Snapper check numbers show fear unfounded

Preliminary numbers from the Alabama Red Snapper Reporting System, aka Snapper Check, indicate the fear that Alabama anglers would exceed the 2017 quota were unfounded.

“Using the Alabama Snapper Check numbers, we’re going to be well within the historic allocation for Alabama, so the 39-day season did not put us over, which was a concern for the commercial fishing community and part of the charter fishing community,” said Scott Bannon, Acting Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD). “Now the concern we have is what the MRIP (Marine Recreational Information Program) numbers will show, and those numbers are not out yet.”

Since the inception of the Alabama Snapper Check program, the federally produced MRIP numbers for red snapper caught by private recreational anglers have consistently overestimated the snapper harvest, according to MRD officials. The federal survey overestimated harvest numbers by 81 percent in 2014, 68 percent in 2015 and 79 percent in 2016 compared to Snapper Check numbers.

Kevin Anson, MRD’s Chief Biologist who sits on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council as a proxy member, said MRD has confidence in the Snapper Check data. Alabama has worked hand in hand with NOAA Fisheries staff and their consultants in the development of the Snapper Check system. They anticipate that the program will be approved for use in the management process by year end.

The 2017 total catch per Snapper Check indicated the charter industry (not including headboats) and private recreational anglers landed 1,649,242 pounds of red snapper. Anson said that total breaks down to 790,382 pounds for the charter-for-hire industry and 858,860 pounds for the private recreational anglers.

The Gulf-wide red snapper quota for 2017 for the recreational sector was 6,603,094 pounds. Historically, Alabama lands between 30 and 35 percent of the total snapper catch in the Gulf because of its unparalleled artificial reef program.

Anson said the Gulf Council, which is meeting this week in Biloxi, Miss., has previously discussed a regional management plan for reef fish through Amendment 39. If Amendment 39 were approved, Alabama would receive 31.6 percent of the total quota, which would have been a little more than 2 million pounds this year.

In mid-June this year, NOAA Fisheries extended the federal season from June 1-3 to an additional 39 weekend and holiday days when states agreed to limit or eliminate state season days.

Although the 2017 federal season was over three times longer than the 2016 federal season (11 days), the number of fishing trips with red snapper did not increase at the same amount.  Private recreational anglers took an estimated 79,176 snapper trips during the 2017 39-day federal season, according to Anson. During the 2016 federal season, the total number of private recreational trips was estimated to be 35,191.

“Yes, there were more angler trips in 2017, but these trips did not have the same level of angler harvest rates or the same size of fish,” Anson said. “We had smaller fish landed in 2017 versus 2016. This year’s numbers showed an average of 1.7 harvested fish (2-fish limit) per angler. We felt a lot of that was people were going the shortest distance from shore where they felt they could get fish they wanted to keep. If they didn’t want to get the maximum limit and were fine with a 5-pound fish, they went 8 to 10 miles. They just went fishing instead of catching. We think that’s the way the fishery has morphed in the last few years.”

In addition, Anson said with the closure of gray triggerfish and greater amberjack during the federal season for the past couple of years the majority of anglers have shifted to fishing closer to shore.

“Snapper Check indicated that 90 percent of the red snapper were harvested within 120 feet of water, which is about 17-18 miles from shore,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bannon said Louisiana has a reporting system similar to Snapper Check, and the Louisiana numbers indicate the Bayou State came in about 100,000 pounds under its quota. Louisiana is considering a fall season to catch the additional fish, but Alabama is not.

“We had an agreement that we would not have a fall season if we got the 39-day season during the summer,” Bannon said. “We’re going to stick to that agreement.

“We just wanted to show when you extend the season, it allows for greater access, and it reduces fishing pressure. The charter fishermen said they also noticed a reduction in the private boats out fishing.”

Bannon said the reduced fishing effort contributed to less chaos in the artificial reef areas and helped with the boat-ramp traffic jams, especially at Dauphin Island’s Billy Goat Hole.

