An Eye for Mullet: Charles Farrell’s Photographs of the Brown’s Island Mullet Camp, 1938

Photo courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.

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An Eye for Mullet: Charles Farrell’s Photographs of the Brown’s Island Mullet Camp, 1938

by David S. Cecelski
Southern Cultures, Vol. 20, No. 3: Southern Waters

"From Ocracoke Inlet to Cape Fear, [fishing] camps lined the shores. Centered at Morehead City, N.C., fish dealers loaded so many barrels of salt mullet on outbound freight cars that local people referred to the railroad as 'the Old Mullet Line.'"

In the autumn of 1938 a photographer named Charles A. Farrell visited a seasonal mullet fishing camp at Brown’s Island, in Onslow County, North Carolina. What he discovered there captured his imagination: a remote hamlet of fishermen’s shanties far from civilization and two legendary clans of fishermen in relentless pursuit of one of the Atlantic’s great schooling fishes, striped mullet, known on those shores as “jumping mullets.”