The Cast That Keeps on Giving

Fishing is one of the most beloved pastimes for residents of the Lowcountry, and since moving here full-time, I took it upon myself to learn the art of catching bait with a cast net. To my surprise, my cast net adventures over the past month have yielded not just bait but also redfish, trout, and even a sheepshead. However, nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered on my first toss at bass pond last week.

Anyone who fishes knows the excitement that comes with a cast net feeling heavier than usual. It could be a ball of bait or an unexpected alligator. This time, when I laid the net on the ground, I found a very unhappy sea turtle looking back at me.

If this had happened on the beach or near a river, releasing the turtle would have been straightforward. But I couldn’t, in good conscience, release a sea turtle back into a man-made pond full of alligators. So, I decided to call turtle patrol to assess the situation. It must have been quite a sight for passersby to see a sweaty fisherman and a sea turtle waiting for a ride, but that’s exactly where I found myself. After taking measurements, turtle patrol transported the turtle to a safe place on the beach for a proper release.

While I’d like to think that catching a sea turtle is a one-in-a-million event, this wasn’t even my first such encounter. Last June, I caught a Kemp’s Ridley turtle on the beach with my fishing line. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what you should do.

  1. Release: If the turtle appears to be in good health, release it back into the ocean as soon as possible.
  2. Seek Help: If the turtle is hooked or seems injured, call the SCDNR hotline at 1‐800‐922‐5431. A biologist will assist in transporting the turtle to a rehabilitation facility.

Fishing offers endless surprises, and sometimes, it’s the unexpected catches that make the best stories.

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