Freshwater Fishing Trends - April 9, 2019

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.

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The last day for conducting any business involving boat or motor titling and registration and all license sales at the Downtown Columbia SCDNR Office will be May 9, 2019.

Services at SCDNR at the Market will be expanded to a full-service Boat Titling and Registration and License Sales Office beginning May 13, 2019.

Piedmont Area

Lake Russell (Updated April 9)

Lake Russell water levels are around 474.1 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures have spiked into the upper 60s. The lake is getting very clear although the backs are still a little stained.

The bass are spawning hard on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that – even though it’s hard to actually see the beds with a light stain to the water – they are all over the banks. His boat has been fishing 1-3 feet of water in the backs of creeks and catching lots of 2-plus pound fish. There are probably still some fish out on main lake points, but throwing a buzzbait or Texas rig in the backs the action is so good that he has not fished anywhere else.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has been fishing a similar pattern, and he has found the bass willing to eat just about any fast-moving bait. He’s been having a lot of luck retrieving a jerkbait quickly. While the bass are spawning Wendell has not seen any signs of a herring spawn yet, although it cannot be far off.

Like the bass, crappie are all over the banks on Lake Russell. Some of the fish have already spawned, while some have not. Jerry has found the most catchable fish in 1-3 feet of water, as the post-spawn fish that have pulled back out to brush usually don’t feed for a period after spawning.

In addition to casting jigs in shallow pockets, Wendell’s boat has caught fish trolling 1/32-ounce jigs in about 6-8 feet of water just outside spawning areas. From what he has seen the best females are on the banks right now.

There is not a lot of change in the striped bass pattern on Lake Russell, and Wendell reports that fish still seem to be in all of the creeks and scattered from the north end to the south of the lake. The best pattern remains to cover a lot of water and pull herring on free-lines and planer boards across as many shallow points as possible. Most of the fish they have caught have come in 4-5 feet of water. Fishing shallow points is likely to remain the best pattern for some time as when the herring begin spawning that will keep the bass in the same areas.

Lake Thurmond (Updated April 5)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 328.21 (full pool is 330.00) while water temperatures are in the low-60s. Down the lake there is 4-5 feet visibility, while some areas up the lake have as little as 4 inches.

It is an outstanding time to bass fish on Lake Thurmond, and tournament angler Tyler Matthews of Evans, Ga., reports that you can pick up about any lure in your tackle box right now and catch a fish. Fish are certainly on the beds spawning, and if so inclined you can catch them sight fishing. In dirty water you can also throw a spinnerbait or chatterbait, and there has also been some good schooling activity. In late April and May, it will be post-spawn fish schooling off points, but right now the schooling action is pre-spawn fish that are feeding on bait in pockets or at the last point before spawning areas. There are even some fish schooling on main lake points with wind. After fish go down, they are often staying in the same areas, and recently Tyler caught 10 good fish in 10 casts on a jig in an area where minutes earlier they had been schooling.

Fish activity has been related to weather recently, and on days when the water temperatures are over 60 degrees William Sasser Guide Service (706-589-5468) reports that striper and hybrids have been up and chasing herring.

Overall fish are relating to the main Savannah River channel in the mid-lake to lower lake, and they are being caught around shoals, blow throughs, humps and off secondary points. In the morning they are generally coming up to 14-19 feet, and then in the afternoon they are pulling back to 23-24 feet.

Almost all the fish are being caught on down-lines, and very few people seem to be fishing anything else. While there are some fish in the creeks far more seem to be relating to the main channel.

Lake Wylie (Updated April 9)

Lake Wylie is at 99.5 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from the low to mid-60s. Color remains normal – clear all over.

The bass spawn is wide open on Lake Wylie, and tournament angler Reid McGinn of Fort Mill reports that he has found bedding bass in all of their traditional spawning areas. Fish can be found in pockets, coves off the main lake, and in the backs of the major creeks. They are around pretty much any type of cover including docks.

Both pre-spawn and spawning fish can be caught, and pretty much any type of soft plastic will catch fish. A shakey head worm, wacky rigged worm or Texas-rigged creature bait is hard to beat.

If you are looking at the fish you are targeting they can be a lot more picky, but if you make long, blind casts the fish are more likely to eat what you are throwing even if they are locked on a bed. They can also be more aggressive early in the morning, particularly in low light conditions.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated April 2)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 438.31 (full pool is 440.0) and surface water temperatures are 60-64 degrees depending upon area of the lake. The whole lake is clear.

Many bass fishermen look forward to the spawning season all year, but sometimes around the thick of the spawn fishing can get tough. Veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that is exactly what is going on right now, and it has only taken about 13 pounds to win recent tournaments. Stan believes that fish may be more focused on getting ready to spawn than eating right now, and as a result weights have been down.

Stan suggests looking for fish on the bed. By the next full moon, he expects the spawn to be completely wide open. He also suggests fishing shallow with a floating worm, Bang-O-Lure, or buzzbait. They will also take a spinnerbait or a jerkbait.

Lake Monticello (Updated April 4)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are in the 60s, and the water is typically clear. Lake levels normally fluctuate daily.

