Oral History – Earl Page – Part 5: ‘Salting Fish’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Earl could carry 3300 pounds of fish on his truck and go all the way into Wilmington to deliver to Lee’s Fish House. They’d say “Sorry Page, I can’t take no more.” Now what do you do with all the fish? The thing in their favor was cold weather in late December.

Earl wasn’t worried about the fish. He came back to the pier which is closed as far as fishing, but they used the shed there. They had to corn them—salt them. They unloaded the fish and drove back to Wilmington to get salt and 100-pound wooden barrels. They had to make 3 trips with Earl’s truck.

You had an assembly line. You keep putting water and salt in it until you get one mullet that you filleted to float. If it doesn’t float, you haven’t got enough salt! We’re talking about a thousand or more pounds of salt.

You don’t scale ‘em. All you do is cut their heads off, rake out the guts and dump the heads and guts off the pier to feed the marine life. The crabs, snails and sea life have a ball.

The last man takes that real sharp knife and just gives a split—but leaves the tail intact so it lays open. Put them in hundred pound barrels and put the lid on so the fish don’t get contaminated or spoiled.

When the salted fish go out into the country stores, the owner will take a hammer and bust that top. And the people come in and buy it.

When you get ready to cook it, you’ve got to par boil it. Soak it overnight in fresh water to get the salt off. The next morning, it’s delicious. It took about 3 months to sell these fish. But they made $25 a keg, when before, they couldn’t get 2 cents a pound.