Executive Board Members
President Emeritus and Founder: Captain Billy Sandifer 6/11/1947 - 3/30/2018
He received his BS in Biology from Texas A&I University (Kingsville,1970), an MS in Marine Biology from Corpus Christi State University (1980) and a PhD in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences (Mariculture) from Texas A&M University-College Station (1986). McKee has been a Professor of Biology and Coordinator of the MS in Mariculture degree program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi for over 20 years. McKee serves as the Associate Director of the TAMU-CC Laguna Madre Field Station and is a founding (and still active) Board member of the Corpus Christi Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association. He has long collected and written about old fishing tackle and served as curator of two permanent displays of old fishing tackle and lures exhibited in Corpus Christi and Rockport. Everything in his youth revolved around hunting and fishing because that was what all the men in his family did. He and his brother (Don) were raised by their mother and her parents and by his aunt and uncle (Helen and “Doc” Johnson) and thus were blessed by having 3 families. His grandfather (S.F. Hunt) was Sheriff of San Patricio County for over 30 years (44 years total in law enforcement). McKee helped him tend to as many as 22 bloodhounds (including some very large litters of puppies) and looked forward to the monthly practice runs where a trustee from the county jail was released on one of the large county ranches to simulate an escape and the dogs were put on the trail to track them down. The dogs always got their man and not a single prisoner ever went free! His grandmother was County Librarian in the basement of the courthouse and he and his brother got to know every square inch of the old building including the jail. McKee grew up with a fishing rod in one hand and a gun in the other and knew from an early age that he would end up in a career involving the outdoors, most likely dealing with the water. In the 1960s he began fishing in Port Aransas for tarpon and sharks from the south jetty (and from the north jetty when they could hitch a ride over there) and from Horace Caldwell Pier with his cousin Sam “Bub” Hunt III. They lived on the pier and jetties for weeks on end and survived quite well on little more than Spam, Vienna sausage and white bread. His uncle (Sam Hunt II) was a fishing legend, being one of the pioneers that fished for (and regularly caught) large sharks from gulf piers. When he couldn’t get to the coast, he spent lots of time on the Aransas River with his grandfather and uncle Bobby Hunt setting and running trot lines and jug lines for catfish and fishing for big alligator gar. He was introduced to surf fishing in the 1950s by another uncle (“Doc” Johnson) who had a Willys jeep and a fishing shack near Yarborough Pass on Padre Island. These family members taught him not only “how” to fish, but more importantly “why” to fish! For three summers after high school, McKee worked on shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico between Louisiana and Mexico, starting as a “header” and eventually working up to “rigger” (one BIG notch below Captain). When anchored up he would hang out on the stern with a bow and home-made fish arrows shooting ling that were attracted to the discarded by-catch of fish and crabs. He also used hand lines made of parachute cord and hooks baited with squid. After one 30-day trip he pocketed good money ($0.50/lb) for 22 ling sold at the dock in Aransas Pass. He also collected and preserved various species of fish that were brought up in the shrimp nets. Many were uncommon and poorly studied and were ultimately given to the Biology Dept. at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (San Marcos) where he started as a Freshman. After graduating from college he taught science in middle and high school for 5 years at Flour Bluff ISD which was only a half mile from the Upper Laguna Madre. Quite a few of his students were children of commercial netters and trotliners and it was not uncommon for them to wear white shrimper boots to school. A few wore no footwear as covering the feet was considered by some families to be unnecessary and basically un-affordable. Several students had their own wooden Vannoy net skiffs and were on the water before daylight catching fish to help their families make a living. In 1977 he was hired by the Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a fisheries biologist working first at the Rockport Marine Lab and later out of the small Upper Laguna Madre Field Station in Flour Bluff. While with TPWD he made friends for life and was fortunate to have worked in a wide variety of bay and gulf fishery projects. McKee was accepted to the PhD program at TAMU-College Station in 1981 and before graduating was hired by Corpus Christi State University (now TAMU-CC) and has since been teaching full-time in the areas of marine science and mariculture. His “pet” courses are Ichthyology and Marine Ecology. He is blessed with being able to work with and mentor future marine/fishery scientists and fish culturists and participate in many different kinds of applied research projects. Everyone taking his