The fishing community lost a dear friend with the passing of Allen Branch, known in our community as Ol’ Tight Line. Branch died Wednesday at Candler Hospital.
For years, Branch entertained Courier readers with his fishing reports. He also was involved with a small group of people who began conservation efforts to protect Georgia coasts and certain fish.
It was the beginning of what would become Branch’s legacy — the protection of species and maintenance of the area’s pristine coastline.
After moving his family from Savannah to Colonel’s Island in 1951, Branch owned and operated the first marina in the area, then called Branch Marina. Today, it’s known as the Halfmoon Marina.
Branch owned the marina for more than 30 years and eventually ran a fishing charter. During this time, he realized the need for conservation and the danger of over-fishing particular species.
In 1976, Congress formed a four-state council to prevent over-fishing by foreign and domestic ships within 200 miles of the Atlantic Coast. Branch served as the council’s vice chairman in 1981-82 and the chairman in 1982-83.
He helped form the Law Enforcement and the Environmental Protection committees and helped locate and develop new fishing grounds for speckled trout and other game fish. Branch consulted with various agencies in the development of oyster beds and pollution control.
His marina was used by the University of Georgia for research and by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for game management.
He retired in 1994 as the longest-serving council member in the nation.
Branch’s love of fishing continued. His passion for angling led the activist to begin writing weekly fishing reports for the Courier. His column became known as "Tight Line."
Branch gave fellow anglers fishing advice and occasionally offered tasty seafood recipes for readers to enjoy.
When his health began to fade, Branch’s son, Donnie Branch, kept the reports coming as "Tight Line Jr." and, lately, Branch’s grandson, Boo, has penned in a few reports to continue the legacy.
If the weather is nice and you want to pay tribute to our local "father of fishing," then get out there and go fishing. And if you do, always remember what Ol’ Tight Line said and keep a tight line.