I, Petey Fish

Jeramy Guillory
Phil Perdue team docking Drum Stick.
Phil Perdue team docking Drum Stick.

Herman Peter Joseph Fish was called Big Petey as a child.

Petey, because he was just a toddler, and saying Petey gave an enduring affection to a name sure to mark him as a stiff-minded accountant someday.  Big, because at five years old he weighed a whopping 80 pounds and stood 3ft 6in.  Ironically, he only grew a foot and half more as a man and barely broke the scale at a buck ten by age 41.  Being such a small manm the name Petey stuck and Big was dropped long ago.  Now he is just Petey. I, Petey Fish. That’s how he introduces himself.  “Hi, I Petey Fish.” Quirky little guy. 

Petey Fish said he came to Ocracoke for the first time twelve years ago. His wife longed to live on the island since she was a child and almost made the move during her first marriage to an oafish, Jabba-the-Hutt-like-senior citizen named Harry, with whom she had her first child, Lise. Pronounced Leeza, but spelled with an ‘e’ at the end because the couple was taking an Italian language class together while Wife was an undergrad and Harry was a professor of psychology. It was a “May/September wedding,” he said, “If that’s how the saying goes.” I think so.

Petey Fish is renting a vacation home called, “Where the Sun Sets,” round point facing the west on the sound side across the street from my place. His wife thought it was cute because of the little red door.  Petey thought it a bit pricy considering it only had one bathroom. He said he wasn’t looking forward to sharing a bathroom with the whole family, but worth the expense just to sit on the back porch and watch the boats pass by in the sunset.

“What kind of dog is that?” he asked, as I passed between his house and the Collins’s one morning on my usual stroll towards Sunset Beach to let Scout do his business.  I find it best to spend the time it takes to let Scout drop a deuce back here without an audience rather than lugging a plastic baggy through the village searching aimlessly for an appropriate bin to make the deposit. If I don’t get it done now, he will surely feel the urge in the middle of Community Square, so this is how I save myself the embarrassment.  It’s humiliating to say the least…

“I have two other boys. One is ten and the other is two,” he said, telling me their names and how interesting he thought they were. He never mentioned Wife’s name as I learned the details of his life each morning, but rolled his eyes telling me “they” (meaning the wife and daughter) went shopping.

 Changing the subject I couldn’t help but ask the cliché, “So, Petey Fish, do you fish?”

“Don’t know how… But I’d like to learn.”

“Well you’re in a pretty good spot to learn,” I said. “The Charter fishing here is outstanding. Look, there’s one right there.”  I pointed out at the harbor as a charter boat entered Silver Lake.

Turns out he knew every charter boat by name and color, but that seemed to be the extent of it.

Capt. Ernest Doshier (in the hat)
Capt. Ernest Doshier (in the hat)

“I think Gecko and Drumrunner are the same owners,” he said. “I looked it up online one time. Ernest Doshier. I like the color. That’s a pretty boat.”

I nodded, looking over his shoulder as Scout decided to drop a load right there in the back yard. Ugh.

“There’s a red one I like, too. Called Drumstick. Farris O’Neal. And a blue one called Dream Girl.”

“Yup, that’s Stevie’s boat. He designed that boat himself, ya know?” I said pulling a plastic bag from my pocket.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty boat,” I said diverting his attention to the sound as I made my way to a steamy mound of poo in the yard.

He looked out and watched a local fishing couple skimming across the shallow water in a front console flat-bottom boat, standing side by side at the helm. “They fish commercially,” I said. He, shirtless and at the helm, she next to him the way a horse can stand with one hoof on its end like a girl in the ballet.

“Do you know them?” he asked.

“Yeah, he’s a friend of mine,” I said. Which isn’t really true. I’ve met him a few times. That’s the extent of it. But I couldn’t help embellish the story further explaining that he was an O’Neal and that if Peter were to open some of the old Ocracoke books Allan has on the living room table inside his cottage he could read all about them. I explained how the O’Neals were pilots back in the day. Not airplane pilots, but hired navigators commissioned to help military vessels and other cargo ships navigate through Ocracoke inlet. “They made a fine living of it since it was one of the few well-paying gigs of the time,” I said. I read something of the sorts somewhere but have no idea if it’s fact or not. I don’t know what came over me or why I felt the need to tell a story. Sounded good though.

Petey Fish sat there on the bulkhead as the handsome couple throttled up and took across Hog Shoal.  They were a sight to be seen I have to admit. I could see in Petey’s face the envy and imagination one could put into the mystery of this pair. The sun was rising further now and the blue lagoon water was a perfect backdrop for the sun-kissed skin of brawn and beauty, of brogue and blond. Off they went towards the sea.

“So what do you do,” he asked?  I gave him the short version. “I write for the local paper.”

“What kind of articles?”

“Charter fishing, mostly.”

Farris O'Neal, captain of the Drum Stick
Farris O'Neal, captain of the Drum Stick

“Really?” he said. I waited because I knew what was coming next. I kept waiting—a technique I learned while suffering a decade in the Appalachian Mountains.  I call it the southwest Virginian stare.  That blank expressionless face that can sit unwavering waiting for the next person to speak. Being from loud-mouth Texas the whole thing used to make me nervous and that was an understatement for Lil’ Pete. Come on fella, spit it out. 

