Larry Wall starts to tear up.
“I am so sorry, I am going to get emotional,” he apologizes. “But what we are doing here is preserving a legacy. A lot of these people, they’re gone. But we have the duty to save what they left behind.”
And that is what the Brunswick County Fishing Club means. For the Brunswick County Fishing Club is more than a club. It is history, community and, even, a little bit of lore.
The Fishing Club, located in Sunset Harbor, was founded in 1971 as a nonprofit organization. In the beginning, they clearly defined their threefold mission:
- The promotion of good fellowship and integrity among its members.
- The encouraging of skillful angling and casting and the sportsmanlike catching of fish.
- The promotion and support of programs for the protection of game fish.
And not much has changed in what they pursue in the 46 years since.
What has changed, of course, is how they share these goals with the community and the members leading the charge.
In the past, the Brunswick County Fishing Club focused on going out together for fishing excursions. They would return and host fish frys, celebrating the bounties of the local waters.
They recall stories of Red, one of the founders, who weighed “70 pounds soaking wet,” and his wife rolling wheelbarrows of king mackerel from the sea to the Club for dinner. They remember stories of amazing adventures from fishing on the Intercoastal Waterways, stories that told of more fish than could be imagined, fish that were “thiiiiiis big!”
Over time, there have been fewer organized excursions but more emphasis on providing resources and community for Brunswick County residents to get out there on their own.
Operating out of a building they own outright (which, according to stories, was picked up and moved to its current location by Hurricane Hazel and they just decided to leave it where she dropped it), the Brunswick County Fishing Club is in a new phase of growth.
“I told Larry,” shares Fishing Club member David Freeman, “we’re back to a startup-type company where we are reinventing ourselves and getting more participation.”
After years of dwindling numbers, a few years ago a group quietly tried to disband the Club and sell the property, which is valuable given its proximity both to the water and a public boat ramp the Club fought to have built. Hearing of this, Wall stepped in and is fighting to save the Club.
“There are people, still alive today,” Wall shares, “who have put hours and hours of their time and their money into this Club and people wanting to get rid of it…well, I just couldn’t let that happen.”
“I had about ten days to put a Board together. But I was able to do it. I was able to save the Club. It’s a historical place here in the Harbor.”
He has had good help. David Freeman, who lives in Raleigh, grew up coming to Sunset Harbor with his dad and now he feels it’s his turn to share the community he loves with his own children. Part of what Freeman remembers so well from his childhood in Sunset Harbor is the Brunswick County Fishing Club.
“It’s important to me for the next generation to see this Fishing Club right here and come in to remember the history and make new memories. I want the younger generation to come down and learn everything this Fishing Club has offered locally. There are a lot of memories here.”
“I am not going to be on the scene long,” Wall admits, “and we need to get the younger generation interested in this Club, in fishing, in doing something besides sitting around on the computer. Get off the electronics and go fishing!”
Thus, inspired by the legacy behind them and hopeful for the future before them, the Brunswick County Fishing Club has been hard at work pursuing their decades-old mission.
“There aren’t many Fishing Clubs left,” Freeman points out, “but we’re still going and we’re growing! We have gotten a lot of new members this year. But we want to keep growing.”
Regrowing the Fishing Club has required a delicate balance between preserving and reinstituting traditions of old as well as thinking ahead. Today, the Brunswick County Fishing Club oversees the following:
- the creation of artificial reefs
- year-long fishing contests for both youth and adults
- a fishing tournament for children (the only entry requirement being a drawing)
- a fishing tournament for Fishing Club members
- Saturday morning breakfasts
- weekly BINGO nights (which were recently reinstated as part of the Club’s efforts to revitalize while simultaneously honoring their past)
They promote catch-and-release, community involvement, sustainability, and education.
“I have gotten so many messages recently from people asking if we teach how to fish and that’s a surprise,” Freeman shares. “So yes! We are going to teach! I’ve got an angler lined up and he is going to teach techniques of fishing. But we have a lot of knowledge here in this Club and we want to share that.”
Membership in the Club will be raised to $15/year next year and comes with three membership dinners, entry into the annual fishing tournament, and access to facilities. They are seeking a secretary to help move the Club forward and they warmly encourage the entire area to join them for BINGO on Saturday nights.
But there is no doubt that the Brunswick County Fishing Club members are ignited with a passion for the community they’ve created over the decades and wish for nothing more than to grow the love of the sport of fishing.
“Fishing is therapeutic,” Freeman says. “It’s being able to get out there and leave your worries behind. There is nothing else like it.”
Want to get involved in the Brunswick County Fishing Club?
Visit www.mybcfc.org or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Brunswick-County-Fishing-Club-Inc