Freshwater Fishing Trends - March 2, 2018
Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of www.anglersheadquarters.com/, 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.
Lake Russell (Updated March 2)
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between 474.25 and 474.75 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures in the upper 50s. Clarity is still pretty good.
Water temperatures have dropped significantly in the past week, and a mean reading that temperatures have fallen from about the mid-60s to the upper-50s actually minimizes the variation. In some shallow pockets at the end of last week temperatures had reached the low 70s, and in those areas they have fallen even more significantly. With some nights in the 30s they will drop even more.
Nonetheless, guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that bass that have already moved up are not leaving the shallows, and you can catch them in both the creeks and off the main lake. Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) doesn't think that any have actually started bedding yet, but he also believes they are close.
Spotted bass are on the bank heavy, with the best areas medium shallow sloping banks with some sand, lots of bulrushes and plenty of pockets. If there is some wind then Shad Raps have been working very well, and when there is not then a small swimbait has been hard to beat. There have also been some 3-4 pound largemouth in the same areas, but the larger females seem to be further out.
The crappie bite also remains pretty good, and Wendell reports that fish are still biting 1/16 and 1/32 ounce jigs with curly tail grubs. Fishing up the creeks in 6-12 feet has been the best area to troll. The bite slowed down a bit this week with the cooler temperatures, but there have still been some good numbers caught.
Striped bass remain relatively hard to find, but Wendell advises fishing about halfway up the Rocky River and on the lower end of the Savannah with free-lines. They are spread out and so anglers have to cover a lot of water. The birds are still around, but as temperatures warm they associate less with the striper and don't provide as useful of clues.
Lake Thurmond (Updated March 2)
Lake Thurmond water levels are up to 326.36 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures have dropped from the mid-60s back into the upper 50s. Water conditions were pretty clear before yesterday's rain in the lower lake, and already stained up the lake and in the backs of creeks.
The up-and-down weather is changing the bass bite on an almost-daily basis, and Tyler Matthews with Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that water temperatures that have dropped 7-8 degrees are keeping the fish from settling into a stable pattern. Before the cool temperatures came in Tyler saw some fish in the clear water near the dam laying eggs, and he was able to catch a few fish in the lower lake. However, he found a much better bite in the more stained water up a creek on the Georgia side where fishing in less than three feet of water he wore them out a chartreuse spinnerbait.
After the cooler weather came in, though, those fish backed out to slightly deeper water in the same areas. Overall it seems that fish have gotten into the backs where they will spawn, and some have already bedded, but as spring fronts roll throw the pattern and depths will change from day to day.
In striped bass news, Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that the pattern is virtually unchanged from last week, with nice hybrids in front of the dam about 20 feet down. They are also still fishing off secondary points in the mid- to lower lake with down-lines 20 feet down over 30 feet of water. Anglers can also pull free lines with herring or small gizzard shad in the backs of coves in the major creeks to hook a big one.
On the crappie front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that long-lining in the backs of creeks in 5-15 feet of water has been productive, with dark black and blue jigs working best in the stained water. Some anglers have also had decent success casting jigs up towards the bank in very shallow water, particularly in areas that crappie couldn't access until water levels came up.
William also reports that in certain areas fish are up shallow and spawning, and his boat is throwing very small hair jigs under a bobber to catch them.
Like the crappie, catfish have moved shallower, and Chris reports that most of the big blues are hanging around ledges on humps that top out around 10-20 feet, while some are roaming flats at that depth and others are migrating towards creeks with the shad. Anchoring has been the best approach. It is predicted that the cooler temperatures will stall the shallow movement until temperatures stabilize/ warm again.
Lake Wylie (Updated March 2)
Lake Wylie is at 97.7 percent of full pool and water temperatures are around 60 degrees. Before the most recent round of rain it was fairly clear.
The bass bite on Lake Wylie continues to be very strong, and guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that even though air temperatures have dropped it does not appear to be slowing down the fishing or backing the fish up. Cooler weather may keep the next round of fish from moving up, but so far it isn't pushing the ones that have come up back out.
There remain a ton of different shallow water patterns that will catch pre-spawn bass, and Bryan reports that fishing shallow wood, rocks and docks will all work. He's caught the fire out of them on Chatterbaits, but spinnerbaits, crankbaits, etc. are all good choices. It's that period when you can just throw whatever you prefer to fish.