The bass spawn has busted wide open on Lake Monticello, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that fish are all over the beds. They have been there for a little while, and so right now you can catch fish at all three stages of the spawn on Lake Monticello. There are a lot of fish in shallow, protected pockets that can be caught on floating worms, shakey heads and Senkos. You can either sight-cast for these fish or catch them blind-casting, and they will also eat the topwater bait of your choice – including Spooks, Pop-Rs, buzzbaits, etc. Both pre-spawn fish and spawners will come up to eat a surface lure.

In addition to the shallow fish, both pre-spawn and post-spawn fish can also be caught in the 10- to 15-foot range on a Carolina rig. Generally, they will be on the secondary point closest to spawning pockets, but there are also some good ones on main lake points at the same depth.

The catfish bite continues to improve on Lake Monticello as temperatures warm, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are definitely moving shallower. They best bet is to anchor on humps or long points from 10 to 45 feet, and it’s important to put out rods at different depths along the structure to see how deep fish are holding. More big fish are starting to show up than a few weeks ago, and a variety of cut baits are working. The free-line drifting bite usually does not start up until things warm into the 70s or hotter.

Lake Murray (Updated April 3)

Lake Murray water levels are at 358.06 (full pool is 360.00), and water temperatures range from about 56 to 64 degrees depending on area of the lake. The water color is normal.

The bass spawn is underway on Lake Murray, and as is typical every year at this time veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that the fishing has dropped off a little. Doug and his tournament partner Rhett Manus won the last CATT event but only caught seven fish all day, and in the CBC event, 21 pounds won. Out of 180 boats there were only a few big fish caught and three bags over 20 pounds, and below that it dropped off. Doug believes it will be a little while before the 25s and 26s start showing up again because fish are thinking more about spawning than eating.

In the last CATT they caught all their fish off docks near secondary points, but Doug believes the dock pattern is about to play out. The best pattern right now may be picking up a buzzbait and throwing it in areas where fish will be spawning, which can tempt some big females to bite. Soft plastics are a good way to try to catch numbers of fish.

If we get a week or so of settled weather fish may get into a more consistent pattern.

Striped bass are doing pretty well on Lake Murray, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that there are fish being caught schooling over deep water in the big part of the lake. Birds are all over them and so they are easy to spot and throwing something like a fluke is a good way to catch them. There is also a good pattern fishing with free lines and planer boards in 25-40 feet of water, and while you can fish in the creeks the better catches seem to be coming in the main lake. A lot of the bait seems to have stayed there. Some small fish are being caught on down-lines, and some stripers are being caught on cut bait around Macedonia Church.

While water temperatures are almost exactly where they should be for the crappie spawn, Brad reports that the best fishing is still coming trolling and tight-lining 5-10 feet down over the main channel. It seems like a lot of the fish have not really pulled up shallow, although a few warm days may move them up.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that as water temperatures warm fish are starting to work their way back in the creeks. They are moving shallower, and the best bet for catching them is to drift cut bait in 20-30 feet of water in the creeks.

Lake Wateree (Updated April 9)

Lake Wateree is at 97.6 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from about 62-65 degrees although rain or other freshwater inflow can change them from day to day. Clarity is normal.

The bass spawn is progressing on Lake Wateree, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that fish are mixed between pre-spawn and spawning stages. By the next full moon the spawn should be wide open.

Overall fish are very shallow, and they will be in or close to spawning areas. When searching for bedding fish on Lake Wateree it is more common to see a light spot than to clearly make out fish on their beds, and if they can’t see or “feel” the angler they are more likely to feed.

Jigs, lizards, shakey head worms, and Senkos will all catch fish.

Water temperatures are in the magical area where all of the crappie are likely to come shallow soon on Lake Wateree, but for right now they remain mixed between shallow and deep. For anglers who want to go around the bank and throw a cork they can be caught this way, but for right now it is mainly smaller male fish.

The biggest female fish, the 2-plus pounders, are still in deeper water. Recently, Will found the bigger female fish were suspended out in 12-14 feet of water over 25-30 feet on the lower end. He also found another huge group of fish behind the bridge in Beaver Creek about a foot off the bottom throughout the creek in 8-15 feet of water. Minnows, jigs and jigs tipped with minnows all caught about the same number of fish.

The shallow bite is on the verge of busting wide open, and with the water temperatures and moon phase both being right on the cusp of perfect Will expects that most of the remaining deeper fish will head shallow at the same time.

Santee Cooper System (Updated April 3)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.51 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.90 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface temperatures are generally in the lower 60s, and the lake is relatively clear.

The spring bass spawn is well underway on Santee Cooper, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that a significant percentage of fish are already on beds. Even after a couple of cold days it’s unlikely that fish will turn around and head back out to deeper water, and so Brett suggests fishing in 3 feet of water and less. Soon, they should be biting very well, with soft plastics, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits or about anything you want to throw catching fish. While there is another wave of fish out in deeper water there are enough fish shallow that you might as well target them.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports the shallow fish are spawning, and there are also some out on brush that have already spawned as well as some egg-laden fish that have yet to move up. Generally, the first place that fish go after spawning is the brush closest to shallow water, typically in 10-15 feet.

