John's Journal...

Three Generations of Charter-Boat Fishing with Orange Beach, Alabama’s Walker Family

The Future of Charter-Boat Fishing

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Captain Bobby Walker of Elberta, Alabama, is a third-generation charter-boat captain out of Orange Beach, at Zeke’s Marina. His personal history and his family’s history run deep in the history of bottom fishing off Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Because of Walker’s family and other charter-boat families in Orange Beach, today Alabama’s Gulf Coast boasts some of the finest snapper, grouper, king mackerel and amberjack fishing anywhere. This week, we’ll find out how the Walker family has helped to build the largest artificial-reef program in the world.Click to enlarge

Question: Bobby, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has reduced the number of days you can fish for red snapper. You can only keep two red snapper per person per day. The NMFS also has imposed more length and bag limits on saltwater fish than anglers ever have experienced. What’s the future of the charter-boat business?
Walker: Right now, charter-boat fishing is looking pretty bleak. With the economy the way it is right now, everyone’s feeling the economic pinch. We had a really-difficult spring. Not only were our bookings down, but we had a lot of rainy, windy days and we had to cancel trips because of the weather. Bad weather with high seas, high winds and rain causes people not to want to go fishing and prevents us from going out when we have charters booked.

For several years, snapper season opened in the middle of April and went through the end of October. Before the opening of snapper season, cobia could be coming in, and so we had 6 good months, which is plenty of time for people to go fishing. During that period of time, fishermen could keep five red snapper each, and our customers were pleasedwith that season and that limit. Then the NMFS cut us back to four snapper each, and now we’re down to 2. Not only can our customers only keep two red snapper, they can only fish for red snapper for 2-1/2-months. That’s one reason all the captains down here are trying to fish every day they possibly can. Click to enlarge

Our offshore fishing is what’s really helped us. We don’t have to rely on the snapper as much, since we can go offshore and catch tuna, grouper, scamp, amberjacks, wahoo and mahi mahi (dolphin). We’ve had to teach our customers that there are more fish to be caught out of the Port of Orange Beach than just red snapper. We’re seeing more and more people going offshore for grouper, scamp and vermilion snapper. All of our charters (customers) have been well-pleased with the size and number of fish that we bring in when we go to deep water. This reason is why we don’t run many 4-, 6- or 8-hour trips. We try to go further and find and catch bigger fish then we can catch on those shorter charters. Click to enlarge

The fishermen at Orange Beach have had to change from being strictly snapper fishermen to fishing for all of these other fish out in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing trips have also become more of a social event. We have a Big Green Egg on the boat, which is a ceramic grill that’s mounted into one of our boxes. So our customers will often bring a Boston butt, spare ribs, steaks, chicken, hamburgers and let those meats slow cook in that Green Egg on the way out or while they’re fishing. On most trips, we enjoy a real feast as well as a fine and exciting fishing trip.

Question: How do you suggest people cook the fish that they catch with you?
Walker: My son-in-law, Jimmy Green, is the chef in the family, and you better ask him how he cooks fish and what he cooks.

Question: Jimmy, how do you cook fish?
Green: I lay my fish skin-side down on the grill, put salt, pepper and garlic on the fillet, the sprinkle a little Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning and add a little bit of butter. I cook the meat until it begins to flake. Then I scoop the fish right off the skin, leaving the skin on the grill. The skin will become hard, and you can scrape it off the grill with a spatula, after you’ve taken all of the meat off of it.

Question: What kind of fish to you like to grill?
Green: We cook amberjacks, snapper, grouper or king mackerel. All those fish are great cooked on the grill.

To learn more about fishing with Captain Bobby Walker, call 251-981-6159 or
251-747-3575, visit, or email For more information on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, visit, or call 1-800-745-SAND (7263). For one of the best places to stay on the beach, check out Perdido Beach Resort. Go to, or call 800-634-8001.

Check back each day this week for more about "Three Generations of Charter-Boat Fishing with Orange Beach, Alabama’s Walker Family"

Day 1: Red Snapper, the Walker Family and the Largest Artificial-Reef Program in the World
Day 2: Charter Boat Fishing Has to Be in your Blood
Day 3: A Day in the Life of a Charter-Boat Captain
Day 4: How to Get the Most Offshore Fishing for Your Dollar
Day 5: The Future of Charter-Boat Fishing


Entry 514, Day 5