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“Back then, the fish-ing was great from the piers because there was no renourishment of the beaches. When they did that, it ruined the natural habitat for the fish,” Taylor says. “It ended great pier fishing.” The New Hanover Fishing Club came to a close in the early ’90s. “The club just fell apart,” Taylor says. “It had been instrumental in boosting the local economy, and it was sad the way it ended.” Taylor says other contests offering bigger prizes horned in on the club’s original turf. “There were a bunch of new contests that offered great prize money, more than the club could match,” he says. “These big dollar contests were for king mackerel and channel bass.” In a way, the demise of the club symbolized the end of a simpler time in America, when people were less busy, and children delighted in a day spent with a rod and reel in hand. “You pedaled your bicycle, went fishing for the day, and then went home,” Brice says. “You didn’t have a whole lot going on.” The club might be defunct, but the living members are still fishing. “My husband Mike goes way back a long ways with the club,” Wrightsville Beach resident Rita Merritt says. “At this point in life, it is the camaraderie so many of them had. To this day any of them can bump into each other and they start reminiscing right away about some of the same people who were with the club in probably the ’50s and ’60s. They reminisce about the older ones that have passed and things they learned from them. I find that so warming, to listen to the stories of the older members and the times they had.” Brice is the dockmaster at the Bridge Tender Marina at Wrightsville Beach, and now that he’s an elder statesman he passes on tips and techniques and his love of fishing, just as the older club members did for him. “It’s something I still do, passing on things that we did in the old days,” he says. “And there’s still a lot of storytelling.” Taylor and Martin are charter boat captains. At 87, Clark Jr. still goes fishing a couple of times a week. At one time, he owned more than 100 rods and reels. Now, he’s down to maybe 50. And he always has a few in his vehicle — just in case. PHOTO BY ALLISON POTTER Fish Are Bitin’! Drop your business cares and worries, let your troubles slide! Never mind life’s little flurries — kick ‘em all aside! Smooth away those wrinkles showin’ on your anxious brow! Grab your rod and let’s be going — fish are biting now. There’s an awful restless feelin’ rompin’ out and in, Summer fishin’ fever stealin’ through your tinklin’ skin, Drat it, man, why should you worry? Clear your troubled brow! Follow me—I’m in a hurry! FISH ARE BITING NOW! This poem printed in the 1929 New Hanover Fishing Club annual booklet, written by E. A. Brininstool, captures the feeling most of the members of the club shared. They really would ‘rather be fishing.’ 54 WBM june 2016


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