Wilson Hubbard was born in Memphis, and came to the Suncoast with his parents while traveling with a carnival in 1929. They settled at Pass-a-Grille, a tiny waterfront community boasting 162 residents, a policeman, and a bootlegger. Young Wilson prospered, catching and selling fish from Pass-a-Grille pier (which is now “The Merry Pier” on Eighth Avenue).
When he was 17, he bought five rowboats and 40 cane poles from the concessionaire for $150. He bought his first charter boat after the war, and in 1954 established the first gulf coast half-day fishing party boat. In 1956 he began a marathon 18 hour fishing trip for hard-core anglers, and in 1971, he established overnight weekend trips to the far offshore fishing grounds.
The Eighth Avenue Pier became known as Hubbard’s Pier, until Wilson moved his operation to John’s Pass in 1976. Wilson Hubbard fulfilled another vision in 1979, with the opening of the Friendly Fisherman Seafood Restaurant, which still serves the freshest seafood available.
Party boat patrons can also enjoy eating their own “catch of the day” cooked at the Friendly Fisherman Restaurant for only $4.95 including “all the fixin’s”.
A true visionary, Wilson Hubbard was instrumental in the building and development of John’s Pass Village and the Boardwalk. In 2004, the second generation of the Hubbard family took over ownership of Hubbard’s Marina fishing operations, with Mark Hubbard as president and general manager.
Mark Hubbard’s Sea Adventures – Wilson’s youngest son, Mark, established Hubbard’s Sea Adventures, a Dolphin-Watching Nature Cruise operation that offers narrated tours of local environments, wildlife, and history. Wild pods of bottlenose dolphin, and endangered seabirds in mangrove island rookeries are now observed from a respectful distance, and hunted only with a camera.
Mark’s commitment to environmental education prompted him to create a new, more in-depth nature cruise of Upper Boca Ciega Bay Estuary. Visited by many Pinellas County school children annually, Hubbard’s floating classroom, Environmental Explorer, enables students to observe native wildlife in its natural habitat, explore and understand wetland environments, and discuss current environmental issues with the ship’s on-board naturalist.
Mark Hubbard, like his father, likes to keep one foot in the future. A forward looking company, Sea Adventures was merged with Hubbard’s Marina in 2004. It maintains a staff naturalist, updates cruise narration regularly to include current research, and encourages staff and visitors to make comments or suggestions on ways to improve the company and its cruises.