracoke Island in a fam­ily of fishermen and hunting guides. The following is excerpt­ed from a book she is presently working on.

My daddy was a fish­erman and my uncle and my grandfather fished with him also. They did long haul fish­ing and they caught lots of fish. A lot of times, he would take me, and I would watch them. My sis­ter would go once and a while, but she didn’t like it as much as I did.

The main thing my daddy would let me do is steer his boat. And I loved that. I would always get in the boat with my dad. My uncle had a boat and they would have this long net, I don’t know how many yards the net was, but it was a huge thing. They would have one end of the staff that the net was connected to on one boat and then they had the other end on the other boat. They would haul the channel in back of Ocracoke Island, and they would bring those two ends of the net together. When they would get it to­gether the boats would be tighter and the nets would be together. Then the men would get overboard after they had pulled it together and there was all those fish and sharks and sting rays and all kinds of fish that was in those nets. Sometimes when they’d get them out of the nets and put them in one of the boats that they had (cause they had an extra boat just to put the fish in), the boat would be loaded and sometimes the boat would just about sink they would catch so many fish. But they got so little pay for them in them days. They might have got a cent and a half for one kind a fish and they may got half a cent for another kind. Like for a spot or a hogfish they might get half a cent. And that was their living. They made a little bit at it but it wasn’t a lot of money but it was still good to have that to do.

Sometimes Daddy and Uncie and Papa caught a big sea turtle in their nets and they would bring it home for us to eat. What I’d give to have some of it today, but you can’t eat it anymore. They won’t let you kill sea turtles today or eat them either.

In the winter time Daddy, Uncie, and Papa would go scalloping. They would have gallon jars and they would open the scallops and put the scallops in the jars and sell them by the gallon. And I would always help them open the scallops. I loved to open scallops. It was some­thing I loved to do and I al­ways helped them whenever they caught any. So that was another means of a little bit of money too.

In the fall of the year, Oc­tober and November, Uncie and Daddy and Papa would also take out fishing parties in the boat and also on the beach. Them days my uncle had a big commando vehicle which he took to the beach to fish and Daddy and Papa would go with them. They would catch a lot of drum which is very good to eat, drum fish are the best. They stayed at our house and Mama cooked for them and I helped her. I also waited the tables. She cooked clam chowder and oyster stew and clam and oyster fritters. They weren’t much for fry­ing individual clams or oys­ters, but she made them into cakes, real thin cakes. She also made cole slaw because the fishermen loved her cole slaw. Also corn bread and sometimes baked fish with potatoes and onions. They loved it because they didn’t get that kind of cooking any­where else.

They became good friends of my family. Mama would pack a lunch for them so they wouldn’t have to come in for lunch. Mama made pimento cheese. It was the best pi­mento cheese I have ever ate. I wish I knew how she made it.

Jones Williams, bro papa095
Papa’s brother, Jones Williams fixing nets

One time when I was twelve or so I went out fish­ing with Daddy and my sister Elizabeth and a lot of others and I caught 27 fish, blue­fish and mackerel mostly. I was seasick but I didn’t quit because I kept catching fish. The rest of them wasn’t catching any but I just kept catching them even though I was sick.

Years back my grandfather and my daddy and my uncle had a camp down below and they took out hunters and they all stayed in the camp. The building it wern’t that big but they had a stove down there and they could keep warm and cook. The people would come from all over the country. They couldn’t bring a vehicle over here then. They come on the mail boat, the Ale­ta. That was before Frazier Peele put a couple boats together and made it big enough so he could carry a couple cars down from Hatteras and land them on the beach. That sand was soft when they got the cars off and a lot of times they would get stuck in the sand. The freight boat, before Frazier Peele’s ferry, brought one or two cars from Washington, but the hunters, they usu­ally came over on the mail boat.

My daddy and uncle and the hunters would stay down there all week. They had to walk down there before my uncle got a vehicle and it was a long way. They carried enough blankets and pil­lows and stuff to use while they was staying down there. I don’t know if they had any beds, they most likely slept on the floor. Daddy and them took the hunters out to Clark’s Reef, which is where his blinds were locat­ed. There was a lot of camps down there people from the island had. That’s what they had to do in the wintertime to keep them going.

They did a lot of things to help us to grow up and have a good life growing up in the home and making a living for their family. But their main work was fishing.


Look for Della’s book, to be pub­lished later this year, in Outer Banks shops, and visit her in her own shop on Lighthouse Road in Ocracoke.

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