Christina Watson of Sumter stopped in to the bait store at Pack's Landing on April 3 to load up on herring for catching catfish in the river, but while it's not uncommon to catch a striper there instead, Watson caught something she's never caught there before. She caught something that, well, nobody has ever caught there before, at least according to Stevie Pack, whose family has guided out of Pack's Landing his whole life and beyond.
Watson caught a brown trout, and while plenty of brown trout live in South Carolina, most of them live in the upstate, mountainous region along with most of the state's other trout species. It's uncommon for trout to live in waters that get as warm as the river out of Pack's Landing gets.
It's not, however, the first brown trout caught in the Santee system, according to Trey Courtney, who runs the Bait Shack just down the road from Pack's Landing. Courtney said some other anglers pulled a brown trout from Bell's Marine just a couple of weeks ago, which was a first for them.
Watson's trout was no sloucher either. The fish weighed 3.9 pounds, which would be considered a fine catch even in a the trout's native waters.
So where are these trout coming from, and why all of a sudden are they being caught in the Santee area? Pack expects to get some answers on that tomorrow, thanks to the SCDNR's tagging program.
"This fish had a tag in it, so we will know more about it tomorrow," said Pack.
The tag has a series of numbers on it that the SCDNR can use to determine where the fish was initially stocked. More than likely, it, along with the Bell's Marine trout, were stocked by the agency into the Lower Saluda River, which despite being in the midlands, maintains similar water temperatures to the mountain streams that brown trout prefer.
It's a long journey from the Lower Saluda to the waters of the Santee, but this fish beat the odds, and so did Watson by catching it.