Freshwater Fishing Trends - October 19, 2018

Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of, South Carolina's premier fishing report source. Customers of the Angler's Headquarters online tackle store have access to daily updates and full-length reports on its site.

New size limits and dates in place for Santee striped bass

Striped Bass

Recent changes to state law will extend the period during which striped bass caught in the Santee River system can be kept. The law changes also additional size/slot requirements for keeper fish.

Within the boundaries of the Santee River system (including lakes Marion and Moultrie), from October 1st through June 15th, it is “unlawful to take or possess a striped bass less than twenty-three inches or greater than twenty-five inches, provided that one striped bass taken or possessed may be greater than twenty-six inches."

Piedmont Area

Lake Russell (Updated October 19)

Lake Russell water levels are around 473.8 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are in the mid to upper-70s. Despite the storm clarity is still pretty good. 

Water temperatures are finally dropping on Lake Russell, but Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that until now the bass fishing on Lake Russell has only been fair – probably because of the unseasonable warmth. We should already be in the 60s, but before the cold front water temperatures were still near 80. In a recent tournament a 9-pound bag was good enough for the win, and the winning angler had a 5-pounder! 

For now fish are around brush piles in 25-30 feet of water in the main lake and some of the creeks, and what they really want to eat is live herring. However, they will take soft plastics fished on a drop shot. Jerry expects that in the next couple of weeks the fall bite should get wide open.

If you want to tangle with a largemouth the best bet is to head into the backs of creeks and fish a buzzbait, or fish around blowdowns. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has started to see some schooling bass, and when it’s calm you can ride around and look for fish. He has seen schooling in a variety of different areas including over deep water out in the middle. You can throw a small Rattle Trap, but Wendell’s bait of choice is a Pop-R with a 1/16-ounce crappie jig 18-24 inches behind it. Almost all the fish take the jig. 
After not pursuing them for over a month, Wendell has started targeted crappie again and found a good bite. He has found the fish willing to take minnows fished 6-8 feet deep over brush piles in 10-18 feet of water in the backs of creeks. On the last trip they caught more than 40 crappie including some very nice ones. 

On the striper front, Wendell reports that they have found fish 25 feet down over 50-60 feet of water on the lower end around bait schools. Jerry has also found some mixed in with the spotted bass in about 30 feet, as well as some catfish

Lake Thurmond (Updated October 19)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 326.63 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures are in the mid- to upper-70s.

Bass fishing on Lake Thurmond isn’t easy, but Augusta University fishing team angler Josh Rockefeller reports that there are a few different ways you can catch fish. Early in the morning there is a pretty hot fluke bite for numbers of fish, but once the sun gets up it’s over. On cloudy days it can last until mid-morning.

You can also grind out some fish throwing a chrome Gunfish 115 or 135 for fish that occasionally come up over humps in 5-6 feet of water. Sun and a bit of wind help, but it’s not a numbers pattern like throwing the fluke in the right conditions. You can get some good ones, though. The best area for both of these patterns has been the main lake towards the dam. Some fish can also be caught on a drop shot, but 9/10 will be small. There is the rare good one mixed in, however. A few smaller fish are being caught cranking shallow water, but this should get better quickly with these cooler nights. 

On the striper and hybrid front, William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports that they are starting to see surface activity again. Before the storm it was starting, but now it is returning and there is a lot of bait running near the surface. 

When fish are not on the surface they are catching them on down-lines fished 12-25 deep for fish suspended along the edge of the channel or a creek in 40-50 feet of water. Fish are starting to push away from the lower pool into the arms of the lake, and the middle part of the lake on up to the Georgia Little River and near Cherokee has been productive.
The fall catfish bite is starting to come on, but Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that once the fall turnover finishes up the bite for blues and flatheads should get much better. Anchoring on main lake points and humps that top out around 30-50 feet has been working well, but should get hot soon. Cut herring is catching coolers full of blues and channels in the 1- to 10-pound range while bigger baits like gizzard shad, white perch and bream are better for targeting bigger fish.