classes hears a lot (and hopefully learns a good bit) about the Laguna Madre and its fishes and the therapeutic benefits of fishing. For the past 6 years McKee has secured funding from CCA for undergraduate marine biology students to intern with TPWD for a summer in his beloved Upper Laguna Madre. Because of this experience and the opportunity to “sell” themselves, several have been hired full-time following graduation. McKee is a member of the Ananias Fishing Club that was begun in the early 1940s by a group of Corpus Christi anglers that threw only lures for big trout and reds in the Upper Laguna Madre. He has been a judge in the Deepsea Roundup in Port Aransas for the last 30 years and was inducted into the Port Aransas Boatmen’s Association “Hall of Fame” in 2007. In 2007, McKee was given the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation “Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Award for Higher Education”. McKee has owned a fishing cabin on Baffin Bay for 30 years. A passion is stalking big trout with lures in the Upper Laguna Madre. He takes great pride in his latest boat, a 22’ Stoner Skiff (his 3rd Stoner) a hand-laid commercial net skiff designed exclusively for plying the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre. McKee is a self described “lagunatic” through and through! McKee has been married to his hometown Sinton High School sweetheart Jane (Hamilton) for the past 37 years. Many of their dates during the “courting” years were fishing trips in the local bays, surf, jetties, Papalote Creek and in the Aransas River. They especially loved fishing around the remains of the old La Quinta Pier near Ingleside. They started fishing the Laguna Madre in the mid-1970s and since acquiring their cabin on Twin Palms Island at Baffin Bay, have spent many wonderful years there with family and friends. Concerning his successes in life, he gives the “lion’s share” of the credit to Jane and their three children: Laura (San Antonio), Hunt (Corpus Christi) and Helen (Fort Worth). They have three beautiful grandchildren Luke, Elliot and Allyson who live in Corpus Christi and will spend lots of precious time on the Laguna Madre at their beloved fishing cabin-“Hewit South”.
Vice President: Tyler ThorsenTyler was born in Los Angeles, California on October 28th 1959. Some of his earliest memories involve fishing. He was hooked at age four when he caught a 14-inch Kokanee Trout while on a family vacation in Washington State. While growing up, Tyler's family lived in California, Missouri, and finally Texas. His love of fishing and exploring the great outdoors grew at each stop. Summer vacations were often spent in Washington where Tyler loved to fish for Salmon with his Uncle Si on the Puget Sound. As a teen in Texas he began competing with his father in the local bass club at the plant where his father worked in McGregor, learning from some of the best bass fishermen in the state and fishing legendary Texas bass lakes. A few surf fishing trips in the early 90’s grew to an obsession and in the spring of 1994, Tyler purchased his first 4x4 and he and his family made a total of nine 600 mile round trips to visit the coast before moving to the Seattle area in 1995. In 1997 on vacation back in Corpus Christi, Tyler and some friends took a trip that would change his life - a surf fishing charter with Captain Billy Sandifer. On that trip, Tyler lost a huge Speckled Trout at the 36 mile area and couldn’t get over Billy being mad at him for losing it due to a tight drag. After all he and his friends were paying good money to fish with him. Later on the same trip while shark fishing, Tyler was innocently explaining to his friend that he would love to see that shark rod go off and using his vocal talents, made a sound that sounded just like a 6/0 reel’s drag screaming to illustrate his point. That faux peeling drag sound sent Billy off running to inspect what he thought was a smoking fast shark run. As one can imagine, Captain Sandifer was not pleased but Tyler managed to survive the encounter – like stepping on a stingray without getting stung. Seeing the wonders of Padre Island on that trip convinced him to talk his wife into moving his entire family down from the Seattle area to Corpus Christi in 1998. Once in Corpus Christi, Tyler was a regular fixture on the Seashore and became friends with Captain Billy, often picking his brain at times while visiting with him down the beach. After seeing that Tyler was a pretty decent fisherman who was conservation minded and loved Padre Island, Billy took him under his wing and became his surf fishing mentor. In 2000, Tyler created Billy’s first website and solicited sponsors for and helped organize the Big Shell Cleanup. In 2001, Tyler began sharing his love of fishing with his own website - www.corpusfishing.com and through his weekly Friday morning fishing reports with Jim Lago at 1360 KKTX. In 2004, he was selected to serve on the Texas Parks and Wildlife's Spotted Sea Trout Work Group, and took over as the surf fishing writer for the Saltwater Angler Fishing Newspaper. In 2007, he was invited to be on the board of directors of the Corpus Christi Chapter of CCA, and in 2008 was honored to be asked to serve on the board of the Friends of Padre, Inc.
