Fall nor’easters signaled several things for the fishermen of the Island. Among them was that it was time to for “set nets,” on the north shore of the Banks. Wooden stakes, usually young gum trees cut somewhere in the woods of Straits were positioned every twenty feet or so, and a large mesh net was lashed to them along a line of one hundred yards or more. At the end there was a “bow” or hook that eventually pointed back to the shore.
The strong north winds of Autumn would cause schools of spots, trout and bluefish to move steadily along the tideline. Once they approached the net they would head offshore until they reached the bow. There, feeling themselves trapped, they would hit the net and “marsh” where they would remain ensnared until the fisherman returned to “fish the net.”
The same strong wind that caused the fish to school could make it really hard to negotiate the channel and work the nets. So it was when Weldon Edward [Willis], often called “Mr. Big” or just “Peter,” headed out one late October afternoon to work his group of “set nets” that were placed off of Banks Bay.
The especially strong northeast gusts turned what could have been a one hour job into a four hour ordeal. By the time he had finished, the sun had set and it was pitch dark as he approached his mooring on the Island’s south shore.
The next day, a friend asked him how the wind had been the evening before as he fished his nets. “Oh, it was a blowing,” he responded, and then continued, “ it was blowing so hard that I had to shine my spotlight at a 45 degree angle to see the dock!”