4 weeks ago

Andrews’ AJ breaks 38-year-old Alabama record

The 127-pound, 12-ounce amberjack that reigned atop the Alabama state records for 38 years was landed before Brian Andrews was born.

Marcus Kennedy of Mobile, who caught the big amberjack on June 19, 1981, saw the last of his state records fall on Friday, August 23, when Andrews’ 132-pound, 12.8-ounce fish takes its place after the record certification process is complete.

Andrews was aboard Capt. Bobby Walker’s Summer Breeze II soon after the amberjack season in the Gulf of Mexico kicked back in on August 1 a few weeks ago.

Walker, who has been fishing the Gulf as a captain or deckhand for 50 years, went to a special amberjack (AJ) spot and his anglers started to hook nice fish.

“I couldn’t have had a better angler,” Walker said of Andrews, who hails from Citronelle. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. He was a big, strong, strapping guy. You talk about a guy working on a fish, he could do it.”

The 37-year-old Andrews is no neophyte angler. He has previously owned his own private Gulf boat and had some experience fishing offshore. He said the trip on Summer Breeze II started out in rough seas but turned into a nice day for fishing. After catching a few beeliners on two-hook rigs, the anglers got down to serious business at the amberjack holes.

When Andrews hooked up, he wasn’t sure what was on the other end of the line. He had caught a 70-pound amberjack earlier in his fishing career, but this one was different.

“I was trying to be positive, but several people were telling me it was a shark,” Andrews said. “He was pulling like a shark, but you never know. He made at least three big runs. It took at least 30 minutes to get him in. When he makes a run, all you can do is hold the rod and watch him go. When he starts peeling drag, you just hold on. When he stops peeling drag, you have to start taking some of the line back.”

The main thing the boat captain was worried about was the number of sharks that were hanging out in the same vicinity as the AJs.

“We had caught so many big bull sharks,” Walker said “I was hoping to goodness it wasn’t a shark. We had already caught two or three good jacks off that hole and broke off a couple. I was just hoping we weren’t wasting time reeling up a big shark. I hollered down to Paul (Resmondo), my deckhand, to let me know when he could see the fish and tell what it was. He said, ‘Bobby, he looks like he’s 40 feet down, but I can tell you it’s an AJ, and he looks huge.’”

When Andrews finally reeled the big fish to the surface, the deckhands gaffed the fish and struggled to get it into the boat.

“When that fish hit the deck, his mouth flopped open, and I said he looked like he could swallow a basketball,” Walker said. “His head was huge. I told them I’d lay money that the fish was at least 100. I didn’t think any more about it.”

Andrews said it was time for a break after the fish was finally on the deck and the deckhands were in charge.

“We admired him for a few minutes,” Andrews said. “We took a few pictures and got him on ice. I went inside for some AC (air conditioning) after that. After about 45 minutes, I was ready to catch another one. It took me a little while to recoup.”

The boat came back in and docked at Zeke’s Marina. Walker was busy squaring away the boat for the next trip when he heard something that got his attention.

“Then I heard people hollering and raising Cain and wondered what was going on,” he said. “They had hauled the fish up on the scales. When I saw it, I said, ‘Whoa.’ Tom Ard looked at me and said, Bobby, you’ve got a state record.”

The big fish measured 65 inches from the tip of its snout to the fork of its tail and sported a 40-inch girth.

Obviously, when you spend as much time as Walker on the Gulf, plenty of big fish are going to hit the marina dock.

“I’ve caught plenty of big amberjacks during my day,” he said. “I think that was the third one over 100 pounds. Believe it or not, we caught a 109 and a 111 on the same day about 10 years ago.”

When Kennedy, 17 at the time, caught the long-standing AJ record, he said big amberjack were more common during the late ’70s and early ’80s, and he was definitely gung-ho when it came to targeting big fish.

