MYRTYLE BEACH, S.C. — What began as an offer I couldn’t refuse turned into an adventure I never expected and finished as a memory I’ll never forget.
When fellow Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association member Harry Guyer and his wife Darla invited my wife and me to join them on a four-day getaway to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, there was no hesitation in our acceptance. For Darla and Betty it would be four days of sightseeing, shopping and swimming, and for Harry and me it would be four days of saltwater fishing.
My point of reference for Myrtle Beach were based on the memories of a U.S. Army Private stationed at Fort Jackson more than 50 years ago who made the trip with barracks mates from Columbia on weekend leave. Be assured the itinerary of those trips to Myrtle Beach had nothing to do with fishing.
Well, a lot has changed since those long-ago days (most notably the swimwear worn by young females), but along the boardwalk the attractions still seem specifically designed to attract the interests and needs of young males. Guyer and I couldn’t help noticing that while on a fishing pier one night as the sounds of a cover band attempting to play “Margaretville” drifted across the water from a nightspot on shore.
We had visited a tackle shop after breakfast Monday for bait — settling on the jumbo shrimp over the cut squid — and advice on fishing piers. Unfortunately, the pier at Myrtle Beach State Park was closed for repairs during the peak fishing season, reminding us how much we appreciate Pennsylvania’s state agencies.
Although it was a 45-minute drive, we opted for Apache Pier in North Myrtle Beach because of its potential to produce trophy king mackerel. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered our standard surf rods were not long enough or sturdy enough to handle one of these fish if we had hooked into one.
So, we fished for any and all of the smaller game fish swimming in the Atlantic some 200 yards from the beach, but could only hook some undersized sea bass. We decided that the three 8-foot thresher sharks circling beneath the pier may have had something to do with the smaller fish leaving the area.
Meanwhile, at the end of the pier local anglers who had come equipped with 10-foot, medium-heavy spinning rods designed to catch mackerel where having plenty of action. One party in particular was having success by consistently catching fish between 3-5 feet in length.
At dinner that evening we met a fisherman from Selinsgrove who told us there was a fishing pier in Murrells Inlet, less than a 10-minute drive from where we were staying. We opted for a night trip to the pier and our fortunes – or luck – soon changed as we landed several dogfish, which resemble miniature sharks, and had plenty of action on sea bass.
Careful planning by Guyer and I had us booking a late afternoon fishing trip for Atlantic sharpnose shark out of Crazy Sister Marina at Murrells Inlet – just so we would get in the way of our wives as they packed for the return trip home. Neither of us allowed our expectations to get too high, but we were optimistic based upon the successful trips by the party boats out of Crazy Sister Marina.
Shark trips can be from 3-15 miles offshore in water 40-50 feet deep, which is the feeding ground for sharpnose sharks because of the large schools of sea bass and grunts. We were rewarded when I hooked up on our first drift and after some long runs was able to lift a 4-foot shark out of the water to within 15 yards of the deck when it thrashed and bit off the leader.
Then it was Guyer’s turn to hook into what must have been a monster as it began and maintained run that never allowed him to gain line. He was finally able to hold his own — then the shark bit off the line.
All in all, it had been an enjoyable experience, but then came one more chance when I hooked up with another shark. Learning from my previous mistake, I kept the rod tip high to prevent the shark from sounding and rolling its head, and this time was able to pull a 3½-footer to the rail and a mate gaffed it, marked it and put it in the fish box.
Only after the mate assured me the shark had expired did I hold it for photos, as I tried for my best Sheriff Broody expression. Being able to boat that shark was quite a thrill, but no more so than catching a 3-pound porgy the previous morning on a trip with Voyager Deep Sea Fishing Charters out of North Myrtle Beach.
As is common practice for Guyer and I, we went partners when entering the cash pool that is awarded to the angler boating the heaviest fish. Well, just call us lucky because less than five minutes before the charter ended I caught that porgy and that evening the $115 we won put a large dent in a lobster buffet dinner for four.
Those four days of fishing was a great experience and made for some even greater memories. Guyer and I will just have to make sure we tell the same stories the next time we get together at a POWA conference.
(Dietz is parliamentarian of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association)