Freshwater Fishing Trends - July 13, 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 July 10)

Lake Russell water levels have been just below full pool around 474.60 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range from about 85-89 depending on where you are and time of day. The water is clear.

The catfish bite remains about the best thing going on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that straight through the summer they expect to continue to catch excellent numbers of eating-sized channel catfish in the 5-15 foot range off humps and points.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports that his boat has been doing well with the catfish, catching them on cut herring fished all over the lake in 8-12 feet of water. However, his best success has come on flat points.

Outside of catfish, Wendell reports that it’s a fun time to take clients out because you can easily catch a mixed bag of species in a single day. On the bass front, there are some small to medium-sized bass schooling in the creeks. This is unusual as they usually don’t do this until the fall. These fish can be caught on small topwaters, small spoons and #5 Shad Raps. Wendell also reports that on main lake points you can catch fish in 18-20 feet on Spot Removers and Carolina rigs.

Jerry reports that he has found a very hot summer bass bite out over timber in 50-60 feet. The fish are suspended about 15-20 feet down, and they are catching them on live bait as well as spoons and drop shot rigs. Catching 40 or 50 fish by 10 a.m. is not uncommon.

There are two basic patterns for striped bass, and Wendell reports that at the top of the lake in the Hartwell tailrace you can catch fish pulling herring on free-lines and planer boards in the relatively shallow water. On the lower end of the lake near the Russell Dam you can catch fish on down-lines 20-30 feet down over 70-80 feet of water.

Crappie are in an unusual pattern for this time of year, and while Wendell’s boat is catching a few fish around brush more of the fish seem to be in open water related to the schools of threadfin shad. They are just off the bottom, and by marking them on electronics and then easing up on them they are catching fish with minnows fished on a drop shot rig.

Lake Thurmond (Updated July 13)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 328.79 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures are in the high 80s and into the 90s.

Unsurprisingly with the heat, Augusta University fishing team angler Josh Rockefeller reports that some of the best bass fishing is taking place at night right now. You can throw a big worm around docks, or a frog or buzzbait, and if you can find an area where there is a little bit cooler water and perhaps some fresh water flowing in from a creek there can be an improved bite.

There is also a decent offshore pattern, although it has slowed down from the beginning of the summer. Fish the obvious humps out in front of the dam that are surrounded by deep water and rise to 10-20 feet below the surface, or focus on long, tapering points. A ¾ ounce Buckeye Lures football mop jig or a deep diving crankbait will work, especially when there is some current. However, the better fish seem to be coming shallow.

William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports that striped and hybrid bass are extremely aggressive from about 5:30 or 6 until 7:30 or 8 in the morning, and they can be caught 45-55 feet deep on the bottom along the edge of the channel or off the side of humps. After the hot early bite the fishing slows way down but some fish can be caught suspended 35-50 feet deep in 50-70 feet of water. The best bite is in the mid- to lower lake, or on the extreme upper end. Fish are related to both dams.

Crappie have pushed out to 18-22 feet of water, and William Sasser Guide Service reports that they can be caught on the bottom around brush piles on the main lake.

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that night-time is without a doubt the best time for them, too. The preferred pattern is still anchoring on humps and points that top out around 10-30 feet with a variety of cut baits, and some bigger fish are showing up now that the spawn is winding down. There should be more big blues and flatheads caught the closer to fall it gets.

Lake Wylie (Updated July 13)

Lake Wylie is at 97.2 percent of full pool.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that the blue catfish bite is good in the mid-lake areas between Crowders Creek and the mouth of Big Allison with cut bait (bluegill, shad or white perch) drifting mild depth changes in the 25-35 foot range. Bait is scattered in the water column from the surface to 15 feet in these areas. Blues in the 4 to 16-pound range are common, and occasional flatheads can be caught on the drift in the same areas.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated July 10)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 438.93 (full pool is 440.0) and water temperatures remain in the mid- to upper-80s.

The dog days of summer are here, but SC BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that the offshore bass bite remains pretty good around brush in 18-20 feet of water in the main lake or at the mouths of creeks. With the deep fish getting beat on hard big worms and jigs are working better than crankbaits.

There has not been a lot of action shallow, but based on limited reports it may be possible to find a frog bite up the river. Other than that the shallow bite on the main part of the lake has pretty much gone away in the heat.

Lake Monticello (Updated July 13)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are in the upper-80s, and lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

The offshore summer bass pattern continues to be on at Lake Monticello, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that the bite this year is above average even for what is typically a good time to fish the lake. Fishing deep structure with spoons and deep running crankbaits is working well, and you can always catch fish on soft plastics. With the heat there is not much of a shallow bite.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the free-line bite is hot. Sometimes the fish are over shallow water, but usually the best area is fishing over about 100 feet of water. Usually running the bait about 10-15 feet down is ideal, but if you want to go deeper you can add some split shot. Cut herring is preferred but most any cut bait will work. William likes to run six rods, varying the distances out the back of the boat, but if you employ planer boards you can run more rods including off the front of the boat.

While you can pick up some big fish free-lining it is primarily a numbers game, and to target big fish you need to anchor on deep humps or long points and exercise a lot of patience. Fan cast out cut white perch, bream or gizzard shad (herring is usually too soft) and cover a range of depths.

Lake Murray (Updated July 13)

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.80 (full pool is 360.00) and surface temperatures are in the mid- to upper-80s. Clarity is normal.

The Murray striper bite continues to be wide open in deep water, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that down-lining 50-70 feet down in the main bowl of water from Bomb Island to the dam has been the best pattern. Fish are off the ends of humps and ridges in areas that dump out towards the main channel, and there has also been a good bite around the towers. The spoon bite has been a little slow for some reason.

