Billy Burbank III, Net Maker

In a July 1980 interview conducted by folklorist Peggy Bulger, longtime net maker and Fernandina resident Billy Burbank III discusses the history and practices of the net making trade. The interview begins with Burbank describing how his grandfather began the family business, Burbank Trawl Makers Inc., in 1915.

Net maker at work repairing a fishing net: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Net maker at work repairing a fishing net: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Image number: FS80523a

Only a few basic tools are used by the net makers: a small 6" cutting knife imported from Sweden; shuttles; needle-nose pliers for splicing work; cable cutters for cutting combination cables; and boat cutters for cutting chains.

Knitting needle used by Billy Burbank to knit fishing nets: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1980)

Shuttle used by Billy Burbank to knit fishing nets: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1980)

Image number: FS80509A

Possibly Billy Burbank III weaving a fishing net: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Billy Burbank III weaving a fishing net: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Image number: FS80466

Piled up fishing nets: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Piled up fishing nets: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Image number: FS80494

Burbank Trawl Makers Inc.

Burbank nets have been used by people in the U.S. from North Carolina down to Florida and up the Gulf Coast through the Texas Panhandle area. They have also been exported to Central and South America and Africa. When Peggy Bulger interviewed Billy Burbank III in 1980, Burbank Trawl Makers was the largest producer of fishing nets in the United States.

Stories about the family business tell of nets made for President Richard Nixon and a fishing boat that accidentally caught a submarine in its trawl nets.

Trawl maker at work at Burbank Trawl Makers: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1982)

Trawl maker at work at Burbank Trawl Makers: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1982)

Image number: PR14391

Making of a trawl at Burbank Trawl Makers: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1982)

Making of a trawl at Burbank Trawl Makers: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1982)

Image number: PR14395

Trawl being made at Burbank Trawl Makers: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1982)

Trawl being made at Burbank Trawl Makers: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1982)

Image number: PR14392

Burbank describes the different net types and their uses, including flat nets, four-seam balloon nets, two-seam balloon nets, and a modification that he developed called the Mongoose, which is actually two nets in one. He also describes the net making process and the various tools and skills involved.

Fishing nets made at Burbank net shop: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1986)

Fishing nets made at the Burbank net shop: Fernandina Beach, Florida (1986)

Image number: FA11519

Tar vat used by Billy Burbank III for making nets: Fernandina Beach, Florida  (not after 1980)

Tar vat used by Billy Burbank III for making nets: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Image number: FS80511a

Close up view of fishing net made by Billy Burbank III: Fernandina Beach, Florida  (not after 1980)

Close-up view of fishing net made by Billy Burbank III: Fernandina Beach, Florida (not after 1980)

Image number: FS80507a