“The extended opportunity allowed people to plan around vacations and family activities,” Bannon said. “The kids might have a soccer game or baseball game or the weather might be bad. With short seasons, people have a tendency to go snapper fishing in weather conditions that are not good.

“When you extend the season, it allows life to happen for folks. Now people can look at the weather and decide to go when the weather is better.”

Bannon said the Snapper Check numbers show that the states have the ability to monitor and manage the reef fish fishery, and that is what the general public wants.

“People want the season to be spread out over a longer period of time to give them some options,” he said. “During those short seasons, tensions get high. At our public access boat ramps, parking is very limited. People get frustrated with that. When you only have a couple of days to fish, you can’t even find a place to park.

“The extended season helps people make better decisions, especially based on the weather. And I think it also shows that if we get to a state management plan through Congress or the Gulf Council, we have the ability to monitor what our catch rates are throughout the season. Every week we were looking at Snapper Check numbers, and we felt the whole time we were fine; we were not going over the allocation if we use Snapper Check data.”

Former MRD Director Chris Blankenship, now the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, has said on several occasions that Alabama feels much more confident in the integrity of the Alabama Snapper Check data compared to MRIP.

“We were glad when we got our preliminary numbers from Snapper Check,” Blankenship said. “This is exactly what we thought would happen when they extended the season. We felt like the more days people could fish, the effort would spread out over the season. They could go when it was good for them and their family and not have to go every single day it was open.

“It kept the catch rates per day at a good level, and this is exactly what we thought would happen. We’ve been doing this a long time. We talked with fishermen to see what the seasons and effort were like when we had between 30 and 40 days to fish. We felt with more opportunity, the number of fishing trips per day would be less, and that’s exactly what we saw.”

David Rainer is public information manager and outdoor columnist for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. His column appears weekly in The West Alabama Watchman. 

William Edward Wallace

Mr. William Edward Wallace, a native of Alabama entered into eternal rest February 3, 2017 in Walterboro, SC. Memorial services for Mr. William Wallace will be held on Friday, March 10, 2017 at 2 p.m. at the Larkin and Scott Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow in the Memorial Cemetery, Arcola Road, Demopolis, AL. Palmetto Cremation Society of Charleston, SC entrusted with arrangements. Larkin and Scott Mortuary of Demopolis, Alabama entrusted with local arrangements.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Minnie Dukes Williams

Minnie Dukes Williams, 74, of Myrtlewood, Alabama, died December 30, 2016. She was born on February 8, 1942 to the late Milton Ray and Willie Loyal Flecher Dukes. She is preceded in death by her parents and her husband E.C. Williams, jr. She leaves behind a daughter Donna Kay Tyler ( Darrel Joe ) of Magnolia; sons Mark Williams and Eddie Ray Williams both of Myrtlewood; brother Gerald Dukes of Montgomery; 4 grandchildren; 7 great grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews. A graveside service will be held at 2:30 Tuesday, January 3, 2017, at Myrtlewood Cemetery. Reverend Steve Walley will be officiating and Kirk Funeral Homes Demopolis Chapel will be directing.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

DHS DECA hosting 5K Saturday

race-flyer

The Demopolis High School DECA Chapter is hosting a 5K Saturday in downtown Demopolis to raise funds for the American Heart Association. For a registration form, click here.

BWWMH Healthcare on Wheels – Aug. 29 – Sept. 2, 2016

8-29 thru 9-2 Event Calendar Flyer

HealthCare on Wheels – July 18-22, 2016

Event Calendar Flyer July 18-22

(Click on image for larger/printable version.)

Tigers host Clarke, Bibb, Sweet Water for scrimmage (GALLERY)

Tears and Laughter: Wilcox County — hot, mad, and offended

As I have said before, not everything here is beautiful. Headlines that make it across the county line are seldom positive. During the past week we have had three gang related shootings that reportedly stem back to the fatal May 29 shooting at the Flip Flop Club. The shootings have had everyone’s attention.
A lot of people also turned their attention to the hearing Thursday evening that finalized the EMA Director being relieved of her position. Anytime there is a job opening in Wilcox County involving a salary and a car there is always creates somewhat of a hustle and shuffle.

