Northern Neck Anglers Club: A whopper of a fish tale
by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
When two or more anglers get together, a few fish tales are inevitable. So when 30 or so members of the Northern Neck Anglers Club (NNAC) convene for a meeting, the stories are bound to be abundant.
“The fish that get away are always very big ones. In fact, they get bigger every time you tell the story,” said Jan Jamrog, NNAC’s 2012 Angler of the Year.
Jamrog has only been a member of the club for three years, but for a new member and relatively novice saltwater fisherman, he’s done pretty well for himself. He earned 31 total points during fishing tournaments last year to capture the angler of the year award.
He read about the club in a newspaper article several years ago and like so many other recreational fishermen was intrigued.
For those who don’t know, NNAC is a group of recreational fishermen dedicated to educating anglers on saltwater fishing techniques and sharing the latest fishing info on everything from tackle and bait selection to the hottest fishing spots in the bay and rivers.
The club currently has over 100 members, according to president Tom Smith of Windmill Point.
“And more than half [of the members] are out of the area but fish in the Northern Neck region. They either have a boat down here or a weekend house,” said Smith.
Captain Dave Compton of Mechanicsville, who ran a charter boat for about eight years, was docking his boat at Ingram Bay Marina in Northumberland County when he and Captain Billy Pipkin started talking “about how nice it would be to have an angling club in the area.”
Pipkin told Compton, who owns a weekend home at Ingram Bay, that an organizational meeting for such a club had been held and about 100 people attended but “nothing came of it,” said Compton.
So Compton went to the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum and asked director Angus Murdoch why the museum didn’t do something for the recreational angler. As luck would have it, Murdoch told Compton the museum had just received a $600 grant for such a purpose and Compton helped to organize a daylong fishing seminar, complete with guest speakers and door prizes.
“We needed about 60 people to break even,” said Compton. “And the day before we only had 39 people signed up. But on that Saturday, in February, right smack in the middle of winter, we opened the doors and people were lined up waiting to get in. It was incredible.”
The museum netted about $1,200, he added, “and there was an instant decision to have another one the next year.”
Compton helped organize three successful seminars and in August 2003 posted a proposal about forming an anglers club on the website Tidal Fish. Well, he immediately got dozens of responses.
“And not just from locals but people from all over seemed interested,” said Compton.
One responder even wrote, “Let me know where to send the check. Great idea!”
With an overwhelming response, Compton held an organizational meeting in October 2003 with about 35 attendees. By the end of the club’s first year, there were close to 100 members.
In 2006, the club had a record 254 members.
“We had members from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, all the way out to the Shenandoah Valley and as far down the coast as Virginia Beach,” said Compton, who served as club president for eight years. “I never thought it would happen like that.”
“Our tournaments aren’t terribly competitive,” said Smith. “There are prizes, which are gift certificates to our sponsor businesses. Most have prizes for first and second but the last tournament of the year, we gave six awards.
“Our club couldn’t do what it does at this membership price without out sponsors and our weigh-in stations, which do our weigh-ins for free,” he added.
There are 11 weigh-in locations for the tournaments, scattered from the Potomac River to Gwynn’s Island. A few, like Northern Neck Ace Hardware in Kilmarnock, are even landlocked.
“They used to all be on the water,” said Smith. “But then we realized gas was too expensive to drive 20 miles to weigh in a tiny fish that may not even win.”
The club has four fishing regions, north of the Potomac River down to Smith Point and Cape Charles. If there is a small craft advisory in any of the four areas on tournament day, the fishing is suspended.
“We all have what I would call small boats,” said Smith. Most, he said, are 25-feet and smaller.
Youth members, high school age and younger, are free.
“We encourage parents to take their kids and grandparents to take their grandkids fishing,” said Smith.
There’s also a lot of cooperative fishing and teaching among club members, he said.
“A lot of our members were freshwater fishermen and started saltwater fishing and wanted to learn,” said Smith.
“We also have a fishing partners list that you sign up for,” he said. “You can save money on gas and expenses and learn something from someone else.”
Originally from New Hampshire, saltwater fishing created “a whole new learning curve for [him].”
He must have been a quick learner. Jamrog tallied 31 points last year, a whopping 12 points better than the angler of the year runner-up.
“I think what happened was I went out and learned how to fish for all the species in our tournaments, while we have a lot of fishermen who specialize in one variety. Maybe they’re outstanding in their area, like catching flounder or rockfish. Plus I was lucky.”
Susan Hudson, who is one of only six women among the 100 members, was the 2011 Angler of the Year. She and her husband retired from the Dahlgren area to the Northern Neck in 2010 primarily to fish.
“We love fishing and that’s one of the main reasons we came to the Reedville area,” said Hudson.
There’s nothing like a relaxing day fishing. In fact, “any day on the water is a good day,” he said.
NNAC 2013 Meeting Schedule
- Saturday, April 27 7 p.m. at Transportation Building, 73 Monument Place, Heathsville.
- Saturday, June 8 7 p.m. at Lancaster Community Library, 35 School Street, Kilmarnock.
- Saturday, August 10 7 p.m. at Transportation Building, 73 Monument Place, Heathsville.
- Saturday, October 5 7 p.m. at Lancaster Community Library, 35 School Street, Kilmarnock
Meetings are open to the public.
NNAC 2013 Tournament Schedule