The History of the Asbury Park Fishing Club
(Adapted from an Article by Bill Feinberg)

- Over the years, many fishing clubs, like other organizations, have come upon the scene only to disappear after a short life. Yet a few have remained, seemingly gathering strength with the passage of time. One of the oldest of this latter group is the Asbury Park Fishing Club. Why does one club survive and prospers when so many others have died on the vine? A glance at the Asbury Club's background may provide a clue.

- In 1888, Colonel James A Bradley, founder of the City of Asbury Park, and nine of his friends formed an informal surf-fishing club. Bradley donated four rocking chairs and an old brass bell which were installed on the pier on the south end of Asbury Park. Whenever any of the club members caught a striper, the bell was rung-one chime for each pound of the fish's weight. The fame of the club spread quickly and it ranks soon swelled. By 1890, it took the official name of Monmouth County Protective Association and adopted as it purpose "to prevent the useless waste of fish and to assist in the breeding of game fish." Owing to the steady increase in its membership, the Club found it necessary to move its home to increasingly large quarters. In 1902, it changed it name to The Asbury Park Fishing Club, adopted a new constitution and a new purpose - "To protect saltwater game fish, to create good fellowship and to promote the interest of anglers." The objectives continue to guide the Club even to the present time and still appear in the constitution. - In 1913, the Club membership number 350. In the years from 1919 to 1930, more than 200 new members joined, bringing the enrollment to almost 552. This figure increased to almost 650 by 1925. Sine then the numbers have ebbed and flowed and at present time about 200 members are on the roster.

Asbury Park Fishing Club House

- One of the Club's sources of strength, in addition to its purpose, was the fact that its membership was always open to sportsmen "of good moral character," and it was an early melting pot of rich and poor, illustrious and unknown. All had one quality in common - their love of the sea and saltwater angling. Over the years, certain names did stand out among the others on the membership list. This would include Hartie I. Phillips, writer of renown; Joseph Cawthorn, describe as "one of America's leading actors"; Christian W. Feigenspan, owner of Feigenspan Breweries of Newark, Ezra A. Fitch, cofounder of Abercrombie and Fitch; A.C. Steinbach, department store magnate; J. Lyle Kinmouth, organizer of the Asbury Park Press; A.F. Meisselback, manufacturer of the well known Meisselback fishing reels; A. E Griffith, manufacturer of the Griffith Piano; and Van Campen Heilner, renowned outdoor writer and editor of Field and Stream, to mention only a few.

- Starting early in the lifetime of their Club, the men from Asbury have accounted for their share of record fish. These would include a 63-pound channel bass caught in 1909 by Joe Cawthorn breaking the New Jersey high mark; a 286-pound bluefin tuna caught by Jacob Wirtheim in 1915 which toppled another Jersey record, only to be surpassed by fellow member Christian Feigenspan in 1923 with a work record bluefin of 407 pounds; a 55-pound striped bass caught by Frank Henes in 1913 topped another New Jersey Record only to be beaten by Club member Abe Flavell with a 58-pound 3 oz fish the following year. More recently, Club member Barry Goldman captured the world's record for Altantic Bonito in the 20-pound-line class with a fish caught in 1978. - The list could go on and would include such exotic as sharks taken from the New Jersey beaches and weighing hundreds of pounds. In addition, the Club has actively participated in fishing and casting tournaments capturing many prizes and honor. In the R. J. Schaeffer Saltwater Fishing Tournament, the Asbury Park Fishing Club took first place in New Jersey and stood among the upper five clubs overall for many years running.

- Of all the activities, however, none have more significant to the Asbury Club than those promoting its purpose to "protect saltwater game fish and... to promote the interest of anglers.". As part of these charges, it became an active charter member in such organizations as the Association of Surf Angling Clubs, the Izaak Walton League of America, and the New Jersey Fish and Game Conservation League. Its members fought successfully to make striped bass a game fish in New Jersey. It has waged an ongoing fight against pollution, and it efforts in that area were recognized as early as 1922 by President Warren Harding who, in writing to the Club, said " I do wish you to be assured of my keen interest in behalf of the effort you organization is putting forth, for I regard it as of very great importance to the whole nation and of course, particularly to those section of the Coast line and tidewater country in which industrial development has been particularly extensive. Your organization, I am informed, has been able to develop a public understanding of these problems and has given very helpful consideration to the matter of methods in approaching that solution." Club member have occupied numerous fishery positions including membership on the International Convention for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, the Governor's Marine Fisheries Advisory Council, state and federal boards, and the like.

- In summary, a strong diverse membership, a reason for existing other than for pleasure alone, and action participation in the sport of fishing, and service in the cause of the environment have undoubtedly combined to keep the spirit of comradeship alive among the successive generations of Asbury fishermen for over a century. Fishing is still, as always, the common bond. Today, just as in the past, the love of their sport and their ties to one another are important parts of the lives of the members of the Asbury Park Club. Perhaps their sentiments were best summed up by member Bob Inch, who some years before his death in earlier in the 1900s penned the flowing lines.

When our fishing days are over,
And we lay our rod aside,
And we bow our heads to meet Old Father Time,
Of all the things we ever did,
We never shall forget
Those fighting fish that hung upon our line.

To Be Continued...