History of the
West Palm Beach Fishing Club
The venerable West Palm Beach Fishing Club (WPBFC) is unique.
From the club’s inception, the WPBFC has played a leadership role in conservation, innovation and education. In 1938, the club was the first to develop and promote the use of red release pennants as an alternative to bringing sailfish back to the dock.
In the 1940’s the club successfully lobbied for the establishment of game fish status for largemouth bass in Florida. In the 1950’s the club supported the then radical concept of a saltwater fishing license to help protect marine resources and was responsible for creating the first officially permitted artificial reef in the state of Florida in the 1960’s. The WPBFC helped permanently establish the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (then Department of Natural Resources) East Coast Marine Laboratory in the 1970’s and aided scientists with sailfish, kingfish, swordfish and snook research into the 1980’s. During the 1990’s we helped win support for the reconstruction of the Juno Beach Pier to replace the old pier, which had been destroyed in 1984. The Fishing Club’s legacy of marine conservation continues today through the exciting Reef Dart initiative, a unique reef building program using repurposed utility poles designed to create high vertical profile marine habitat.
Throughout its history the WPBFC has closely cooperated with state and county leaders in efforts to protect and enhance coastal habitat in Palm Beach County, especially the Lake Worth Lagoon. Along with its charitable affiliate, the Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation, the club has helped reestablish mangroves and oysters throughout the lagoon to help increase its biological carrying capacity. We like to say, “More Habitat, More Fish,”a message we teach during our annual Kids Fishing Day program. According to one past fishery specialist with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, this outreach program is the most highly regarded event of its kind and “serves as a template for other youth fishing programs in the rest of the United States.” To date, over 14,000 kids have benefited from our community based environmental education and fishing adventure program.
Dozens of annual fishing events and programs are other highlights of the WPBFC. Club organized outings are extremely popular with members. These trips vary from one-day drift boat excursions to multi-day trips to exciting fishing destinations. The club’s annual Silver Sailfish Derby is the oldest sailfish tournament in the world. Even famous American author Ernest Hemingway once sponsored a trophy in this storied event rich in angling tradition and prestige. The club’s annual Palm Beach County KDW Classic draws well over 200 boats. WPBFC ‘Pop Up’ tournaments are occasionally planned and are free to all club members. Many WPBFC members, including Pee Wee and Junior anglers, also compete in the club’s Annual Fishing Contest, as well as yearlong trophy competitions.
Monthly club meetings at the WPBFC’s historic clubhouse are another benefit of membership. Well known angling pros regularly visit to discuss various saltwater fishing techniques. A visit to the club quickly reveals what this unique institution is all about. The clubhouse is located on the corner of 5th Street and North Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm Beach. Even if you don’t fish, our nostalgic facility is worth visiting. In fact, the WPBFC’s building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The WPBFC is a very special place indeed and you’d enjoy being a member We invite you to take a closer look at membership!
WPBFC History Videos
80th Anniversary Video
Reflections from Fishing in Palm Beach County
WPB Fishing Club oral history interview with Frank Cote
WPB Fishing Club oral history interview with Dan Kleiser
WPB Fishing Club oral history interview with Jim Barry
WPB Fishing Club oral history interview with Jim Branch
WPB Fishing Club oral history interview with Ron Appleton
Tight Lines Bulletin Archive