Sky and Sea: Wright Brothers and fishing on the OBX

The Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk. The hill in the distance is Kill Devil Hill, and at the top of it is a tribute to the brothers’ first flights from that spot.

The Wright Brothers Memorial was one of the first

The memorial.

places we stopped during our stay on the Outer Banks, mostly because it was a bit drizzly that first morning and we could spend our time inside, looking at artifacts from Wilbur and Orville Wright’s quest to build and fly the first airplane. The museum includes paintings of many individuals who influenced flight, along with short stories about their efforts.

Outside the museum, markers were placed to signify each of the brothers’ first four flights and, at the top of Kill Devil Hill, which was their take-off point, a large monument stands in honor of the aviation pioneers. My parents opted to stay in the car while I walked the long, paved path to the top of Kill Devil Hill. (Signs urge people to stay off the grass because it is littered with prickly pear cactus.)

The view from Kill Devil Hill. Follow the sidewalk leading away from the memorial, all the way to the end, and the markers signifying the landings of flights one through four are beyond that point.

From the monument I had a great view of the Wright Brothers’ historical first flights — not to mention my first panoramic view of the Outer Banks coastline and the Atlantic Ocean. My only regret was that we didn’t return on a sunnier day to take better photos.

With the weather starting to clear by late afternoon, we found other indoor options to see in the area closest to our home away from home. Manteo, located on Roanoke Island and accessible from the Outer Banks by bridge, is home to the North Carolina Aquarium. Filled with fish species from the coastal and fresh waters of the state, it was neat to see so many species you won’t find in the waters of Minnesota.

It wasn’t until the next day, however, while taking the free ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island, that we learned more about the fish of the Outer Banks. Joining us on the ferry were several fishermen (the southern Outer Banks are primary fishing villages, as compared to the large hotels, numerous restaurants and seemingly hundreds of gift shops in the area between Kitty Hawk and Nags Head). We had time to chat with one of the fishermen on the 45-minute ferry ride.

This is how fishermen on the Outer Banks travel with their rods and reels. (The truck was on the ferry to Hatteras Island when my mom captured this image.)

On this particular day, he was headed to Ocracoke for some “surf fishing,” after spending the day prior fishing by boat.

He told us he was still tuckered out from his previous day’s adventure — he managed to catch what he believed to be at least a 60-pound stingray. He battled with it for quite a while before getting it close enough to the boat that he could clip the line.

For his day of surf fishing, he was going to use cut up pieces of mullet fish for bait, in hopes of catching some freshwater drum. The way he talked about the fish, I figured it was similar to how we Minnesotans worship the walleye.

Later that day, we stopped at Jennette’s Pier at Nags Head and talked to more fishermen. The pier is rather interesting in that it also contains an aquarium, bait and tackle shop and a gift shop.

A bluefish caught from Jennette’s Pier.

From what I read online, the summer months include fishing how-tos from the pier for those who would like to try their hand at fishing. For me, it was just fun to walk down the pier and watch the flurry of activity, whether it was people baiting hooks or reeling in fish, or the surfers down below, waiting and trying to catch a wave.

This surfer catches a wave near Jennette’s Pier at Nags Head, N.C.

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