Bryan expects some fish to get on the beds very soon, but so far he hasn't seen them.
On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that the pattern is unchanged but the action has gotten even better. The shallow bite continues to improve, and they are also still catching some good deep fish off the ledge. The key remains to find birds, which point the way to bait, and in turn catfish.
Lake Greenwood (Updated March 2)
Lake Greenwood water levels are at 437.00 (full pool is 440.0), and water temperatures are generally in the lower 60s. The lake is clearing but the upper end and creeks are still dirty.
It's been pretty unreal for March on Lake Greenwood, and state BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that bass are already actively bedding. As on Murray they aren't up everywhere, but if you spend time shallow looking you will first them. In addition to bed fishing, and all the shallow water pre-spawn patterns such as shallow-running crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits, etc. that were already in play last week, you can now add topwater fishing to the list. The best floating worm bite may still be a little off, but buzzbaits and Bang-O-Lures are both already producing.
Lake Monticello (Updated February 23)
On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are heading shallower and as long as temperatures continue to increase they will keep going in that direction. The best pattern right now is anchoring on humps that top out in about 30 feet of water; on long, gently sloping points; and in the back of deep coves. Perch, bream, and gizzard shad are the best baits.
Lake Murray (Updated March 1)
Lake Murray water levels are up to 357.65 (full pool is 360.00). Main lake surface temperatures near the dam have dropped back into the mid-50s, while much of the lake remains in the 60s.
It's a great time to striped bass fish on Lake Murray, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that with warming temperatures the fish have scattered out in relatively shallow water. Pulling free-lines and planer boards around the banks has been productive, and even over deeper water up to about 40 feet the same tactics have been working. Some fish have also been found around shoals mid-lake. Whether in 10 feet or 40 most of the bait is pretty shallow. The double rig bite is tapering off as temperatures warm, but some fish are being caught throwing flukes under birds. They are seeing less gulls but still tons of loons.
Bear Creek is about as far down as Brad has been finding a good bite, and in the lower lake he has only been able to find smaller fish so far.
There's not a ton of change with the crappie, but Brad reports that there have been some excellent catches way up the creeks tight-lining. The Bush River area of the Big Saluda has been particularly productive. Generally fishing about 8-10 feet down has been most productive, and fish aren't really on the banks yet. Brad expects to see more of that in a couple of weeks.
Bass fishing is a bit of conundrum on Lake Murray right now, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown says that – like a lot of anglers – most of the tournament fish they have been catching have come off of beds. At the same time, he doesn't think that most of the better fish have come up yet. The surface temperatures have warmed, but it was a cold winter where water temperatures got into the mid-40s and so Doug just doesn't think most of the females' eggs have developed to the point where they are ready to spawn. Days also haven't gotten to that certain length.
There are certainly some bed fish, and there are also some shallow pre-spawn fish in the backs of pockets that can be caught on buzzbaits, frogs, spinnerbaits and an array of shallow water techniques. However, Doug thinks a lot of the fish are still sitting out in about 10 feet of water waiting for conditions to get right for the spawn. And with milder temperatures and some cold nights they are likely to stay there for a little while.
On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that channels can still be caught anchoring on humps that top out at 30 feet or less on cut blueback herring.
Lake Wateree (Updated March 2)
Lake Wateree is at 97.5 of full pool, and water temperatures are approaching 60 degrees in main lake areas, and mid-60s in the backs. Before yesterday's rain the lake was pretty clear for Wateree.
Spring is usually a good time to fish for catfish on Lake Wateree, and Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that right now the bite is actually red hot. He has found the best action in shallow to intermediate depths ranging from about 4-17 feet, and in the mid-lake areas from Rochelle to Taylor Creek they have found fish pretty much everywhere they have looked. There is a lot of bait in the creeks and cut gizzard shad has been working very well.
On the bass front, FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that Wateree bass are shallow and biting. In the CATT event this past Saturday about 3/5 of the teams had 12 plus pounds, with a couple of nice bags over 20 pounds brought to the scales. There have been no reports of fish actually bedding, but fish are in the 5 foot and less zone. Fishing crankbaits off points has been the top pattern. Fish might be even shallower but about a week ago they dropped the water levels a couple of feet, and then the cooler temperatures came in.
