Fishing legends of the Upper Keys: Pinder and Albury

The fishing tale associated with the late George Hommell Jr. in the last edition of Notes on Keys History, referred to as a doozey, was attributed to the wrong George. The rightful recipient of that particular fish story was George Herman. 

It was George Herman who, during a two-day fishing tournament in the Bahamas referred to as the "Bonefish Bonanza," was skunked on the first day of the tournament, and it was Herman who came back to win in historic fashion by reeling in an alleged 110 bonefish on day two of the tournament.

Instead of offering an excuse for the mix-up, there will be an authentic George Hommell Jr. fishing tale inserted -- it, too, is a doozey. 

Hommell was fishing with clients near Florida Bay's Nine-Mile Bank, out west near Flamingo, when a tarpon was hooked. Unfortunately, the distressed nature of the tarpon drew the attention of a shark. The shark, reported to be longer than Hommell's skiff, lunged at the tarpon but missed and bit the skiff instead. Several teeth were left behind in the plywood, as well as a sizeable hole. Hommell was forced to cut the tarpon free, speed away, and run his skiff up on a nearby beach to avoid sinking. 

Of course George Hommell Jr. was not the only fishing guide to make a name for himself in the Florida Keys. The list of legendary Florida Keys fishing guides is impressive. While Notes on Keys History will likely never delve into the careers of every fishing guide who has made a living from these waters, attempts will be made to cover as many of these hardy men and women as possible. 

Having made that declaration, help from the community regarding two early fishing guides is requested: William Malcolm "Slim" Pinder and Malcolm Calvin Albury. What is currently known is that William Malcolm "Slim" Pinder was born in Key West on April 24, 1913; he was the son of John William "Brush" Pinder. Brush Pinder homesteaded 160 acres on Plantation Key and is the man responsible for constructing the schooner Island Home on his property. 

In fact, across the road from present day Founders Park (located at mile marker 87) there is a plaque affixed to a large coral rock acknowledging Johnny "Brush" Pinder's homestead.

William Malcolm "Slim" Pinder was the youngest of six children and the only son of Brush and Ida Elizabeth Pinder. Slim grew up on Plantation Key and started exploring the local waters as soon as he was old enough to climb into a boat. The other guide, Malcolm Calvin Albury, was the son of Edmund Wilson and Elizabeth Blanche Albury who, according to the 1910 census, were Rock Harbor farmers. Malcolm Calvin Albury was one of 10 children and the only son, too.

As sport fishing began to gain popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, a need arose for local fishing guides. Young men like Slim Pinder and Calvin Albury, who had grown up in the Florida Keys and understood these waters, were a natural fit for the job. Both men served as guides for President Herbert Hoover when he visited the area. Hoover had been impressed by Albury's casting technique, as well as two large bonefish he reeled in while the president watched him working. The following day Hoover sought out Captain Albury's services.

Albury was curious about fishing with a man who dressed in a full suit including jacket, neck tie and cuff links. Albury commented, "It didn't take long for him to prove to me how good he was at fishing. I fished with him as many as 30 days in a straight run." 

Albury also once stated that Hoover always carried a pack of Life Savers with him, and when the fishing was slow he'd say, "Well, we'll take a pill and see what happens."

Captain Albury was married to Lenora Albury who was issued the first library card in the Upper Keys; she also served as the Key Largo Library branch manager for 30 years. Clearly there is much more to learn about Slim Pinder and Calvin Albury, and anyone with information about these two are encouraged to contact me. Fish tales are welcome and photographs would be a thrill.

Now, one of the best things about my new position as curator of the Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation is that I am able to facilitate the preservation of photographs and other documents held by the community so that they will never again be at risk due to fire, rot, or hurricane. 

One of the primary goals of the foundation is the preservation of local history so that it can be shared with future generations. If you have some piece of history in your possession, we encourage you, I encourage you, to share it with the foundation and ultimately the entire community. Happy Holidays. 305-395-9889.

Brad Bertelli is a published author of four books on Florida and Florida Keys history. His column will appear every other week in The Reporter. Reach Brad with comments and questions at