President: Aaron Scott Baxter
Secretary: Cody MoravitsCody was born in Corpus Christi on October 20, 1992. He grew up fishing the waters of the Upper Laguna Madre, but it was only a matter of time before his focus shifted to the nearshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At the age of 14, Cody’s mother would drop him off at the North Packery Jetty to fish during the summer months. When he was 16, he was assigned a school project where he had to give a speech about someone who has had an impact on our community. Naturally, he chose to speak about Billy Sandifer and his conservation efforts. Cody’s teacher actually contacted Billy and asked him to give his own presentation to the class following his speech, in which he gladly accepted. This was his first encounter with Capt. Sandifer, the founder and president of FoP.
Vice President: Jeff Wolda
Advisory Board Member:
Board Member: Troy William AdlerTroy William Adler was born in San Saba, Texas on March 6, 1963. Fortunately, his family made the decision to move to Corpus Christi early in his life and he was introduced to fishing and the beach by his mom and dad, Chris and Robert Adler. His parents taught him to fish at a young age on many occasions at the T-heads and in Packery Channel. As he grew, his parents would regularly drop him off for 10-12 hour fishing excursions on various charter boats in Corpus Christi Bay for their date nights. Of course this was a thrill for him and many times older fishermen would leave the boat with that punk kid holding the winning pot of cash! For Troy, the beach was always a family favorite destination. His family spent many days surf fishing, shell hunting and playing on the beach. This has continued with his children, Kylie and Wayde Adler. Prior to receiving a driver’s license, he would pilot his rivet depleted aluminum boat and explore the barren pristine flats of the Laguna Madre as far south as his gas tank and multiple bilge pumps would allow. His trusty and rusty gold spoon was his weapon of choice and the demise of many redfish! These experiences formed a desire for Troy to continue enjoying the natural resources (hunting and fishing) of South Texas. He soon decided to give back to the community by volunteering to protect, secure and enhance these natural resources for future generations. Troy attended Fisher Elementary, Hamlin Middle School and graduated from W.B. Ray High School in 1981, 3rd in his class… alphabetically!! He attended Southwest Texas State University for a short time and then transferred and graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1986 with a BBA in Business Administration. In March of 1988, Troy made the decision to return to Corpus Christi and became the owner of Federal Iron and Metal Company and soon after married his wife, Bobbie Adler. His metal recycling center was then purchased by a national company and he transformed Federal Steel into a thriving steel distribution and service center. Troy is also a 25 year member of The West Rotary Club of Corpus Christi. In the mid 1990’s Troy was ready to follow his parent’s footsteps and he began volunteering in this community. His passions led him to join the Gulf Coast Conservation Association where he has proudly served in every capacity from cleanup crew, boat chairman, banquet chairman, V.P. of Legislative affairs and as President. Troy had the opportunity to testify in State Senate hearings in Austin concerning the multiple problems associated with abandoned floating cabins. When asked, “How high the cabins were floating”, he had to explain to a Senator in West Texas that they were floating ON or IN the water and NOT in the air! During Troy’s term as President of Coastal Conservation Association– Corpus Christi, he convinced the Board of Directors that the organization needed to further assist Billy Sandifer with his beach cleanup. After an attempt to change the cleanup date to increase CCA’s volunteers, Troy reciprocated Billy’s verbally abusive tirades with numerous verbally abusive tirades of his own. This began a mutual respect for each other’s desires to make the beach a better place than we found it despite the obstacles that would present themselves. Troy has volunteered for more than 10 beach clean ups. For several years he has been asked to lead and support a team of volunteers and continue to “walk the walk”, as Billy says, of cleaning trash and debris many miles down the beach. Troy has always understood the importance of educating the community about the importance of protecting our beaches, bays and their inhabitants. His family has been very involved in all levels of education in Corpus Christi and he has a deep respect for the careers and friendships of Dr. David McKee and Billy Sandifer. Troy has been instrumental in educating the younger members of our community and involving them in coastal habitat issues throughout his children’s school years. Troy’s son Wayde, the future of conservation, has been right by his side during these beach events and has helped recruit numerous classmates and friends to assist. These incredibly fulfilling and important beach cleanup events have driven Troy to become more involved and eager to further the cause of Friend’s of Padre and its Board of like-minded characters.
