The Club’s history was written by:
Dr. Ken Neill, III
I joined the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association in 1996 at the invitation of Dr. Bob Allen. I knew nothing of the club. I had had a few people mention that I should join the fishing club. That is what they called it, the fishing club, and that is as far as it went. I knew who Dr. Allen was. He was a fellow dentist with a good reputation. I also knew he was one of the best fishermen in the state. I happened to be living next door to one of his employees; he sent a note with her inviting me to come to a meeting. He also sent an old copy of the Chum Line. I felt honored to be noticed by such a prestigious individual. I filled out the application on the Chum Line and sent in my $30. I took a trip down Warwick Blvd. just to find out where the meeting hall was so that I would know where to go for the next meeting. I waited for my first issue of the Chum Line so I could find out when the next meeting was. I received the July issue the day after the July meeting. Dr. Allen called and said that he had missed me at the meeting. I explained what happened. He then let me know that the meetings were always on the third Tuesday of the month. Ah, now I was set for the August meeting.
1996 was a break out year for me as far as fishing goes. It was the first year of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament’s (VSFT) Expert Angler Program. I had finally learned how to catch big red drum by talking on the phone to Claude Bain for 15 minutes. I was catching a lot of cobia, spadefish, tautog, and amberjack. I was confident that I would catch citation striped bass in the fall. I just needed one more species to qualify for this new award. I chartered a boat just to get that sixth species and succeeded in catching a white marlin. I had a bunch of citations but had no idea how to enter them into the club. I called Dr. Allen and asked if there was a form or something. He said yes and sent me a couple. I read the rules and found that it was too late to enter most of my fish. I reasoned that even though it was too late to win any monthly awards I wanted my new club to know that I could catch something so I filled out forms for all my citation fish and sent them in with copies of my citations.
Doug Roper was president that year and did a good job of keeping things interesting. I enjoyed the club meetings and thought that I had everything figured out. I met a bunch of outstanding fishermen and learned a lot. At the Award’s Banquet, my wife and I sat at Dr. Allen’s table and had a wonderful time. To my surprise, I was awarded the Angler of the Year Award. Dr. Allen presented the award and said a bunch of nice things. For me, it was a great moment. A little later, the George Robertson Memorial Trophy was awarded. When it is presented a part of the history of the club is recalled. I found what was said fascinating.
The next year I had things all figured out. I was a fishing fool and entered a bunch of fish in the club. I have always been an avid fisherman for a variety of species. I was an expert at none. In the club, I found many experts. We truly have some outstanding fishermen in our organization. Not being stupid, I took advantage of this wealth of knowledge. I asked questions, listened a lot, and the smartest thing I did was to ask these guys to go fishing with me. What an education! It was a bit of a humbling experience when I would say I was doing something new and someone like Irv Fenton would say “yea we did that 30 years ago and it worked great; have you tried this?” I would go out and find that yes this was a better way. I felt that I had found a home and that I really understood the club. That year I won Angler of the Year again and was called Master Angler for Life. Huh? More club history that I did not know about.
It was not very long ago that the distinction between a commercial hook-and-line fisherman and a sport fisherman was not very clear. There were the true professionals that made their living by selling their catch. There were many sport fishermen who sold their catch to supplement their income. Then there were the sport fishermen that felt it was wrong for a sport fisherman to sell fish. There was also the question of how fair it was for a sport fisherman to have to compete with a professional fisherman. The issues were very contentious and are still being fought out in other areas of our country. In the club, the issue was settled by making it a rule that a member could only win Angler of the Year twice. At that time he is called a Master Angler for Life. In the state of Virginia the issues were settled in two ways. It is now illegal for a sport fisherman to sell his catch. Only licensed commercial fishermen may do so. When rules were being made for the commercial hook-and-line gear type, a task force was formed representing both commercial and recreational hook-and-line fishermen. Our club was represented on both sides. On the commercial side was member Harry Doernte. On the recreational side was Bob Pride. Bob is currently serving on the Finfish Advisory Committee of the VMRC and on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Later, a second task force was chosen to modify these rules. I was chosen to be a recreational representative. I had the luxury of being able to consult with both Bob and Harry. The VSFT has since made any licensed commercial hook-and-line fisherman ineligible for competition in the annual tournament. What was a very divisive issue has now become a non-factor.
