Outsiders can ruin Lowcountry, but also help save it

cdad@hiltonheadisland.net April 1, 2014 

Pictured is Bill Sanderson with a nice lagoon redfish.

COURTESY OF COLLINS DOUGHTIE

  • ATTENTION: IT'S FISHING SEMINAR TIME AGAIN

    If there is enough interest, I will put on another two-part "How to Fish The Lowcountry" seminar at the Waddell Mariculture Center. No stone will be left unturned. Topics will include rigging, tides, inshore fishing, cobia fishing, cast-netting and more. Limited to 15 participants. Contact me at 843-816-6608 or cdad@hiltonheadisland.net.

Every so often I get hooked up with folks new to the area who have recently bought boats. They ask me to show them the ropes around this place I call home.

One such man, Bill Sanderson, a retired firefighter from Colorado, attended my fishing seminar at Waddell Mariculture Center. From that very first meeting I could tell he was a human sponge. No matter what I was explaining, he dove in head first, learning absolutely everything about the topic.

Bill is primarily a freshwater fisherman, but he went out and bought a flats boat. I knew it was only a matter of time before we'd fish together. There was just something about this guy that fit right into my way of doing things. He's easygoing with a great sense of humor and he's just ravenous about angling -- it made fishing together easy as pie.

These past two weeks I've seen another side of Bill, one that gives me a hint of faith that this area -- and the Lowcountry way of life -- might actually survive the onslaught of development. Up until this revelation, I will admit I had a sense of arrogance about all these people moving here and about the development that has changed the face of the Lowcountry forever.

So that you understand where I am coming from, imagine having a little piece of heaven that is all yours. Then one day, all of that changes when people start building homes all around you. One day your cherished spot is no longer. There was a time when I felt anger toward all the development happening here, but I guess time has taught me to accept it as a fact of life. Nowadays, I simply thank my lucky stars I was able to live here before all the development, to see it and, most importantly, to live it.

Yeah, everything has changed, but I still have one ace up my sleeve -- our beautiful waters. It is there and only there that I can escape from everything going on around me.

Now back to my friend Bill. Tired of the bizarre weather we have been having, I had to get out on the water, wind or no wind. Knowing he has the enviable position of being retired and thus flexible, I asked him if he wanted to wet a line.

"Want to try shad fishing?" I asked. What a stupid question to ask a human sponge. I knew he would go even if we were fishing in a mud puddle. So off we went to the Ogeechee River in Georgia.

Shad, or more specifically sauteed shad roe, is one of my very favorite foods. The Sponge had never tried it, but even while we fished his wife, Cathy, was researching recipes on how to cook this delicacy. From experience, people either like it or loathe it, but he was game for whatever.

While we fished he told me about an article he had read where a company was trying to come to the area to catch and process jellyfish for import to Japan. The concern with such a facility was that they would be pumping lime and other chemicals used in the processing into our waters. Immediately my hackles went up. It's one thing to mess with the land, but if you mess with my beloved waters I can be like a cat on a dog's back.

Why hadn't I heard about this? Then it occurred to me that it was a newcomer who showed me the light. He cared, he actually cared. Maybe these invaders from afar aren't all bad.

Just when I was hot on the jellyfish-processing threat, I again asked the Sponge to travel with me over to Hilton Head Island for a couple of hours of lagoon fishing for big redfish. Again, it was all new to him but he was soaking it up like a good sponge is wont to do.

We caught a couple nice reds and as we fished, he asked what I thought about the shopping center that is being planned on the corner of S.C. 46 and U.S. 278.

Have I been living under a rock?

The center's developer from Atlanta doesn't want to stick to the suggested footprint for runoff -- those same hackles grew another six inches when I learned all that extra runoff would go straight into the Colleton River. Didn't we learn anything from the mess that nearly destroyed the May River?

The point of this column is this: It seems outsiders are trying their best to destroy our waters, but on the other hand, thankfully there are newcomers who realize the water-oriented life they have chosen here is worth saving. Bill is an example of just this type of invader. Colorado has stepped up, so how about it Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, New York ...

God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.

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