Board Member: Kevin Eager
Born in Fort Worth, Texas on May 13, 1985. Kevin was an avid freshwater fisherman growing up in North Texas but didn't get his first taste of the Gulf Coast until accepting a scholarship to play college football in southern Louisiana. The effects of Hurricane Katrina caused Kevin to transfer to Texas A&M University Galveston where he obtained a B.S. in Ocean and Coastal Resources . While in school he worked as a deckhand on charter boats and for a vessel delivery service running boats up and down the Gulf Coast. When not fully immersed in his studies or working on a boat somewhere, he began venturing offshore in a kayak to explore the nearshore waters of Galveston Island. His time in Galveston led to the development of a great passion and respect for the Gulf of Mexico. He began his career working in the seafloor mapping industry. Working on vessels large and small, around the nation and overseas he saw much of the world's oceans and waterways but it was the draw of Padre Island that brought Kevin to the Coastal Bend in 2009. In 2010 Kevin traveled to Chile to complete a short job mapping a section of the Gulf of Arauco. While working from a small boat on the night of February 27, Kevin was less than 40 miles from the epicenter of the Chilean 8.8 earthquake. The events of that night and the following weeks led Kevin to take the skills and knowledge he acquired working on the commercial side of the seafloor mapping industry to Texas A&M University Corpus Christi where he mapped some of the naturally occurring structures located off Padre Island while completing his M.S. in Environmental Science. While working offshore and in graduate school, Kevin spent large stretches of time down Padre Island National Seashore fishing, exploring and studying the diverse assemblages of creatures that call the island and its water's home. The island acted as an oasis and refuge for Kevin, where he was able to go after long stints offshore to charge his batteries and find solace along the long open stretches of beach. He came to appreciate the resilience of the island but also observed the fragile nature of the ecosystems it contained. It was during this time that he developed a sense of responsibility to protect and conserve the island and all it contained. Kevin currently works as the Captain of 'Nyati' a 59 foot Spencer sportfish. When not chasing billfish offshore, he can be found in spring and fall with a fly rod in hand chasing jacks in the surf or throwing flies at tarpon off the jetties around south Texas.
Board Member: Lily Walker
Lily Walker was born in Spearfish, South Dakota on August 6th, 1995 and grew up on a farm within the city limits of the aptly named town of Fruitdale, South Dakota – population 45 (but she always questioned that census). Her favorite hobbies included fishing in their pond in her dad’s belly-boat, making temporary aquariums that littered her families home with said fish, and also breaking draft horses. She always had an appreciative curiosity about nature, which extended beyond aquatic life, but also to the interconnectedness of various system types. She marveled at the impacts that human activity had on nature, be it while hunting with her dad, or a lousy summer of river fishing due to overdrawn watersheds from various irrigation practices. At a young age Lily begged for a saltwater aquarium and alas she finally was afforded one. This settled the deal for her: she was going to be a marine biologist. Subsequently, at the ripe age of 16, Lily was so determined to become one that she dropped out of high school, moved to Texas, and somehow managed to get her BS and MS in Marine Biology.
She now works as a biologist for the Texas Parks & Wildlife studying the upper Laguna Madre - which feels like home to her.
Board Member: Dan Watkins
Dan was born on March 9, 1970, in Baytown Texas. He was introduced to the outdoors by his Father and Uncles at the ripe young age of 4, hunting and fishing in the marshes and bays around the Galveston Bay and Sabine estuaries. Chasing all kinds of critters and fish all across the coast has been in his blood and it is thought that marsh mud and saltwater flow through his veins. In 1995 he moved to the DFW area and continued chasing critters and fish in the North Texas lakes and backwaters where he began becoming more involved with conservation efforts with Delta Waterfowl and Duck Unlimited. Outdoor conservation has always been a part of his life as it supports and assist the furtherment of the species we all love to chase. In 2019 he moved to the Corpus Christi area, only a few short miles from the Padre Island National Seashore.
While exploring his new surroundings and new home turf he met a tall salty gentleman, Tyler Thorsen, that was as eager in the outdoors and shared the same passion for conservation as Dan did. Their similar personalities, same general saltiness, and passion for the salty air and sea has made them good friends and compadres.
During some of their adventures running down PINS chasing Trout in the surf, Tyler mentioned the Friends of Padre organization. The idea of having such a positive impact towards improving not just the environment but all the creatures that live within it sparked Dan’s inner fire and drew him to the organization. In 2022 Dan was surprised and greatly honored to be asked to be a part of this organization.