Heard Ocracoke mentioned on Jersey Radio today during a discussion of beach fees. The woman who called in exemplified Ocracoke's beaches as free, and that you can drive an SUV (on some of them).
North Carolina's Outer Banks have some of the greatest fishing in the world, but during summer surf action can be quite diminished from what it is in spring and especially fall. So afternoons back in 2005, we used light spinning rods to catch plenty of pompano, such as in the photo above. We dug a charcoal pit and cooked them right out of the water on the beach. Fires and charcoal are another liberty south of New Jersey. Pompano are some of the tastiest fish you might ever eat. They seem to melt on the palate like butter, actually have that mellow texture and taste tone.
The larger pompano hit sand fleas you can catch in the wash. We caught our fish on 16th-ounce jigs with shrimp or pieces of squid at low tide in very shallow water.
It was a humble rite. But I'll never forget.
As a young boy, I found a picture of a pompano in the Fishing Golden Guide for children. Somehow I was instantly fascinated, and on trips to the Outer Banks tried to catch one on sand fleas. My father didn't fish, besides taking me to fish the Kittyhawk Pier when I was eight, so I figured this out on my own, greatly mysterious: little boy facing the Atlantic where he had only read that pompano exist and how to catch them. Hooking something on a sand flea one summer added to the mystery, the fish turning at the surface and appearing just as the pompano looked in the book. So I believed that's what it was, with some reserve, since only for a split second I saw the fish, about a foot long.
In a way it seemed so ordinary actually catching pompano in 2005 compared to my boyhood dreams, but without any further disillusionment in not being certain. They really are there, and the truth is not too many catch them or enjoy a charcoal fueled cooking on the beach.