start of sportsmanship in fishing is the story of the Catalina
Island Tuna Club
the 1880's, Southern California was experiencing a population
boom, due to a challenge to the railroad monopoly that brought
rail tickets from Missouri down from $125 to only $1! This
San Francisco monopoly cartel of Crocker, Huntington, Hopkins
and Stanford is where the money for the University came from.
You may also have heard of Crocker Bank, Huntington Beach
in Southern California, and the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San
Francisco, long famous for its bar The Top of the Mark with
incredible views of the city.
the midst of this, a Dr. Charles Holder moved to Los Angeles.
Holder's long fascination with nature started in his youth
and was probably spurred on while collecting specimens for
his father at the Natural History Museum in New York and for
The Smithsonian Institution.
was natural that he would be attracted to the then remote
island of Catalina. Here was a pristine environment teaming
with fish. In 1886, Holder visited Catalina Island for the
first time. At that time, white sea bass and yellowtail would
work together to force bait fish into the bay where they would
be preyed upon. In turn, the locals used baited hand lines
to hook the sea bass and the yellowtail. Holder was fascinated
and appalled by the slaughter of these game fish by humans,
especially since most of these fish were wasted.
immediately sent for his tackle that he later described as "trout gear", and he quickly learned that this was
totally insufficient for the mighty fish of the Pacific. Over
the next few years while also being the editor of The Los
Angeles Times and co-founding Pasadena's Tournament of Roses,
Holder promoted Catalina Island. He and other Tuna Club founders
caught the first documented tuna with fishing gear that is
hard to conceive in this day and age. The reels had direct
drive which caused the handles to spin backwards when a fish
ran. These were referred to as "knuckle busters".
The only drag was the pressure applied by the thumb to a
pad attached to the reel. In 1898, Charles Holder caught
the first larger tuna on rod and reel. It took three hours
forty-five minutes to land. It towed the boat 10 miles, even
though boatman Jim Gardner dragged his oars in the water!
The Associated Press telegraphed the news to fishermen around
the world, and it lit a fire under the rod and reel approach
catch prompted Holder and other founders of the Tuna Club
to make up strict angling rules to give the fish a fighting
chance for survival. This was a means to protect the fish
reflected in their motto "Fair play to game fishes".
Any infraction, willing or not, from these rules would disqualify
anglers from the awarding of the much coveted blue buttons
to successful anglers and sometimes even club membership.
Injuries were so common that the front porch of the hotel
on Catalina at the time was referred to as "the tuna
hospital". These rules were soon endorsed by anglers
around the world.
Tuna Club history of conservation has endured for over a century
now, and has included numerous illustrious anglers including
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Movie Director Cecil
B. DeMille, actors Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, writer
Zane Grey, chewing gum magnet Phillip Wrigley, General George
Patton, and many many more.