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Ocean City Fishing Club opens pier to visitors - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Ocean City Fishing Club opens pier to visitors

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Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 4:28 pm

OCEAN CITY – The first things you notice upon entering the Ocean City Fishing Cub off 14th Street is a musty, heady aroma, a mixture of old wood, salt air and bygone fishing tales. 

Fishing rods hang, suspended on the ceiling, each one labeled with a club member’s name. Photographs of members with their catches adorn on the walls, and wooden lockers shuttered with padlocks line the room. 

There’s a kitchen for preparing freshly-caught fish, restrooms for men and women, and a plaque listing each fishing club president, going back to 1913. 

The clubhouse, adjacent to the Boardwalk, fronts a pier extending 635 feet into the ocean, that is off limits to everyone except members except twice a year when doors are thrown open to the public. 

The open house, held on July 20, is a way for club members to show the public the clubhouse and fishing pier, Ocean City Fishing Club President Dick Sheppard said. 

The Bucks County, Pa. resident has been a club member since 2014, beginning as board of trustees member.

 “I started here many years ago. I should have joined but I didn’t. I used to go to the Outer Banks and fish down there. I’ve been going there for 50-some years,” Sheppard said. 

A fellow fisherman touted the fishing opportunities in Ocean City and Sheppard – pardon the pun – was hooked. 

“I didn’t have a place down here before. I bought a boat and I bought a place and here I am,” Sheppard said. 

Ocean City Fishing Club member George Ingram said the open house was first held in 2013 as part of the club’s 100th anniversary.

“The city loves it because it ties in with the (events) Thursday night on the Boardwalk,” Ingram said.  

The open house – held once in July and once in August – attracts curiosity seekers who want a better glimpse of the clubhouse and pier.  

“We have people from all walks of life. Interestingly, a lot of people are Ocean City area residents who’ve always wondered what it looks like out here,” Ingram said. “We’ve had people from Hong Kong here, tourists from Colorado and from all around the country. They’re really impressed. They go out to the end of the pier and take pictures.”

The next open house this year is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3. 

The club has a cap of 200 members and is currently full. Ingram said there’s a waiting list for prospective candidates. Membership requires a $1,000 one-time fee, with annual dues of $250. 

“At an open house like this people ask how do they join. We’re looking for people who like to fish and who want to get involved in volunteer work. We do a lot of community service. We’re asking people for donations for the community food bank, we give to scholarships,” Ingram said.

One such scholarship is for Ocean City High School students interested in pursuing marine biology, oceanography, environmental science or similar fields. The 2017 fishing club scholarship winner was Jacob Simone, who will study marine biology at Coastal Carolina University, Ingram said. 

The Ocean City Fishing Club traces its origins to Aug. 15, 1913, when a group of surf anglers met at T. Lee Adams’ store at Seventh Street and Asbury Avenue and planned to establish a fishing organization. 

In September 1913 the group approved a certificate of incorporation, with George E. Long, Churchill Hungerford, Frank H. Stewart, Walter W. Sibson and Henry W. Stelwagon as founding members and first club presidents. 

The club’s first headquarters in 1914 was a rented space at 18th and the boardwalk called Doughty’s. 

The group built a pier and clubhouse in 1915 at 14th Street and the boardwalk for $3,000. A second fishing platform was built and finally completed in 1917 for a cost of $1,600. 

In 1919, storms destroyed the north end pier. The club invested $3,800 to rebuild the 14th Street pier, which was damaged by another storm in 1923. 

The club suffered major losses when the March 1962 nor’easter slammed into southern New Jersey and completely destroyed the pier, with only pilings remaining. 

A new pier and clubhouse were built, but the Halloween nor’easter of 1991 damaged the pier’s outer tee. The club wasn’t spared when another nor’easter in January 1992 ripped the already ailing outer T to shreds, sending it toppling into the ocean. 

The pier was rebuilt yet again, and not even Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread damage island-wide in 2012, touched the structure. 

The fishing pier includes a “middle T” with bait storage (refrigerator and freezer), bait and fish cleaning tables and a sink, while the “outer T” has a fishing platform and cabin with microwave and refrigerator. 

A chain-link enclosure ringed with barbed wire prevents interlopers from heading towards the pier’s outer T.

Only members are allowed on the pier; a locked door prevents anyone from entering, except during the open house when the door is wide open. 

Fishing club member Bill Cariss said members can join the “Bait Club” for $50, and receive bait each time they fish. He opened a refrigerator on the “middle T,” revealing boxes of bloodworms. 

Cariss displayed a plump bloodworm. 

The refrigerator is stocked with bloodworms, clams or other bait to entice denizens of the deep. 

“We have all of the amenities,” Cariss said. “I love it. I was fishing in the surf full of sand. You catch a fish and how do you filet it down there? You have to drag your stuff back and forth.”

He pointed to a roll of plastic bags fishermen use for wrapping their catches and a freezer where freshly-caught fish are stored. 

“You can filet your fish, wrap it, put it in the refrigerator and away you go,” Cariss said. 

Bobby Dever, a fishing club trustee,  looked the part of an angler with a bucket hat, sunglasses, and a face dabbed with sunscreen.  Dever demonstrated casting a line off the pier. 

He flicked the fishing rod behind him rapidly forward and the sinker and bloodworm impaled on his hook flung into the ocean below as curious onlookers watched. 

Dever reeled in a 10-inch kingfish he measured on a table-mounted ruler. Satisfied with his catch, he put the fish in a freezer on the pier.

The kingfish were biting, Dever said. They commonly reach up to 13 or 14 inches.

After showing off his kingfish, Dever cast his line again as the crowds watched from the pier’s railing. The line submerged into the Atlantic Ocean, beneath the rolling waves, where another hungry fish awaited.

 

 

 

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