Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club: 72-Year-Old Tradition – The SandPaper

beach-haven-marlin-and-tuna-club:-72-year-old-tradition-–-the-sandpaper

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For sport fishing enthusiasts, the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club has been a mainstay since 1949, when a group of fishermen who had long fished the area recognized the need for, and benefit of, forming a club.
Jeff Buttari, the recently elected commodore, said the club has a membership of approximately 340. The annual membership fee is $450; first-time members pay an additional $500 initiation fee.
Buttari said the club also offers junior memberships to teenagers and younger.
“These are the sport fishermen of the future,” he said. “Many of our long-time members started out as junior members. We usually have between  30 to 50 junior members. It gives us opportunities to mentor these youngsters, as we host a junior angler event and encourage the participation of kids in the annual fishing contest.”
Buttari has been a member since 2006.
“I’ve always been a boater, but when I got a canyon-style boat, I went fishing more offshore,” he recalled. “I got a chance to meet a lot of fishermen then and they suggested that I join.”
Long-time club member Karl Anderson said that after World War II ended, the sport fishing scene began making a comeback. In 1949, a group of 27 fishermen drafted a new charter for the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club, holding meetings in the storied Acme Hotel and Bar on the bay at Dock Road in Beach Haven, site of the Bird & Betty’s restaurant today. The club flourished, and private boats replaced the famed charter fleet of the Beach Haven Yacht Club. The club quickly built up an active membership with its annual inter-club fishing contest for local species known to frequent the area throughout the seasons.
There were five basic purposes of the club at the outset: to promote a closer relationship between various sport fishermen; to further efforts to obtain outstanding publicity for Beach Haven and Long Beach Island; to provide a means for getting prizes together for deserving contenders; to encourage participation in various tournaments and fishing contests; and, finally, to work for and uphold fishing conservation and to promote a high degree of sportsmanship among saltwater anglers.
Anderson said as is the case with many clubs, membership changes. For a period in the ’70s and ’80s, the club had more social members than fishing members, but today, he said, fishing participation is as high as ever.
“After Superstorm Sandy, the original building on Pennsylvania Avenue had to be demolished, and the members rose to the occasion, building an incredible new three-story facility on the original property with a large, expansive room to serve functions, a second-story bar, and outside decks overlooking the bay,” he said.
Anderson said the club has played an active role in promoting fishing in the area and has been supportive of many recreational fishing conservation issues.
“Always a fixture on the coast, the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club was founded and sustained by avid fishermen with a desire to grow the sport and share it among friends, and that same philosophy is still entrenched in today’s membership,” he said.
Anderson’s father, Kris Anderson, is one of the longest members, having joined in 1964.
“I still go bay fishing for flounder and monkfish, but I don’t go offshore anymore,” said the 86-year-old angler. “I’ve been fishing all my life. When I was 13, I was a charter boat captain’s mate. Over the years, we have been one of the most thriving, active fishing clubs along the East Coast.”
For 2021, the club is adding a brand new event for June 6-12 known as the Beach Haven Tuna Open Tournament.
“It is the season’s earliest tuna tournament in New Jersey, when the tuna fishing is at its best and tournament fishermen are chomping at the bit to get on the leader boards,” said Andres Hernandez, tournament director. “For the past few years, the tuna fishing has been consistently hot late in the spring and early in the summer. This is why we believe the June 6-12 dates will be very attractive for offshore and inshore tuna fishermen alike.”
Boat captains get to pick one of five days to fish. For the selected fish day, boats can depart the inlet of choice any time after midnight and must weigh in at the club by 9 p.m. Anglers can troll, chunk and/or jig during the selected fish day.
Sponsorships range from a Longfin Tuna at $250 to a Platinum Sponsor at $1,500. Sponsoring businesses will be visible to all tournament participants and hundreds of visitors – in person, online and in print – and not only during the event, but from the day the business commits as a sponsor.
For additional information, visit TunaOpen.com for registration, rules and Calcuttas, or call Bob Percopo at 732-996-8154.
The club is also adding new features to its 52nd White Marlin Invitational Tournament in an attempt to revive what was once a very popular event. Tournament chairman Dave Wittenborn said the event will run from Aug. 11 to 14.
“The club feels there is a need for change in order for our tournament to stay relevant,” said Wittenborn. “For many reasons, including Superstorm Sandy, competition from other tournaments and shallow waterways, our tournament has gone from over 100 boats to less than 30 the last several years. If we see any further decline in participation, the tournament will become financially unsustainable. We believe there is an opportunity to showcase and rebuild our event right around the corner from the club.”
He said one of the highlights is when fish are brought to the weigh station from 4: 30 to 8: 30 p.m. on the days of tournament. In the past, the weigh station was located by the group’s clubhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. But Wittenborn said the station is moving to Dock Road.
“The public parking lot area at the end of Dock Road is arguably the best piece of property anywhere on the East Coast to host a big game fishing tournament,” he said. “By creating a festive atmosphere with local vendors and restaurants in such a high-profile location, we believe we will gain the sponsorship to enable us to increase our purse size and draw participation. We also see this opportunity as a revenue boost for local businesses as we begin to recover from the effects of COVID-19.” Fishing tournaments of this caliber traditionally generate tens of thousands of dollars into all facets of the local economy. “By hosting a premier fishing tournament in the heart of the Commercial Marine District, it is our intention to make this event not only something the club can be proud of, but the whole town.”
For more information, go on to whitemarlininvitational.com.
— Eric Englund

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