Outdoors column: Miss Candace adds remains to North Inlet Reef

The North Inlet Reef, located about 10 miles north-northeast of the Winyah Bay jetties, is in an excellent location for an artificial reef, but just hasn’t had any really big pieces of structure placed on it over the years.

It’s got some big structure now.

Last week, an antiquated shrimp boat – the Miss Candace – was sunk as easily the biggest structure added to the reef site, which is PA-12 in the system of marine artificial reefs managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The project is a cooperative effort between Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and S.C. DNR.

The Miss Candace, a metal-hulled shrimp boat that was active in the McClellanville area likely in the 1970s, measures 65-feet long by 22-feet wide and adds to the North Inlet Reef site a big, anchor piece of structure.

“A piece of structure at that size is going to be a huge benefit to that reef site,” said Scott Whitaker, Executive Director of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina. “I guarantee there are fish living on it right now.”

CCA S.C. collaborated with Bob Martore, S.C. DNR Artificial Reef Coordinator, in deciding to sink the boat on that site, which is one of 45 reef sites managed by S.C. DNR.

“We felt like it would be an excellent site, it needed something of that magnitude on it,” said Whitaker. “It’s within easy reach of Murrells Inlet and Georgetown. Guys in center consoles will have the opportunity to get out there and catch a lot of different species.”

Like other artificial reefs in near-shore waters, the Miss Candace will hold reef fish such as black sea bass and spadefish, plus weakfish and flounder. Of course pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, cobia and king mackerel will love the baitfish that are attracted to the structure.

The spot will also be attractive to divers, who always love to dive on a good wreck.

The boat was sunk in 50 feet of water just to the east of the buoy marking the reef site. The coordinates for the site’s buoy are 33 20.535’ N – 079 00.875’ W.

Funding for the project was generated by royalty funds Guy Harvey received from the sale of the Guy Harvey scratch off ticket lottery game last fall.

As part of the arrangement with the South Carolina Education Lottery, Harvey agreed to give back his royalty funds to ocean-related education, outreach and research projects throughout the state.

“The CCA shares my interest in habitat restoration and other fishery management issues,” Dr. Harvey said. “The CCA South Carolina folks have done a great job in improving marine wildlife habitats around the state and we are happy to be a part of this project and their continued efforts.”

Manatee sighting

Once again, a manatee has shown up in the boat basin in Marlin Quay Marina in Murrells Inlet.

For the last several years during the late spring or early summer, sea cows have made their way into the marina’s protected basin, even in the same boat slip. Marlin Quay observers recognize the one manatee from previous visits.

“It’s got the same scars, the same markings, so we know it is the same manatee,” said Kelly Alyss Spradley of Marlin Quay. “It eats the algae and growth off the docks.”

Each spring, Florida manatees expand from their home base in Florida and spread northward along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They are seasonal visitors in our area.

While observing a manatee in the wild is a real treat, residents are reminded the marine mammals are an endangered species under federal and South Carolina law. It is illegal to play with or harass manatees, including touching, watering or attempting to feed them.

If a boat accidentally collides with a manatee, S.C. DNR asks the boater to stand-by and immediately contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16 or S.C. DNR at (800) 922-5431 to provide biologists the best chance to help the animal and gather valuable scientific data.

Residents can report a manatee sighting by visiting www.dnr.sc.gov/manatee/sight.htm. Take note of the date, time, location and number of manatees seen, as well as the coordinates, if possible.

Photographs of scars on their backs and tails are especially useful because they can often be used to identify previously known manatees.

Report an injured or dead manatee by calling the S.C. DNR Hotline at 1-800-922-5431.

Rotary Flounder Tournament

The 2014 Murrells Inlet Rotary Flounder Tournament will be held Saturday at Crazy Sister Marina in the inlet.

Captains meeting is set for today, at 6 p.m., at the marina. Lines in is at 6 a.m. Saturday, with weigh-in at the marina beginning at 3 p.m.

The seven largest flounder weighed in will earn cash prizes, including $1,000 for the largest flounder.

Entry fee is $60 per angler. For more information, contact Chris Hawley at 843-455-0371 or chawley@gmail.com.