“We had caught several fish over 100 pounds back then,” said Kennedy, who held the Alabama blue marlin record for 26 years before it was broken in 2013. “I had previously held the record at 102 pounds. Some of my high school friends and my dad (the late Rod Kennedy) were out fishing. We actually caught that big fish (the record) on the Edwards Liberty Ship. I think I caught it on a small, live king mackerel, but I can’t remember 100%. I definitely was using a 6/0 reel with 100-pound test line and a Ross Hutchisson custom rod. That was my big amberjack rig. Back then, that’s what we fished for. We won the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on a regular basis with big amberjack. When we got that fish in the boat, I knew it was significantly bigger that the 102-pounder that I’d caught before. We got him to the boat in 15 to 20 minutes. We fought them hard, and I had a good, strong back back then.”

Now that his last record is off the Alabama record books, he’s not worried about getting back on the list. He’s going to leave that up to his 28-year-old son, Tyler, who already owns three state records for other saltwater species.

“If I catch a record fish, it’s going to be something smaller,” Kennedy said. “It’s not going to be an amberjack or blue marlin. I’ll leave that up to Tyler and Ryan (Kennedy, his 20-year-old nephew).”

Walker said amberjack are usually around some kind of structure – wrecks, petroleum rigs or big rocks on natural bottom – and can be anywhere from 50 feet to 300 feet down. He said it’s easy to distinguish between the different snappers and the amberjack. He marks AJs on his bottom machine and tells his anglers how far to drop.

Although a lot of anglers will use big jigs for amberjack, Capt. Walker likes to use live bait for the big fish.

“Hardtails (blue runners) are probably the best bait,” he said. “Jigs used to work great, but AJs are just not as plentiful and are harder to catch. We just like to drop a big, live bait down and see what’s down there. The secret to catching a big AJ is having the right tackle. You’ve got to go pretty heavy. You can’t catch one like that on light tackle. First, you’ve got to get him away from the wreck or the rocks. You’ve got to have some pretty strong tackle to do that. If you can get him away from the structure, you’ve got a good chance of catching him.”

Walker said amberjack fishing has been a little slow so far, but he knows fishing success is cyclical.

“One year it’s great, and the next year you’re wondering where the AJs went,” he said. “This has started out like one of those years that’s down a little.”

Walker said the demand to catch amberjack doesn’t compare with red snapper. He fished 55 of the 62-day snapper season for charter boats.

“People like to catch amberjacks, but it’s nothing like the bookings we get for snapper,” he said. “We tell them we can also catch beeliners (vermilion snapper) and maybe a scamp or a grouper. I’ve got some more 12-hour trips coming up. I’m probably going to the amberjack hole. I want to see if lightning strikes twice in the same spot.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

2 hours ago

Wolf Bay Restaurant Bar and Boutique is an Alabama Gulf Coast tradition

Charlie and Sandra Wrape served 27 dinners on their first day of business. The year was 1973, and they had just opened a restaurant in a former bait shop on the shores of Wolf Bay in the tiny Baldwin County community of Miflin.

“Business just blossomed from there,” said the Wrapes’ daughter and the current owner and president, Charlene Haber.

Forty-six years later, Haber operates three Wolf Bay restaurants, two in Alabama and one in Florida.

“We are doing more than 3,000 dinners a day in our peak season” at the Foley, Orange Beach and Pensacola locations, said Haber, who politely, but firmly, asks to be called Char. “Everybody calls me Char. Nobody calls me Charlene.”

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Haber’s Navy Dad and nurse Mom lived in Pensacola when they decided to retire and open a restaurant in Alabama. Last year, Haber decided to return to the family hometown and open the third Wolf Bay Restaurant, Bar & Boutique in that Florida city.

“The Pensacola community has embraced us with open arms,” Haber said. “We have really enjoyed getting to know the military personnel who live nearby. Wolf Bay is committed to giving back, and it has really warmed our hearts being able to support even more nonprofit organizations and schools.”

Through loss of founders, flood and fire, restaurant endures

The road to success hasn’t been easy for Haber or the restaurant.

“My mother passed away in 1994, then Hurricane Ivan came in ’04, which sunk us about six feet under water, then the fire destroyed us in 2008,” Haber said. Her father died in 2014.

