The ocean loses a dear friend

Conservationist Robert Pond, founder of Stripers Unlimited, dies at 92

Robert Pond, a retired fishing lure manufacturer who founded Stripers Unlimited and was an early crusader for ocean conservation, died Saturday at the Golden Living Center-Garden Place in Attleboro.

The husband of Avis Elizabeth Boyd, he was 92.

Mr. Pond, a resident of Attleboro and North Attleboro, was an avid fisherman who revolutionized striped bass fishing in the 1940s after discovering a method for catching the fish on the surface. He turned his knowledge into a business manufacturing multi-hooked swimming lures that the game fish found irresistible.

His Attleboro-based Atom Manufacturing cranked out wooden and plastic lures beginning in 1945 and continuing after he sold the business in 1998.

Mr. Pond was also a visionary in conservation, pointing out the threat to the fish from coastal fish traps and diseases.

Founder of the conservation group Stripers Unlimited, Pond’s work, alongside that of the late Rhode Island Sen. John Chafee, is widely credited with helping save striped bass from extinction along the East Coast.

Mr. Pond persisted in his efforts despite being scoffed at by many sportsmen and scientists. Today, bass fishing constitutes a $1 billion a year business, said New York writer Frank Pintauro, who noted that Pond’s vision helped open America’s coastlines to a new, populist sport.

“At the end of World War II, when America’s beaches were becoming a playground for everyman, rather than just the wealthy, Bob was a pioneer lure maker for what some have called the golden age of surf-casting,” he said. “He was an extraordinary guy.”

So influential was Mr. Pond’s role in molding the sport, that some of his original lures have fetched up to $750 apiece from collectors.

But Mr. Pond’s efforts in awakening the need for conservation is perhaps his most important legacy.

“Bob Pond was way out ahead of all the experts in sounding the alarm in the 1960s about dangers facing the striped bass, and without his tireless efforts on this magnificent fish’s behalf, we wouldn’t be out there catching them today,” said Dick Russell, environmental journalist and author of “Striper Wars: An American Fish Story. “He was a pioneer in ocean conservation, long before the impacts of overfishing and coastal pollution became topics of widespread concern.”

Russell’s book contains a chapter about Pond’s work.

Pond, who became a mighty voice for the environment, as well as a crafty fisherman and fashioner of lures, got into the business of plug-making virtually by accident.

According to the Web site of Atom Lures, Pond had been fishing under the Sagamore Bridge on Cape Cod during the 1940s when he witnessed a nearby fisherman reeling in a big striper.

That surprised Pond, as the big game fish were thought to be mostly uncatchable when feeding on the surface.

Pond salvaged a strange-looking wooden plug he assumed had been discarded by the other fisherman and soon found that he was able to haul in stripers virtually at will.

The North Attleboro resident swiftly duplicated the design out of curtain rods and developed an improved model that had better bouyancy. The “Atom” lure was born.

In 1965, Pond founded Stripers Unlimited originally as a clearinghouse for bass fishing information. But it soon became a sounding board for the need to conserve ocean resources.

Pond even funded research on striped bass out of his own pocket.

Mr. Pond, who lived on Mendon Road, was born on July 4, 1917, in New Rochelle, N.Y. He was raised and educated in New Rochelle and graduated from Syracuse University Forestry College, an education he credited for his lifelong conservationism.

During the World War II era, Mr. Pond was employed as a munitions inspector for the British, and later, the American government.

He resided in North Attleboro for the past 20 years, having moving to the community from Attleboro, where he was a longtime resident.

In addition to his wife, Avis Boyd, he leaves his grandchildren: Glenn Haakmeeser of Georgia and Paul Trost and Christina Trost both of North Attleboro.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Bethany Village Fellowship, 516 Newport Avenue in South Attleboro.