By Elliott Stark
If you’ve fished in Guatemala in the last 20 years, there is a pretty good chance that you’ve seen Captain Kennedy Hernandez. A true professional of intense fishing skill, Hernandez is a family man who is humble, straightforward and friendly. Kennedy’s rise to the Captain’s chair is a tale of how skill and dedication can pave the way for opportunity.
Growing up in Guatemala, Hernandez started out washing boats at Fins and Feathers. “My dad was a maintenance man there and used to fill the boats with fuel. So, after school I used to help him cleaning the pool or passing the fuel hose to the mates. Seeing the boats every day, I always told myself that one day I would work on one of them. I couldn’t have been happier when the first mate on the Intensity one day asked me if I wanted to help out on the boat. I immediately said yes – I didn’t even ask what my monthly salary would be,” Kennedy recalls. “That’s how I started my career – as a washdown boy, for Captain Rick Ogle, one month before I turned 13.”
While washing boats, it was the late Captain Aaron Valdez on the Magic who first gave Kennedy the opportunity to work as a second mate. This opportunity led to a full-time offer for the same position aboard the Pelegian with Captain Brad Philipps. “After five months, I became first mate. I fished with Brad from 2000 through 2016-17 seasons,” recalls Kennedy.
While running Captain Brad Philipps’ cockpit, Kennedy experienced epic fishing. “The most impressive was the 2006 season. We caught nearly 100 blue marlin and nearly 2,000 sailfish. Our best single day ever was 91 sailfish,” Kennedy recalls. “I rigged the ballyhoo and all of the baits, and I’d run the cockpit.” While Kennedy is too humble to provide the total number of sailfish and blue marlin that he caught while fishing with Philipps – both on conventional tackle and fly, it is safe to say that it is a number not seen by many other crewmen. Proof of this statement is the pile of The Billfish Foundation top mate awards he received.
“Brad and I also fished in Cape Verde together in 2012 and 2016. We fished in Costa Rica. He took me to the Seychelles Islands and on safari in Africa, too. I’m really grateful to Brad,” Kennedy says. “All the guys here have helped me (speaking of the captains who fish out of the Pacific coast of Guatemala’s only marina). Brad really taught me a lot about being a captain. He used to let me run the boat in or out. It was very simple, but it was very important to me.”
On some level, anyone who works on a boat benefits from investment generated by sportfishing. For those passionate about life on the water, a captain’s job or a position in the cockpit not only provides a livelihood but a great lifestyle. While this is true for anyone, there is an added level of benefit and profile to a captain’s job in places where it may provide a higher standard of living than might otherwise be possible.
“Sportfishing has done a lot for me. I started when I was really young. A sportfishing job is one of the best in the port. It allows you to make enough money to live really well,” Hernandez explains. “It not only changed my lifestyle but gave the chance to be a sportfisherman instead of a commercial fisherman.”
For a Young Gun who has already achieved a tremendous amount in his career, Kennedy maintains a level head and a wise bit of perspective. A man of faith, Hernandez first credits his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the success he is experiencing. “I am not a guy who wants a lot of credit or limelight. I’m simple. I just want to do my job well and make my clients happy. I’m focused on that when I get to the boat every day.”
If the past is any indication, Hernandez’s future will be a bright one. Success could not have happened to a nicer guy.