After four years of coordination, planning, obtaining permits and finding partners to donate materials and perform the work, a long-term fish enhancement project is underway at the Santee Cooper lakes. Mary Shriner, director of the Santee Cooper Counties Promotion Commission, said that the project officially started placing materials in the lake to enhance fish attractor sites on May 22.

“That was a very happy day for me and a lot of people, because it marks the physical beginning of a long-term planning process to help fish and fishermen get together more frequently on both Santee Cooper lakes,” Shriner said. “We’re working on existing fish attractor sites identified by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the first fish-attractor site enhanced was No. 9 on Lake Moultrie. There is a list of all the sites that include the latitude and longitude coordinates, and the depths of the attractors, to make it simple for anglers to locate. In addition, the Santee Cooper Public Service Authority has been in the loop and helping since we first began.”

“The goal of the project is to simply help fishermen catch more fish and in turn we hope they will come back and fish our lakes more often,” Shriner said. “We see this as part of ensuring Santee Cooper maintains the world-class fishery image to fishermen that it has earned. The fishing for multiple species has been great for several years now with native vegetation flourishing, but to ensure that it stays excellent for the long-term, several agencies have partnered to make this fish attractor enhancement project happens.”

Shriner said the project began in 2010 when the SCDNR approached the Santee Cooper Counties Promotion Commission about helping on their existing fish-attractor program.

“SCDNR had fish attractors already in place on both lakes Marion and Moultrie,” Shriner said, “but manpower and funding issues were keeping them from enhancing the attractors as frequently as needed. We were able to initially help by hiring a consultant to do the study and legwork to obtain the necessary permit from the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers to place materials that would last literally forever on these sites. The type materials include rock, stone, cast concrete structures, whole or broken cinder blocks and bricks, concrete construction debris, woody debris and inert steel and iron structures. All of these, except the woody debris, will last for a long time and will function as the foundation for each site.”

Shriner said the enhancement will benefit a numbers of species, including crappie, largemouth bass, bream and catfish. Over a 2-year period, 35 sites will be enhanced.

Shiner said Santee Cooper PSA used its barge to load concrete draining catch basins and transported them to the No. 9 site on Lake Moultrie (33 19 49N/80 05 18W). The next day, SCDNR placed woody material on the site.

“This the basic plan for all 35 sites and the woody material can be replenished at appropriate intervals though the years but the base material will last perhaps forever,” said Shriner, who believes one of the keys to the project was help getting a Corps of Engineers permit and finding partners willing to help.

“This is a project that took several agencies, as well as private individuals, to make happen,” she said. “The SCDNR, Santee Cooper PSA and our Commission worked diligently together to get all the pieces of the puzzle in place. Next we found a donor, General Precast of Moncks Corner, to donate concrete drainage catch basins for the first site. We are working with others now to get more materials and would welcome anyone that wants to help in the project by donating materials, and leftover concrete or metal construction materials are ideal.”

Shriner said that all of the sites already exist, but the enhancement project, once complete, will ensure their value to fishermen will last a long time.

“The current status of fishing at Santee Cooper is good and our goal is to do everything we can to ensure it stays that way and hopefully it even improves,” she said.