When I was little, this time of year would bring a sense of excitement. The neighborhood kids (my neighborhood consisted of about a square mile or two of rural homes in the country) would all gather at my cousin’s house and declare residency at his pool. Curfews were no longer in effect as long as you walked in the house quietly when you got home. And we would take our annual trip to the beach.
We seldom would stay somewhere like Atlantic Beach or Emerald Isle or Topsail Island. They were much too busy. We would stay near Elizabeth City, Manteo, Swan Quarter or Hobucken. Places where unless you were from near there, you would never recognize.
I was allowed to bring a friend on the beach trips, as I was an only child, and my parents were much better off if I had someone else to divert attention towards. We would stay in hotels that had never heard of a star rating, and they had some sort of boat ramp access either on premises or nearby.
Dad had a map book that showed drop-offs in the water that he would study weeks prior so we could find just the right spot to drop a line or six. We didn’t have internet back then, nor forums in which you could ask people the best places to go. You either shared information verbally with someone you knew that would fish there or you would buy one of a couple of magazines that had fishing reports.
Bobby was usually my partner in crime when we would head to one of these outposts. We fished together more than I have anyone else in this lifetime. If we were not fishing it was because one of us was grounded, we were cutting grass, or it was raining and even then we would try to find a way to go to Rose’s and see what lures we wanted to add to the collection. Heck, we even tried taking different plastic worms, cutting them in two, and then melting them back together with different tails so we could have our own custom color combinations.
On the trips to the coast, we only used one type of outfit for fishing though. We used a simple double drop rig with a three-ounce pyramid weight. Baited on the two hooks would be two pieces of shrimp, usually torn in to two pieces, unless Dad wasn’t looking in which Bobby would put a full shrimp on each hook.
Fishing that way was and is similar to throwing a cricket or earthworm on a hook in fresh water. There will eventually be a bite. For whatever reason God intended, there are fish everywhere. And at some point and time, they will find your bait. And when they did back then, the action usually on stopped because Dad would say “reel ‘em in, it’s time to go home.”
The usual fish that would grab on were spot, kingfish or mullet as they are also called, an occasional flounder, and many, many croakers. Croakers were always my favorite simply because of the frog like sound they would make out of the water. It is also where they derived their name. Of course, another reason they were a favorite is because once they started biting, you never finished bringing them in the boat. It was almost like they gave birth deep in the depths, the babies crew up instantly and a whole new school would start attacking the hook embedded shrimp.
Everyone deserves days like that. Days in which the sun shines, the water has gentle rolls, and the fish never stop biting. There is no time to think of what else was going on in the world, no arguments and conflicts, just a battle of who could grab the next piece of shrimp and put it on the hook so another fish could be brought in. Yes, that is what everyone deserves.