"Bonefish" Sam Ellis

Samuel Achilles Ellis was born on November 27, 1919, in Berry Islands, Bahamas. He received his early education at the Bimini All-Age School.  During recess, young Sammy would pass by the fishing docks to eat his snack and it was there that many would listen to his melodious voice and invite him to sing another song.  One day, he was invited aboard a tourist ship and that was his last day at school; the boat belonged to the Colemans, a wealthy family from Florida.  Upon their return to Florida, Mr. Coleman sent Ellis a large box of clothes, two sets of boxing gloves, and a rod and reel.  This was the beginning of both his fishing and boxing careers.

Known as “Bonefish” Sam before there was a “Bonefish just about every name,” Ellis honed his fishing skills by walking the beach to catch bonefish.  Soon, he had perfected the art of bonefishing.  Early in his career, he was recognized as having landed more than three times as many bonefish on rod and reel than any of his contemporaries at the time.  He was famous for his ultra-keen eye sight and a highly valued crew member for his great strength and ability as a wireman on giant tuna and marlin. His notable clients included: The Duke of Windsor, the Ford and DuPont families, George Albert Lyon, Van Campen Heilner, James Kimberley, the Drake family, U.S. congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Ernest Hemingway, and Michael and Helen Lerner.

In addition to his fishing career, Ellis was also a fine boxer who went a few rounds with Hemingway in the 1930s.  In 1959, he was featured in LIFE magazine, along with his wife Irene and nine of his seventeen children.  He was named Father of the Year in the Bahamas in 1987 and in 1996 received the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism’s first Cacique award for Leisure and Sports.  In 1995, he was inducted into the Bimini Fishing Hall of Fame. A kind man who always opened his home to anyone in need of a place to rest their head or a warm meal, Ellis was the founder and Pastor of the Community Church of God, which he remained until his death on March 12, 2003.