A federally supported facility occupying approximately 250 acres, the Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery has been described as a well-kept secret in the community.

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As one of two federally supported hatcheries in South Carolina — the other being on Wadmalaw Island — the fish hatchery has played a vital role in preserving the state’s aquatic life and one of its largest recreational activities: fishing.

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Established in 1911, the hatchery is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – which is preparing to give the facility a higher profile. The hatchery’s pond at the Cannon Bridge Road substation may soon be open to fishing.

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The Trump administration is proposing that more federally protected land be opened for hunting and fishing in what it calls a major expansion of those activities in the nation's wildlife refuges.

The plan affects 1.4 million acres (5,666 square kilometers) on federal public lands, including 74 national wildlife refuges, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.

The proposal would allow fishing for the first time at 15 national fish hatcheries, including the one in Orangeburg, where fishing in the substation pond about six miles from Orangeburg would be open for all legal species. The area would be open for anglers from dawn until dusk. All state of South Carolina fishing regulations will apply.

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An opening date has not been set, but the areas should be open by late summer, the USFWS has announced.

Under the proposed expansion at sites in 46 states, the number of wildlife refuges where hunting would be allowed would increase by five to 382 while fishing would be allowed at 316 locations.

“Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional pastimes as they are also vital to the conservation of our lands and waters, our outdoor recreation economy, and our American way of life. These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on a fishing and hunting heritage to future generations and connect with wildlife,” Bernhardt said.

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In a time when hunting and fishing are needed alternatives to hours in front of phone and computer screens, access to hunting and fishing sites is vital. Bernhardt said lack of access is a key reason more people don’t hunt and fish.

He called the USFWS plan “a dramatic statement about our commitment to access. The goal is to get more people out."

The USFWS plan is welcome news even in a locale where hunting and fishing are major components of many lives. While we are blessed as an outdoors mecca with relative ease of access, giving people an opportunity to wet a line in the hatchery pond is a good thing.

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