Freshwater Fishing Trends - Febuary 11, 2017

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.

Piedmont Area

Lake Russell (Updated January 13)

Lake Russell water levels are at 471.22 (full pool is 475.00) and surface temperatures have already risen 2-3 degrees in the past couple of days. In the morning they are about 51 rising to about 54 during the day. Clarity is good.

It’s a dynamite time for striped bass fishing on Lake Russell, with the big fish really biting! On his most recent trip Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) caught a bunch of large fish including one a little over 20 and one 31-pounder. The key lately has been running around and using “a lot of gas.” The fish have been suspended about 20-25 feet down over main channel timber in roughly 50 feet of water, and everything has come casting an Alabama rig. Yesterday Jerry only saw one fish roll and so the fish were caught by “throwing and throwing and throwing.”

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) concurs about the overall pattern, and he has also found the fish scattered all over the main channels. Some of them are a little ways up the Savannah River, some to about halfway up the Rocky River, and a few just up Beaverdam. In addition to throwing an Alabama rig on a baitcaster with heavy braid, he is also catching fishing pulling herring or shiners on free lines or planer boards.

Jerry says that some good bass have been mixed in lately with the striper when they are throwing A-rigs, and he is also catching a lot of bass on spoons and drop-shot rigs. Fish have been as deep as 65-70 feet, but with the recent warming he doesn’t expect that to last very long.

Wendell is also catching a mix of bass and yellow perch fishing in 35-60 feet of water around bait at the edge of underwater timber. Fishing medium minnows has been accounting for a mixed bag including big perch, some spotted bass over 3 pounds and some largemouth over 4 pounds. White perch and crappie have been pretty absent.

Lake Thurmond (Updated January 20)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 320.00 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures are in the high 50s.

Water temperatures remain unseasonably warm, and perhaps as a result of this Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that bass don’t seem to have really gotten into the ditches they are known for inhabiting during the winter. The best pattern for catching numbers of fish seems to be targeting areas with rocks, as most of the typical structure that anglers like to fish is dry with water levels so low. Moving down the banks and fishing areas with emergent rocks with a jig or the The Sled is a good bet. There seem to be a lot of fish in the 10-12 foot range, and with the fish still in a winter mode it seems to make a big difference to drag the jig instead of hopping it. Additionally, there are some fish up very shallow chasing shad in only a foot or two of water – particularly on warm days. These fish can be caught on a shallow running jerkbait. Isolated reports indicate that some fish are being caught on a jigging blade or rattle trap in the grass. If the water temperatures drop fish should start to move into the ditches, but which way temperatures go is anybody’s guess.

On the striped bass front Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that striper are starting to make their way down the lake. Should the warm temperatures continue, it should be within a week or so that fish make it all the way back down to the dam and anglers catch them cut bait fishing.

For now William has found the best success for big striper pulling free lines and planer boards very early in the day in the backs of mid-lake creeks. The best pattern for catching numbers of good 5-10 pound striper as well as big hybrids bas been fishing 40 feet down on the bottom at the mouth of creeks. The best action has been around the 378 bridge in the mid-lake. White perch are mixed in with the striper and hybrids in 40 feet of water on the bottom.

There is very little change in the crappie pattern, and in the backs of creeks they are catching fish with minnows about 15 feet down over brush in about 30 feet of water. If temperatures stay where they are fish could be on the banks in a matter of days, if they are not already.

Lake Wylie (Updated January 20)

Lake Wylie is at 96.4 percent of full pool and water temperatures range from the mid- to high-40s. The lake is fairly clear, but rain predicted in the next day or two should change that.

On most of the South Carolina lakes water temperatures are unseasonably warm and bass are barely if at all in a winter pattern, but Guide and FLW Angler Bryan New (704-421-5868) reminds anglers that a couple of weeks ago the Lake Wylie area had (limited) snow and brutally cold temperatures. It didn’t get above freezing for a day or two, and a result water temperatures are still way down. Perhaps because of the seasonably cold temperatures, Lake Wylie bass are doing what they are supposed to do in the winter and biting pretty well. Alabama rigs and jerkbaits are the best baits, and the 10-30 foot range has been the most successful. Bryan still advises looking for funnels or creek channels that narrow down, but he reports that the steeper stuff is getting better as fish are more likely to be holding on the steep part of creek banks. Of course, in a few weeks they will start to go the other direction and stage up for the pre-spawn.

While a few fish have been caught on shallow-running crankbaits, that bite has been a little slow. The water is pretty clear, and with water levels low there hasn’t been anything to push fish to the banks.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated December 28)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 435.54 (full pool is 440.00) and water temperatures are around 54 degrees. Clarity is good.