Still others were angry that there are county commissioners who have had time to already begin trying to sabotage reelection campaigns of fellow commissioners two years from now, but who did not have the leadership ability to make sure employees in positions the commission supervises were meeting important deadlines. The state EMA Director had to make a special trip to a commission meeting in order to spell out the problem. As a result of the incompetence, the county lost out on just over $400,000 in disaster assistance relief from FEMA.

Maybe it is the heat and humidity that has everyone so sensitive, but anyone not upset over the shootings, or the lost money, or worried over who will replace the EMA Director, seemed to be offended by a picture that was on the back page of last week’s Wilcox Progressive Era. It was a picture of a couple of young guys playing around at the river the way young guys play around in 2016, but it was perceived by some readers as being distasteful.

This was amusing to me. I found it interesting that a silly picture truly offended people, but for about three weeks straight the facts about the Commission Chairman having a sexual relationship with a student while he was teacher were spelled out in great detail and it didn’t seem to overly offend too many. It didn’t even seem to bother local advocates of abused women and children…partly, I suppose, because so many of them already knew. And I think that speaks a lot about a person’s character. It’s the type of thing you can genuinely judge someone on. So rationally, it would seem a man disqualified by the state to teach children should be by default no longer qualified to lead an Alabama County. But…I guess there needed to have been pictures.

So it is true that Wilcox County can often look a bit like a disaster area from a distance, but what we have now is the opportunity to learn from one another. We have a mingling of races and cultures and ages. We are all imperfect and have all fallen short of the glory. There has to be some hope of finding harmony and moving forward, as the alternative serves no one well.

When a destructive storm blows through all you can do in the aftermath is what is directly in front of you. Whatever is within your reach and ability, and in doing that, you arrive at something more that needs to be done and then you do that too. It’s the same with cleaning up your own act or cleaning up the county’s image and reputation. If we all to the best of our being do over and over, the things we are individually charged with doing, and if we will do them truthfully and in accordance with what best serves our community as a whole, we should shortly find ourselves better than we thought us to be. We owe it to our children to at least try and set a functional example for the future.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.

Pitching propels Demopolis to first round playoff sweep

4-22-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - On an extremely close play, Wesley Holemon was safe at the plate on this play against Alabama Christian Academy to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead in game one.

4-22-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – On an extremely close play, Wesley Holemon was safe at the plate on this play against Alabama Christian Academy to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead in game one.

Demopolis (16-8) used a pair of masterful pitching performances to sweep Alabama Christian in a first round Class 5A playoff series Friday evening, taking the opener 6-1 and completing the night with a 1-0 victory.

“That’s what I like. That’s just the bottom line. I like that quality start pitching and I like them to go. But a 1-0 game, you don’t see those anymore. I’ve always felt like I could manage 1-0, 2-1 games. I have a hard time managing the 10-8 games. That’s kind of how the game was when I came along. It was low scoring,” Demopolis coach James Moody said. “Unbelievable starting pitching tonight; three hits in 14 innings. What can you say?”

4-22-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Hunter Colyar fires a pitch to the plate against Alabama Christian Academy.

4-22-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Hunter Colyar fires a pitch to the plate against Alabama Christian Academy.

Demopolis 6, Alabama Christian 1

Hunter Colyar toed the rubber for the Tigers in the first game of the set, striking out three batters and allowing two hits over seven innings of work. Colyar carried a no-hitter into the sixth before Grayson Blackwell stroked a leadoff double. Mario Galloway followed with a double of his own to plate Alabama Christian’s only run of the contest and cut its deficit to 3-1.