Crappie are in a similar pattern to a week ago, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that while fish are heading shallow it's still mostly the males that have moved up. Fish are moving towards the backs of the creeks, but with dropping temperatures the migration is temporarily on hold. Right now the males are holding about 2-5 feet deep in 8-12 feet of water, while the females are still out in the channel.
Santee Cooper System (Updated March 1)
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.96 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.77 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). After some cooler weather surface temperatures have dropped back down into the low 60s. The lower lake is fairly clear while the upper lake is dingy.
Catfish continue to be caught both shallow and deep, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that with shallow water warmer than deep water the best fishing for big fish has been in the shallows. Anchoring in 3-6 feet of water has been the best big fish pattern in both lakes, including for fish like the 50-pounder pictured below. Fish can also be caught drifting in 20-25 feet but these fish are generally smaller.
On the crappie front, Steve's boat continues to mainly fish shallow water in 3-5 feet. Some of the fish have certainly already spawned, but they are still catching some very nice, fat pre-spawn fish. The best pattern for catching these shallow fish has been casting jigs and bringing them back with a slow retrieve.
There are also some fish staging over brush in 10-13 feet of water, and spider-rigging 4-12 feet is still producing.
Some phenomenal bass catches continue to be weighed out of the Santee lakes, and in the CATT tournament recently it took 36.48 pounds for the win! Second place was a mere 29.53, and there were a total of 10 bags over 20 pounds. 19.28 pounds was not good enough for a check. More than half the field had 15 plus pounds.
Reports indicate that the best sacks are being caught sight-fishing, and a good percentage of the fish are already on beds. A variety of other shallow water techniques also continue to catch fish.
Bream are all over the bank.
Lake Jocassee (Updated February 23)
Lake Jocassee remains at 99.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from the low to mid-50s (water temperatures rise slowly in this deep, clear lake). Clarity is normal and the backs are clearer than last week.
There's still not a lot of change in Lake Jocassee trout fishing, but Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that some good fish as well as some smaller ones continue to be caught. The best pattern is still trolling spoons in 30-55 feet of water, with the dam area producing best.
Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) recommends fishing the float-n-fly rig to target smallmouth in 15-20 feet of water.
Lake Keowee (Updated March 2)
Lake Keowee is at 99 percent of full pool. Water temperatures remain in the lower-60s on the southern and northern ends of the lake, and mid-60s in the mid-lake area. The water is stained in the backs of creeks but clear on the main lake.
It's a weird early spring in South Carolina, and veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers points out that although water temperatures have shot up in the last two weeks fish have not pulled up yet as they are probably behind what the temperatures would suggest. There are some fish in the middle part of the lake starting to prepare for bedding, and a few around the hot hole already spawning, but other than there is not a major push to spawn yet – even with the full month. This is much more likely at the next full moon if water continues to warm.
Fish can be caught on spinnerbaits early or in the wind, jerkbaits, medium running crankbaits, jigs, and shaky heads.
Lake Hartwell (Updated March 2)
Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 657.85 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have fallen back into the upper 50s. Before the most recent rain the lake was clearing.
After a long period of 70- and 80-degree days there were reports of bass up shallow spawning, and there were claims that some good tournament fish were caught off the beds. However, the fish that had not already come up seem to have stayed a little deeper with the cool spell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that he has not seen a lot of fish of shallow cruising in obvious spawning behavior since it got colder.
Basically there are two good options right now, with the first being to look for pre-spawn fish around the bank grass. Chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits are all good options. With so much newly flooded bank grass there is a lot of habitat for these fish to get in.
There is also still a good deep bite, and while Brad hasn't spent a lot of time targeting these fish he's still marking plenty of fish around offshore brush and structure.
On the striped bass front, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that there isn't that much change. It's really only the very top layer of water that has warmed up, and so the bite hasn't taken off yet. At times free-lines, planer boards, downlines in the 25-30 foot range and casting artificials are working.
In crappie news, there have been some reports of crappie caught very shallow in the bank grass. Some fish are also still being caught in the backs of creeks in 8-10 feet of water as well as around brush and deeper docks.
The catfish bite is still good in deep water on cut bait.
South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.