The family business – previously known as Wolf Bay Lodge, though it has never offered lodging – expanded several times in its original location. After experiencing flood and fire in a four-year span, the business relocated and reopened in 2009 on Perdido Beach Boulevard in Orange Beach. In 2010, its original customer base rejoiced when Wolf Bay opened a restaurant on Miflin Road in Foley. The Pensacola location opened Oct. 1, 2018.

Besides adding the new location last year, the regional seafood restaurant chain in recent years has rebranded, renovated, redesigned menus, added software analytics, hired a catering and events director, increased outdoor seating and implemented a silent paging system.

Any hardships along the way don’t show, said Orange Beach Councilman Jerry Johnson. Wolf Bay Restaurant is “a destination for our city’s out-of-town guests from every region of the country. Their seafood is always fresh, the service is always exceptional and the atmosphere is pure Coastal Alabama.”

A team that interacts like family

“I think the most valuable thing that my mother and father ever told me was … get in there with your employees, work hard with them and they will always give you 200 percent,” Haber said. “I couldn’t do any of this by myself. We are a team, and I have developed a family here.” Some of her employees have been working for the restaurant since the 1970s.

There’s Ma Belle, Miss Nadine, Karen, Jerry and Al, who retired last year after giving a two-year notice.

At Wolf Bay Restaurant, which is known for its fresh Gulf seafood prepared using community recipes handed down through the years, they peel, devein and butterfly every shrimp by hand. Even their salad dressings are made by hand.

“These people look out for me as well as I look out for them,” Haber said. “I want everyone to know how lucky we are for the staff we have. We just need more of them.” Wolf Bay employs 350 at the height of the Gulf Coast tourist season.

The customers also consider Haber and her team family.

Donna Watts, chief executive officer and president of the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce who frequents the Foley location, said, “I sometimes eat here three times a day. I know most of the staff. When I walk in, they all say, ‘Hey, Miss Donna.’ I love it. It feels like home, and I think that is why everybody comes here, because it feels like home.”

This story originally appeared in the Alabama Retailer, a publication of the Alabama Retail Association.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Alabama’s CoachSafely Foundation earns national recognition

In Alabama, we know what it means to be called a champion. It means you’ve accomplished something special.

Add Alabama’s own CoachSafely Foundation to this state’s distinguished roster of champions.

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This week, CoachSafely is being honored by the Aspen Institute‘s national Project Play initiative as a Project Play Champion at the Project Play Summit in Detroit. Of the 20 local, regional and national organizations to earn the designation for work to help build healthy children and communities through sports, CoachSafely is the only one based in Alabama.

Jack Crowe, the founder and chairman of the CoachSafely Foundation, called the recognition “a tremendous honor.”

“We at the CoachSafely Foundation thank the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program and Project Play for the national leadership they provide,” Crowe said. “We’re all striving toward a common goal to make participation in sports an inclusive, enduring and positive experience for our youth. This recognition helps to validate our mission to keep children active, healthy and safe by educating youth coaches at the grassroots level.”

In 2018, thanks to CoachSafely’s efforts, Alabama became the first state to pass a law requiring youth coaches of athletes aged 14 and under to pass a broad-based course in injury recognition and prevention. Other states have begun to study the Coach Safely Act as a model for similar legislation.

The CoachSafely Foundation developed just such a comprehensive course, which covers:

  • Emergency preparedness, planning and rehearsal for traumatic injuries;
  • Concussions and head trauma;
  • Heat and extreme weather-related injury familiarization;
  • Physical conditioning and training equipment usage;
  • Heart defects and abnormalities leading to sudden cardiac death;
  • Overuse injuries;
  • Emotional health of the child-athlete.

Through a joint venture between CoachSafely and the Alabama Recreation and Parks Foundation, about 12,000 youth coaches throughout Alabama have completed the training course to help keep their athletes as safe as possible. CoachSafely maintains a database of coaches who’ve completed the training course, which is available online or in person.

The CoachSafely Foundation’s impact can be measured both by the number of youth coaches trained locally and by this national recognition for its groundbreaking efforts to equip those coaches with the knowledge that will enable them to prevent injuries and recognize them when they do occur.

The Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program launched its Project Play initiative in 2013 “to apply and share knowledge that helps build healthy communities through sports, to produce reports that take measure of the state of play at the national, regional and city levels, with exclusive data and insights, and to create frameworks and tools that stakeholders can use to grow access to quality sport.”

Among the other organizations honored this week as Project Play Champions are Special Olympics, for developing an implementation guide for coaches that will increase its developmental sports offerings; the U.S. Soccer Foundation, for advancing the development of mini-pitches in areas where space is at a premium; and US Lacrosse and USA Field Hockey, for partnering to develop a multi-sport sampling program.

So CoachSafely finds itself in good company doing good work for a good cause. Which is another definition of champion.

For more information, go to CoachSafely.org.

This story originally appeared on Kevin Scarbinsky’s blog.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

What is the responsibility of business?

The Business Roundtable (BR), a group of chief executive officers (CEOs) of some of America’s largest corporations, recently released a statement claiming that businesses have a broader purpose than simply making profit. By contrast, in a famous essay economist Milton Friedman argued that the social responsibility of business was to increase its profit. The BR statement may perhaps be pure public relations. Still, should we regard profit as less important than other potential business goals?

Answering this depends on the nature of profits. In the market, all transactions are voluntary. No business, however large, can compel anyone to buy their product, work for them, or loan them money. Profit must be earned by producing valuable goods or services. Customers will only buy a product that delivers more value than comparably priced goods, or similar value for a lower price. Workers will only work if the pay and conditions compare favorably to other jobs.

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In a market economy, profit cannot be made through exploitation. Some people, unfortunately, do not have very good alternatives. Many Americans do not consider a minimum wage job attractive; the person willing to work for $7.25 an hour is better off, given their other options. We might lament the lack of better alternatives but any better opportunity is an improvement.

Should corporations lower prices or pay workers more instead of earning profits? Not necessarily. Profit is the reward for investors who enable investment, the hiring of workers, and production. Profit also enables charity. America’s great philanthropic foundations – like the Ford, Rockefeller, and Gates Foundations – were built off enormously successful and profitable businesses. If Microsoft were not so profitable, Bill Gates could not be so charitable today.

Why will stockholders want businesses to earn profits? Millions of Americans own stock, either directly or through their pension plans. They invest for many different reasons: for retirement, to provide for their children or grandchildren, or to enable donations to charitable causes. Money allows the stockholders to pursue these distinct goals. Absent specific evidence otherwise, we should presume that stockholders want profit.

The BR statement says that corporations have commitments to other stakeholders: they should deliver value to customers, treat and compensate employees fairly, and deal ethically with suppliers. I see no real divergence here from Professor Friedman, who insisted that increases in profit had to be achieved within society’s legal and ethical bounds.

This might seem surprising, as corporations appear to many to shortchange customers and take advantage of employees. Yet markets are entirely voluntary. Providing a shoddy product and ignoring customer complaints may reduce costs and increase profit in the near term. But dissatisfied customers will turn elsewhere and damages a company’s reputation.

Corporations rely on their employees, as the owners do not do all the work themselves. The workers know how to make a business’ products. Dissatisfied workers can quit, taking their training and skills with them. Stiffing workers on overtime or benefits may save a little money, but losing skilled workers is very costly.

Treating people the right way – especially customers, employees and suppliers – is arguably how to increase profits. It may be difficult to quantify how much this adds to the bottom line and so may appear to be an item of faith. Still, the BR statement here just seems like good business.

One of Professor Friedman’s concerns remains relevant today. CEOs make decisions, give speeches, and receive media attention but ultimately do not own corporations. Owners ultimately get to make the decisions; the CEO works for the stockholders, represented by the board of directors.

A CEO may choose to support trendy social causes to build a reputation as an enlightened executive. It is easy to be charitable with other people’s money. Hold your applause when businesses support broader social causes. CEOs ultimately should heed the stockholders and not grab the spotlight to boost their egos.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

7 hours ago

Alabama Maker Siluria Brewing has tapped into local flavor of Alabaster

Siluria Brewing Company was built in a renovated post office and has delivered on a promise of good beer and an inviting atmosphere for locals and visitors.

