Santee Cooper lakes get artificial reefs

Santee Cooper's Waylon Johnson (left) and John Steed place another concrete pipe in Lake Moultrie. Santee Cooper photo by Phil Fail.

When fishermen talk about artificial reefs they generally are referring to structure placed in saltwater; freshwater anglers usually get brush piles. But anglers on the Santee Cooper lakes should begin enjoying the benefits of three artificial reefs - two on Lake Moultrie and one in Lake Marion.

The project was conducted jointly by Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric and water utility, which provided the manpower and barges to deploy the concrete; Santee Cooper Promotions Commission, which helped fund the transportation of the reef material as well as pushing through the permitting process; and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, which oversaw the work.

Concrete Pipe & Precast of North Charleston and General Pre Cast Manufacturing Co. of Moncks Corner donated concrete structures.

The first deployment took place May 22 when 45 cubic structures were placed in Lake Moultrie, just southwest of the entrance to the Diversion Canal in 15 feet of water (N33 19' 49.19" and W80 05' 18.89").

Forty-six pieces were deployed June 4 in 18 feet of water at the entrance to Wyboo Creek on Lake Marion (N33 31' 08.5" and W80 12' 18.5").

The most recent placement occurred on Aug. 21 when 42 concrete fish attractors were placed northwest of Bonneau Beach (N33 19' 50.70" and W80 02' 18.82") in 30 feet of water.

Willard Strong of Santee Cooper said the electric utility had the barges and equipment it uses to maintain navigation markers and transmission lines and was happy to step up for the anglers.

"We loaded the material on our barge in the Diversion Canal, near the Cross Generating Station. It was great to be able to step up and make this happen," Strong said.

Mary Shriner of Santee Cooper Country, the commission that promotes tourism for Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Orangeburg and Sumter counties, said the project originated about five years ago but it took a long time to see the project through. She estimated the cost was around $20,000.

"The materials were all donated and we have enough at the staging site to do two more. It has worked out really well," she said.

Scott Lamprecht, a state fisheries biologist stationed at the Dennis Wildlife Center in Bonneau, said the structures will offer a diversity of habitat from the brush piles generally used in the lakes.

"This will be there for a very long time," Lamprecht said. "We will add brush to them and the combination of the two really adds up to one plus one equals three. Here's something we can add to for a very long time."

Lamprecht said the artificial reefs will be a good place for beginning anglers or those who don't know the lakes well to start. Each site is marked with a buoy and the structure sounds in a radius of approximately 120 feet.

The fluctuation of lake levels was taken into account so as to avoid creating a boating hazard when the lake levels are low, Lamprecht said, but the structures provide bottom relief of more than 10 feet.

The structures are expected to attract a variety of species, including catfish, bream, largemouth bass and crappie. So head out and wet a line. Your chances of landing a big one just got better.