Fort Lauderdale, Florida — The Billfish Foundation (TBF), the world’s leading sport-fishing 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: Capt. Kelvin “Red” Bailey, of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Capt. Ernie Foster, of Hatteras, North Carolina; and Bonnie Powell, of Brandon, Florida. The award is named in honor of the late John Rybovich, a pioneer in billfish conservation and sport-fishing vessel design.
Bailey began sport-fishing when famous Capt. Tommy Gifford offered him, 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. Bailey served as mate on Gifford’s boat, The Princess, and next worked for Johnny Harms on his boat Savanna Bay. After Bailey 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, Bailey 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 sport fishing 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 said he would like to be remembered as “someone who worked to ensure that sport fishing would be around for future generations to enjoy.” Today, his 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.
Foster grew up on boats fishing in the family’s charter business, the Albatross Fleet. His father, Capt. Ernal Foster, is believed by some to have launched charter fishing in the region in 1937 when he began charging to take anglers fishing. 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, North Carolina, was on the map as a hot spot for offshore fishing. Later in the decade, Foster’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, Foster 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. Foster 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 he wants to continue.
Powell started fishing at a young age, including fishing the Tampa Tarpon Tournament year after year. Once married to her late husband, Capt. Billy Powell, they, along with their boys, fished in the Bahamian island of 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, an organization founded in 1955 by female anglers, Foster became very active with the group. It was a perfect fit for Foster, who, like all the other members, loves to fish, practices responsible fishing, supports conservation and raises funds for college scholarships. Foster 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. Foster also serves as the executive secretary of the International Light Tackle Tournament Association, which coordinates arrangements for an annual light tackle release tournament, which is hosted by a member club in different locations. ILTTA promotes sport fishing, camaraderie, conservation and good fishing practices. Powell also provides radio services for The Masters Angling Tournament, the Ocean Reef Cup and the Stuart Sailfish Club’s Light Tackle Tournament, where she is an honorary member. Powell is also known for her exemplary “people skills.”