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Fishin’ Fun: Diving duck has luck 

By DARYL LAW 

Clear Carolina blue skies and steady southwesterly winds greeted anglers at the Melvin R. Daniels Bridge Thursday morning. Affectionately known as the “Little Bridge,” this easy to access and free fishing spot provides a great place to wet a line. 

With walkways on each side of the east and west span, and plenty of parking nearby, both residents and visitors alike take advantage of the location. And as luck would have it, a couple of small shad and stripers were caught that morning. 

A friend of mine, Dan, arrived and said: “I’ve been catching shad and stripers on the regs.” He was rigged up with a multi-hooked “shad slayer,” at first, but he later switched over to something smaller.  

Another guy with a UVA ball cap had a small natural-colored soft plastic minnow. Over the years, the Little Bridge has seen plenty of action with nice speckled trout and puppy drum at the top of the list. 

The only action near my line was a diving duck who must have found food because it stayed in my area for quite a while. Other than that, it was a peaceful and quiet morning of fishing once you successfully tuned out passing traffic. Another bird, a sea gull, kept me company as it eyed my bait bucket. 

SPARKLE on the water can be mesmerizing when fishing is slow. (Daryl Law photo)

After a while, I tried broken-back diver bait I bought for cheap at a yard sale. They have such great action and we’ve had a lot of luck trolling those for stripers at Manns Harbor Bridge in the past. 

If you don’t want your wife or boss to know you’re out fishing, this may not be the place to go because I saw and heard from four friends in a relatively short period of time. 

When the wind picked up, it brought my attention to the long, tan streaks on top of the water we’ve always called wind lines. They develop during periods of sustained winds from the same direction. With the increase in wind speed, I moved on. 

MELVIN R. DANIELS BRIDGE, also known as Little Bridge, is located along the Nags Head-Manteo causeway. (Daryl Law photo)

Lunch Break 

With everything from McDonald’s to O’Neal’s Sea Harvest jam-packed at noon, I went old school for lunch at the old Mann’s Red and White: Vienna’s and saltines with Fritos and tall cold can of Coke to wash it all down. The new hardware store, convenience store and fried chicken outlet were also each hopping – the tackle and commercial fishing supply shop was also on lunch break. 

Back at O’Neal’s, it looked like the boat building business was busy and plenty of vehicles were parked everywhere around the bend. A beautiful sportsfisher was up on blocks, with what appeared to be fresh paint glistening in the sun. Aluminum outriggers reached for the sky. 

An old beater Toyota Land Cruiser was at a shop next door. I can remember back when that was the 4WD driving machine everyone wanted for trail and beach adventures. This one looked like it had seen a few of its own and an orange and black sign advertised it was For Sale. 

Plank on Frame 

Making my way back into the heart of the other side of Wanchese, I eventually found myself at Glenn Bradley’s boat barn where the sweet smell of the juniper greets you. Upside down on blocks, there was a beautiful, traditional plank on frame wooden boat project well underway. He’s built more than a hundred boats over the years but he says he’s easing out of it now. 

GLENN BRADLEY holds up pattern he uses to build boats in his shop. He’d like to see traditional boat building crafts like plank on frame carried on into the future. (Daryl Law photo)

Glenn learned the craft at Scarborough Boatworks long ago and he’s afraid plank on frame is becoming a lost art. Glenn said he’s slowed down production on his current project and building them on the whole for different reasons but he just can’t stand the thought of this traditional method going by the wayside. 

“This is important, I’d kinda like to keep this around,” he said. “This [technique] is going away. This is really old school – Ricky Scarborough’s is where I learned to do that.” 

THIS UPSIDE DOWN 20-foot hunting boat features juniper planks on frame construction. (Daryl Law photo)

These boats are built with frames, a keelson, a stem, a knee, chine logs, side frames, washboards and combing. His current 20-footer has a dozen frames and transom. It features a tunnel on the bottom that helps protect an outboard propeller. The custom milled juniper planks are first glued with West System then hand nailed with two and a half inch stainless steel ring shank nails to the frames. There’s a lot of cutting and twisting them into place. 

The current dead rise vessel features plenty of flair forward and hard chines in the stern. It was started as a spec job, but now someone has stepped up and made a commitment to buy the vessel. It will be glassed over inside and out and will be painted olive drab or “O.D.” green for hunting. 

“It’s a lost art or craft,” he said. “They are real durable, like a surfboard, a guy can just grab it and go.” 

Glenn has spent years crabbing in the summer and cranking out boats in winter. He learned how to tweak his designs from operating his own custom boats. In the yard is a finished crab boat, ready to go. 

“I needed a boat to go crabbing,” he said. “I built a boat, it caught on. I said ‘Hope this works,’ and it did. A boat must look good and do good. 

“Juniper floats great, just amazing,” he said. “These boats have a dry ride, a good ride.”