Southport NC Living - Southport NC homes

9.22.2010

September Song (Reprise)

DSCF7226_428 "When the dodlimbed tourists leave, the bluefish cannot be very far behind.... They like people who admire nor'easters and don't mind a little rain and a squall or two." says the Old Man.

This is still one of my favorite books. Set back during the Depression and days of Prohibition, Ruark speaks right to the Southern heart of life spent outdoors; fishin', clammin', oysterin', duck huntin', all embellished with a crusty cast of characters, and warmed with southern coastal cooking traditions and forbidden corn "licker." The Old Man's home, now a , is just down the block from my home of nearly 25 years now.

And it was over 25 years ago, when we were still caretakers over on Bald Head Island, that we had our first run-in with September bluefish. Skippy Stiller, a Southport original who came across the river to Bald Head every evening at 7 to relieve my husband of active security duties, was our able Captain. Now Skippy knew a thing or two about fishing and he'd been talking about the blues starting to run out on Jaybird Shoals. So our “trolling for bluefish" adventure came late one September afternoon in an old blue patched up 14’ McKee Kraft. We had already caught a mess of mullet minnows in Bald Head Creek, so armed with live bait, and Hopkins lures and Clark Spoons, off we went. He had already warned, "Darlin’ now if we gfeeding frenzyet into ‘em, be careful," peppering his words with tales of digits lost to a blue’s razor sharp teeth. I had caught bluefish out of the surf before and managed to keep all my fingers, but none the less, he had my full attention here with his talk about big schools of hungry blues and feeding frenzies.

So we made it out to Jaybird, the three of us with Skippy at the helm, in a small boat not quite fit to cross the shipping channel. But the wind was light and we trolled and fished hard 'til dark, our arms weak from reeling in the ornery suckers. We didn’t exactly slay 'em but we caught about sixty and lost about that many. Some say nothing fights pound for pound harder than a bluefish. I believe it. Back on the Island, we quickly went to clesouthport swings_10aning and filleting. The plan was for Skippy to take them back to Southport and . I wish I had gotten his recipe for smoking. All I know is they started out in a brine in an old glass Lance cracker jar. But we held out a good mess and fried them up for dinner. They’ve never tasted better, before or since. You need to eat bluefish right out of the water cause the next day they’re hardly fit to eat…

Skippy has left us now and gone ahead, after spending his  quiet years as a daily fixture at the swings down at the Waterfront. I think about him now when I ride by, wishin' I had taken the time to stop long enough to hear a story or two, play a game of Farkle, and hear him call me darlin' one more time.

So I’ll leave you with a final passage from “The Boy”“I feel sorry for people who never had a chance at grilled bluefish… The way the Old Man cooked them, they tasted better than any fish has a right to taste. He just laid them on the grill over hot coals and left them until you could see the sksurf fishing_204in blistering and cracking and turning gold and black, with the white showing through and the grease sizzling steadily on the coals. When he finally took them off, they were so tender they just fell apart. He bathed them in about half a pound of butter apiece, poured vinegar over them, and then dusted them with black pepper. I ate about four pounds of fish before I quit.”


September is just the start of the "good months" in Southport. October is nearly here and as the tourists leave us, it’ll be time for the fall fisherman to come out of the woodwork. The kicks off early this year, September 30th-October 2nd and the on the 2rd at the City Pier. More to come!


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