HATTERAS, N.C. — Casting off from the dock is, in a way, a metaphor for Capt. Ernie Foster’s life. His attachment to land ended here decades ago.
“My father put me to work the summer I was 13,” he said. “I’ve fished every charted season since then.”
His father, Capt. Ernal Foster, is credited with starting the sport fishing industry on the Outer Banks.
“Men say I was crazy,” said Ernal, in an interview in the 1990s. “The first summer I had four trips to the Gulf Stream, $25 a trip.”
The first boat was called the Albatross and it was built in 1937. Ernal and his brother Bill pioneered the methods of catching the big fish in the Gulf Stream.
“We had to learn everything ourselves,” said Bill, in an interview from the 1990s. “We had no one to show us.”
The Fosters were also credited with starting the practice of catching and releasing the big fish. While Ernie had a career as a high school guidance counselor, he still ran charters on the weekend and during the summer before eventually taking over the business.
On the Outer Banks, the Foster family and the Albatross fleet are legendary and that is something Ernie never takes for granted.
“The older I get the more appreciative I am,” he said. “To have the opportunities I had as a kid and adult to be around this place.”
Recently Ernie turned over the operation of the business to another captain but still keeps his hands in it and occasionally still takes people out on charters.