Unsurprisingly, veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter reports that the Alabama rig continues to dominate bass fishing on Lake Greenwood. Stan says that since water temperatures haven’t gotten very cold they are catching fish shallow, and on a recent trip they caught 10 or 12 bass just moving down the bank in a creek and casting the rig around docks and other cover. Most of the bass were in 3-7 feet of water. There are also some bass being caught on crankbaits in the same areas.

Bass are also being caught around brush in 12-15 feet of water, and jigs, crankbaits and jerkbaits will all catch these slightly deeper fish. Fishing an Alabama rig over brush is also (naturally on Greenwood) a good pattern.

Catfish fishing remains pretty good on Lake Greenwood, and Captain Chris Simpson reports that drifting main lake flats in 10-15 feet of water with cut bait remains an effective pattern.

Jerking for white perch bite has gotten really strong, and jigging a ½ ounce spoon in 20-35 feet of water Chris is catching a large variety of fish to go with a bunch of perch.

Striped bass fishing has gotten a little more consistent, with fish still being caught pulling live herring and shad on free-lines and planer boards across points and humps. Fish are also being caught chasing season birds and throwing artificials at fish on the surface.

Lake Monticello (Updated February 9)

Lake Monticello water temperatures still range from the mid-50s to mid-60s depending on area of the lake, with the lower end warmer because of proximity to the cooling station. Lake levels always fluctuate daily.

Tournament activity has a lot of bass fishermen on other lakes in the spring, but Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that at this time of year on Moticello he likes to throw an Alabama rig from 15 feet of water to the bank. Fish are starting to stage up for the pre-spawn, and that means that they will be around areas like secondary points that mark the first stop on their migration routes into spawning areas. They won’t be out on the main lake, and they also won’t be tucked way back yet.

Crankbaits are also a good lure choice right now, particularly around points. While a lot of anglers look for rock at this stage Andy believes that location is more important than the type of cover.

On the catfish front Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that catfish remain scattered out in 45-70 feet of water, and anchoring is the best pattern. However, the warm weather also has a decent number of fish up shallow and so it’s worth prospecting with electronics and then putting out some baits in a variety of depths. Cut gizzard shad and white perch continue to be the best big fish baits.

Lake Murray (Updated February 9)

Lake Murray water levels are at 356.88 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam are in the mid-50s.

Striped bass fishing has been good on Lake Murray, with Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reporting that the best bite is up the river around Riverwinds Landing on the Big Saluda. The best bite has been a live bait bite, and the most successful pattern has been following the birds and pulling free-lines through the areas they are in. The bait and birds move around from day to day, and on warmer days they usually go shallower. Riverwinds has recently starting carrying live herring.

Fish can also be caught be caught chasing schooling fish and throwing bucktails and ice flies. On warm, pretty days that bite is not as good as when conditions are more severe.

There have also been some good reports from the Ballentine area.

Tournament anglers Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that the bass bite has not been as good as last year, and even though there were some 26-pound bags at the top of the CBC standings last weekend weights dropped off after that. Last year when the lake was up and the water was heavily stained it took about 20 pounds to get a check, but this year about 15 was good enough.

A lot of anglers are fishing shallow right now, and crankbaits fished around rocks as well as jigs around docks have been popular patterns. However, there are a lot of deep fish too and some big bags have been caught on jigging spoons and drop shot rigs in 30-45 feet of water.

Guide Brad Fowler of Pendleton fished the CBC with tournament partner Brent Long and cut a check with about 16 pounds. They found fish both shallow and deep and put together a bag with fish from a variety of depths.

Captain Brad Taylor reports that crappie are starting to be caught tight-lining in the mouths of creeks. The Little Saluda and Buffalo Creek have been the best areas, and the mouths of creeks have been the best places to fish. Depths vary from day to day but fishing jigs and minnows 6-8 feet deep over 12-15 feet of water has been the best bet.

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that fish remain pretty scattered, but now more fish are relating to the shallowest portion of humps. The best pattern is anchoring on humps that top out at about 15 feet of water and putting out cut herring.

Lake Wateree (Updated February 11)

Lake Wateree is at 98.3 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range between 55 and 58 degrees. Up the lake and creeks are fairly stained.

Spring is around the corner for Lake Wateree crappie, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt advises that fish are starting to move shallower. They will go back and forth as long as temperatures seesaw, but the general progression will be shallower as long as water temperatures don’t drop dramatically (as with freezing precipitation or the like).

Even on cold days Will advises looking shallow first, and he has found fish about 6 feet deep in 8-12 feet of water on the lower end of the lake. Even if they aren’t necessarily far back in creeks yet they will be in pockets off the main lake, and it’s worth starting to look in Beaver Creek and Singleton Creek.

The best action has come tight-lining, with jigs tipped with minnows working best. Will is mainly use Fish Stalker jigs and Moon jigs. A few fish are being caught trolling, too.

