Sometimes they fish at THE POINT, south of Hatteras Light, where the ocean's currents rush in from two directions, exploding in a shower of spume and spray. They come in the early morning to stand in the turbulent tides—silent, because there is a quietness about this time of day. On the wet sands hundreds of small shore birds hobble on stiff legs after the retreating tides, plunging quick beaks into the edges of the froth, A flock of ducks moves overhead. Gulls and pelicans hover above the boiling surf, then one by one they dive headfirst into the water. Their action means the bait fish have arrived. Behind them will come the channel bass.
Suddenly a line will go tight. "He's fast," somebody shouts. Clumsy in waders, a fisherman strains against the curve of his 11-foot rod. Near him, others begin to reel in their lines. Another goes tight. Then another. Small groups form around the men who are fighting their fish. The battle may be 10 minutes, or 20, or an hour. It is always powerful and exhausting. And at the end there is a moment of triumph. Around the big fish, its sides brilliant in the morning light, the group will stand—respectful. For this is the champion of Hatteras.
It will be placed in a beach buggy and shown through the town. At Rany Jeanette's Esso Station in Buxton it will be officially weighed. Then it will be put alongside others in a huge freezing closet, later to be filleted and eaten. Oddly, a Hatteras channel bass tastes very little like fish and very much like roast pork.
All up and down the shore similar catches will be pulled in from the FIRST AND SECOND CUTOUTS (see map) at Avon, the OLD CLUBHOUSE north of Hatteras Light, the CONCRETE STRIP south of Frisco and the INLET at Hatteras. These are the names of the five sloughs which are part of every autumn conversation. The old experts like Captain Bernice Ballance of Buxton; his daughter Amelia, who took the women's world record last year, Ormond Fuller of Buxton and Gardner Marsh of Nantucket; Walt Weber and Dick Waller of Baltimore fish these sloughs each season. And where they are, the fish usually are.
The visitor can only toss a coin and hope he chooses the right slough on the right day. But if, when he arrives on the beach, he finds the pros already there, he'll be wise to waste no time in putting his line into the swirling water. When red drum decide to hit, they hit everywhere at once."
Wildfowl shooting on PAMLICO SOUND, off the southern tip of Hatteras Island, is, if anything, even more impressive than the fishing. But since the seasons coincide and the natives almost all prefer fishing, it is practically impossible to find a willing hunting guide. E. P. White is a rare exception. Although his daughter, Ormond Fuller, is one of Hatteras' most avid anglers, White's interests are strictly waterfowl.
In a channel behind his home at Buxton, White moors a motor scow laden with more than a hundred decoys. For $40 a day for two hunters he makes available his boat, decoys and one of the most ideal shooting blinds to be found anywhere on the Outer Banks. The blind—it is the only one in a stretch of 30 miles of bird-blanketed water—has a four-foot-square concrete foundation which is permanently anchored in the sands of Pamlico Sound five miles offshore. An adjustable wood and canvas frame attached to the concrete enables the hunter to keep the top of the blind exactly level with the rising and falling tides.
White is a man who doesn't believe in getting up early. As a result, the waterfowler new to Pamlico will be surprised to learn that departure time is generally scheduled for about 7:30 a.m., an hour most duck hunters are finishing up a morning's shoot. White is also a man who believes in comfort, another violation of the code of waterfowlers. Every good duck shooter knows that a hunt is not successful unless ice forms on his gun, his waders leak freezing water, his feet go numb, his matches get wet, his fingers lose mobility and his shells fall into the water and swell beyond use. These things never happen to E. P. White.
What his scow lacks in grace and beauty it more than makes up for in comfort. Its cabin is equipped with a pot-bellied stove, a complete store of groceries, a small bar and all the gadgets of fancier craft. If the hunter chooses, he can wait in the boat, as White does, while his assistant, Harlon Willis, adjusts the blind, empties it of water and sets out 65 geese, 35 brant and 40 duck decoys.