John's Journal...

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

Red Snapper, the Walker Family and the Largest Artificial-Reef Program in the World

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.

Question: Bobby, you grew-up as a charter-boat captain, didn’t you?Click to enlarge
Walker: Yes, I was born into it. My grandfather, Captain Rufus Walker, initially started charter-boat fishing back in the 1930s and 1940s. He ran a mail route down here in Orange Beach, and on weekends he’d take people out fishing. Back then, fishing was primarily trolling trips for Spanish and king mackerel. There were 12 siblings in the family, 11 boys and 1 girl, and just about every one of his boys became charter-boat fishermen.

Question: Bobby, how did the reef-building program at Orange Beach begin?
Walker: My uncle, Roland Walker, was one of the first captains down here to start really trying to target red snapper. He had found some old airplane wrecks and boat wrecks, and he was going all the way out to Trysler Grounds, which is a natural bottom that’s 20-miles offshore. You have to remember, hardly anybody was fishing that far offshore during the 1930s and 1940s. Most of the fishermen were never going more than 20 miles from Orange Beach. Click to enlarge

One day, a group of politicians from Montgomery came down and wanted to go fishing with Uncle Roland. So he took them to an old airplane wreck that was under the water, and they were catching red snapper, one right after the other. Uncle Roland explained to the politicians that he’d been hauling tires and old junk out and dumping it on the bottom, and that the red snapper had moved onto those artificial reefs,Click to enlarge and he could catch them. Uncle Roland told the politicians, “You know, if we could sink some old car bodies out here, we could really have some awesome red snapper fishing down here at Orange Beach.” Somehow or another, the politicians got it worked out to have 300-car bodies brought to Orange Beach and sunk out in the Gulf of Mexico. And those old car bodies made unbelievable snapper-fishing reefs for years and years down here. Believe it or not, if we get high winds that will uncover some of that junk on the bottom that those politicians put out so many years ago, there will still be snapper holding on them. Then in the 1950s and early 1960s, the state continued to build artificial reefs. Too, many local fishermen built their own reefs. Today, Orange Beach lands more red snapper than any other port on the Gulf of Mexico.

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 on the beach to stay that has nice amenities, check out Perdido Beach Resort. Go to, or call 800-634-8001.

Tomorrow: Charter Boat Fishing Has to Be in your Blood

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 1