July 18, 2016, AVALON, CATALINA ISLAND – The Tuna Club of Avalon boasts record fish catches and fantastic fishing stories. Its historic clubhouse is closed to the public except for one day each year when it opens its doors to benefit the Catalina Island Museum. This year, tours of the Tuna Club will take place on Saturday, August 13.
The club’s founder, Dr. Charles Frederick Holder, a naturalist and experienced fisherman from the East Coast, recognized the potential for sport fishing on Catalina Island. He believed the fish should be given “a sporting chance.” Determined to prove a tuna could be caught using a simple rod and reel he spent more than two years fishing with the island’s most knowledgeable boatman – a local character nicknamed “Mexican Joe.”
On June 1, 1898 Holder caught what he and his companions dubbed “the first very large tuna” hooked with only a rod and reel. Towed by the fish for over 10 miles, he battled the leaping tuna for three hours and 45 minutes, before finally reeling in the giant catch. At 183 pounds, the catch stunned local fishermen. Almost immediately newspapers around the world published accounts of Holder’s record catch with a rod and reel at Catalina Island.
Holder wrote, “It was this capture and the unsportsmanlike conditions of fishing on the island which caused me to suggest the organization of the Tuna Club. The splendid fishes of the region, yellowtail, white sea bass, and others, were being slaughtered by the ton… It was a depressing sight, as most of these fishes were fed to the sea lions and sharks. How to stop it was the question, and I conceived the idea of an appeal to the innate sense of fair play found among all anglers. I suggested the Tuna Club ‘for the protection of the game fishes of southern California,’ and a constitution that would permit the use of lines up to twenty-four thread only and light rods, with the condition that every angler must land his own fish.”
The club was open to any gentleman willing to follow the club’s strict rules of engagement. Openly discouraging the use of hand lines and harpoons, the club honors to this day those anglers who achieved the seemingly impossible task of catching a tuna of over 100 pounds, using only a rod and reel with a line no stronger than 24-thread.
When the Tuna Club was formed, it became known around the world for recording the first rod and reel catches of leaping tuna, marlin and broadbill swordfish. Before long, prominent figures of the early twentieth century, including Hollywood actors and directors, were counted among its membership.
Tours of the Tuna Club are offered on Saturday, August 13, at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. Only 60 tickets are available for this experience. Don’t miss this unique opportunity. This event always sells out quickly! Tickets are $30 for members of the museum – a savings of 15 percent – and $35 for non-members. All proceeds directly benefit the day-to-day operations of the Catalina Island Museum. For more information, to purchase tickets, or become a member, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website: CatalinaMuseum.org.
The Catalina Island Museum offers the best in art and history exhibitions, music and dance performances, lectures by guest speakers from all over the world, and the finest in silent, documentary and international film. Open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, the new Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building is located in the heart of Avalon at 217 Metropole Avenue. For more information, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website: CatalinaMuseum.org.