Reality Check: K-9's sniff out illegal snapper

(IMG:WPMI) Police have some help "sniffing out" sneaky anglers.

Anglers over fishing and even hiding their catches are violations Alabama Marine Resources Patrols for, and with the federal red snapper season extended now, officers are boarding vessels every weekend making sure fishermen are only bagging their limit of two.

This enforcement K-9 is unlike almost every other.

"We may have been the first agency to do the filets specifically," said Alabama Marine Resources Maj. Scott Bannon.

Morgan, a three-year-old English Springer Spaniel, is a filet finder. Aboard this vessel it only took her 21 seconds for her snout to scout out these snapper filets. And 26 seconds after boarding this boat, she found these filets hidden in a backpack. Morgan signals, not by barking, but by sitting.

"On the average boat, it takes them about 30 seconds," said Bannon.

Bannon says when the federal government started to shorten red snapper seasons, they started receiving an alarming amount of complaints of anglers fileting catches offshore and hiding them on their boats.

"The generally law abiding person became an outlaw, and I wanted to prevent that," said Bannon.

So he reached out to Auburn's Canine Performance Sciences center for help, and this super sniffer was their recommendation.

"Her nose is really powerful," said Officer Lena Phillips. "It's pretty amazing."

Phillips works side by side with Morgan.

"It makes the process quick. as opposed to me having to check every hatch," said Phillips.

Morgan and her counterpart Gaines, a cocker spaniel that works in Baldwin County, are named after the forts that protected Mobile Bay in the Civil War. They went into service last year and though the K-9s haven't caught any anglers illegally hiding fish yet, Bannon says they have made cases based on information they learned during training the dogs because they learned different ways people were hiding filets on boats.

"The primary purpose of this program is to deter the crime to start with," said Bannon.

Here's how many people were caught possessing illegal fish in recent years by Alabama Marine Resources:

Bannon says about $50,000 has been invested into the filet-finding K-9s.