Oral History – Earl Page – Part 7: ‘Fishing’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

High Rock was northeast of Corncake Inlet approximately 2 1⁄2 to 3 miles below Ft. Fisher pier. You don’t see it. They all had their own separate marks – shoreline…you could see across the river…a tree… and you’d put that in with another one here and where they cross, that’s where you anchor.

Six or seven Freemen fishermen fished with a rowboat. They’d go out to a place called High Rock in the early fall time of year. June, July and August, just forget it. It’s not like it used to because the mullet don’t run. Each fisherman would keep his own fish on a stringer, so when he came back in, he took his fish and sold ‘em. There was always a crowd waiting. The man who owned the boat would take a percentage of each man’s catch.

Fishing the seasons:

  • Early fall was mullet, Black Trout or Speckled Trout. You catch them in nets, too.
  • Winter was Roe mullet. You catch catfish in the river on trout lines.
  • Spring was Virginia mullet, also known as Whiting. Spots don’t come in until early August. You have to go off shore now to catch mackerel, King mackerel and Spanish mackerel.
  • Summertime was black fish and gray trout. Sometimes you’re trolling; other times bottom fished anchored in places that you’d found through experience.

The best Sheephead country for fishing was the sunken blockade runner, the Modern Greece. Sheephead love a wreck because they feed off the little barnacles that grow on the sides of the pilings under water. They lay over on their side and suck in the barnacle. The Modern Greece was off the end of the Ft. Fisher pier. Back in the early 30’s, at dead low water, you could see the top rim of the smokestack, just a little bit of it. And then in 46 when it was gone, it kept a little whirlpool around it. You didn’t have your GPS and all that stuff.

Earl Page did a lot of floundering at night – money fish because they could get a whole 25 cents a pound. They used pitch forks walking in the water with 20 ft. of line around their waist, with an 18-inch 3/8 copper tubing needle and a stopper on the other end. And when you hit one with the pitch fork, he’s on the pitchfork floundering. Take that copper tubing, run up through his gills and just let him slide on down the line. You don’t even touch him. You’ve got your Coleman 2-burner lantern hanging in your elbow. The tubing creates the needle. The have their face on one side with 2 eyes. Earl won $5 from a sailor on an aircraft carrier one time when he told him the flounder had their eyes on one side.

When fishing, you’re looking for the 2 eyes. To feed, he comes up and waddles down till he’s covered over except 2 eyes. As a small fish swims above him, he’s got him. How deep is the water when you flounder- mid thigh. You’ve got hip boots on. But you only do it on a rising tide because the flounder will not go up near the shoreline on a falling tide. They would start down at Corncake Inlet on a rising tide and walk all the way back up to what’s called the cribbin passage way. The cribbin is a hole in the Rocks there that separates one bay from the other bay. Like a big gate.

Earl did not sell fish off the truck but took most of them to Jessie Robertson’s Fish & Tackle Shop in Carolina Beach or Clarence Danner’s Fish House at Kure Beach. Danner’s wife used to run the post office there in one little room. If you wanted some fish for supper, you went in a fish house and bought it. He was retail in 1946. Remember the Army was in there in the early 40s because the war was on. The Japanese didn’t surrender until ’45.