Thursday, August 17, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)

With the availability of large tracts of land diminishing at a rapid rate, the Alabama DCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division and the Forever Wild Land Trust have teamed up to step outside the proverbial box to provide additional hunting opportunities in the state.

The new concept in this combined effort is to purchase smaller tracts using Pittman-Robertson and Forever Wild funding and develop those properties as special opportunity areas (SOAs) that are managed differently than the traditional wildlife management areas (WMAs).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Early August means that kids and parents are frenetically preparing for the opening of the new school year, and we hunters are looking for every opportunity to remind us that the hunting seasons are not far away.

With attention focused on the future seasons and what will lead to successful outings, hunters could possibly be playing catch-up if their preparations didn’t start earlier this year, according to Chris Cook, Deer Project Study Leader with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Trophy fish are definitely determined by the eyes of the beholders. However, when those eyes belong to a dedicated angler, it takes a big fish to be deemed a trophy.

In freshwater, the holy grail in bass fishing is a 10-pound largemouth, although those have become more common in recent years.

In saltwater, the king mackerel fishermen strive for that elusive 60-pounder, while inshore anglers hope to reel in an 8-pound speckled trout.

For the lesser known species of tripletail, the quest for glory is reached when the scale registers 30 pounds.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Plenty of red snapper, the Alabama Gulf Coast’s premier reef fish, crossed the scales at the 84th annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR) at Dauphin Island last weekend, but one reef species was conspicuously absent for the second year in a row.

The gray triggerfish season is closed for all of 2017 because NOAA Fisheries determined that the recreational sector exceeded its quota for the past several years. Triggerfish recreational landings in the Gulf were estimated to be 422,436 pounds in 2016. The annual catch limit was 201,223 pounds.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Jim Godwin crouched next to a patch of white sand in the Conecuh National Forest last week and gently released a dark, 6-foot-long serpent. The threatened eastern indigo snake didn’t hesitate to slither quickly into the intended target, a gopher tortoise burrow.

The head of the eastern indigo snake, with its tongue testing the muggy July air, made a brief appearance at the burrow’s entrance, but there was too much hubbub going on in the longleaf pine forest for it to pose for photos. No encore. Elvis has left the building.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

With a new pacemaker in place, Dr. Bob Shipp is preparing to oversee the thousands upon thousands of fish from the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama’s coastal waters that will be tossed onto the counter at the weigh station during the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR), scheduled July 21-23 at Dauphin Island.

Shipp, Professor Emeritus of the University of South Alabama’s Marine Sciences Department, will serve as head judge at the weigh station during the 84th rodeo, which happens to be his 35th behind the rodeo scales. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

It seems like eons ago when Alabama and the rest of the states on the Gulf of Mexico were collectively staring at a potential apocalypse that might eternally alter the way of life along the Gulf Coast.

The wellhead at the Macondo Prospect was uncontrollably spewing barrel after barrel of crude oil into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig was destroyed, and our economy and culture were hanging by the thinnest of threads in the summer of 2010.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Bass anglers who fished Lake Guntersville in the first half of the current decade enjoyed possibly the best bass fishing in the nation with phenomenal stringers anchored by 8- to 10- to 12-pound whoppers.

When those 30-pound-plus stringers of five bass started to wane the past couple of years, lake property owners and bass anglers who regularly fish the lake, affectionately known as the “Big G,” began to fret and then became downright afraid there was something significantly askew in the lake.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Fishing buddy Todd Kercher posted a video last weekend that many feel justifies the significant extension of the red snapper season for private recreational anglers in federal waters.

Todd took his family out in the Gulf of Mexico to catch a limit of snapper, two per person with a 16-inch minimum. What he captured on video was what many snapper anglers have been screaming for the past few years.

As Todd tells one family member that they have a limit in the boat, they start throwing the leftover bait into the water.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

 

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

If you didn’t get your Conservation ID during the 2016-2017 hunting seasons, the number is required for those who wish to apply for an alligator tag in this summer’s Alligator Limited Quota Hunt.

Registration is underway through 8 a.m. (CDT) July 11 to be eligible for the computer-generated, random drawing.

The application process started on June 2, but technical difficulties had to be resolved before the process could resume.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

On numerous trips outdoors, I’ve often wondered about the extent of the flora and fauna in the surrounding areas, but I don’t have the background to identify all the different species.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As far as Capt. Bobby Abruscato and Capt. Jay Gunn are concerned, speckled trout are almost jumping in the boat along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

A mild winter and good weather for most of the spring have created a trout bonanza that inshore anglers have been enjoying for several weeks.

Abruscato, who mostly fishes western Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island and Mississippi Sound, said trout fishing has rebounded to the glory days of several years ago.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

When it comes to return on investment, very few programs can match the success of Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust.

Forever Wild was established in 1992 as a vehicle to preserve and protect important ecological and recreational tracts of land in the state. Voters approved the constitutional amendment that established Forever Wild with an overwhelming 84 percent approval.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The old axiom that the more things change, the more they stay the same is certainly true when it comes to the fiasco that has become the red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May 4, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Except for the stormy weather on the final day, the 2017 wild turkey season in Alabama went out with a whimper.

However, that wasn’t a surprise to many because of a mild winter and early spring. Many expected the turkey breeding activity to be slightly ahead of a normal schedule as well.

Some, like Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director Chuck Sykes, didn’t expect the last half of the season to be quite so tough, especially with more favorable weather conditions than in 2016.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Alabama’s coastal environment along the Fort Morgan peninsula and Dauphin Island provides critical habitat for a wide variety of birds en route to their summer breeding grounds.

Some of the birds make journeys that may be more than 1,000 miles to reach their preferred nesting grounds, and the coastal areas untouched by development give the birds a place to rest and replenish their drained energy and fat reserves.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The frenetic activity on the tip of the Gulf State Park Pier last weekend is more proof the northern Gulf of Mexico’s premium fishing and education pier is reeling with action.

Fishing on the Octagon at the end of the 1,542-foot pier that reaches into some prime Gulf fishing waters is not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

It appears the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will make at least one more attempt at regional management of the red snapper fishery.

At the Gulf Council meeting last week in Birmingham, three states petitioned the council to manage the fishery off their respective coasts out to 200 nautical miles, based on historical landings.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Anyone who has crossed the north end of Mobile Bay on either the Bayway or Battleship Parkway at low tide in the last few years likely would have noticed the numerous crab traps that littered the shallow water on the south side of the thoroughfares.

If you drive across that area now, very few crab traps remain on those shallow flats thanks to the Alabama Marine Resources Division’s Volunteer Derelict Crab Trap Removal Program that was conducted by volunteers and sponsors recently.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30, 2017

By DAVID RAINER

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

A select few of the people involved in the outdoors reach what is called “larger than life” status. Some achieve that level because of their hunting and/or fishing skills, philanthropy or contributions to education with a goal to ensure cherished outdoors traditions are available to future generations.

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