Ah, all this cold weather. Yes, siree, that’s precisely why we all moved here. Having just now turned the corner on the mother of all colds (otherwise known as pneumonia), I am going to try and get through this column without dripping snot on my keyboard, which no doubt might lead to a short followed by an 110-volt wake-up call surging through my ravaged body. Who knows, it might just cure what ails me.
Before I go on a winter rant, I just have to mention that this past week we lost a true Hilton Head icon by the name of John Jamison or commonly known as “Jags.” If you never had the privilege of meeting this guy, he was not just a longtime boat captain known pretty much throughout the northern hemisphere, but also a superb fisherman, poet, comedian and flat out one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. Witty and unbelievably smart, for me at least, it was his infectious smile that I will miss most. It wasn’t a smile that said, “I am the hap-hap-happiest guy on Earth” but rather a smile to be wary of. He was Hilton Head’s original Cheshire Cat. I could write a book on John’s exploits, but I won’t.
For a writers like myself, winter is a hard time of year to come up with engaging stories about the deep blue sea. As cold as it has been continuously, there is no way you will catch a slender, thin-blooded southern boy like myself out there wetting a line. With water temperatures down in the low 40s, it’s been nearly a decade since we have had these conditions. With reports of fish kills due to the cold piling in, I know Mother Nature rules, but it’s just sad considering 2017 was right up there as one of the best big trout years in a very long time.
Luckily for us, most of the fish kills occurred north of us, but if the water doesn’t warm up soon, it might be some time before we can have a repeat of that banner year. It was that sobering fact that got me thinking, and believe me it’s rare that anything can get this mind going, but I’ll give it a shot.
I realize there are a ton of transplants here from Ohio, New Jersey, etc., who may or may not realize just how cheap our saltwater license fees are compared to any of the states nearby. To me, our license fees are a joke.
For SC residents, an annual saltwater license is $10. Ten bucks? Most of us spend more than that for lunch on any given day, and in most cases, a pretty crappy lunch at that. On the other hand, your $10 saltwater license allows anglers a cooler full of fish each and every day of the year plus all the shrimp you care to catch, crabs, clams, oysters and the list goes on and on.
So why raise license fees that are more in line with other coastal states? All you have to do is look at what this community has to do to keep our prized Waddell Mariculture Center going. I used this example simply because most of you are familiar with all the community events held annually to ensure Waddell and all its work doesn’t go down the drain.
Having thought about this for quite some time now, almost without exception, everyone I have asked the question, “Would you support raising our license fees if you knew the money would go toward reef improvements, breeding tanks for DNR, Waddell, etc.?” have said they would do it in a heartbeat. Just on the artificial reef subject alone, can you imagine the impact it would have on our fisheries if the money were there to improve and add to our reef system?
Beginning in May, trying to find a place to anchor at the Betsy Ross Reef is worse than trying to find a parking spot at Walmart on a Saturday morning. I simply don’t get why this issue is so far down the list of proposals at our State House when there are so many anglers along our incredible coastline. My guess is as a group, we are simply lazy.
If you think I am overflowing with cash to burn, think again. Heck, you might even get a chuckle if you saw my tax returns. With that said, the water has and always will be my savior. I fish as much as I can and when I get down in the dumps, the ocean always comes to my rescue. But with all the folks moving along our coast, our fisheries are going to be pressured almost to the max. Add things such as stormwater runoff and degradation of our now pristine habitat, and the writing is on the wall.
Is the price of a Big Mac, fries and super-sized soft drink too much to ask to add to our license fee if you knew that money would keep our waters healthy and places such as the Waddell Mariculture Center a model for worldwide seafood sustainability? If you agree, write one of our local state representatives and let’s get the ball rolling!