Sept/Oct 2007Fishing Heritageby Pat Robertson, photography by Phillip Jones
When the Pack brothers were ten to twelve years old, their dad, Joseph B. Pack Jr., would give them a cage of crickets and send them out in johnboats to catch bream for fish fries at Pack's Landing. By the time they were eighteen or nineteen, all four were licensed captains, guiding on Lake Marion and taking customers into Sparkleberry Swamp to fish.
"We learned the swamp fishing with my father and grandfather," recalls Jody Pack - Joseph Britton Pack III - who today runs Pack's Landing with brothers, Stevie and Andy. Their brother Tracy was killed in a murder-robbery in 1999.
"When we were seven or eight they started us out in johnboats with paddles in the slough near the landing," Pack, now 41, says. "Then the next year they put six-horsepower Johnson motors on the boats and let us run out."
Soon the boys knew Catfish Creek and Long Pond like the backs of their hands, eventually learning how to navigate to Sparkleberry Lake and into the heart of the legendary Sparkleberry Swamp.
"I had the pleasure of watching my Dad ride on the front seat of the boat while I ran the motor," Pack says. "My father was always safe, and he taught me a lesson I would never forget when he spanked my behind for getting caught without my life jacket on."
The Pack family has provided access to upper Lake Marion and Sparkleberry Swamp for more than sixty years. In 1945, Jody's grandfather, Joseph Britton Pack Sr., retired from the railroad and built Pack's Landing Store next to the Seaboard Coastline railroad trestle on the Sumter County side of upper Lake Marion.
"Stevie, Andy and I guide at least two to three days a week from March through June and September through the winter," Pack says. "Andy just bought 1,780 acres at the end of Packs Landing Road, and we plan to offer quail, dove and deer hunts there."
The Packs also work nine weeks each year with Tracy's Camp, a Christian fishing camp for boys and girls, named for their late brother.
"We've helped a lot of kids who never fished before catch their first fish. There is nothing better in the world than to see a little girl or little boy pull in their first fish," Pack says.
Although Pack's father, Joe B. Pack Jr., died in 2001, people who fished out of Pack's Landing in the early days still come into the store and ask for him.
"We get people, some in their eighties, tell us stories about fishing back in the fifties," Pack says.
"We're trying to get pictures from in the fifties, sixties and seventies to put on our Web site." Fishing is still excellent in Sparkleberry Swamp, Pack says.
"We caught shellcrackers on worms in Sparkleberry all winter long on the full moon because the weather was generally mild," he says.
"Sparkleberry is what it is," says Pack, "a very unique living cypress swamp. It's not going to change."