Hooking the big one | What Ocean Lakes is doing to improve fishing in the campground ponds

You have the right bait and the right spot by one of our lakes, but the big fish just aren’t biting. You can’t figure out why.

Neither could we. So we’ve brought in experts to find out why and help us improve the very popular fishing culture at Ocean Lakes.

For years, Ocean Lakes has stocked the lakes in the campground with carp, bream, bass and other fish that folks love to reel in. But the stocking efforts haven’t produced the desired long-lasting results.

So before stocking again with the same disappointing results, Ocean Lakes has hired experts to compile the first thorough assessment of the ponds in the campground’s 40-plus year history. That baseline data will provide more info for officials to create a plan to improve fishing that caters to each pond’s unique environment.

“Why spend money over and over [stocking the ponds] when it’s not working,” said Jeff Wilson, the Landscape Manager at Ocean Lakes. “Let’s solve the problem first.”

The Smart Group, a science-based consulting group in nearby Pawleys Island, has been gathering info ranging from the ponds’ depths to the inventory of fish in each lake.

You might have noticed experts from The Smart Group on the ponds in Ocean Lakes in recent months as they've gathered data on each pond. The results will be used to improve fishing in the campground's lakes.

You might have noticed the team in the ponds the past couple of months gathering water quality samples and taking inventory of the fish. Knowing the type of environment in the ponds will tell the experts what type of fish can thrive there.

“This is really the first time Ocean Lakes has ever done anything like this,” said Russ Bodie, principal at The Smart Group. “This is a baseline, then we will build on that.”

Experts logged the types of fish in each lake and measured them.

How we got here

The ponds around Ocean Lakes started getting special attention in the 1990s when the campground launched a pond management program.

The program initially aimed to improve the look of the ponds, which had become covered in weeds and algae, Wilson said.

Officials started stocking the ponds with sterile, grass-eating carp to control the vegetation. Guests who were fishing started catching these impressive fish – feeding a new frenzy for fishing in the campground ponds, Wilson said.

“When people catch something like that, they love it,” he said.

With tales of landing these great fish circulating through the campground, fishing became an even more popular activity. Ocean Lakes started stocking the ponds every three years with more carp, bass, bream and catfish for sport fishing.

But through the years, the stocking wasn’t working as well as officials hoped.

Jumping right in

Bodie and his team from The Smart Group have closely studied each of the lakes around the campground over the past few months.

Early findings show some of the ponds are much deeper than anyone knew; Lake Emily is 16 feet deep – about six feet deeper than officials always thought.

The early assessment of the lake known as Ocean Lakes – across from Sandy’s Meet n’ Eat – also showed surprising results: Lots of juvenile sunfish and good vegetation – both signs of a healthy environment for fish to live and grow.

“The vegetation is the story on this pond,” Bodie said as he removed some from the net after seining. “It makes a huge difference.”

Bodie and his team netted samples from several spots in the pond, then took an inventory of the types and sizes of fish collected (they tossed them right back in after the quick inventory).

“This has been a big surprise,” Bodie said. “I thought we’d find some but this really bodes well for future fishing.”

Russ Bodie (center) with The Smart Group gets a sample of fish from Ocean Lakes as Rowan Iwaniuk, 9, from Michigan eagerly watches and waits to cast his fishing rod into the pond.

Those were just initial results from one of the ponds. Bodie plans to present overall findings to key leaders at Ocean Lakes this week. Once they have that baseline information, they can determine the next steps in the long-range plan to improve fishing in the ponds.

“We want to enhance the fishery,” Wilson said.

Check back in the coming weeks for more on the study’s results.


Water park, traffic loop, weather | What you need to know as the summer season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend

The kick-off to the 2017 summer season has finally arrived!

Ocean Lakes Family Campground will have a full house for Memorial Day weekend, with families enjoying a long holiday weekend and bikers here for what has been known as the Atlantic Beach Bikefest. The Grand Strand will be packed, and the 23-mile traffic loop will be back in Myrtle Beach late night Friday, Saturday and Sunday (more details on that coming up).

Here are five things to make the most of your stay with us:


All the Sandy Harbor water amenities – slides, lazy river, Splash Zone and pools – will be open and in full throttle starting Friday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through the summer.

Have fun and be safe! Remember: coolers are NOT allowed in the water park. Get a rundown of all the water park rules – including the height restrictions for our slides – before slathering on the suntan lotion.


The South Gate is open for the season! We want all of our guests to get in as conveniently and easily as possible so they can start having fun. South Gate hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. through the summer.

Bringing a motorcycle? You cannot ride motorcycles through the campground. 

Special parking for bikes is set aside in a lot near the South Gate. You must be a registered guest of Ocean Lakes and have an orange wristband attached to the bike's handlebars to park in this area. 

Guests should pick up the orange wristband for their motorcycle in the Main Office when they check in. If the office is closed, you can get a wristband from the Main Gate or the South Gate. Your site number will be on the wristband, which gives our team a quick way of contacting the bike's owner in case of an emergency.

