The Billfish Foundation (TBF), the world’s leading sportfishing conservation organization for marlin, sailfish, spearfish and associated highly migratory fish, presented its most prestigious award, the John Rybovich Lifetime Achievement Award during its 30th Anniversary Gala on November 4, 2016 at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort. The winners were Captain Kelvin “Red” Bailey, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Captain Ernie Foster, Hatteras, North Carolina and Bonnie Powell, Brandon, Florida. The Award is named in honor of the late John Rybovich, a pioneer in billfish conservation and sportfishing vessel design.
Captain Kelvin “Red” Bailey, of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, began sportfishing when famous Captain Tommy Gifford offered him, as a 19 year old, a mate’s job saying “if you’re interested son, you can start tomorrow.” Red started and 52 years later continues to show up tomorrow. Red served as mate on Gifford’s boat The Princess and next worked for Johnny Harms on his boat Savanna Bay. After Red earned his captain’s license in the 1960s, he, while working for Harms, took charter guests fishing from the Caneel Bay Resort on St. John, including Dr. Lyman and Nancy Spire, who owned Abigail II and the custom built Abigail III, now the oldest local fishing boat on the island. Throughout his career Red encouraged tag and release and the use of single hooks – the Red Bailey lure by Mold Craft contains only one hook. In a Marlin Magazine interview, he noted that in the “early days” he found anglers were “more interested in the skill of sportfishing rather than catching the most fish.” He remains a promoter of the sport in the Caribbean, serving as President of the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club’s Board of Directors, and has said he would like to be remembered as “someone who worked to ensure that sportfishing would be around for future generations to enjoy.” Today, Red’s son, Kelvin Bailey Jr., is a charter captain and one who gave him a member of the “next generation,” a grandson who hopefully will enjoy offshore fishing one day.
Captain Ernie Foster of Hatteras, North Carolina, grew up on boats fishing in the family’s charter business, the Albatross Fleet. His father, Capt. Ernal Foster, one might say launched charter fishing in the region in 1937 when he began charging to take anglers fishing; others laughed. In the early 1950s when his boat landed a 451 pound blue marlin, the Dare County’s first public relations specialist was present and took photos. When those photos spread worldwide, Hatteras was on the map as a hot spot for offshore fishing. Later in the decade, Ernie’s brother had a couple on board who reeled in a giant blue marlin and once it reached the boat, requested the fish be released, which he did. This news generated the term “catch and release” fishing. Today, Ernie runs the Albatross III while managing the Albatross Fleet and its 250 charters a year. Having witnessed significant changes in fishing, in government regulations and changes in the abundance of many fish species, Ernie finds it necessary to take an active role with fishery management issues. And, it is when some of those situations pit commercial fishing and recreational fishing interests against one another that he most likely finds his experiences as a teacher and counselor the most useful. Ernie views his community of Hatteras as a “fishing community” first, for each person there depends on fishing either directly or indirectly – a way of life Foster wants to continue.
Bonnie Powell of Brandon, Florida started fishing at a young age, including fishing the Tampa Tarpon Tournament year after year. Once married to her late husband, Captain Billy Powell, they, along with their boys, fished in Bimini, where Bonnie placed in a tournament with a blue marlin. Her fishing skills also have earned her two world records fishing with light tackle. After joining the International Women’s Fishing Association (IWFA), an organization founded in 1955 by female anglers, Bonnie became very active with the group. It was a perfect fit for Bonnie, who, like all the other members, loves to fish, practices responsible fishing, supports conservation and raises funds for college scholarships. Bonnie served on IWFA’s Board of Directors, as its President from 1991 to 1993, was presented its Ann Kunkle Memorial Sportsmanship award in 1999 and in 2000 was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame. Bonnie also serves as the Executive Secretary of the International Light Tackle Tournament Association (ILTTA), which coordinates arrangements for an annual light tackle release tournament, which is hosted by a member club in different locations. ILTTA promotes sportfishing, camaraderie, conservation and good fishing practices. Bonnie also provides radio services for The Masters Angling Tournament, for the Ocean Reef Cup, and for the Stuart Sailfish Club’s Light Tackle Tournament, where she is an honorary member. Bonnie is also known for her exemplary “people skills.”
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