The bass remain in a typical summer pattern, and after an early bite shallow you need to look deeper for suspended fish over deep water or fish a drop shot off rocky points in 20-25 feet. There have also been reports of a good frog bite up the rivers.

Overall crappie fishing has been slow, and the anglers who have been targeting them are mostly fishing up the lake off brush and deep docks in 20 plus feet of water. However, there are also some random catches in the mid-part of the lake around grass where crappie are feeding on crayfish. These fish are very scattered but at times anglers will catch a half-dozen big crappie around the grass.

The catfish pattern is unchanged, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the preferred pattern is to fish at night around main lake points, secondary points and in the backs of coves from 1 foot of water near the bank out to about 15 feet. Dip baits are the best bet, and if you must fish during the day concentrate on humps and creeks in about 30 feet.

Lake Wateree (Updated July 13)

Lake Wateree is at 97.5 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the mid- to upper-80s.

There is finally starting to be a true deep summer bass bite on Lake Wateree, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that around ledges, humps and creek channel swings in 10-20 feet of water bass can be caught on football jigs, swimbaits on a ¾ ounce head, crankbaits and shakey heads. The main lake and the front third of creeks are the best places to look.

In the morning there is also a window for a topwater bite from 6 feet of water to the bank over rocky points. There are probably some fish in the grass but Dearal hasn’t had much success there.

Lake Wateree crappie are in a typical summer brush pattern in 12-18 feet of water on the main lake off both sides of the river channel. However, veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that they aren’t on all the brush piles like they are usually are right now. Fish are flat on the bottom around the brush, particularly once the sun gets up, and they will eat Fish Stalker jigs and minnows. Will has mainly been fishing from Clearwater to June Creek.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that anglers should anchor up and fish mid-lake humps in 8-14 feet of water. These areas commonly hold good mussel beds and produce blues from 2-15 pounds with big fish possible. There is also a good to very good bite drifting shallow waters in creeks and shallow flats on the main channel. Fish average 2-12 pounds. Gizzard shad is always the best bait option at Lake Wateree.

Santee Cooper System (Updated July 13)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.49 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.49 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are around 85 degrees and clarity is normal.

The Santee Cooper catfish bite continues to be good, with Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reporting strong catches drifting in 8-15 feet of water. Even in the heat of the day they are biting well in 10 or so feet of water, and the fish will eat most any cut bait.

Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) has found nice eating-sized blues in the 2- to 10-pound range biting well on cut shad in the 20- to 30-foot range.

Steve reports that the shallow bream bite has been good, and if you get around an area where fish have been bedding there are always some fish up there. Then there are some days where the shallow bite is wide open.

Crappie are still hard to come by.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated July 2)

Lake Jocassee is at 99.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 82 degrees with normal (high) clarity.

The trout bite remains strong on Lake Jocassee, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that although catches are a bit slower than recently, they are still really good. They are catching a bunch of fish to go along with some big ones, like this 21-inch, 5-pound brown caught recently.

The best action is still in 50-80 feet of water, and Sam’s boat is fishing in the big water as well as at the mouths of the rivers. Pulling Apex and Sutton spoons has been the best pattern, but the guys with bait (available starting at 8 a.m. at Jocassee Outdoor Center) are also doing well. The bite has been pretty steady through the morning, and a recent big brown came at 11 o’clock.

Lake Keowee (Updated July 13)

Lake Keowee is at 99.1 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the mid- to high-80s over most of the lake. Clarity is normal (very clear).

Veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that there is not a lot of change on Keowee, and the early morning bass bite is inconsistent. Some mornings it is pretty good while others the fishing is slow. Fishing early throw crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and topwaters on points and flats. Keep moving if you don't find fish quickly as the window is short.

After the sun comes up, it is better to go deep with soft plastics in 20-40 feet of water – or look for suspended fish 40-50 feet down. These are some better fish but they are also hard to find. Look for bait and breaking fish as clues.

Anything over about 10 pounds has been a good catch at the night tournaments on the lake.

Lake Hartwell (Updated July 3)

Lake Hartwell water levels are still very full at 660.34 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are still in the mid-80s. Clarity is very good.

It was a weird period for striper and hybrid bass a week or two ago, and Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that after lake levels moved from 664.5 to merely full pool fishing was hit-or-miss for a little while. However, the fishing has really rebounded and catching 30 plus fish in a morning is normal again. Captain Bill is catching them 40-45 feet down off points along the main river channel, and while they are usually near the bottom sometimes they suspend over trees out in the channel. The best action is from the mid-lake to the dam, and he isn’t finding enough fish up the rivers to mess with. The best bite is early.

Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) also reports a good bite on the lake and says the best pattern for him is still fishing down-lines 2-3 feet off the bottom in 40-50 feet of water on ridges and in deep coves.

On the bass front, Guide Brad Fowler of Pendleton reports that there are several good patterns going right now. There is a decent offshore bite with topwater baits off points where fish like to suspend, and fish can also be caught in deeper brush with soft plastics. There are also plenty of fish up shallow cruising and chasing spawning bream, and if you can find the right shade lines fish will take topwater Pop-Rs or buzzbaits throughout the day. With the water still up pretty high more fish than normal are shallow.

Captain Bill hasn’t been pursuing blue catfish as they are generally out in the timber and uncatchable, but the channel catfish bite has been excellent. They have moved a bit deeper into 15-35 feet and they can be found all over the lake, including creeks and the main lake. They will eat about anything including worms, cut bait, shrimp and prepared dip baits. Flathead catfish can also be caught with live bait around brush at night.

Crappie are out in the mouth of creeks along the edge of the channel, mainly 25 to 30 feet deep over the top of natural trees that were topped off to make the lake. Use the trolling motor to hold in place and fish minnows or jigs vertically. The bridge bite is also still on.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.