Jessica Hill Doehner Perry positively impacted locals and visitors alike for over a decade as the face of Perry’s Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet.
Jessica greeted customers with a pretty smile and a wealth of fishing knowledge at Perry’s, a Murrells Inlet landmark that has been in operation since the mid 1950s and at its current waterfront location on the north end of the Marshwalk since 1971.
In the wake of her tragic murder in September 2017, a perfect tribute to Jessica’s legacy has been established.
The Jessica Perry Memorial Reef is in place as part of the Pawleys Island Reef, located 5.5 nautical miles almost due south (177 degrees) of the south jetty at Murrells Inlet.
Whether it was providing tide information, the proper bait, where to fish or the perfect fishing rig, Jessica eagerly offered expert information to the little tackle shop’s customers.
“What Jessica did for fishing in Murrells Inlet was incomparable to anybody else,” said Englis “Capt. E” Glover, host of the local fishing show Reelin’ Up The Coast and co-host of the Southern Anglers Radio Show. “Look at what she did day in and day out in that bait shop — if you walked in that door you got any info you needed to make your day on the water better. She was always willing to share info. She wanted people fishing and wanted them to be productive (while fishing). She was incredible with that.
“Jessica was just special.”
There have been two deployments on Jessica’s portion of the Pawleys Island Reef site, known as Permitted Area (PA) 11 within the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Marine Artificial Reef Program.
The first drop was in mid-December, when 20 pieces of four foot diameter concrete culvert pipe were put in place on Jessica’s portion of the half-mile square permitted area.
On Feb. 1 during the second drop, observers were on hand on several boats to watch as 18 concrete cylinder-shaped manholes measuring five feet in diameter with 14-inch thick walls were placed on the bottom in 35 feet of water.
Jessica is survived by her parents, Craig and Sharon Doehner, and her children, Liam, Aden and Bella Perry, who were all on hand on a perfect, balmy winter day to see the second deployment on the reef.
“It just felt really, really wonderful to have this time and remember her,” said Sharon Doehner. “These were things that were so important and close to her heart.”
Claire Collins, manager of Perry’s Bait and Tackle who spearheaded the drive to create the reef in Jessica’s honor, also witnessed the reef deployment.
“Jessica loved the ocean, she loved the people who fished it, she loved all the inhabitants inside of it,” said Collins. “We just thought it was the best way to honor her.
“In 20 or 30 years if (her children) want to go fish the Pawleys Island Reef, where their mother’s memorial reef is, that’s there for them.”
Jessica’s reef is likely not yet complete, however.
“We do a half-dozen deployments in that (Horry-Georgetown County) area each year,” said Bob Martore, S.C. DNR’s Artificial Reef Coordinator. “It’s very likely we will do more deployments on that site.”