I was asked to become a board member for 1998. I said yes with some reservations. I was right to be a little nervous and you should be too if you are asked to serve on the board or as an officer. Our board is not just some advisory group that sits around and votes on stuff. Board members and officers are the backbone of our club. This small group is what makes the club what it is. They do the vast majority of the work and donate many hours of their time to the benefit of the club. I can say that it is also a very rewarding experience. For me, it has also been very educational. I continue to learn more about catching fish and also more about the history of the club.
In 1999, Dr. Bob Allen presented the club with a new perpetual trophy called the W. A. Boatwright Memorial Rockfish Award. Dr. Allen presented this trophy for the first time at our award’s banquet, February 25, 2000. During this presentation more club history was revealed. I kept getting pieces of what sounded like a rich and interesting history. I suggested to the board that it would be nice if we would write a history of the club while there are still some people around that can remember some of the early years. The board thought it was a good idea and I got the job. Past president, Sam Uhler said that he had some old records for me. Sam showed up at my office with boxes full of stuff. What an overwhelming wealth of information!
While looking through these boxes, several things became apparent. The newspapers of the 40s, 50s, and 60s had a close working relationship with outdoorsmen. Anything that happened was covered with a photograph and an article. The formation of our club was big news and for years each slate of officers had their photograph in the paper. These newspaper clippings, dating back to 1947, provide much information on the early years of our club and on outdoor activities of that era. There is a photograph of 5 big cobia, caught one day at York Spit Light in 1947. One of the 3 anglers was C. E. Barfield (Claude). There is another photograph of Claude Barfield with a 356 lb blue marlin dated 1958. Dr. W. A. Boatwright (Alex) is featured in another, loading his 311 lb blue marlin into the back of his station wagon. I found our monthly newsletter from the 60s and 70s to be wonderful. It was not called the Chum Line yet. During that time, it was written by J. C. Robinson, he knew his stuff and was an informative and very entertaining writer. Another thing that came to light was that our club was formed during a very exciting time for saltwater sport fishing in Virginia. Several studies were done that showed the importance of sport fishing. One study said that sport fishing was about twice as valuable as commercial fishing. Another study, published in 1957, stated that Virginia was losing 60 million dollars a year simply by not promoting recreational saltwater fishing. The state was hunting for ways to encourage the development of this important industry. Captains were hired to explore the offshore waters of Virginia for game fish. In the mid to late 40s these boats would head out about 25 miles and catch marlin, a lot of marlin. Oh, to fish with today’s equipment with the fish populations as they were before longlines. I found that there were several other organizations that were entwined with the formation of our club. The histories of these organizations are important to the history of our club. I called Claude Bain to see if he could help me answer some questions. As always, he was a great help.
The first organization I found listed by a variety of names, almost interchangeably, in our records and in the newspaper clippings. Most often it was called the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association. Sometimes the Virginia or the Peninsula would be dropped. This club was founded in 1940. One of the founding members was George Robertson. This organization was concerned with both hunting and fishing but its main emphasis was judging Virginia’s Big Game Program. A group of anglers within this club felt there was a need for a club dedicated only to saltwater sport fishing. This led to the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association. Another organization important in our history was the Tidewater Angler’s Club, founded in 1941. They were a very active group that had a lot of input into the development of Virginia’s fisheries. They were also very active in encouraging the formation of other fishing clubs. In a newspaper clipping from early 1957, the plans for our new club were described. It stated that the new Peninsula club would be loosely patterned after the Tidewater Angler’s Club. A third organization that was related to our club’s first years was the Virginia Salt Water Sport Fishing Association (VSWSFA). This was an unusual group in that it was a state sponsored, private organization. It was founded during the same time period as our club. A newspaper article from 1957 described the beginnings of the VSWSFA: “Tomorrow at 10am, the long-awaited meeting to organize the Virginia Salt Water Sport Fishing Association will get under way at the Nansemond Hotel. Top dignitaries from the State’s game department will be on hand and will address the gathering during the morning session and part of the afternoon. Election of officers will wind up the affair. Representing the Peninsula portion of the group will be Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association