How the latest major addition to an area reef will help diversify home for marine species

Dozens of sharks attack fish and netting off SC coast

A Georgetown fisher saw sharks attacking fish in a feeding frenzy. He captured the moment on video.
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A Georgetown fisher saw sharks attacking fish in a feeding frenzy. He captured the moment on video.
The Vermilion Reef off the coast of Georgetown is the deepest of the reefs in the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Marine Artificial Reef Program.

The Permitted Area of the reef site, known as PA-17, is in 120 feet of water a little over 30 miles east-southeast of the south jetty at Winyah Bay. The centerpiece of the site is the Vermilion, a massive 460-foot ex-U.S. Navy Transport ship.

Numerous New York City Transit (NYCT) Subway cars were later dropped on the site, and now another huge piece of structure is in place.

On Wednesday, a retired 95-foot tugboat, the Susan Richards, was sunk on the site.

The site already holds a large number of reef species, and attracts pelagic species such as king mackerel, wahoo, cobia and dolphin. The additional structure will only enhance the species that inhabit the reef site.

“The Vermilion Reef has always been an extremely interesting reef site with a tremendous diversity of both fish and invertebrates,” said S.C. DNR artificial reef coordinator Robert Martore. “The addition of a vessel of this size will add to that diversity.”

The sinking of the Susan Richards was funded in part by Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCA SC) plus funds from the purchase of saltwater fishing licenses.

“CCA SC has been invaluable in helping us obtain vessels like this,” said Martore.

Scott Whitaker, Executive Director of CCA SC, points out 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the grass roots organization’s Topwater Action Campaign.

By the end of the year, the program will have helped orchestrate the placement of 10 artificial reefs off the South Carolina coast, enhancing nearshore and offshore reef sites from Little River to the Beaufort-Hilton Head Island area.

CCA SC is the largest Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) partner of the S.C. DNR Marine Artificial Reef Program.

The Topwater Action Campaign already has partners and funding in place for two additional reefs in 2020.

“We are thrilled and proud of the successes and the impact the (Topwater Action Campaign) has had in such a short time,” said Whitaker. “Enhancing our marine resources is at the heart of our organization’s efforts as is evident by the scope of habitat restoration, scientific research, education and legislative efforts CCA SC is active in.

“Recreational saltwater anglers in the Palmetto State are passionate about those resources, and their access to them, and CCA SC is working in every corner of the spectrum on their sustainable use for generations of anglers to come.”

Conway Riverfest Bass Tournament

Avery Williams and Chris Blanchette were the winners Saturday in the tournament held out of Bucksport.

The duo weighed in an aggregate of 13.03 pounds including the second-biggest fish, a 4.54-pounder, to claim first-place prize money of $1,580. The tournament paid out a total of $5,500 with 48 teams competing.