Also not permitted: Riding motorcycles past the designated area at the entrance (signs mark the boundaries where bikes are allowed) or coasting - not under power but with a guest sitting on the seat.

Rope and motorcycle dolly towing are permitted to and from your rental site or campsite.


Prepare to see lots of motorcycles on the roads and a late-night traffic loop that includes Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.

Thousands of visitors will be along the Grand Strand for the Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival, formerly known as Atlantic Beach Bikefest. As in the last few years, a 23-mile traffic loop will be in place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday aiming to keep traffic flowing on Ocean Boulevard.

The loop starts at 29th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard, continues south to Kings Highway near Myrtle Beach International Airport, up Harrelson Boulevard to U.S. 501, to northbound U.S. 31, to U.S. 17 Bypass then back to the loop’s start at 29th Avenue North.

An app and a hotline are available to help visitors and locals maneuver around the loop.

Access the app here then click the city seal icon in the upper right-hand corner. Enter the addresses for your destination and starting point to get the directions.

You can also call the Myrtle Beach Police Department’s new Information Line at 843-918-INFO (4636) to get directions or alternate routes.


If the beach or water park doesn’t wear you out, you’ll have lots of activities in the campground and around town to enjoy this Memorial Day weekend.

Belt out your best tune during karaoke from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Center Stage by Sandy’s Meet n’ Eat. On Saturday, swim in our outdoor pool for the Dive-in Movie at 8: 30 p.m. This week’s feature film: “Finding Dory.”

Looking for more? Lots of activities are planned along the Grand Strand, including the Military Appreciation Days in Myrtle Beach. The parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on Farrow Parkway at The Market Common. Get a run-down of all the Military Appreciation Days events here
Check out all the Memorial Day activities around town here.


Bring your sunglasses – you’re in for a hot sunny weekend. Lots of sunshine Friday and Saturday with highs in the 80s; expect highs in the upper 80s Sunday and Monday with a slight chance (20 percent) of storms. Check out the detailed forecast from our friends at WPDE.

Thanks for choosing to kick off the summer and celebrate Memorial Day weekend with us. Have fun! And remember the reason for Memorial Day; we appreciate and will think of all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And thanks to all the veterans and those serving in our military. We appreciate all you do!

This is what you get when pirates take over a golf car at Ocean Lakes

Mark and Paige Miller’s quest to find the best custom golf car dealer started like most other big purchases – with a search on the Internet.

The Charlotte, N.C., couple had the vision for the golf car they wanted to use at their second home in North Myrtle Beach – a perfect pirate theme that captures their fun side. But they needed an experienced, top-notch builder to turn that vision into reality.

After Ocean Lakes Golf Cars popped up on the Millers’ web search, Mark dialed up Greg Bender, the longtime manager at Ocean Lakes Golf Cars. By the time that phone chat ended, Mark knew he had found a builder who was genuine and down to earth who he trusted to create the custom car that would meet his high standards.

“They were just so nice,” Paige said. “We just liked the feel here. Once Mark talked to Greg on the phone – that was it.”

Ocean Lakes Golf Cars created this custom 2017 Onward with a pirate theme, including airbrushed body, croc seats, custom dash, 14-inch wheels and more.
Ocean Lakes Golf Cars is known for renting golf cars for guests to buzz around the campground, but also builds and sells golf cars to buyers’ specifications. The team has built cars featuring nearly every theme imaginable, including beach life, 5 o’clock somewhere and sports teams.

Ocean Lakes Golf Cars even built a custom golf car this season for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the minor league baseball team. The Pelicans’ mascots – Splash and Rally Shark – ride onto the field before every home game at TicketReturn.com Field in the tricked-out ride from Ocean Lakes Golf Cars.

The mascots for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans ride onto the field before every home baseball game in this custom golf car built by Ocean Lakes Golf Cars.

Simply put, if you can imagine it, Ocean Lakes Golf Cars can make it.

The Millers – who are pirates at heart; well, at least on Halloween – picked pirates as the theme of their custom car because they wanted “something different, something fun,” Paige said.

“I just love the whole pirates theme, being mysterious,” Mark said.

Mark and Paige Miller dressed as pirates for Halloween. The pirate theme inspired the couple's new custom golf car built by Ocean Lakes Golf Cars.

The Millers worked closely with the builders throughout the process. Mark is very particular, Paige said, and “it didn’t take [Greg] long to read that."

Mark admitted he lost count of how many emails and text messages he sent to Greg making suggestions for the golf car and checking on the progress.

“I know I drove him crazy,” Mark said. “It’s probably the toughest sale he’s made.”

But that close working relationship paid off with the finished product: A lifted golf car with pirate images air brushed on the sides and front, 14-inch wheels/tires and croc seats, with navy blue and red accent colors. The Ocean Lakes team customized an Onward, Club Car’s latest model that just rolled into the campground in May.