“It was a quality start. He threw the ball up there and let them hit the ball on the ground. I thought he was down most of the day,” Moody said of Colyar’s work on the mound. “He struggled in the middle with his breaking ball but made some adjustments on it and was good enough to recover and find it later and give himself a chance to finish the ball game.”

Demopolis answered in the bottom half of the sixth when Luke Yelverton singled and gave way to sophomore pinch runner Andrew Patterson. R.J. Cox singled in Patterson for the 4-1 lead. Jacob Rodrigues then doubled in Jamarcus Ezell and Chandler Barton to make it a 6-1 Tiger lead.

“I think our young kids are making a difference for us. At any given time, we’ve got three sophomores out there and we’re pinch running some sophomores. Everybody is contributing,” Moody said.

Demopolis opened the scoring with a three-run third inning. Jamarcus Ezell led off with a single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Barton. Demetrius Davis, who stole two bases in the contest, singled and scored on a base hit by Colyar. Rodrigues singled to drive in Wesley Holemon, who came on to run for Colyar.

4-22-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - R.J. Cox sends a pitch to the outfield against Alabama Christian Academy.

4-22-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – R.J. Cox sends a pitch to the outfield against Alabama Christian Academy.

“We swung the bats well. We did. We were ready to play and when we’re ready to play, we’ve got a chance. They’re not bad. When we’re focused, we’ve got a chance to do some good things,” Moody said following the win. “I’m really proud of them. That first one is always a big one.”

Demopolis 1, Alabama Christian 0

Spring Hill signee Yelverton took the mound in game two and wasted little time finding his rhythm. Yelverton struck out five of the first nine batters he faced en route to a memorable one-hit shutout. Yelverton fanned nine on the night while walking two, giving up a single to Galloway in the fourth or the only base hit of the game.

“He just got in a rhythm,” Moody said. “He was around the zone. He probably threw 93 percent fastballs tonight. I’d have to check it out, but I think he probably threw about 10 sliders. Just command of the zone.”

Galloway countered on the mound for ACA and was impressive in his own right, scattering seven hits and holding Demopolis to a single run.

“I thought the Galloway kid did a great job tonight,” Moody said. “I saw him pitch last week and he was very good last week too.”

The Tigers scored the game winner in the top of the sixth when Wesley Allgood walked to open the frame before Holemon came on to pinch run. Yelverton capped off a 3-for-3 game and put himself in line for the victory when he laced a ball down the right field line for a double to plate Holemon.

The run proved to be enough as Yelverton retired the last 11 batters he faced to close the series.

4-22-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Luke Yelverton pins the ball on a putout against Alabama Christian Academy.

4-22-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Luke Yelverton pins the ball on a putout against Alabama Christian Academy. Yelverton pitched game two, allowing one hit and striking out nine in a complete game shutout. He also went 3-for-3 from that plate in that contest and drove in the game’s only run.

“It’s one run and anything can happen. But I felt comfortable with the way Luke was throwing the baseball. I really did,” Moody said. “I thought the sixth inning was big when we got 1-2-3 in order because I think their top few make them go. I felt a lot better after we did that. In these kind of games, one run is one run and it can when it, especially if you’re solid on the mound.”

The sweep moves Demopolis to a rematch of last year’s second round series against Marbury.

“I think we will be better prepared because of last year. I just think it is the approach of we’re back where we want to be,” Moody said before referencing a motivational flier that was placed on the inside of the Tigers’ clubhouse door that makes reference to the one-sided sweep they suffered at Marbury in the second round a year ago. “There’s something that has been stuck on our door all year that somebody put on there and we still don’t know who put it on there. And our kids see it every day when they come out. I couldn’t tell you who put it on there. The kids don’t know. I don’t know. But I’m excited that we have another week to play and practice.”

4-22-2016 - Demopolis, Ala. - Demetrius Davis gets a base hit against Alabama Christian Academy.

4-22-2016 – Demopolis, Ala. – Demetrius Davis gets a base hit against Alabama Christian Academy.

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