Catalina Island News

Rare Tour of Avalon's Tuna Club to Benefit the Catalina Island Museum

Catalina Island Museum

The history of the Tuna Club of Avalon is legendary. It boasts world-record catches of big-game fish, famous members and guests, and concerns about conservation, long before it was trendy. The Tuna Club's historic clubhouse opens its doors only once a year. All proceeds benefit the day-to-day operations of the Catalina Island Museum.

This year's tour takes place Saturday, September 13th, with Rock Gosselin, lifelong fisherman, Avalon resident and active member of the Tuna Club, conducting the tours. Its clubhouse, resting on the edge of Avalon harbor, features a unique display of artifacts, trophies and photographs, which document the birth of big-game fishing and the first rod and reel catches of tuna, marlin and broadbill swordfish.

Founded in 1898 by Dr. Charles Frederick Holder, the Tuna Club and its members have been advocates for the strict conservation of the waters surrounding Catalina Island for well over one hundred years. Many angling milestones have been attributed to the Tuna Club. Among the first of these was when Holder himself used a rod and reel to catch a 183-pound leaping tuna. Towed by the fish for over 10 miles, he battled the tuna for three hours and 45 minutes, before finally reeling in the giant catch. The episode contributed to Holder establishing the world's first club dedicated to the sport of big-game fishing.

The Tuna Club's history is riddled with famous members and colorful stories. Movie directors Hal Roach and Cecil B. DeMille belonged to the club. Other members included actors Stan Laurel, Jackie Coogan, Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby General George S. Patton was a guest, as were a number of U.S. Presidents.

Best known for his popular novels of the 1920s, Zane Grey often wrote about his adventures fishing in exotic locations around the world. He was concerned about conservation, and the Tuna Club on Catalina Island was a perfect fit. He was a boisterous member, who loved to regale other members with the details of his catches. In 1920 he caught a 418-pound broadbill swordfish – a real trophy and the largest catch of the season thus far. His record stood until the wife of the club's president decided to try her hand at broadbill fishing and quickly brought in a swordfish two pounds heavier than Grey’s catch. Grey was suspicious and announced publicly that such a petite lady could not have reeled in the fish without help – a clear breach of club rules. Arguments ensued and considerable tension invaded the normally gentlemanly atmosphere of the clubhouse. Grey was asked to either apologize to the lady or submit his resignation. He did both.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was an avid reader of the battles taking place between angler and fish off the coast of Catalina Island. In 1929 he arrived at the club ready for combat. The trip went perfectly. With the uncanny luck that Churchill enjoyed throughout his life, he hooked a large marlin within 20 minutes of leaving the shore. The fish put on an acrobatic display but soon gave up. It was inexplicable. By the time Churchill returned to the clubhouse, the entire trip had taken less than two hours. The future Prime Minister was bewildered, and announced over drinks that he couldn't understand all the fuss about a sport that was over so quickly and seemed so effortless.

Don't miss this rare opportunity for an insider's perspective of the birthplace of sport fishing. Tours will be offered on Saturday, September 13 at 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. Tickets are $30 for members of the museum and $35 for the general public. All proceeds benefit the Catalina Island Museum.

Tickets are selling fast! Only 60 tickets are available, and this tour always sells out quickly! For more information or to purchase tickets, the museum may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or on our website.