If you were on Lake Russell March 13 and saw a 24-foot long SeaArk aluminum johnboat with a large white tank in the middle of it, you could help authorities solve the mystery of what happened to Mitchell Gibson, and Upstate commercial fisherman who has been missing since that night.
The last known sighting of Gibson was around 12:30 a.m. near the Lake Russell Dam while in his boat fishing for shad. He was also seen a few hours earlier at the 7-Eleven in Calhoun Falls.
Gibson, from Starr, was expected to be off the lake by 6 a.m., and when he did not arrive, co-workers went to the boat landing and found the truck and boat trailer, which is owned by Gibson’s boss. No sign of the boat has been found, despite searches that included crews from the SCDNR, the Georgia DNR, the Abbeville County Sheriff’s office, and dozens of volunteers.
Gibson’s cell phone, two of his three life jackets, and a bait bucket were found about a mile from the Beer Garden Boat Landing on Lake Russell.
Finding no trace of the boat is puzzling. Boats such as Gibson’s are designed to float, even if fully submerged. Floatation built in to the bottom of the bench seats, as well as other design features should keep the rim of the boat, if not more, above water. Also, the 600-gallon tank on board the boat should not sink under any circumstance, even if it is full of water. Searchers also did not find any sign of an oil or gasoline slick on the surface.
Officials said a small rain shower occurred during the night with some wind, but it’s not expected that it was serious enough to cause a problem for Gibson. A radar scan of the lake found a sunken boat, but it was not Gibson’s.
Anyone with information is urged to call Lt. Matthew Graham of the Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office at 864-446-6000, or the SCDNR at 800-922-5431.