Lake Wylie (Updated September 21)

Lake Wylie is at 97.5 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have fallen into the low 80s. There is dirty water coming out of all of the creeks and by the weekend the whole lake should be stained. A ton of water is running through the chain.

Guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that fishing has been really tough on Lake Wylie for a while now. However, the dirty water offers a glimmer of hope for a couple of better weeks of fishing. Bryan anticipates throwing topwaters, Chatterbaits, square-billed crankbaits and other baits that typically create a lot of noise and/or vibration up shallow in the dirty water.

Because there is a lot of current in the lake there may still be some fish offshore, and so anglers can look around tapering points, ledges, steep drops on the river channel and other offshore spots. But with clarity being low Bryan expects better results shallow.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated October 19)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 439.06 (full pool is 440.0) and water temperatures are in the mid to upper 70s. The lower end has cleared after the storm.

Bass fishing on Lake Greenwood is by no means strong right now, but veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that some fish have been caught flipping docks in shallow water in the river area with big Ole Monster or Mag 2 worms. As water temperatures drop more fish will come to the banks, and soon a buzzbait should work well all day.

Lake Monticello (Updated October 19)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are in the mid to upper-70s, and lake levels generally fluctuate daily. 

As predicted bass fishing on Monticello has improved, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that in a recent tournament it took 19 pounds to win. The bulk of the fish were caught shallow with topwater lures. There is also a decent spoon bite in about 30 feet of water. 

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the bite is also getting better and fish can be caught off long points in about 60 feet of water. The best pattern is still anchoring big pieces of gizzard shad and white perch and waiting very patiently, but drifting should come on soon.

Lake Murray (Updated October 19)

Lake Murray water levels are at 354.10 (full pool is 360.00) and surface temperatures are in the mid to upper-70s.

Schooling activity has continued to heat up on Lake Murray, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that from Spence Islands to Shull Island there is all the action you can stand fishing for schooling fish. Most of these are smaller fish, but this is also the best pattern for targeting bigger fish. A good number of fish are being caught in the same area fishing down-lines 40-50 feet deep. 
October is the month where fish typically start to move up the lake, and there are already some fish up to Dreher Island now. By November they should get into the rivers.  

On the bass front, FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that fishing has been surprisingly tough. There is still a suspended bite, and there is sporadic schooling activity, but the fall bite should be in its prime and it just is not. Andy expects the biggest bass this weekend to be caught on buzzbaits and topwaters fished around the bank. 

In catfish news,  Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fishing is already improving but in the next two weeks it should be on fire. Right now the best bite is drifting in 30-45 feet of water with cut herring and white perch, and his boat is mainly catching channels with some blues. For now the shallow end of that range is a little better but that could change as the lake turns over. 

Lake Wateree (Updated October 19)

LLake Wateree is at 98.3 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the mid to upper-70s. The lake was muddy but it is clearing, particularly towards the lower end. 

It doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish on Wateree, but veteran tournament crappie angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that the bite is a little slow. The inflow from the storm brought in so much water that it has scattered fish all over the lake, and so you have to keep moving to find them. The best action Will has found is around brush in 15-22 feet of water on the main lake, and he has had to fish 6-10 inches off the bottom with minnows or jigs to get a bite. Cooler temperatures should group the fish up better.

On the bass front, FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that fish seem to be getting into a fall pattern and following the shad. You need to look for bait, either on the graph or in low light conditions near the surface, and then fish whatever grass, docks or rocks are in that area. Herons and other birds can also provide clues.

The fish Dearal has caught have been in 4-5 feet of water on square-billed crankbaits, Pop-Rs, spinnerbaits and other shad imitating lures. 
There has been some schooling activity, and at random times fish will just pop up on the surface. If you fish around bait you maximize your chances of locating these fish. 

