Remembrance Reef

By Tracey Amick, Live 5 News

Charleston SC (WCSC) -After the Captain of the Fishwrapper died in July, the rest of the Billfishing community responded, with flags at half mast, and a tournament in Tony Smoak's honor.

Tony's widow, Alison says a tournament is fitting. "Because that's where they want to be, they want to be deep in the ocean", Smoak said.

Then another idea caught on, to create an artificial reef in memory of all billfishermen who die. But for billfish it'd have to be 3x as deep as other reefs.

By chance, the Department of Natural Resources had a permit that fit the bill.

"It was originally constructed to receive the steel parts of the old Cooper River Bridges, but when the steel was more expensive than scraps we didn't get it and haven't had anything to put there since", Director Mel Bell said.

It will be 52 miles off the jetties and Billfisherman Stevie Leasure says the location of the reef is perfect.

"Couldn't be in a better place approximately between the 360 and 450 line and in 350 feet of water. 80 percent of boats go there offshore", Leasure said.

It'll take more than 100 thousand dollars to buy reef material and make it happen, money Leasure says they'll raise from yearly tournaments and donors.

Leasure says many of the anglers he knows want to actually contribute to the reef after they die, by leaving money in their wills and also having their ashes added to a concrete reef structure that will be brought out and dropped in the water.

"If you think about it- the ultimate participation is being part of the reef it says a lot about how they feel about the resources out there", Bell said.

"I've got everyone from mates and captains to doctors and businessmen in Charleston and beyond-it's really taken off", Leasure said.

Alison Smoak says its way to help the billfishing community in the future, while remembering those in the past.   "They can go to that spot and know part of Tony is down there that he is part of the ocean now", Smoak said.