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Fishing legend, Israel 'Bonefish Folley' Rolle passes at age 91
By Robbin Whachell, Editor, The Bahamas Weekly
Aug 3, 2012 - 4:50:41 PM

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Bonefish Folley at the opening of the restaurant named after him at Old Bahama Bay in 2006. Photo: TheBahamasWeekly.com

Freeport, BAHAMAS -  The Bahamas Weekly has been advised that Israel 'Bonefish Folley' Rolle passed away peacefully in his sleep on August 2nd, 2012 in his home in West End, Grand Bahama.

Mr. Rolle was a world renowned bonefishing aficionado and a tourism gem for Grand Bahama Island. Bahamian songwriter Phil Stubbs even wrote a song about him. 

The photo seen here was taken in 2006 at Old Bahama Bay's grand opening of their restaurant named after Rolle called the Bonefish Folley's Bar & Grille  (no longer open) who's motto was "Legendary Fishing, Foods and Spirits".

See more photos of that event on our Facebook page.

The following was on the back of every menu in the restaurant. Credit goes to The Bahamas Journal for this:

…Bonefish Folley, he’s the one and only…’ sing local Bahamian kids in a well-known island song that immortalizes a Grand Bahama fisherman. They sing about Mr. Israel ‘Bonefish Folley’ Rolle who is a master bonefisher and has become one of this country’s most loved ambassadors.


Born on Andros, which is located one hundred and seventy five miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale Florida, in the 1920s. The now 85-year old spent a good part of his life in Bimini learning his craft and for the last 25 years has made West End, Grand Bahama his home. A Cacique winner, which honours Tourism excellence, ‘Bonefish’ is known for his true Bahamian Hospitably through genuine friendliness and concern toward visitors.


Listed among his numerous clients are former U.S. President Richard Nixon, the late Prince Rainier of Monaco, writer Ernest Hemmingway, actors Robert Taylor, Lana Turner, and Curt Gowdy and the late civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


‘Folley’ spent his formative years in Bimini, the most northern Bahamian island, where he acquired his fishing skills. “I used to deep-sea fish on a yacht many years ago on the ocean [off] Bimini. I was good at what I did [even then] and people who visited liked that and they would tell other people.”


In addition to fishing, Folley was also one of the original coordinators of the Bimini fishing tournaments; and to add to his mystique he was around for the “Bootlegging” glory days. Not to be outdone Bonefish also dabbled as a conga drummer and played in several of the nation’s top entertainment spots where he entertained locals and visitors in Nassau and Grand Bahama hot spots.


Folley, who has been bonefishing now for more than 60 years, is also a father of seven. Two of his sons have now joined him as guides as he has been busy hosting numerous film crews for the Ministry of Tourism, and appearing on several television programs, including National Geographic.

Folley’s love of people continued to grow. And as his love for fishing grew to a level that made him the number one bone-fisherman in the Nation, he was simultaneously becoming an unofficial ambassador for the Nation; but in particularly for the people of the West End community. Even though he was widely known as an experienced fisherman, it is Folley’s natural charm that has kept the tourists coming back for more. Folley is very fond of the years he spent working at The Jack Tar Hotel. ‘Jack Tar’ is where Folley solidified his love for the tourists who visited the island. And for about twenty to thirty years Folley worked at the resort as the expert Bonefisherman who was ready to challenge any tourist in bonefishing who was brave enough to compete against the living legend.


‘Bonefish Folley’s interaction with thousands of visitors to The Bahamas for over sixty years has resulted in life-long friendships and repeat visits to the destination. One such person is U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas, John Rood, who befriended Bonefish Folley as a child, where he would travel with his father when he came to the islands to fish.


Their friendship was rekindled when the Rood family came to Bonefish Folley’s rescue after his house was destroyed during Hurricane Frances in September 2004. Rood, who was on a visit with the Prime Minister of The Bahamas on an-after-storm island walk about, were viewing the West End wreckage, when Rood met with Folley whose house had been completely destroyed. Rood promised immediately to build him a new home and it was completed in late 2005.


Folley has also forged a close friendship with Sash Spencer, who is the founder of Old Bahama Bay which is located on the exact same premises as the former Jack Tar Hotel. Spencer and Folley shared the same passion for fishing and this quickly blossomed in to a life long friendship and a high level of professional admiration. When Folley was asked what it was about their friendship Folley simply remarked, “Sash and I are friends. I don’t know what it was, he just take to liken me.” Sash’s admiration for Folley needed to be captured and what better way then to rename one of the existing restaurants on the Resort after the living legend. In September 2006 The Dockside Grille, which overlooks the resorts 72 dock slips, was renamed Bonefish Folley’s Bar & Grille.   Sash Spencer wouldn’t have it any other way. Folley is a very humble man and when asked how he feels about the restaurant’s renaming being named after him, he simply said, “I feel alright.” The tag line for the restaurant is in keeping with its lively theme, as well as with the man himself, Legendary Fishing, Food & Spirits.


Bonefish, has made many friends through out his life and has been a superb role model for The Bahamas representing his country well. He says it also helps to strive for excellence; “You must know how to catch the fish that is hard to catch,” he says. “You must know how to do to catch them. I’m good at what I do.” - Footnote: Bahamas Journal 2005

Editor's NOTE: Messages have been coming in via our Facebook page, and we'd like to share a couple:

Keith Cooper, West End Eco Fishing Camp Association owner wrote: "Israel Rolle/Bonefish Folley was a one of a kind fisherman...to witness his "touch" with a rod and reel is priceless...I remember fondly a trip I took with him on his boat. We were at the entrance to Old Bahama Bay Marina and a huge barracuda was clearly visible off the side of the boat...if was as though he was waiting to be caught my the master. Bonefish calmly put a ballyhoo on the hook and dropped it overboard and within 10 seconds the fish took the line and was hauled in the boat...my wife was screaming for her life and Moses (Bonefish grandson) and I was laughing at her fear of the bari...it was an incredible thing to watch. The bari was well over 20 pounds...and that is no fish tale. We caught plenty more fish that day. My wife Linda and I want to express our heartfelt condolences to the Rolle Family. Rest In Peace Bonefish...we are all going to miss."

Bob Kramm, former manager of Old Bahama Bay writes, "Bonefish Folley will be missed greatly and always remembered for his kindness, loving spirit, and wonderful sense of humor. Thanks for the great times, Bonefish and Family!"

The Freeport News report on his death

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