members Lloyd Amory, secretary-treasurer Claude Barfield, board of directors Col. Bob Fisher and Lee White.” The VSWSFA was divided into 5 regions. The director of the Peninsula region was Claude Barfield. The officers were Melvin Shreves-president, Winston Montague-vice president, and Claude Rogers-secretary. The VSWSFA was charged with developing saltwater sport fishing in Virginia without costing the state money. From this group came the Virginia Salt Water Fishing Tournament, the “citation” program. They convinced the state to fund money for a director and a secretary in 1958. Claude Rogers was hired as the first director and remained so until he retired in 1987. His successor is current director Claude Bain. I am seeing a lot of Claudes. The awards for the tournament were privately funded through the Salt Water Sport Fishing Association. In 1959, 1170 citations were awarded, more than double the previous year. The popularity of this program swiftly overwhelmed the VSWSFA. Gradually the state took over more of the funding of the VSWFT. In 1971, the VSWSFA ceased being listed as the sponsor of the Virginia Salt Water Fishing Tournament. The VSWFT continued to be funded, at least partially, by private donations. In our club receipts for 1988, there is a letter from Claude Bain addressed to Thad Schatzel of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association thanking him for our contribution to the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament trophy fund. He went on to say that the fund is used to pay for the awards given to the annual species winners (the largest fish of each species caught in a year, later the award was expanded to include the angler catching the most release citations of a given species). Our club members have quite a few of these awards. I’m sure there are more; the ones that I know are: David Young-striped bass, Dave “Sinker Man” Carpenter-gray trout, myself-amberjack twice-striped bass twice-jack crevalle, Phillip Neill-bluefish, and Irv Fenton-wahoo. Irv also caught the largest true albacore in the state but did not receive one of these awards because that species is not part of the citation program. He received something better, the state record that still stands today. The PSWSFA has remained in close contact with the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. Claude Rogers was an honorary member of our club as is his successor, Claude Bain today. They were made members in honor of all that they have done for saltwater sport fishing in Virginia. The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament Committee is often staffed with representatives of our club. Right now, we have two members on this committee: past president Charles Randolph and myself.
Early in 1957 this letter was sent out to likely members of the new fishing club:
Newport News, Va.
January 29, 1957
For the past few years several of us on the Peninsula have been interested in Deep Sea Fishing and have been on trips to Ocean City, Morehead, Hatteras, and off the Virginia Capes.
Our own state of Virginia has been making extensive plans to promote Fishing off it’s shores and several surveys are now being made to assure us that the Deep Sea Fishing of Virginia Capes is just as good as anywhere along the South Atlantic Coast.
Several builders of fishing boats are planning to build a fleet of boats for Deep Sea Fishing off the Capes of Virginia.
In order that we might be in the planning of this new Sport off our shores, a number of men here on the Peninsula have suggested that we get together in a meeting to talk over plans for organizing a Deep Sea Fishing Club.
Your name has been suggested and we are extending you an invitation to attend a small gathering of Sportsmen on February 8th at the home of C. E. Barfield-2215 Parish Ave. Newport News, Va., at 7:30 pm.
Mr. Loyd Baker, Chairman of the Fishing Committee of the Peninsula Sportsmen Club will be in attendance.
Hoping you will find it convenient to attend, I am,
C. E. Barfield, Acting Secretary
The minutes from this meeting are as follows:
The first get together of men interested in Sport Salt Water Fishing was held at the home of C. E. Barfield on February 8, 1957 at 7:30 pm. The meeting was called by Dr. W. A. Boatwright and C. E. Barfield and about twenty notices were sent inviting men to the meeting. The meeting was called to order by C. E. Barfield who spoke briefly and introduced Dr. Boatwright and made motion that Dr. Boatwright be elected as Temporary Chairman, motion carried. Dr. Boatwright asked for comments from those present and stated the objectives of the proposed association. Those speaking in favor of organizing were Lloyd Baker, Lloyd Amory, Ralph Newsome, Lee White. It was decided that the organization should be part of the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen Association. After much discussion the following men were selected to serve with Dr. Boatwright: Vice Chairman, Ralph Newsome; Secretary-Treasurer, C. E. Barfield. They were appointed to work up a Constitution and by-laws for the next meeting which is to be held at the house of Lee White on March 1, 1957. Meeting adjourned and refreshments were served by host C. E. Barfield. The following men were in attendance: Dr. Boatwright, Charles Rountree, L. Amory, W. Holland, Lee White, Aaron Talton, Ralph Newsome, Loyd Baker, John Wren, C. E. Barfield, George Williams, Roger Callis.
