It’s 75 years and counting for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and its wildlife management area program.
It was in 1941 that the Belmont Plantation and its nearly 6,000 acres in the low country were purchased by the outdoors/conservation agency to become the first managed area.
History abounds at the site in Hampton County. It was a King’s Grant property, bestowed on the Tison family in 1737 by King George II of England. The estate was burned by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman during his troop’s brutal 1865 march from Savannah to Columbia during the Civil War.
The main house was rebuilt by Col. John Tison in 1890. The Belmont family (of Belmont Stakes horse racing fame) purchased the property in 1902. And soon it was serving as a hunting lodge for frends of the wealthy Belmonts.
Four decades later the state assumed ownership and in 1975 renamed the old plantation in honor of the second DNR director, James W. Webb, who championed the idea of wildlife management areas for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.
The rambling old main house, with its dark wood paneling and wide porches, serves once again as a hunting lodge during deer and turkey seasons. It’s not for scions of the wealthy, but for everyday wildlife enthusiasts from across the country who apply by the thousands for coveted spots in the Webb Center’s computer-drawn lottery hunts.
The Webb site also is used by DNR for scientific research and as a base for educational seminars, such as one each March devoted to quail.
From that very first 6,000 acres in 1941, the Department of Natural Resources now has more that a million acres of managed areas stretching from Bulls Island on the coast to the Jocassee Gorges in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
That’s something to celebrate, indeed.
▪ A free “Family Fishing Fiesta” is planned for Jordan Lake on April 2 at the White Oak Recreation Center from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The big impoundment is located off U.S. 64 near Apex in Chatham County. The event is co-sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the American Fisheries Society and Friends of the State Parks. Participants can fish, learn to dress their catch, learn casting techniques and and play fishing games Students from an N.C. State fishing club will offer tips on what lures work best for certain species. No fishing license is required at Jordan Lake for those taking part during the day. Information: www.ncwildlife.org/fiesta.
▪ Tennesseans Sammy and Scott Orr of Maryville teamed to win last weekend’s Fontana Open bass tournament on Fontana Lake, winning $2,000. Their two day mixed catch of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass scaled 22.3 pounds. Local fishermen and brothers Lester and Rodney Carringer finished second with 21 pounds, earning $1,000 in the event sponsored by Fontana Village Resort and based at its marina. A record 45 two-person teams competed. The best largemouth of the tourney weighed 5 1/2 pounds, the top smallmouth 3 pounds, 14 ounces.
Catches Of The Week
▪ A 600-pound bluefin tuna off Hatteras Village by anglers trolling with skipper Kenny Koci aboard the Fin Again.
▪ A 93-pound yellowfin tuna by a party trolling from the Fintastic off Oregon Inlet with skipper Dickie Harris.
▪ A 500-pound bluefin tuna measuring 100 inches by a party trolling off Oregon Inlet aboard the private boat Just Right.
▪ Two wahoo of approximately 75 pounds off Ocean Isle by Graham McNeill, Todd Tansky and Bryan Freeman while trolling at the Blackjack Hole.
▪ Large wahoo and a good number of blackfin tuna off Ocean Isle by Buddy Love, Jeff and Marshall Drake.
▪ An excellent haul of big black seabass, silver snapper, bee-liners and other bottom species off Georgetown, S.C., by skipper Eric Heiden and friends while fishing from the Heid and Seek.
▪ A 6 ½-pound largemouth bass at Union County’s Lake Monroe by Todd Moore of Monroe.
▪ Five largemouth totaling 14 pounds at Lake Monroe by local angler Mike Long.
▪ Three crappie measuring just over 15 inches each at Lake Monroe by local fisherman Gregg Moore.