Santee Cooper System (Updated October 19)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.98 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.09 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped into the mid to upper-70s and they are pulling a lot of water through the lake.

Bass have gotten into an exciting fall pattern on the Santee Cooper lakes, and B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that there is a lot of schooling activity around balls of shad. So far, the fish have not really moved into the creeks, but anywhere on the main lake where you can find current the bass are using that to corral the shad. The upper part of Lake Marion is a good place to look, but you can find a similar pattern down the lake. Moving water is key.  3-8 feet is a good depth range, and both topwaters and crankbaits are working. 

The schooling pattern is best early and late, and in the middle of the day fishing soft plastics around grass and trees remains the best pattern. 

On the crappie front Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that they have caught some good numbers of fish in the lower lake, and there are also a lot of nice bluegill around brush. Fishing 7-18 feet deep over 14-25 feet has been the best pattern for both species. 

The catfish bite has been pretty good, and Steve reports that he has heard of successful fishing in 7-12 feet, but also of strong catches drifting out in 40 feet. Fish are highly scattered. As temperatures get colder more big fish should show up. 

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated October 19)

Lake Jocassee is at 92 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the mid to upper-70s with normal clarity. 

The trout bite is experiencing a typical seasonal slowdown on Lake Jocassee, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that frankly the fishing is pretty poor. They are marking a ton of fish and bait, but the trout are just not eating very well. 

Sam's boat is still picking up a fish here and there, and the ones they are catching are scattered out between 60-120 feet. There appears to be a thermocline at about 100 feet.  They have tried the dam and the rivers, but the best action has been in the channel in the Whitewater River area. A mix of fish including some spotted bass have come from that area. They are also picking up some catfish

Lake Keowee (Updated October 5)

Lake Keowee is at 97.2 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from 82 on the ends of the lake to the upper 80s mid-lake.

Water temperatures are still above normal for this time of year, but as they start to drop veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that fishing has started to improve.

There is an average morning bite now on points and shallow flats and shoals using square bill crankbaits and lipless crankbaits. This bite is still inconsistent from morning to morning; the best advice is to move quickly from one spot to the next.

Schooling activity has really picked up recently on the main lake and around the Hot Hole area, particularly early to mid-morning. Fish can be caught on topwaters or crankbaits while the fish are chasing shad, and some fish being caught on spy baits in these same areas. Keep your eyes open for signs of surface activity and have a bait ready to throw.

Some fish can also be caught on Ned Rigs, shaky heads, and the like on deeper banks or docks in the shade after the sun gets up. Overall, fishing is better than it was recently week and is moving in the right direction!

Lake Hartwell (Updated October 19)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 658.55 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are in the mid to upper-70s.

Now that Hartwell water temperatures have started to drop Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that a fall pattern is kicking in. You can pretty much pick the area of the lake you want to fish, as there are still a lot of striper and hybrids in the big water but they have also started their migration up both the Seneca and Tugaloo rivers. Fish aren’t yet in the backs of creeks, however.
Pretty much every day for the last week and a half there has been schooling activity. Some days it is spotty, while other days it is constant. There is no clear pattern to when the fish are on top. When fish are not on the surface then fishing down-lines 30-40 feet deep over 40-130 feet of water is the best pattern. Fish will be around main lake points or ridges, and when they are not there they will be out in the channel or on the edge of the creek or river channel. 

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) has also found schooling activity in the mid-lake as well as the lower lake, and for him the peak depth range has been 40-85 feet. He is finding fish over humps mid-lake or on the lower end. 
On the bass front, Guide Brad Fowler is at the tail end of an off-limits period before a championship tournament. However, at this time of year he would look for a topwater bite at the mouths of major creeks where fish will be chasing small bait. Also, now that water temperatures have finally dropped below 80 degrees there should be an improving buzzbait and Pop-R bite shallow around the banks.

Captain Bill reports that the channel catfish bite remains good on a variety of baits in 25-30 feet of water. 

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.