A long, long time ago when I was young and good looking I spent my summers on the end of OBX fishing piers. Most people my age went to work and raised families, I went fishing.
During that time I usually caught around 20+ Kings and Cobia per summer by myself pin rigging. The Kings were generally in the 15-20 pound range and the Cobia were 40-50 pounds and a few larger. By contrast Romeo on Avalon Pier might get 40-50+ Kings and Cobia's per summer. In those days there were a lot more Kings caught on the OBX than Cobia. There were very few private boats with Cobia towers prowling the near shore for Cobia in those days and the Oregon Inlet Charter fleet went offshore for Billfish, Tuna and Marlin.
I used an ABU 10000 for my fighting reel mounted on a 10'6" one-piece Lamiglas heaver. I bought it Brand new at Atlantic Tackle (which is where TWS Nags Head is located today) I paid $180 for it. Not sure who built it, as #1 Drum Pro was still in primary school at the time and TW had yet to take over Atlantic Tackle.
My Anchor rod was Zziplex tournament rod cut down to 10'6" with an Abu 7000 with the level wind removed. I sometimes used 14 pound test line to be able to get my bait out further from the pier if I wanted to. I had two Abu 7000's at that time a Red and a Black. My Black 7000C is hanging on Surfstick in the RedHead's tackle room at the moment. The other 7000 was lost off of Rodanthe Pier in a casting accident.
Generally the fishing slowed down in August in Nags Head, but there were enough Kings caught that I would keep at it. I got up at 4:30 AM every fish-able day to get my anchor out and to try for fresh Bluefish of bait. My baits swam for just before sun-up to just after full dark every day.
In those days there was no sun screen available, so folks coming from inland would get extremely cooked and burnt if they did not take care. We used to make small bets on which tourist was going to get the reddest by late afternoon.
One real hot summer day in August I was up by the NHP pier house trying to catch a Bluefish for a King bait, there were no baits to be had and the baits in my buckets had all died. We kept catching small puppy Drum, which was fun but I wanted a Bluefish
Tide was going out. This large overweight man probably in his late fifties walked into the Surf right at the 300' marker denoting no Surfing or Swimming. It was also where the Out-Suck was, the overweight man after a bit found himself being carried out to sea, he panicked and started to cry out and started floundering hard against the current. There were a lot of people on the beach and several swam out to see if they could help him. All the older man had to do was swim a little to the North or South and he would have been able stand on his feet the bar out of the out suck cut. But he was from a place far away, a place without rips or sloughs or sun-burnt throngs smelling of copper-tone.
They brought him back to shore right next to the pier and I reeled in my gear and watched. There was a pale older woman standing real close not saying a word.
By the time they got the older man back to shore he had turned Blue. I remember a knot of onlookers crowded around a couple men who were performing CPR but the man just turned a purple hue and after about 20 minutes the EMT's arrived and they carried the Man off the beach, dead.
The knot of people dispersed, all except for the pale older woman who just stood there, getting whiter by the moment and then she collapsed onto the beach. The EMT's were still on site so they rushed back to help her and she was carted off the beach and taken to Elizabeth City Hospital.
I quit fishing, sort of numb after watching that man die in the slough, right in the hole.
I found out later that the woman who had collapsed on the beach was the wife of the man who drowned and that she had passed away. The Hospital staff said she had died of shock and perhaps if she had spoken up to the EMT;s when they took her husband off the beach, they could have realized she was in danger and comforted her and perhaps saved her. For some reason thought of her this morning.
Garboman I'm not meaning to hijack your thread but I'd like to share a story..
November 22 2001, three of us pulled out of Rudee Inlet late in the afternoon to head towards the Cigar for a night of sword fishing. The ocean was slick calm and we made good time running to the SE. The captain was at the helm, I was rigging baits and the 3rd crew member was asleep in the cabin. Typically you can see big bluefin moving through at that time of the year so your always looking for them. As we got around False Cape the captain quickly pulled the boat out of gear sending everything flying, the crew and all of our gear. He saw something that didn't look right and he wanted to turn the boat around to have a closer look. As we approached the object we couldn't tell what we were looking at, I think at some point I said out loud "please let that be someone's scarecrow from Halloween", Halloween was a couple of weeks earlier. After what seemed like forever I finally realized that I was looking at a deceased individual, a navy sailor. We quickly got on the radio and alerted the Coast Guard. We went through the standard procedures and they told us to stay with the individual. Keep in mind that we had just started the war in Afghanistan and dealt with 911 a couple of months earlier. The mood on the boat quickly changed, all plans of fishing that night were dismissed. Our fishing trip quickly turned into a recovery trip. The next chain of events took several hours from being told to stay on scene, to securing the individual to our vessel, to slowly making headway back towards Rudee with the individual in tow. Finally we carefully recovered the body into the boat and made our way back towards the NW in the direction of Rudee. We were told DO NOT enter the inlet so we waited outside of the jetties and handed the body off to a Coast Guard vessel. We were all interviewed by the Navy and given the details on how the individual was thrown from a vessel during a Noreaster while boarding a vessel at the mouth of the bay. Its a big ocean out there and I often wonder how in the world did we end up running a course that took us right by him. Sometimes it's not all about catching fish...
I have always thought that special place where land and sea meet is the intersection of life and death, where one species thrives, it soon is gasping for breath when thrown up on the sand or conversely pitched headlong into Stormy Seas.
OBX lost two legends yesterday, Larry Gray and Little Sonny.
Death is like a dark train coming in the night for all of us, for some the train arrives far too soon.
You got me thinking....been four years ago the 11th that Mullet passed. Miss the crazy man!!
After reading your story when you were fishing on NHP and seeing the older man and wife on the beach would make for a definitive decision to reel things up. Go spend the rest of what was left of the day and see some friends and pop a top.
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