DR. TIM AND KATHLEEN AYLWARD FISHING THE USVI OPEN/ATLANTIC BLUE MARLIN TOURNAMENT FOR 10 YEARS.
The battle of man-against-beast epitomizes the thrill of billfishing and is what entices the New Port Ritchie, Florida, husband and wife fishing team of Dr. Tim and Kathleen Aylward to return to the Virgin Islands each summer. "I won top Female Angler in the 1997 July Open, but not without a story to tell," Kathleen tells. Aylward hooked her second blue of the event shortly before noon on the last day of fishing. Abigail III mate, Ariel Donovan was on the wire while Capt. Kelvin Bailey, Jr. came down from the bridge to tag the fish. "It was a tag for a tag," Aylward said later. The feisty blue marlin shot straight up from the sea. Its mighty bill grazed Capt. Bailey's cheek, narrowly missing his eye. Later at the Awards Ceremony, the captain wore only a scratch.
Kathleen grew up inshore fishing along the Florida flats, but Dr. Tim didn't get hooked on the sport until the late 1980's when he landed a great big grouper.
Dr. Tim explains: "I had tried to catch a blue marlin in the Bahamas but didn't succeed. We'd heard about the International Billfish Tournament in Puerto Rico and wanted to attend. Agie Vincente sent us an invitation." At the tournament, the couple met Capt. Spike Herbert, who long skippered the Phoenix and later the Lady Carol.
"Spike told us about the great marlin fishing in the Virgin Islands. He was booked that next summer for the Boy Scout Tournament, but he referred us to a friend of his - Capt. Red Bailey," Dr. Tim explains.
The year 1992 was the first the Aylward's fished aboard Abigail III for both the July Open and USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament.
Says Kathleen: "We brought our daughter and oldest son down with us to fish, and our daughter ended up catching a marlin. We were really green but Red taught us everything about big game fishing. It was great. We were really hooked and have been coming back ever since."
While Kathleen and Dr. Tim fish as a competitive couple, their techniques are both complimentary and contradictory.
Dr. Tim says: "I'm learning about bait-and-switch. There's more skill to it, which makes it more fun than just waiting for a fish to bite."
Kathleen's special technique is sleeping. "Everyone teases me about sleeping so much. I get terribly seasick if I don't, but I don't want to miss out on all the action. So when there's a bite, I jump up, hook it, reel it in and go lay back down. The observers are amazed that I fish like that, but Red knows to always just drag a lure for me."
This technique has been a good one for Kathleen. Twice she's been runner up to Top Female Angler in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament. "That's my goal this year - to be top female. Of course, getting top female and a grander would be a great way to celebrate in this tournament," Kathleen says.
More than just the fishing, the Aylward's enjoy the Virgin Islands for its beautiful scenery and friendly people.
Dr. Tim concludes: "At the end of the day, win or lose, the camaraderie is there. So it's the great fishing and the many wonderful friendships that keeps us coming back."