Don Hammond has decided it's time to retire, again. The fisheries biologist from James Island worked for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for 35 years before retiring in 2006 and then spent another 12 years running the Dolphinfish Research Program that studied the movements of the popular gamefish.
As of Jan. 1, 2018, the program will be directed by Dr. Wess Merten of Rockville, Md., under the banner of Beyond Our Shores (beyondourshores.org).
"I'm retiring from running the dolphin tagging study but I am going to continue the monitoring of the dolphin landings at Ripley Light Marina this coming year. From there, I will pick and choose what little research projects I get involved in. I don't want to be tied down and committed to something that requires as much time as the tagging program but I will keep my fingers in it," Hammond said.
Hammond and Merten met in Puerto Rico where Merten was attending graduate school and began a collaborative effort to study the popular fish.
"Wess did a really good job and I think we wound up with about 80 or 90 fishermen interested in tagging dolphinfish in Puerto Rico," Hammond said. He said they collaborated on several scientific papers and produced five peer-reviewed articles that were published in scientific journals.
"That helped build credibility for my program but also was part of his requirements for getting his Ph.D.," Hammond said.
Hammond said the timing is right. The Dolphinfish Research Program began four years prior to his retirement with DNR and over the program's 16-year run has met the primary goals established.
"The western North Atlantic stock of dolphinfish is the only one whose migration path is pretty well mapped out," Hammond said.
He added that one thing he wanted to do when the program began was to stimulate more research into the species and now numerous colleges and universities are doing so. Hammond said South Carolina has a better documentation of the fish size and seasonality than any other East Coast state.
"Now it's time for me to step back and pick and choose and take more time with what I want to do," Hammond said. That includes spending more time traveling with his wife in their teardrop camper and working on his hunting leases. "We're going to be able to do a lot more things on the spur of the moment."
While Hammond is best known by the current generation of offshore anglers for the Dolphinfish Research Program, he also played an important role in the South Carolina Governor's Cup Billfishing Series that now consists of five billfish tournaments held along the South Carolina coast. In 1988, the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, an avid offshore fisherman, summoned Hammond to Columbia and asked him to help develop a program that would help protect billfish and the Governor's Cup began the next year.
• The Governor's Cup lost one of its staunchest supporters late last month with the passing of Manly Eubank at the age of 81. The founder of Palmetto Ford, Eubank and his son Graham ran the boat Sportin' Life.
Sportin' Life won the Governor's Cup in 2001 and again in 2016 and from 20011 through 2016 finished in the top 10 every year, five of those years in the top four or higher.
On its Facebook page, the Governor's Cup wrote: "We are deeply saddened to share the news of Mr. Graham Manly Eubank's passing. Manly was and will continue to be a critical cornerstone of our community. He always greeted us with an invaluable source of wisdom, kind embraces, and genuine heart. We will miss his smiling face at the docks and his stories of fish come and gone.
"Manly served as Chairman of the Gov Cup's Advisory Board and was a recipient of the Carroll A Campbell Award, an award to honor those who have spent a life upholding the values of our sport. He certainly did that. Every day. We feel honored to have known this man, to have worked with him to better the Series, and to have watched the generations of his family in pursuit of feisty blues."