CHARLESTON, S.C. — On March 25, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, in partnership with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, hosted the 7th Annual Warriors Fishing Day at the Cooper River Rediversion Dam in St. Stephen.
Once a year, local veterans have the chance to fish around the top of the dam, a rare opportunity reserved exclusively for our nation’s heroes.
The event, typically held in late March or early April, was canceled last year at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic due to safety concerns. This year, a limited number of attendees were allowed, and new measures required all those participating to socially distance and wear masks.
Fishing day at the CRRP was started in 2014 by Joe Moran, who also celebrated his retirement at this year’s event. Moran, operations chief, USACE Charleston District, along with SCDNR and the Vantage Point Foundation, a veteran’s support group based in Charleston, started the event to give back to those who have served. This year, the event also celebrated Moran’s retirement of dedicated federal service.
“It’s our honor to give back to our heroes. It’s a very small thing we can do when you consider what our warriors and veterans have done for us,” Moran said.
The event is more than just a fishing day. It is a chance to give back to those who have served their nation.
“It really provides our warriors and veterans the opportunity to get outside, be around other vets that have shared their same experiences, and to see their friends and colleagues,” Moran said. “This was an especially important aspect to the day considering many people have been stuck at home since the start of the pandemic.”
This year’s fishing day had over 65 veterans participate. The event is open to all veterans, even those with disabilities and needing mobility assistance.
Jesse Helton, a natural resources program specialist at Charleston District, says anyone who wants to fish can, regardless of disabilities.
“The primary focus is taking care of our veterans,” Helton said. “We have people on hand to help them with handling the fish and if anyone has mobility issues.”
None of it would be possible, however, without the assistance of SCDNR, who allow the fishing to occur in a protected wildlife area once a year. While most fish are released, everyone can take a few home.
The event is also an opportunity to gather genetic and health information on the fish, as well as an opportunity to educate students on the biology of local populations.
“In the past, we have partnered with local high schools to take DNA samples to monitor long term fish trends, genetics, and the health of populations,” Helton said.
This year, those high schools were not able to attend due to the increased safety precautions, Helton said, but they look forward to inviting them back next year.
The Cooper River Rediversion Dam was completed USACE in 1985 to allow for vessels and fish to travel from Lake Moultrie to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Santee River. On average, over 750,000 fish pass through the lift every year. The project also saves taxpayers $36 million per year in dredging costs in the Charleston Harbor, while benefitting shipping, industrial development, hydropower, and fish and wildlife.
The 7th Annual Warriors Fishing Day is not the only event hosted by USACE and DNR. In September, the agencies hope to host an annual dove hunt, which occurs just down the street from the dam and is also held exclusively for veterans. A scaled-down version of the Annual Dove Hunt was held in September with increased safety precautions.
This year, Charleston District celebrates its 150-year anniversary of serving South Carolina. Events like the 7th Annual Warrior Fishing Day and Annual Dove Hunt are just some of the many events the District organizes to give back to the community.