Greeting motorists on the Interstate 95 bridge connecting Orangeburg and Clarendon counties across Lake Marion is an iconic billboard featuring a larger-than-life striped bass and a slogan of “not quite actual size.”
Although the billboard sits on a mere portion of the former Highway 301 bridge, which served as a causeway over Lake Marion from about 1947 to 1987, it seems to connect the past and present in ways that “swim” just below the surface.
In a blog entry, Kevin F. Langston of Santee Cooper noted, “When the Santee Cooper Hydroelectric and Navigation Project was completed in 1942, biologists believed the striped bass trapped by the impoundment of the Santee Cooper Lakes would simply die off because stripers are a fish that migrate from saltwater to freshwater rivers where they spawn and complete their lifecycle.”
Langston further states, “In fact, the striped bass thrived after they were trapped, and the Santee Cooper Lakes eventually would garner a national reputation for the stripers’ abundance and size.”
Anglers caught record-breaking sizes and quantities of striped bass from the Santee Cooper Lake System, much to the astonishment of biologists, Langston wrote.
By 1972, the General Assembly designated the striped bass as South Carolina’s official state fish.
The billboard promotes Santee Cooper Country.
One of the older concrete bridges remains intact and stretches over Lake Marion. It is accessible only for foot traffic and is open to those who enjoy a scenic walk across the lake or who wish to fish from it – in designated areas only.
And who knows, maybe one day a record-setting striped bass may bite the bait on a fisherman’s line … and the slogan will change to “pretty near actual size.”
Just be sure to check with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for guidelines and restrictions about striped bass fishing before reeling in the big one.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.