Originally created 04/18/99

Georgia wildlife technician calls it quits



To say that Zan Edward Bunch of Tignall, Ga., is the "father" of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources striped bass program is misleading.

But as one of several fisheries technicians working on the program at the state's Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery in the early 1960s, Bunch (with the late Billy Bryant) was "the first to hatch a striped bass in Georgia."

Wilkes County native Bunch, 61, is retiring May 1 as a wildlife technician III after 34 years with the department.

"He's an extremely hard worker who could do just about anything," said Leon Kirkland, who was the state's fisheries chief when he hired Bunch. "You've got to have people around who can make things go and he was a real asset to our department." Kirkland is retired and lives in Madison, Ga.

"Zan has lots of know-how and designed lots of things to make 'em work better," said East Central Georgia fisheries biologist Jerry Germann, who came to the Thomson District in 1971.

"It was good to work with a man (Germann) who had the scientific knowledge -- I was never a book man," said Bunch, returning the compliment.

"In 1966, I surveyed and found the striped bass spawning grounds in the Back River near Savannah," Bunch said. "Before then, it was thought that the stripers left the river and went into the ocean.

"I worked under Glenn McBay and with Billy Bryant at the Richmond Hill hatchery and my wife, Marjorie, and Billy's wife, Joan, did nearly as much work to help get the striped bass program off the ground."

Bunch first worked out of the Coastal Division in Brunswick in 1966, moving to Richmond Hill in 1968 and later to Walton County Fish Hatchery where he helped develop the catfish cage culture with biologist Beverly Clements.

Rearing catfish in cages allowed for easy harvest once the fish reached a marketable size and Bunch is given credit for designing the first PVC pipe floating cage. Milk jugs had to be tied to early cages to keep them afloat.

In 1972, Bunch came to the Thomson District -- carrying out a promise Kirkland had made to him.

"Leon always said that I would return home and when I came to Thomson District, my office was my home in Tignall. One of my first projects was a channel catfish study in the Broad River."

Other projects involving Bunch included hybrid bass food habits and life history, largemouth bass food habit study, the fish attractor program (with Corps of Engineers fisheries biologist Tom Schulte) on Thurmond Lake and the Richard B. Russell Dam pumpback issue. He also documented the use by American shad of the Savannah River above the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

Lately, he worked on expanding the overflow parking area at the Highway 72 public launching ramp on Russell.

"The last thing I'm doing before retiring is helping Jerry with the environmental education center at McDuffie Public Fishing Area," Bunch said.

He'll have plenty to keep him occupied after retirement.

"I like playing with my cows on my farm and playing with nine grandchildren (not necessarily in that order). I keep 34 dogs and enjoy coon hunting and rabbit hunting and fishing."

His wife of 41 years will have to get used to having him home and likely will have a list of "honey do" projects.

"Yes, those, too," Bunch said.