Things were starting to roll. The minutes from this next meeting are as follows:
The meeting was held at the home of Lee White, March 1, 1957. Dr. Boatwright, chairman, called the meeting to order and presented the Constitution and by-laws. After reading and much discussion the Constitution and by-laws were adopted. The secretary was instructed to prepare papers for Charter Night which will be held at the Kenny Akers Building on the 2nd Friday night in April the date being the 12th at 7:30 pm. Aaron Talton was instructed to secure a picture to be shown at this meeting. Meeting was adjourned and the host served delightful refreshments. Those present were: Dr. Boatwright, Dr. Davis, Lee White, H. Granger, A. Talton, Kenny Akers, Charles Rountree, C. E. Barfield, Dr. Watkins.
Charter Night was a big success. We had 62 charter members join the club that night. Dues were $5 and included membership into the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association. Dr. Alex Boatwright was elected to be our first president. Rounding out the officers were Joe Sinclair as vice-president and Claude Barfield as secretary-treasurer. A five-man board of directors was also elected: Col. Bob Fisher, Kenny Akers, Hawthorne Granger, Harold Topping, and Lee White. We had two guest speakers that night. The first was Claude Rogers, Virginia’s surf casting champion, vice-president of the Tidewater Angler’s Club, and soon to be director of the Virginia Salt Water Fishing Tournament. I found it interesting that to this day, our first speaker of the year is normally his successor Claude Bain, a tradition that was started with our very first club meeting. The second guest speaker was Arthur James who represented the Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Development and who was the state representative for the new state sponsored Virginia Salt Water Sports Fishing Association. He explained this new organization and he reported that the 24-page deluxe Virginia Salt Water Sport Fishing Guide would be off the press the following week. He said that 25,000 copies would be distributed throughout the world. It was reported that the PSWSFA would work with the Newport News Chamber of Commerce to develop the potentially great sport fishing available to sportsmen in this area.
The top fish for 1957 were:
Fred McQuaters-cobia (60 lb)
George Williams-striper (16.5 lb)
J.W. Dickenson-gray trout (1 lb, 15 oz)
Joe Sinclair-flounder (5 lb)
Earl Bigger-dolphin (18.25 lb)
Earl Bigger-white marlin (50 lb)
S.E. Pollard-croaker (2 lb, 5 oz)
Alex Boatwright-speckled trout (1 lb, 5 oz)
Stacy Mann-bluefish (9 lb, 10 oz)
Stacy Mann-spot (15oz)
Claude Barfield-king mackerel (22 lb, 6 oz)
Now we had an established club, but to what purpose? What were the goals of the PSWSFA?
On our web page it is stated that the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association was founded in 1957 to promote the enjoyment of recreational fishing and provide educational opportunities for anglers. Those are words that I wrote based on what I had received from the club; basically I had become a better fisherman. I know now there is more to it.
Claude Barfield was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “the purpose of the club is to make use of the salt water facilities in the area. We think our area offers the finest fishing to be had and we intend to promote industry and also try to work out methods to protect what fishing we have.” He was later quoted as saying, “the purpose of our group is, in part, to protect and propagate salt water fishing for the Peninsula area sportsmen.”
Further insight can be found by looking at our Constitution and by-laws where it is stated that the objective of this organization shall be the promotion of legislation, customs and practices for the protection, propagation and conservation of salt water fish as a source of pleasure to the great number of citizens whose principal recreation is fishing.
Things are pretty well summed up in a newspaper column written by Don Lancaster. Don is now a member of the club though he was not when he wrote that the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association is one of the finest organizations he had ever come across. He states that the objectives, purposes and philosophy of the association are to:
“Provide a variety of interesting programs and speakers relating to salt water fishing, such as off-shore/in-shore fishing, bait rigging, rod building, lure making, marine electronics, marine weather, Coast Guard regulations, just to name a few;
Provide a forum for both the beginner and the experienced angler, to learn or teach, to brag about the big one, to find out where the hot spots are, who’s catching what, when and where, to share methods and techniques;
Provide information concerning fishery legislation. The officers and board members act with other recreational fishing associations and legislative groups in order to ensure that the angler is fairly represented in decisions concerning the management of the salt water fishery, its environment and other issues which affect the future of salt water recreational fishing in Virginia.”
I had thought we were just a fishing club that would on rare occasions get involved in the politics of fisheries management. I was wrong; we were a very political club from the beginning. Our club was only a few weeks old when it was learned that the Navy planned experimental bombings in the York River. The club protested to the Army Engineers in Norfolk. It was reported in the newspaper that it looked like the club’s protest would be successful.
