Local photographer Tyler Northrup has been traveling east this year to capture some of our state’s working watermen and women.
Tyler strayed far from the beaten path in order to photograph Herb & Bobby Byrum. They fish for blue catfish in the Albemarle Sound and live deep in the woods of eastern North Carolina. They’ve been pound netting catfish since the 1960’s, the third generation of fishermen in their family. Scroll to see what’s it like on the water with the Byrum brothers, and read Tyler’s captions to get a sense of how different these two brothers are.
This is Bobby Byrum. Bobby and his brother Herb are 3rd generation fishermen in eastern North Carolina. Every day before the sun comes up they head out in their little boat filled with big buckets to check their nets for catfish using centuries old techniques. – Tyler
This is Herb Byrum. I only spent a few hours with him and his brother Bobby, but Herb seems like the kind of guy you would call “the salt of the Earth”. They’re both in their mid-70’s and everyday they do the same back-breaking work their family has been doing for generations, but while Bobby was quiet and reserved, Herb was quick to laugh and smile; and through the thickest of accents he was constantly sharing stories and imparting knowledge of their operation. – Tyler
I really love this image of Bobby Byrum, as best I could tell in the four or so hours I spent with him this image encapsulates him perfectly. Bobby was, as I said in the previous post, a bit quiet and reserved but he was kind and had an endearing nature about him. He often made sarcastic and snide remarks, feigned being put out by my being in the boat with them, and even joked they were going to leave me in the middle of the river when I got in the water to photograph them from a distance, but it was clear this was all meant in good fun. – Tyler
Herb and Bobby Byrum use a technique called pound netting to catch Blue Catfish, an invasive species to North Carolina. Pound netting has been around for centuries and not only has this generation of Byrums been at it since the 1960’s, they’re one of the last guys in the area still using the technique. – Tyler
Much more so than jovial Herb, you got the sense from Bobby of how long they’ve been at this gig, and how tiresome it gets. It would be easy to think that two brothers in their 70’s that spend every morning in a tiny old boat yanking huge catfish out of the river are doing it because they love it, and I’m sure in some ways they do, but I got the impression it’s also a livelihood that comes with great struggle and a modest living at best. – Tyler