Surf Fishing Heritage by Diane Lea

Legendary female surf fishing anglers panel Discussion.

A spirit of community is one of the most valuable assets of life on Hatteras Island, and in 2019 we’ve had plenty of opportunities to experience that spirit in our close-knit community life. Whether assisting each other in the arduous recovery from Dorian, a storm that decimated our neighbor island of Ocracoke and damaged many of Hatteras Island’s commercial and residential properties, or adjusting to a series of weather events that caused the frequent over wash of NC Highway 12 and the subsequent disruption of business and family life, the year has been challenging. So the advent of the 1st Cape Hatteras Surf Fishing Heritage Celebration was a welcome sign that there are better times ahead.  Held at the Fessenden Center in Buxton on November 2, 2019, the event was a resounding success. Throughout the day long program, some 50 attendees filled the seats, and more than 500 people streamed the presentations online. Yes, there are plans to make the celebration an annual event, and thankfully the local folks who spent a year planning it are still eager to press on to 2020. 

Of special note is the key role the staff of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore played in the planning and execution of the activities. Superintendent David Hallac assembled a stellar cast of Park Service professionals. The enthusiastic participation of several partner organization – Outer Banks Forever, the  Outer Banks Preservation Association, the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, the Cape Hatteras Anglers’ Club, and the Outer Banks History Center — made for a comprehensive view of the history, culture and future of surf fishing on Hatteras Island.

The event program began with a welcome and overview of fishing at the National Park areas by Superintendent Hallac, himself an avid fisherman, followed by a history of surf fishing at Cape Hatteras by National Park Service employee Jami Lanier. The afternoon session featured presentations by area residents and included topics such as the Art and Science of Surf Casting by Tommy Farmer, Modern and Historic Rod Building Techniques by Ryan White, the Evolution of Beach Buggies by NCBBA president Bill Smith, and an all-star panel of award winning female Anglers, including Carol Dillion, Sue Garrett, Nancy Giannotti, Rossie Jennette Jackson, Ginger Knight and Shelly Rollinson. Three panel members, Carol Dillon, Rossie Jennette Jackson and Shelly Rollinson, all Hatteras Island natives, shared family heritages that included lighthouse keepers and life-saving surfmen, boat builders and contractors. Carol Dillon’s family history features a mother who helped expose a German spy during WWII. Other afternoon sessions focused on modern day life and science with presentations on the Ecology of the Pamlico Sound by Michael Flynn of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, and Shark Behavior along the Outer Banks by Dr. Charles Bangley.

Of particular interest to all of us who point our iPhones at fish being pulled from the ocean and endless soundside sunsets was the session on Surf Fishing Photography by professional photographer Daniel Pullen. Another long time Hatteras resident, Kevin McCabe, described the work of his wife Kim Mosher, whose naturalistic depiction of birds, fish and beaches evolved into original illustrations of amusing characters like Surf Dog, whose book of timely tips is intended to make us aware of the delights and dangers of the sea.

A wrap-up discussion entitled Future of Surf Fishing incorporated the skills and knowledge of panelists Eric Hoag, Travis Kemp, Pat Preston and Lee Scarborough. These salty discussants hale from other parts of the country but now call the Outer Banks home. They have all managed to combine their love of fishing with occupations that range from manufacturing lures, rod development, distributing Panama Jack products and managing the tackle shop at Teach’s Lair Marina.

The 1st Cape Hatteras Surf Fishing Heritage Celebration reflects the life and the spirit of the Island community we all celebrate and its pleasant diversity.

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