Blues and white are typically the most popular apparel colors at the majority of big game tournaments. But the Alice Kelly Memorial Billfish Tournament is not your typical fishing event. Which is why boats, blouses, skirts and costumes were adorned in multi shades of pink here Saturday night as 92 teams registered for Sunday’s contest. The ladies-only anglers will be competing for prize money, of course. But mainly they’ll be fishing for a worthy cause.
Started 27 years ago to honor the late Alice Kelly, a passionate angler and friend to many, this memorial gathering also donates a portion of the entry money to the Outer Banks Cancer Support Group. Although male captains and mates can assist, only lady anglers can fight the fish. Eligible species include white marlin, sailfish, spearfish and swordfish, good for 100 points per successful release, and blue marlin for 150 points. Yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin can be weighed. A record 103 teams fished in 2007 and last year 54 boats signed up but only a handful ventured out in the inclement conditions. This year’s forecast is much more favorable and the ladies are certainly looking forward to the challenge.
“This is my first time fishing the Alice Kelly, but I’ve gone on several trips on the Sea Hag. That’s the boat Alice fished on so we have that connection,” says Ashley Barnes, of Shawboro, North Carolina. The captain of Team AmeriGas and her co-workers are heading to the Gulf Stream with Capt. Harold Smith aboard Spray on Sunday. “It’s all in God’s hands. We plan to have as much fun as we can and whatever happens, happens.”
This will be the third year competing for Madison Ambrose of Manteo. She and her friends are counting on Swordfish, a 61 Buddy Davis, to put them on the fish.
“I’m looking forward to having all the girls together” she says. “The fishing has been good lately with a lot of white marlin and sailfish. I expect it’s going to take a lot of sailfish to win this year.”
First-timer Mary Vaughn isn’t quite sure what to expect since this will be her first ever trip offshore. She joined the team of her mother’s friends because of the cause.
“I’m very excited. I think it’ll be pretty and a good day. We’re ready to catch some fish.”
Lines go in at 8:30 on Sunday and fishing ends at 3 p.m. You can follow the action by listening to the VHF radio reports throughout the day or by following along on social media. The final results will be announced at the awards banquet Sunday evening. No matter the outcome, however, this much is certain. There will be no shortage of winners and pink will be the prevailing color up on the stage.