Shortly after that, the association approved a resolution that the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association dedicate itself to the abolishment of all haul seining in the waters of Hampton Roads and its tributaries during the months of January, February, March, and April. They did this to protect pre-spawn striped bass. They formed a petition that was signed by more than 5000 people.
Throughout our club history there are multiple letters requesting better protection for fish (bag limits and larger minimum sizes), expressing support for boat ramps, artificial reefs, and asking for better law enforcement. I will touch on just a few of these issues that our club was involved in. Suffice it to say, we have always been a very active club.
The Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association has enjoyed excellent leadership since the beginning. Our first president, Dr. Alex Boatwright, was a strong leader and a well-respected fisherman. He was one of the pioneers of running the buoys for cobia back in the 50s. The presidents that followed have continued, to this day, to be outstanding individuals. A list of our early presidents include:
Dr. W.A. Boatwright-1957
Brent G. Meadors-1969
Our club has always had an annual fishing contest. Looking at the winners from those early years can be interesting. You hear so much about the golden days of fishing. I don’t think we are doing too badly today.
Top fish for 1958:
Stacy Mann-speckled trout (6 lb, 2oz)
Stacy Mann-spot (14.75 oz)
Stacy Mann-gray trout (1 lb, 2 oz)
Frank Shoff-channel bass (52 lb)
Claude Barfield-blue marlin (356 lb)
B.J. Nixon-dolphin (33.5 lb)
Red Morgan-croaker (2.5 lb)
W.H. Hoffstedler-white marlin (46 lb)
W.H. Hoffstedler-bluefish (13.25 lb)
L.J. Hudson-cobia (75 lb)
Alex Boatwright-king mackerel (25 lb)
H.H. Diggs-flounder (6 lb, 2 oz)
Cohen Evans-striped bass (25lb)
We sponsored an annual one-day tournament called Fisherman’s Day. The first one had over 100 boats entered. The winners of that first tournament were: Frank Shoff-croaker, Albert Peterson-cobia, R.V. Hogge-flounder, Claude Barfield-rockfish and he won the award for the greatest quantity of fish. Today, we have many tournaments each year.
Our club has always been active in promoting the development of artificial reefs. Early on these were private efforts. The Tidewater Artificial Reef Development Association had C.E. Barfield as its treasurer and Dr. Alex Boatwright was on its board of directors. This group had the same problems that artificial reef formation has today, mainly funding and clashes with commercial fishermen, especially the menhaden fleet. After the VMRC took over reef development, our club remained involved. In fact, the latest reef, which has been approved and funded, is a direct result of hours and hours of effort by two of our board members, Dave Agee and Jeff Dail. When you are catching fish on the York Spit Reef remember these guys. I find in our records that we have been trying to get a reef in this area for some time. A letter, dated 1986, from William Pruitt, Commissioner of the VMRC addressed to Guy Ellis, President of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association states that our recommendation for an artificial reef in the area of York Spit Light has merit. He went on to say, “the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association has an established reputation for having responsible, informed membership and, as such, your opinion is both appreciated and valued.”
The top fish for 1959:
Aaron Talton-blue marlin (200 lb)
Stacy Mann-bluefish (3 lb)
L.A. Stilley-cobia (71 lb)
J.W. Morgan-croaker (2 lb, 14 oz)
G.M. Williams-flounder (9.5 lb)
C.T. Doughty-striped bass (21 lb)
J.W. Dickinson-spot (1 lb, 2 oz)
J.W. Dickinson-king mackerel (22 lb)
H.P. Keirn-gray trout (4 lb, 15 oz)
S.L. Vaughn-dolphin (35 lb, 6 oz)
Dr. W.H. Huffstetler-yellowfin tuna (45 lb)
Joe Richman-wahoo (32.5 lb)
Throughout the years our club has affiliated itself with other organizations when it would further the objectives of the club. When we were first formed we were a part of the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association. In 1959 we became a club member of the International Game Fish Association and remained a member at least into the 70s. Also in 1959, we became a member of the Association of Surf Angling Clubs and a member of the Atlantic Coast Marine Sportsmen’s Association. In the 70s, we joined the Council for Environmental Quality and we joined the Virginia Conservation Council of Angling Clubs. Today we have a cooperating accord with Boat US and we are affiliated with the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
In 1964, the club again butted heads with the menhaden fleet. The State Fisheries Commission granted them permits to fish the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. What resulted were fish kills of thousands of small spot and croaker. The club told the state that local bottom sport fishing will be lost if the juvenile fish continue to be killed.
