A global buzz erupted last week when photos of a “sea monster” that washed ashore on South Carolina’s Folly Beach made the rounds on news sites and social media.
The huge, scaly – and somewhat decomposed – creature was so unlike anything the public had seen that it was at first said to be an undiscovered species.
Scientists, however, quickly identified as a sturgeon.
The odd looking fish, which also live in the Savannah River below Augusta, are about as “un-new” as any fish, having survived as a species for 200 million years.
Its presence on a sunlit beach generated hype and awe only because few people ever see one – which is sad.
The Atlantic sturgeon, whose status as an endangered species takes effect this coming Friday, can reach lengths of 14 feet and have been known to weigh up to 800 pounds.
Its smaller cousin, the shortnose sturgeon, is even rarer, having lost much of its inland spawning habitat to river dams.
How close to Augusta can these fish be found?
Just last week, South Carolina DNR biologist Bill Post and others were at New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam uploading data from radio receivers deployed along the river to record movement by coastal sturgeon captured and fitted with transmitters.
Although spring is barely here, at least one fish had already made the journey to Augusta – just three days earlier. More are likely to come upriver in the coming weeks.
Post and his colleagues have tracked local fish as far north as New York and Delaware in their quest to learn more about the species, whose numbers continue to decline.
Next time you are fishing in the lower Savannah, especially if you are quietly anchored on a quiet morning, keep your eyes open.
You just might catch a glimpse of a real live sea monster!
BEARDED LADY: Lots of turkey hunters called in gobblers last week, but one local caller brought home something far more unusual: a beared hen.
He was hunting in Burke County and the bird came in to decoys along a food plot. It was a big bird, over 15 pounds.
Its beard was almost 8 inches.
The gentleman killed the hen. He figured if it had a beard, it was legal to shoot.
Just as female deer occasionally sprout antlers, turkey hens occasionally grow beards – and in many states, bearded hens are legal game.
Some states – including Georgia – do not allow them to be taken, though, as I learned after making a quick call to the state’s Wildlife Resources Division.
The rationale, I was told, is that turkey hens have other characteristics to distinguish their sex besides a beard, while a female deer with antlers is more difficult to identify, and can be legally killed.
MARINA PLAN: I had a chance to talk by phone last week with Mike Jansen, owner of Athens-based Classic City Marinas, which will sign a lease June 1 to take over the former Little River Marina site in Columbia County.
His assessment: pretty much everything back there will have to be demolished. The most salvageable part of the site – the docks – have already been removed.
“The place needs a complete facelift,” he said.
Jansen’s company owns two marinas at Lake Sinclair, one of which he said is in the final stage of a $5.5 million renovation.
Another site at Lake Hartwell is also being improved.
What’s in store for Little River?
In the short term, he plans to choose a new name and complete studies of infrastructure needs. In the longer time frame, he expects the site to evolve into a full service marina with a restaurant, store, fuel and other amenities.
In the meantime, the public is still welcome to use the boat ramp on the property, said Corps of Engineers spokesman Billy Birdwell.