By Lou Rodia

Lots has happened in a hundred years. Lots has changed. Not many things last a century, but the Ocean City Fishing Club contradicts that statistic. By surviving a century, the club may be the oldest in the entire United States. It is definitely one of the oldest. The club has survived the test of time, fire, storms, the Great Depression and the many trials and tribulations that face any organization. The club has established itself as an institution in the history of Ocean City as a seashore resort. But more important has been the club dedication to fostering the advancement of fishing as an adjunct to living and vacationing in Ocean City.

Look back a hundred years ago. The year was 1913. Woodrow Wilson had started his first term as president. The Panama Canal was almost completed. Gasoline sold for eight cents a gallon. Ocean City was in its infancy as a resort. Fishing was part of the allure that brought people to the shore. For many, surf fishing was part of the attraction. Club records show that a group of foresighted surf anglers met in a store in Ocean City and formed the Ocean City Fishing Club. That beginning was formalized when the club was incorporated Sept. 14, 1913. It provided the nucleus of the club that has been in continuous operation since that time. Incorporation papers indicate the high hopes the newly established club set for its future members. In its objectives the corporation papers listed some lofty objectives. They said in part that the club purpose was to advance, promote and enjoy the sport of fishing in this state and to prevent the violation of the laws thereof relative to fish and fishing and to establish social intercourse and good fellowship. Looking over the club s activities since it was started shows remarkable dedication to the accomplishment of those lofty ideals. Given the success shown in its first 100 years, it should be a given that the next century will see a continuation of that dedication.

Club president Paul Keuerleber paid tribute to those whose foresight resulted in creation of the Ocean City Fishing Club. Every one of the 215 members owe a debt of gratitude to the individuals who had the foresight to launch this club so many years ago., he said. A series of events has been scheduled to mark the club s 100th anniversary. Dates will be announced. In the planning stages are an exhibition at the Ocean City Museum, an Open House on the club fishing pier; a Centennial Banquet at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City and a three day surf fishing tournament in October. The club s first pier was built in 1915 at 14th st. and the boardwalk at a cost of $3,000. In 1919, a storm destroyed the first pier and a new one was constructed, only to be heavily damaged in 1923. The most destructive storm completely destroyed the clubhouse and the club property in 1962, leaving only wrecked pilings stuck in the ocean.

By 1968, a new clubhouse and pier were completed, but 12 years later, two barges broke away from a dredging project, wrecking 125 feet of pilings and leaving debris strewn on the beach. The pier was rebuilt again, only to sustain damage in another storm in 1992. As part of the reconstruction, the pier was extended to a total length of 635 feet from the boardwalk. The club s history is marked with a number of notable accomplishments. In 1914, the famous Ocean City Cup was proposed by a member. It is made of sterling silver and stands 43 inches high. It was created by Caldwell & Co. It is awarded to the top team in surf casting tournaments on the East Coast from 1914 to 1986. The original was destroyed by fire in 1920, but an exact replica was created and it is on display in the Ocean City Historical Museum. Names of winning teams and team averages are inscribed on the trophy. The club s yearbooks have recorded lots of fishing history. Here are some facts gleaned from the yearbooks: In the early years, the most sought after fish was the channel bass. Today, channel bass are rare in Ocean City waters. In 1915, a total of 75 channel bass were recorded in the Ocean City surf. Fifteen were caught from the club s first pier.

In 1917, fishing was good from the pier. A total of 12,817 fish were caught. By contrast, club members caught 1464 fish in 2012. Weakfish catches in 1969, 1970 and 1971 were the largest in club history. By contrast, only 135 weakfish were caught in 2012. Club members answered the country s call and served in the armed forces during the First World War I when 22 members served and World War II when 18 members answered the call. An influenza epidemic canceled club meetings in 1918. A hurricane in September 1936 ruined fall fishing but did little damage to the pier. Hurricane Sandy did only minor damage to the pier, but some non-storm related repairs are scheduled for the current year. The club s first annual Boys and Girls Surf Fishing Tournament was held at the North End Beach on July 10, 1976. The 37th annual free event, co-sponsored by the Ocean City Recreation Department for young anglers ages 8 to 16 will be held in August. In June, the Ocean City Fishing Club will award its 7th annual $500 scholarship to a graduating Ocean City High School senior who plans to continue his or her education in such fields as oceanography, environmental sciences, biology or related fields.

For a century, the Ocean City Fishing Club members have enjoyed lots of good fishing and fishing access and the camaraderie that attaches to club membership. Coupled with the club benefits, members through their service have made substantial contributions to the community.

Membership in clubs provides an added dimension to the recreational value that attaches to sports like fishing. Craft improvement, social contact and even the health benefits factor in to membership in clubs. That the Ocean City Fishing Club has survived hurricanes, fires, tough economic times is a tribute to its membership and to its officers who have guided the club since it started a century ago and to the members who have supported them. For additional information visit the club facilities at 14th st. and the Boardwalk or contact the club at www.oceancityfishingclub.com.

From the Ocean City Sentinel, Wednesday, February 27, 2013, Lou Rodia - On Fishing. Permission granted to post the above artical written by Lou Rodia.

The above page is not the official website for the Ocean City Fishing Club. The official website is at www.oceancityfishingclub.com

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