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Back In Time



Wall Leadin

    Way back — long before there was a town hall or a police force or even many houses — the lure of fishing drew sportsmen to the southern reaches of Long Beach Island.
    They hunted. They fished. They built resorts and summer homes. And along the way, within a close community, grew the Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club. The club, one of the oldest on the East Coast, also is the host of the oldest white marlin tournament in the world: the White Marlin Invitational, which marks its 45th anniversary this year.
    The club’s 65 years of existence have seen many changes, both in sportfishing and in the club itself. The biggest, however, has been its path to recovery after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the building that had been the club’s home for more than 50 years.
    The club has spent the last year building its new home, the completion of which was celebrated Memorial Day weekend with dedication ceremonies.
    Next up is the 45th installment of the White Marlin Invitational, set for July 23-26, an event that has changed as much as the club in its history, and defines the changes in sportfishing as well as anything.
    Fishing has been a part of Beach Haven going back hundreds of years.
    According to the website of the Long Beach Island Museum, the Lenape Indians traveled across the body of water now known as Barnegat Bay to the 18-mile-long barrier island in the summer to fish and gather shells for use in jewelry and trade.
    The island, which is a quarter- to a half-mile wide most of its length, was identified by Dutch explorer Capt. Cornelius Jacobsen Mey in 1614 as he traveled south along the New Jersey coast, according to LBI.net. It also was Mey who gave Barnegat Inlet its name, dubbing it “Barendegat,” Inlet of the Breakers, because of the rough waters and dangerous shoals marking the inlet to the bay.
    The earliest permanent camps were established for fishing and whaling as far back as 1690, according to the LBI Museum.
    As the settlers became more established, ports such as Clamtown (later Tuckerton) were established about 1700 on the mainland, and roads improved. Cattle were grazed on Tuckers Island by 1735. Permanent seasonal accommodations were built on the island for men coming to fish and hunt; such as the Philadelphia Company House (started as Horners in 1815, became Bonds from 1851-1909) near Tuckers Island just south of what is now called Holgate, and the Mansions of Health in Surf City (1822-1850). There was a “boarding hotel” at Barnegat inlet from about 1820, and the first manned lighthouse was built at the inlet in 1834. A manned lighthouse was built on Tuckers Island in 1848, where a community, later called Sea Haven, was springing up. (Sea Haven later disappeared, a casualty both of Beach Haven and the changing tidal patterns of the bay and ocean.)
    In the more than 300 years since it was first discovered by European explorers, the island has been transformed from one of dunes, grass and beach plums into a tourist destination and a summer retreat. Fishing has remained a consistent thread, especially in Beach Haven, which is home to not only the oldest white marlin tournament in the world, but also is home to one of the oldest fishing clubs in the United States: The Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club.
    The club was established in 1949, according to information compiled by anthropologist Carroll Anne Sheppard, Ph.D., by a group of fishermen who gathered at the Acme Hotel. In addition to hotel owner Ernie Tueckmantel, the earliest members included Piney Parker, Gus Natelli and Bob Gaskell. It was not the first big-game fishing club established on Long Beach Island, however, according to the history document Sheppard compiled for the club.
    Beach Haven took root as a resort when Archelaus Pharo, Thomas Parry, Dr. Samuel Ashhurst and several other investors formed the Tuckerton and Long Beach Building, Land and Improvement Association in 1873, according to LBI.net.
    “Inspired by Thomas Bond and his Long Beach House in what is now Holgate, these gentlemen wished to establish an entire resort community,” according to the site.
    Pharo controlled the Tuckerton Railroad, which brought visitors from Whiting to Edge Cove near Tuckerton. From Edge Cove a steamer carried passengers across to Long Beach Island. This also was how lumber and supplies were brought to build hotels and homes — including that of Pharo, who was considered Beach Haven’s first resident.
    He built a road along Mud Hen Creek, which ran from the bay to the center of town, to haul equipment and goods to the town. Today, this road is called Dock Road, and it was the first throughfare in Beach Haven.

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