As upscale development creeps along the Savannah River's lush shorelines in Columbia County, some anglers are worried that access to fish-rich tributaries and branches might someday be restricted.
"We're always hearing things, like plans to close off some of the channels to boats," said Bill Fogal, who fishes each weekend along Little River and Betty's Branch. "I hope it isn't true."
For months, work has been under way on Champions Retreat Golf Club, which includes 27 holes tucked along Uchee Creek, the Savannah River and the 280-acre Germain Island, separated from the mainland by Little River.
Although the gated community that will accompany the golf resort will have a certain aura of exclusivity, the developers have no plans - or desires - to cordon off any of the tributaries to boat traffic, said E.G. Meybohm, managing partner of Champions Retreat Golf Founders, LLC.
"We plan to have it stay just as it is," he said.
Rumors to the contrary might have been spawned by recent work to extend sewer lines under a backwater on Uchee Creek.
"They didn't leave it as navigable as it was prior to the time they did the work, and had to go back and remove some of the rock," he said. "So we've tried to correct anything we've created that may have created problems."
Although controversies have raged in recent years as developers have blocked access to North Georgia trout waters after buying shoreline on both sides, navigable branches of the Savannah River are difficult to close.
Channels that flow around islands in the Savannah River are, essentially, a part of the river, said Raymond Carnley, a spokesman for Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division. As such, they are, by law, public waters.
"Because it is flowing water, and a part of the Savannah River, Georgia's stance is that it is public, and it can be accessed publicly from boat landings and such."
Fogal is delighted that anglers will always be able to stalk shellcracker and bluegill in his favorite holes - regardless of how many golfers or stately homes are assembled along the shorelines.
"It's a great place to fish, and no one goes too fast through there anyway," he said.
BIG BUCKS: Three new Boone and Crockett and 10 new county records were added to the state's Antler Records List during the most recent round of white-tailed deer antler scoring conducted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Of the 418 sets of antlers scored at the 11 scheduled sessions this spring, 163 met the minimum score for entry on the state records list. The 163 racks included 156 sets of typical and seven non-typical racks. Of the antlers scored, 135 were taken in 2002 or 2003.
Racks must score a minimum of 125 points typical or 145 points non-typical to qualify for the state records list. Records are based on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, which measures the mass and symmetry of deer antlers in two categories-typical and non-typical.
After seven straight years, Orangeburg County was knocked off by Kershaw County as this years' top producer of state record entries. During spring 2004 scoring activities DNR Wildlife Management personnel documented 13 record entries from Kershaw County. Other top counties included Lancaster with 12, Aiken with 11, Anderson with nine, Orangeburg with eight, Oconee, Pickens and Union counties each with six. Barnwell had five entries.
Harvesting potential Boone and Crockett bucks is not a common occurrence anywhere in the country. There are only about 5,000 white-tailed deer records listed by Boone and Crockett, which includes entries dating to the 1800s. Similarly, the harvest of deer in the United States in recent years has been about 5 million per year. So the average hunter stands a better chance of being struck by lightning than harvesting one of these record deer no matter where they hunt.
HUNTER SAVES DAY: An assistant principal at a middle school in Gainesville, Va., helped avert tragedy last week when he heard a familiar sound emanating from a stall in a school restroom.
The noise that caught Jamie Addington's attention was the unmistakable sound of cartridges being chambered into a bolt-action deer rifle. Addington, being a hunter himself, peeked under the stall to find a 12-year-old with a .30-06 rifle and two other firearms.
He quickly called police as the school was evacuated, and the child - the son of a cafeteria worker - was disarmed and taken into custody, according to Associated Press reports. It is yet another reason why hunters are always good guys to have around.
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