A popular fishing destination off the coast of Murrells Inlet is growing thanks to an avid fisher and conservationist.
Bob Hanson, a Surfside Beach resident, just wanted to give back to the ocean that he has fished for most of his life. That’s why he made a donation to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for the improvement of the state’s artificial reefs.
DNR is using the funds given by Hanson to add new reef material to the Paradise Reef, also called the three-mile reef because it is three miles off the coast of Murrells Inlet. The section will be called the “Bob Hanson Reef.”
“I’m very excited,” Hanson said. “It is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”
The 81-year-old, going on 82, said he’ll keep fishing as long as he “can hold a pole,” and frequents the Surfside Beach Pier.
A ceremony was held for Hanson Sunday at Spuds Waterfront Dining in Murrells Inlet, but the drop of materials planned to follow the ceremony was postponed because of Hurricane Sandy.
Ed Skowysz, with the Grand Strand Saltwater Angler’s Association, said Hanson is fun to fish with, but his attitude towards the ocean is what Skowysz appreciates the most.
“He’s been with the club for many hears and he’s given quite a few classes to our members on how to live off the bounty from the inlet,” he said. “He’s a big conservationist even though he likes to fish and gather crabs and claims. He is all for conservation and he realizes that if we don’t do it now than our kids and our grandkids won’t have anything to fish for.”
Hanson hopes fishermen think about giving back to the environment when they visit his reef.
“I’ve caught a lot of fish all over the world,” he said. “Well, not the whole world but Mexcio, Canada, Alaska, Connecticut, Florida. You name it, I’ve probably fished it and I wanted to give something back to the fish community. We have to sustain our fishery and our planet.”
Hanson said he will probably wait a while to go visit his section of the reef.
“It takes a few months for the algae and the barnacles to grow,” he said. “And then the fish come in.”
There are 45 reef sites on the South Carolina coast maintained by SCDNR from Hilton Head to Little River. The most popular are the local sites at the Jim Caudle Reef, the three-mile reef and 10-mile reef off Murrells Inlet.
The 45 reefs contribute $83 million, through commercial and recreational fishing, to the state’s economy, said Bob Martore with SCDNR.
They also provide habitats for black sea bass, one of the most popular fish among commercial and recreational fishermen.
Healthy black sea bass populations on the reefs, made possible in part by the material drop events, are why fishermen were surprised, upset and confused by the closure of that fishery, Martore said.
“They are fish homes, and our artificial reefs are like little black sea bass factories,” Martore said. “They provide extremely important black sea bass habitat. A lot of people were surprised at the [black sea bass] closure because they see so many on our artificial reefs.”
Hanson isn’t picky about the fish he catches, as long as there’s a healthy population.
“I like to catch ‘em all,” he said.
But, his favorite catch was red salmon in Alsaska, which he said put up the biggest fight.
“They go 40 miles per hour up and down the river,” he said. “Then they jump 20 to 30 feet on the bank, but before you can get there to pick them up they flip-flop back in the water and they’re gone again.”
Material was last added to the Murrells Inlet reefs in June when 50 armored personnel carriers were dropped into the ocean.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.