2010-06-18 / Sports

The Great Outdoors

By Chuck Gerald

Believe it or not Believe it or not One cold, dark, grey November day in 1984. I decided it was a lovely time for fishing.

After all, fish hardly bite on blue bird days, and I had a fairly new ’84 Yamaha calling my name and a mutt named Tiffy was always ready for an adventure.

Now some folks would say why go to the Congaree that time of year, but I have a 41 pound striper on the wall my father caught off the bank between Blossom and Gervais in November in 1972.

Everyone knows that the stripers are at the blossom Street Bridge when the dogwoods are blooming on Wheat Street, but I know there are some stragglers there year round.

I figured they would be hungry for some chicken on Sunday afternoon. Besides, me and the dog were spending quality time together.

We loaded up the old Pontiac and stopped at Bi Lo for some chicken livers, I was told that was secret striper bait. I do know the wrinkle neck cat fish loves gizzards.

We arrived at the Old State Road Landing and to my surprise there were several folks just hanging around, at least one off duty deputy I knew.

I tied the line to the back of the trailer, backed in so the boat floated off, pulled the trailer up, grabbed the line, tied it off while Tiffy stayed in the warm car. Now Tiff probably weighed 4 lbs, had wiry fly away blonde hair, and she always had a big smile, I guess because she won the lottery when she strayed on to our property.

I parked the car, zipped up my Marlboro man shearling jacket, put on my toboggan, grabbed Tiffy and my Colt CAR 15 assault rifle, and headed to the boat. Every one was admiring my pea shooter and my mutt. Someone asked, “Are you using the little dog for bait?” Not hardly, and I assured them the Colt was just a little something for the snakes. As I learned in fishing school “ALWAYS carry a little something for the snakes.”

We headed down stream past the now I–77 bridge to just up stream of the confluence of Congaree Creek, dropped anchor, cast out two offerings of livers, made a little wind break, snuggled up with some ham and cheese sandwiches, and enjoyed the only sound of the breeze and rushing water.

It was not long before the rod on the starboard side doubled toward the rear. I went to grab and reel in the Mitchell 300. I knew it was big but did not know it was an alligator gar about five feet long. Tiffy was looking over the side while her paws gripped the fiber glass gunnels at the same time looking at me as to say “you’re not bringing that in the boat, are you?” Almost simultaneously the rod in the back, an antique Shakespeare steel rod with a green bait caster started jumping around violently. WHAM, WHAM, WHAM it went ,wedged between the seat and motor. I cut the line on the gar, dropped the rod in the boat, and lunged toward the other rod. Before I could grab it, the rod shot out the boat never to be seen again.

Old Tiff was wiggling, all big eyed, looking at me in disbelief.

I patted her on the head, and grabbed a little bottle of Chevis Regal to calm my nerves; it also helps to warm the belly on cold November days. Probably five or 10 minutes went by as we looked out the back of the boat hoping we might spot the rod. All of sudden an aquatic monster came out of the water like a Polaris missile straight up about five feet in the air, splashed back in, and was gone. This fish was like none I had ever seen before or since. It was dark brown, had fins down its back, and was about three feet long.

After sitting in awe, Tiffy and I were both speechless at what we had just witnessed and decided that was too much excitement for one Sunday afternoon and headed home.

I found out that in the 18th and 19th Century there were giant Atlantic Sturgeon that got as long as 14 feet,the same length as my boat. George Washington’s survey crew and George wrote two things about this part of S.C. One was this was the biggest wasteland he ever saw, and you could walk across the river on the backs of the Sturgeon. A customer told me he saw a giant hook on the wall of a local barn, and the farmer told him it was an antique Sturgeon hook.

Now I do not know if this rod stealing monster was a left over Sturgeon that had somehow survived extinction from over fishing, or maybe even a Bowfin which I recently saw a picture of.

What I will tell you is “If you go to the Congaree, be prepared.”

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