In 1965, officials from the menhaden industry were guest speakers at a club meeting to give their views on the issue and to try to answer sport fishermen’s fears about large-scale netting.
The top fish for 1965:
George Robertson-speckled trout, black drum, king mackerel, bluefin tuna, tautog
Samuel Pollard-striped bass
Stacy Mann-spot, flounder, dolphin
Leonard Leavitt-white marlin
Earl Bigger-false albacore
1966 was a busy year for the club. We made the newspapers when, at the March meeting, Mrs. Mildred Anders became the first woman to join the club. As were many of our early meetings, this meeting was held at the Newport News Court House. J.C. Robinson was president and over 100 people attended the meeting. 1966 was also the year that George Robertson presented the club with the perpetual Fisherman of the Year award. George Robertson was an interesting individual. He was a founding member of the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association and then was a founding member of the PSWSFA. We really don’t hear of him in the early records of our club. In the 60s until he died in the mid 70s he is everywhere. He was an excellent fisherman that fished all year long, in all kinds of weather. He kept meticulous records on his catches, weather conditions, currents, baits, etc. He assisted the Coast and Geodetic Survey Service (now NOAA) by providing his data and by providing his boat to study and establish drift and current characteristics. He spent hours before the Newport News and Hampton City Councils pleading for more and better boat ramps and access areas. Our club is working to get these same areas improved today. It was through his continuous efforts that part of the old James River Bridge was left for a fishing pier. The PSWSFA lobbied the Newport News City Council to name this fishing pier after him without success. When he presented the Fisherman of the Year award to the club his reason was, “my affiliation with the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association and its members since the beginning, has been in several ways, notably rewarding to me; so much so that I wish to try in a small, but sincere way to return the favor.” He asked that this award not be given to the person who catches the most or biggest fish but that it be given to the person that has done the most in the affairs of the PSWSFA and/or for the betterment of fishing and fishermen so that all would know that this individual is truly the Fisherman of the Year. He stipulated that he must never be eligible to receive the award. His wish was granted, he never received the award but we now call it the George A. Robertson Memorial Trophy. The list of winners of this trophy reads like a PSWSFA all-star list. Many, but not all, of these individuals have served as president of our club.
George A. Robertson Memorial Trophy winners:
1975-A.L. Parrish, III
1979-Dr. Bob Allen
The top fish for 1966:
Stacy Mann-king mackerel, dolphin, small tuna
Ralph Hearn-gray trout
James Fitzgerald-striped bass
Harry Livers, Jr.-bluefish
Brent Meadors-white marlin
George Robertson-wahoo, tautog, flounder
Family memberships were started in 1969 at the suggestion of J.C. Robinson. Today, most of our memberships are family memberships. In fact, we are planning on making all memberships family memberships. This will allow single members to bring a guest as a family member.
The top fish for 1968:
George Robertson-skipjack tuna (10 lb, 6 oz)
Joseph Mendel-cobia (64 lb)
Joseph Mendel, Jr.-black drum (62 lb)
J.C. Robinson-white marlin (61 lb)
George Barnes-wahoo (33 lb)
Charles Mendel-bluefish (19 lb)
Charles Mendel-dolphin (32 lb)
Claude Barfield-flounder (7.75 lb)
Harry Livers-tautog (6 lb, 5 oz)
J.W. Morgan-croaker (1.25 lb)
J.W. Morgan-spot (13.5 oz)
Len Leavitt-striper (34 lb)
Ralph Hearn-speckled trout (3lb, 11 oz)
In the 70s, the club ran an annual Adult Education Saltwater Fishing Course at Hampton High School. The course ran for 13 weeks, tuition was $25 and it included all supplies. Enrollment was limited to 30 people and it was routinely sold out. Instructors were club members who were experts at various areas of fishing. Instructors for the 1977 course were: B. Buchanan, H. Diggs, E. Bigger, B. Parrish, I. Fenton, D. Johnson, B. Kennel, E. Blanton, B. Stortz, F. Crandol, B. Meadors, J. Sandstrom, B. Tice, B. Allen, R. Amick, H. Thacker, D. Eason, A. Kirby, and L. Cooper.
