Captain James W. Willis (1844-1920) was a whaling captain and fisherman who fished out of Morehead City, Carteret County. After years of fishing with baited lines, he developed the idea of sinking a net to increase fish catches and eliminate the need for fishing line. Though undated, his first experiment involved bricks tied to a net. The contraption, now known as a sink net, was sunk and left for an hour. Afterwards Willis and his crew hauled in 2,000 pounds of fish, quadrupling a typically successful day of fishing with hand lines.