Jeffrey Miller had just cast into St. Helena Sound from a chair on the sand at Edisto Beach.
Figuring the water was too shallow, he began to reel when he felt something heavy. He pulled in a rare Kemp’s ridley turtle the size of a dinner plate.
That was something he had not expected to see.
“I was kind of shocked,” he said. He couldn’t get the hook out, but he did get help. The turtle ended up at the South Carolina Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital, where the hook was removed.
Today, it returns to the ocean, along with a loggerhead and a second Kemp’s ridley. Kemp’s are considered the rarest and most critically endangered of the world’s seven sea turtle species. Both of these were inadvertently hooked.
Anglers don’t think about catching endangered sea turtles, but Kemp’s ridleys are prone to it: They like to eat.
“They’re definitely the guys who go for the bait,” said Kelly Thorvalson, sea turtle rescue program manager. The aquarium treats two or three of them each year.
If the hook can’t be removed safely, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, she said.
Like a lot of anglers, Miller, 16, of Saluda, wasn’t sure what to do at first.
But, “I knew it wasn’t a good idea to leave a turtle with a hook in its mouth,” he said. “I’m glad to know I did the right thing.”
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.