The top fish for 1970:
W.H. Pearce-cobia (47 lb)
James Firth-sailfish (37 lb)
C.A. Haden-white marlin (66 lb)
B.G. Meadors-channel bass (50.5 lb)
George Robertson-bluefish (16.5 lb)
C.A. Canepa-striped bass (35 lb)
R.H. Johnson-blackfin tuna (13.5 lb)
R.H. Johnson-wahoo (50 lb)
F.P. Smith-seabass (5 lb, 3 oz)
F.P. Smith-tautog (10.75 lb)
Irv Fenton-blue marlin (250 lb)
In 1978, the club started to sponsor an annual fishing tournament for the patients at the Hampton VA Hospital. It had categories for shore-bound patients and for those that were able to go with club members in their boats.
The top fish for 1972:
R.S. Blackwell-large tuna
Brent Meadors-black drum
Dee Johnson-channel bass, flounder
Dr. Ronald Goby-sailfish
George Robertson-spot, bluefish, tautog
Bill Formichelli-gray trout
Earl Bigger-white marlin
Rodney Johnson-blue marlin
In 1986, the club fought against a proposal to allow sunken gill nets adjacent to the southern portion of the CBBT. Many letters were written and there was a large club presence at meetings of the VMRC. It sounds a lot like our recent fight against allowing drift gill nets against the northern section of the CBBT during the fall rockfish season. Thanks, in large part, to the efforts of our club members both of these proposals were defeated. In fact, our club has fought against allowing commercial gear against the CBBT since it was built.
Don’t think that our club is an anti-commercial fishing club. We have supported responsible commercial as well as recreational fishing. We have had many commercial fishermen as members, one of the best known commercial hook-and-line fishermen in the state, Harry Doernte, has long been a member. The following is a letter from 1973 written to James E. Douglas, Jr., Commissioner of the VMRC:
The Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, representing over one hundred enthusiastic sports fishermen in the Hampton-Newport News area, is vitally concerned over the proposed regulation banning gill netting and scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, February 27th.
We are opposed to the proposed regulation. We fill that it is unnecessary and will not serve to accomplish any just end. The fisheries of our State are a common resource and thus available to the fisherman who derives his livelihood from fishing just as much as it is available to those who enjoy fishing for recreation. We are sorry that there are those few people who cannot take the resource in a gentlemanly fashion, but we feel that the proposed regulation penalizes too many who are gentlemen.
Furthermore, when it becomes necessary to protect a species by reducing fishing effort, then we believe an equitable program must be worked out whereby all fishermen-both sports and commercial-will be called upon to give assistance.
Thank you for your time. We hope the Commission will see fit not to pass any regulation further banning gill netting at this time.
Yours very truly,
President, Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association
Our club has long fought irresponsible fishing practices and fisheries management. We have always been partial to the rod and reel as the best commercial gear type. The more destructive and less selective a gear type is, the less we like it. We have always and will continue to use what influence we have to encourage fishery managers at the state, regional, and national levels to do what is right for the resource and to be fair to recreational fishermen.
Here is some recent history. In 1997 we changed the way we measure fish for our annual contest and for club records. In a very close vote, we changed from pounds to inches. We wanted to keep things the same for continuity and the feeling that weighing a fish on a certified scale is more accurate than measuring a fish on a ruler. Despite this, conservation won out. Because we have so many fish entered into our annual contest, we decided that giving the angler the opportunity to measure and then release the fish was the right thing to do.
In 1998, our club established a web page thanks to the efforts of two men. One is myself. I have written the vast majority of what has been published on our web site. The weekly fishing news is now used by a variety of other web sites, newspapers, radio shows, and magazines. This has definitely increased the exposure of our club. All of this writing means nothing without the efforts and expertise of another man. It is long time club member, Ed Bell who makes the web page work. Without him, nothing would get published. I hope Ed has a long and healthy life. There are a lot of people in the club who can write, it would be tough to replace Ed. Maybe he should take on an apprentice.
In 1999, our club incorporated. We are now the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, Inc.
I can’t end without mentioning our sponsors. Through the years we have enjoyed excellent support from the business community. A list of our current sponsors can be found on the Club Sponsors page.
Well there you have it, the history of what I still think of as Dr. Allen’s club. He probably still considers it Dr. Boatwright’s club. I have left out a lot. When you have a very active organization that was established in 1957 and has roots to 1940 it would take a book to cover it all. This is electronic media. If I have left out something that needs to be included or if there is something that needs to be corrected, let me know. Through the magic of Ed Bell, we can make changes. We have a proud history and a promising future. I hope that this has stirred up some memories for you long-time members. For us newer members, I hope it gives a better sense of what we have become a part of. I know it has for me.