Ocean Lakes Golf Cars created this custom 2017 Onward with a pirate theme, including airbrushed body, croc seats, custom dash, 14-inch wheels and more.
The Millers were blown away when they picked up their new pirate golf car from Ocean Lakes Golf Cars – a big smile came on Mark’s face and was still there as he loaded it up to cart away.
 “I was really pleased. Y’all did a super job,” Mark said. “I’d say we are customers for life.”

The Millers were equally impressed with the service. The Ocean Lakes custom shop, located off S.C. 15 in Myrtle Beach, sent photos to the Millers throughout the building process, including pictures of the tires, rims and covers.
 “That’s over-the-top service,” Paige said. “That’s special.”

All in a days work, said Greg Bender, who started working at Ocean Lakes as a teen-ager 29 years ago and has led Golf Cars for 20 years. As a teen, he learned the importance of great customer service from Nelson and Mary Emily Jackson, the couple who co-founded Ocean Lakes Family Campground more than four decades ago. The Jacksons passed away in 2010, but their legacy of providing top-notch customer service has remained a cornerstone of Ocean Lakes’ operations.

“It started with Mr. and Mrs. Jackson – they drilled that into us,” Bender told the Millers. “It’s all about customer service.”

 About the Millers’ custom pirate golf car

Make | Club Car
Model | 2017 Onward PTV (Personal Transportation Vehicle)

Body | Custom airbrushed with pirates

Specs | 4-inch lift, 14-inch wheels and tires, underseat storage and trunk assembly, hitch assembly

Seats | Croc seats custom built by Lazy Life

Dash | Dual USB port, custom elite dash from Custom Golf Car Supply with dash inserts custom painted to match seats and exterior paint
Stereo | Bluetooth stereo system
Onward features | Overhead Bluetooth stereo, trailer hitch, rear under seat storage, trunk valence, side mirrors, turn signals, horn, headlights, tail lights, brake lights

Want more information about building a custom car at Ocean Lakes Golf Cars? Visit the website or call the Golf Cars team at 843-828-4868.


Another sign that summer is right around the corner: Lifeguards are back on the beach and they have this piece of advice for you

Beach lifeguard Laurie Mathieu has one big piece of advice for beach-goers as we head into the busy summer season: Watch your kids on the beach.

A sure sign that summer is right around the corner: Lifeguards are back on the beach by Ocean Lakes Family Campground. Lifeguard Laurie Mathieu (above) urges beach-goers to watch their kids and obey the rules lifeguards give them.

Lost children are one of the most common issues beach lifeguards encounter during the busy summer season but is easily avoidable if parents keep a watchful eye on their little ones.

It can be very easy for kids to get disoriented on the beach – especially when it’s full of activity and beach-goers. Beach access points can look very similar from the beach. And kids playing in the waves can drift down the beach in the ocean from their towels on the sand, then not know which way to go when they get out of the water.

“Watch their kids and listen to the lifeguards,” said Mathieu, who has been a lifeguard on the beach by Ocean Lakes for five summers. “Those are the best things to do.”

Laurie Mathieu has been a lifeguard on the beach by Ocean Lakes Family Campground for five years.

Lifeguards are back on the beach by Ocean Lakes Family Campground (their first day was May 12) and ready for a fun, safe season. The lifeguards, provided by Lack’sBeach Service in Myrtle Beach, monitor the beaches for safety, handle rentals of beach umbrellas/chairs and help enforce beach rules. 

Lifeguards will be on the beach from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day through Sept. 15. Chair and umbrella rentals are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The rate for one umbrella and two chairs is $35 a day if you pay cash; add a 10 percent fee if you use a credit or debit card. The more consecutive days you rent, the bigger discount you get ($60 for two days; $80 for three days; $100 for four days; $120 for five days, etc.).

Need to rent a beach chair and umbrella? See a lifeguard

Ocean Lakes has nearly a mile of beachfront that falls into the jurisdiction of Horry County, which sets all the rules on the beach for shading devices, fireworks and more. The Horry County Police Department patrols the beach by Ocean Lakes and enforces those rules.

Reminder: Please stay off the sand dunes! Hurricane Matthew wiped out the dunes when it hit the area in October, and the sand piles you see are just the first step to rebuild the dunes. We are working with local, state and federal officials on a beach renourishment project that will shape those mounds, install sand fencing and plant beach vegetation. 

Dunes are crucial to protecting coastal property from storms and hurricanes. Climbing on them or setting up your chairs on top of them hinders the rebuilding process and could be unsafe. That sand is still stabilizing, and the piles were made immediately after Hurricane Matthew, so items from hurricane damage could be buried in those piles, including old sand fencing and wood and metal from the Surfside Beach Pier, which was heavily destroyed by the storm. The town is working toward rebuilding the pier, but again, these projects take time. 

Thanks for your cooperation and patience.

Enjoy the beach this summer and be safe!