Steve reports that bream have not moved shallow yet, but they are feeding very well suspended around brush in 10-20 feet of water.

In catfish news, Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that the best pattern has been drifting in 25-30 feet of water. The best action has come in Lake Moultrie, but there has also been some good fishing in about 30 feet of water in front of the Moultrie dam. Some anglers have also started anchoring in 8-10 feet of water, but the shallow anchoring bite will improve with a couple more degrees. The canal bite has not started yet but should take off when things warm to around 70 degrees. For now, cut river herring and shad have been the best baits.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated April 9)

Lake Jocassee is at 99.3 percent of full pool. Water temperatures have risen to about 57 degrees, and as high as 60 on sunny days. Clarity is normal, although in the very backs of creeks you can find some dingy water.

Lake Jocassee trout are still scattered all over the place, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that they continue to catch fish from the backs of the rivers to the dam and everywhere in between. There are still not a lot of big fish being caught, but they are catching very good numbers of stocked fish some of which have reached keeper-size.

Most of the fish are 20-50 feet deep, and they are getting the best action on Sutton’s Spoons. As is typical for the spring pulling hardware a little faster than normal, about two miles per hour, is working well.

On the bass fishing front, Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) reports that the first wave of fish has moved shallow as expected, and they are catching fish in the 15-foot range. Shallow is, of course, a relative term on Lake Jocassee, and even though Rob is concentrating on laydowns that come out from the bank there might be 20 or 30 feet of water on the deeper end. There is a lot of good cover in the Whitewater River that fits this description. Fish will also be around secondary points, particularly if they have some good cover on them.

Both soft plastics and swimbaits are catching fish right now, but on days when the fish are feeding most actively they will come up out of the cover to eat a suspended jerkbait. If fish are more sluggish you need something that will get deeper, and a 3- to 4-inch Keitech swimbait on a jighead that can be retrieved slowly will work. This bait will also pick up some fish around rocky points.

If you want to target fish, Rob suggests fishing no deeper than about 40 feet (even though some are deeper) in order to target actively feeding fish. Fishing a jigging spoon off points or around bluff banks is a good deep pattern.

Lake Keowee (Updated April 9)

Lake Keowee is at 97.8 of full pool. Water temperatures are now up to the low to mid-60s on most of the lake. Clarity is normal.

Spring is progressing on Lake Keowee, and veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that spawning activity is now widespread across the lake. Most bass on Lake Keowee make their beds in the 6- to 12-foot range, and so most fishing activity is concentrated in relatively shallow water (for Keowee).

Fishing remains good and fish and be caught using a variety of techniques in the 6- to 20-foot range. Texas and Carolina rigs, shakey heads, small swimbaits, and Ned Rigs will all catch fish that have moved up. Docks and rocky shorelines are good targets along with windy points. If the wind is blowing, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits are a good choice. Some fish continue to school in the backs of some creeks and long coves, so always have something ready to throw at these fish.

Lake Hartwell (Updated April 4)

Lake Hartwell water levels remain above full pool at 660.53 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the mid- to upper-50s in the main lake to the low 60s in the backs. Clarity is normal.

Fishing for hybrid and striped bass has gotten very good, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that as water temperatures have hit the low 60s a lot of fish are heading into the backs of rivers. They are also treating major coves off the main lake like creeks and going to the back of them.

The best pattern for catching numbers of fish has been fishing shallow down-lines 25 feet down in the backs of rivers and coves or pulling free-lines in the same areas. Some days fish strongly prefer one, some days the other, and some days they show no preference between free-lines and down-lines. Some better fish are also being caught on planer boards, but this is not a numbers pattern.

There is also a little bit of schooling early on Hartwell. For right now it’s typically pods of 2-3 fish early in the morning, but Chip says it will only get better. They will take free-lines pitched to them or standard topwater lures.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is on a slightly different pattern, but like Chip he is catching plenty of fish. First thing in the morning he is pulling up on the bank and casting herring out the back, and most mornings they have a limit by 7:30. When they must work harder, he is fishing down-lines on the bottom in about 20 feet. Bill had been concentrating on main lake points until the rivers started to warm this week.

Spring bass fishing is wide open on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that fish are on the banks and spawning like crazy. Because the spawn is so heavy right now weights have dropped a little, and while 17-18 pounds has won recent tournaments it drops off steeply below that.

Most of the fish are in spawning areas or very close-by, and pre-spawn fish can be found sitting at secondary points, guts or ditches leading into spawning pockets. Anglers can either bed fish or blind cast, and soft plastics such as shakey heads are catching a lot of fish. If you find some colored water a spinnerbait is working well. Don’t overlook the shoreline bank grass which is holding a lot of bass.

Crappie have been in 18- to 25-feet of water, but the bucks have moved shallow and the females cannot be far behind. The best bet is to look very shallow in the creeks and fish minnows or jigs 1 ½ feet under a float.

The catfish bite is still slow, although it should be turning on very soon. Normally by this time Captain Bill reports that he is catching multiple fish over 20 pounds each day, but this late winter and early spring the big ones have been harder to come by. The combination of rain earlier and high water has apparently not helped.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.