“Well. Uh.  So…  so, how much is it to take a boat out, I mean, for fishing?  Who do you like best?”

“They’re all very good, but I’m not sure of the costs. They are all probably different. Give ‘em call.”

He nodded and I thought, “Geez, this guy will never call.” Then I thought with a little push this guy may bite and book a charter.  “I tell ya what, I’ll be down there this afternoon. Let me ask around and I’ll write it all down for ya.”

“Oh you don’t have to do that...”  Mmmhhm.

That afternoon I headed over to the docks around 4pm to catch the Drumstick coming in from a full day offshore.  This time Phil Perdue, an orthopedic surgeon from Greenville, NC and his family of four booked a charter while spending a week in their vacation home, Blue Heron.  I was taking quotes from the guests and I thought about little Petey when Phil’s wife Tammy talked about her past experiences with charters. “I’ve been on charters where they know a lot about fishing and they make you feel like you don’t know anything. But not Nick. He is so patient and he really makes it enjoyable.” So there ya go, Petey!

Phil and Tammy Perdue
Phil and Tammy Perdue

Drumstick made the turn and backed into the docks. All of the restaurant were watching and folks loved it.  Out came the mahi – beautiful turquoise color hitting the docks one at a time.  I could see Petey had been there to get an early seat near the water’s edge to watch the display.  One after another they were thrown to the docks as folks gathered around to admire the bounty. A total of thirteen mahi of substantial size were laid out with sixteen trigger, one snapper, and one blackfin. Probably the best mahi catch for the month of April so far, “…and it should only get better from here,” said Captain Farris O’Neal.

Next day, I fished most of the morning and docked early just to have an excuse to crack open a cold one and spend the day in the sun washing my boat. Like clockwork, in came my squeamish little neighbor looking about for the perfect table at Smacnally’s. Russ Reynolds of Blue Forest Studios out of Raleigh chartered Captain Ernest Doshier and the Gecko Sportfishing team for a full day offshore. The rest of the fleet sat idle that day anxiously awaiting their return. By four o’clock the beer was cold so I had pretty much tied one on and was more inclined to pull another bottle out of the ice bucket than to make small talk with Petey Fish.

I, Petey fish.  I could hear him introduce himself from my boat as his wife and that daughter of hers walked in all dressed up in bright colors and sun hats. She was with some friend she must have met about town and the daughter walked behind with her face in her cell phone except to look up occasionally to shrug her little face in not. Wife was so smitten with her new acquaintance she made Petey change tables so the dogs walking around the tables wouldn’t bother her. She was easy on the eyes, so at first I was impressed enough to pop another bottle in toast to Petey Fish. I, Petey Fish. But then as she milled about in her way I could see that if she wasn’t so cute she would be annoying enough to throw in the creek beside my boat. Aye, Petey Fish. I thought I better sit right hear and have yet another to make sure I’m good and fermented. I’ve taken’ a liking to my lil pup but I got one dog already – no need start a feud with another man’s wife.  Besides it’s ShowTime at Anchorage Marina.  Here we go!

Now you’ve got to look at the pictures of this boat to appreciate her beauty. Gecko marches in backwards to the dock and the restaurant is packed. The first mate, Giddy, is digging through the ice in the fish box and tossing the bottom fish first. One trigger, two trigger, three trigger, more. Fourteen trigger fish in all were shuffled out of the cooler followed by four vermillion snapper and a tasty rainbow runner. Then came fourteen mahi of varying sizes followed by seven blackfin. What a show!

Petey was hustled out of there about the time the fish cleaning began, which for some reason pissed me off. Turns out Wife and daughter are both vegetarians so I can only imagine the not face they produced trying to swallow their salads while Giddy filleted over 120 pounds of fish. In her attempt to rid Petey of his excitement and escape the dogs, she moved to a table behind the fish cleaning station. Serves her right. With all the people I couldn’t keep an eye on them. When the excitement cleared they were gone and the table was empty. I walked home and dropped the following note on Petey’s porch.

The Perdue family: Phil and Tammy, Bobby Davis and Meredith Perdue
The Perdue family: Phil and Tammy, Bobby Davis and Meredith Perdue

Dear Peter,

Missed you at the docks yesterday. I’ll be off island tomorrow taking my dad to the doctor. Below is the information you asked about. 


$600 half day / $1150 full day - Tip your first mate 20 -25% he works for tips only.

Dream Girl

$375 half day (3 people.  $25 each additional person up to 4 total)

$800 full day (2 people.  $50 each additional person up to 4 total)


$675 half day / 1400 full day – Tip your first mate 20 - 25% he works for tips only.

Fish cleaning is optional but I highly recommend it. Anchorage charges .40 cents per pound for the small fish like trigger and snapper and .75 cents per pound for big fish like wahoo. Remember you will likely split this trip with a full boat so it’ll all come out to about $200 - $300 bucks a person. Well worth it because you couldn’t buy that much fresh fish for that price!  Not to mention the BIG experience. Good luck!

Russ Reynolds and the Blue Forrest party
Russ Reynolds and the Blue Forrest party
Russ Reynolds showing off part of their huge catch on April 30th
Russ Reynolds showing off part of their huge catch on April 30th


The Gecko
The Gecko
I, Petey Fish




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