Just a few turns off Interstate 65 in Alabaster, Siluria Brewing has established itself as a part of the community since it opened in November 2018.

Danny and Tammy Sample, a soon-to-be-retired military veteran and a retired dental hygienist, respectively, opened the brewery in the city they love.

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Siluria Brewing is an Alabama Maker of local beer from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“We knew we wanted an old building, we wanted there to be some history and character and we didn’t feel like we could do that if we built a new building,” Tammy said. Renovating took almost a year, but what they have now is a place that represents them and Alabaster. The dynamic duo knew they wanted the place to be as much about family as it is about beer.

Siluria Brewing is named after the town of Siluria from the 1890s. It remains a neighborhood in Alabaster, but was absorbed into the larger Shelby County city in the 1970s.

Danny said he felt the city needed something like Siluria Brewing that it could embrace and enjoy.

The Samples have succeeded in bringing old and new together, drawing on history while offering a new place to gather after work or for live music on the weekends.

A variety of nine beers aims to have something for all beer lovers. For those not into beer, the Samples are expanding into wine.

Through it all, Danny said the goal is to keep the focus where it is.

“We’re not going to try to compete statewide or nationwide,” he said. “We just truly want to stay local and be a true small, local business.”


Siluria Brewing Company

The product: Craft beer with special seasonal offerings.

Take home: A growler of Cock-On-A-Rock ESB.

Siluria Brewing Company can be found online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band to perform in 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama Million Dollar Band has been selected to perform in the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, representing the state of Alabama.

This will mark the first appearance by the band in the Parade. The Million Dollar Band will join the Parade to the call of “Let’s Have a Parade,” the iconic phrase that has signaled the start of every Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1924.

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“It’s fitting that the UA Million Dollar Band, one of the most respected university marching bands in the country, will be performing in one of the largest parades in the world,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “What Alabama fans have been able to enjoy on Saturdays will now be shared with more than 50 million people live on the streets of New York and watching on television. We’re honored by the invitation, and I couldn’t be more pleased by the work of these talented student musicians.”

“The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of America’s iconic holiday traditions,” said Dr. Ken Ozzello, UA professor of music and director of bands. “Having the opportunity to participate will be thrilling for the members of the Million Dollar Band and provide them with life-long memories.”

Each year, the Macy’s Parade Band Committee looks for bands that have the stage presence and the musical and marching abilities to captivate more than 3.5 million live spectators and more than 50 million viewers. The Million Dollar Band was selected from more than 100 applicants as one of nine bands to march in the 94th edition of the annual holiday spectacle.

The band will join the revelry along with other iconic Macy’s staples: floats, giant character balloons, clowns and superstar performers galore on Thanksgiving Day 2020, helping create an unforgettable experience for millions.

“When most Americans think of The University of Alabama, they may think about football, however, it is the exciting showmanship, entertaining performances and incredible music at halftime that captures our attention,” said Wesley Whatley, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade creative producer. “The Macy’s Band Selection Committee is proud to welcome the sights and sounds of The Million Dollar Band to the streets of New York City for their inaugural appearance in the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”

The Million Dollar Band will spend the next 14 months planning for their Parade appearance.

“In preparation, the band will work on its marching technique, as well as the standstill portion of the Parade which is televised by NBC,” Ozzello said. “It will be a challenge to stage 400 musicians and performers in front of Macy’s, but the staff is eagerly looking forward to taking on that challenge.”

Performing for millions of fans each year, the Million Dollar Band has been a Crimson Tide tradition for more than 100 years, and it has become one of the most respected university marching bands in the country. The band, which is made up of more than 400 students from almost every major and department on campus, is UA’s largest student organization.

For more than 90 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has given thanks to what Macy’s values most – its loyal fans. More than 5,000 Macy’s employees and dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to create a spectacular event that entertains the cheerful crowds and provides joy to millions at home watching on Thanksgiving Day. Stretching down a more than two-mile-long route in New York City, the spectacle is alive with gleaming color, music and smiles.

Shane Dorrill is the Assistant Director of Communications, Broadcast Media and Safety at the University of Alabama