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Things were different in the nascent part of the 20th century, when the club began. Many fishermen dressed in suits and ties when they cast their lines into the water, usually from above or alongside the ocean. “Most folks fished off the piers or from the surf,” Taylor says. “There were only a few boats around and you had to charter those.” No restrictions were enforced; you could catch as many as you were able and keep them all. You could enter as many contests as you wished. Unless, of course, you caught the fish on a Sunday — anything caught on the Sabbath was disqualified from competition. In those days, there was no access to Topsail Beach, and the only access to Wrightsville Beach was the Beach Car trolley that ran on a rail system from downtown Wilmington to Harbor Island, then known as the Hammocks. Fewer people lived in the area, and joining the club was part of life at the beach. Retired Wilmington attorney George T. Clark Jr. remembers his father’s love of the club and of fishing. “My daddy was very involved and a hard-core fisherman,” Clark Jr. says. “He loved fishing off the jetties for sheepshead. We used crabs — we called ’em sea fleas — for bait. You had to be very accurate in your casting because you had to land about a foot from the end of the jetty, where the fish were feeding on barnacles.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Clark Jr. became an avid angler and club member. Dad and son both served as president. That’s typical of fishing. The love of the sport, and the best techniques, are passed down through generations. “There was a lot of that,” says Tripp Brice who, like his friend Kit, joined the club in the ’60s when he was a teenager. “I learned from the gentlemen who came before me.” Taylor, the youngest member when he joined, also recalls the education he received from the veteran members. “I paid attention every day to the old-timers,” Taylor says. “I always learned something new.” When Taylor and Brice joined in the ‘60s, the club still attracted the serious anglers, even without advertising. “Everybody who fished a lot was in it,” Brice says. “I was one of the ones from out of town. We lived up at the north end of Topsail. I was always fishing for king mackerel. Somebody said, ‘If you’re a good fisherman, you ought to join.’ It was word of mouth.” The members became a close-knit community, united by a love of fishing and the desire to land the big one at the club’s periodic tournaments. “Everybody knew everybody else,” Taylor says. “There was lots of friendly competition to catch the biggest fish you could. There were two categories: freshwater and saltwater. They had a women’s division and a youth division. There were 34 kinds of saltwater fish and 13 freshwater.” 49 George T. Clark, founding member and president of the club, pictured in the 1969 annual, and his son George T. Clark Jr. Like many fishermen, Robert Canady passed on his love for the sport to the younger generation, pictured in the 1971 annual. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM


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