While water temperatures are warmer than normal, tournament angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that Wateree bass are still very much in winter mode. That doesn’t mean they are deep, and the best fishing for active bass has been shallow in the 5-foot range. Main lake rock with some deep water close by has been producing best, with Shad Raps and other crankbaits the best baits. Some fish have been caught around grass but this is not a primary pattern.

Santee Cooper System (Updated January 13)

Tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that bass fishing has been pretty good recently on Santee Cooper, and while he isn’t catching (or really pursuing) the 8-10 pound fish that will be needed to win tournaments in a month or two he has been finding good numbers of healthy, strong-fighting 1 ½ - 5 pound fish that are hungry. With water levels a bit down the best pattern for getting your line pulled has been to focus on relatively shallow creeks and ditches in 4-8 feet of water. Bass are pushing bait up the channels to areas in that depth range, and fish can be caught on crankbaits that dive to about 2 feet off the bottom. Steve is changing the size of his crankbait depending on how deep he is fishing to keep the bait about that depth off the bottom. Spinnerbaits fished a foot or two off the bottom are also working well. Steve speculates that the better fish may be out deeper, and with the lake a bit down some of the places he usually considers “deep” are shallower than usual right now. He expects the lake to continue coming up.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) advises that both the crappie and bream can still be caught around deep brush in the 28-45 foot range, and out on the water today his boat is concentrating on fishing 20-30 feet down. The bite has been better in the lower lake than the upper; typically at this time of year he finds that in the upper lake fish just stack up in the river channel where they can be seen on a graph but are hard to catch.

Steve has not been up shallow to see if some fish have moved up, but with the warm weather predicted that is certainly possible.

On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that big fish still had not turned on, but he was optimistic that a cold front might improve that bite. His boat recently caught 30 plus total blue catfish in the 1-15 pound range drifting with cut mullet in 35-45 feet of water, and other boats seem to have had similar results recently. Even with large pieces of bait smaller blues still dominated the creel, with a decent number of 8-10 pounders. Big concentrations of bait are beginning to show up in 40 plus feet of water.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated January 15)

Lake Jocassee is at 87.6 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from about 56.5 degrees in the morning to 58 or 59 degrees in the afternoon. Clarity remains very good.

There’s not a lot of change in the trout bite on Lake Jocassee, but Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that the fish seem to be grouping up in the 30-50 foot range. 31 feet has been a very good depth on recent trips, but he has caught fish down to about 55 feet. Fish remain scattered all over the lake, and little fish are still making up the bulk of the catch. Pulling Sutton and Apex spoons has been the best pattern.

Sam reminds anglers that the size limit for Jocassee trout is 15 inches, and you can only keep three fish per person and only one over 20 inches. If you catch small fish that must be released handle them very carefully so that they can swim away to grow up.

With water temperatures still not that cold on Lake Jocassee Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) reports that it’s not yet time for some of the late winter bass patterns he likes to fish. When water temperatures get to about 50 degrees or below, which may not happen this year, he spends a lot of time fishing a floating fly. But for now there are two main tactics Rob likes to employ.

On the main lake he will concentrate on points about 40 feet deep where the bass will move “up” from deeper water to feed. The main bait is a jigging spoon, and he catches mostly spotted bass this way. In addition to the main lake pattern, Rob will spend time far up the rivers where winter fish will group up in deep holes towards the backs. The best holes are 60-85 feet deep. Multiples species will stack up in these holes, and Rob will drop medium minnows down to the depth where he marks fish and catch a mixed bag of spots, some largemouth, perch, and trout.

Lake Keowee (Updated February 9)

Lake Keowee is at 95.4 percent of full pool. As always water temperatures vary widely on Lake Keowee, from the lower to upper 50s. Clarity is very good.

Guide Brad Fowler reports that Lake Keowee bass are in about the same mood as Lake Hartwell bass, which means that they are as likely to be in 80-90 feet of water as on the bank – and everywhere in between. Unseasonably warm temperatures and a winter that never got truly cold meant that there was never a mass movement of fish out deep, and as a result they are scattered all over the place. Overall fishing is fair to good.

Fish can certainly be caught drop-shotting or fishing jigging spoons around very deep structure, and there have also been a lot of fish caught the same way in 25-45 feet of water. There is also a pretty good shallow bite in the creeks where a lot of fish are cruising, although most of these fish are being caught on finesse-style soft plastics. If you can find some very stained water in the creeks then you can get bit on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Brad notes that there is no rhyme or reason to where fish are up shallow, and they are as likely to be at the back of a long flat as in a shallow pocket near deep water. This is a result of the warm winter.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) has also been targeting Lake Keowee bass with live bait, and his boat has picked up a ton of spots in 20-30 feet around the bends of creeks and rivers. These fish are usually on the bottom but can be found suspended throughout the water column depending on conditions. They have also caught a bunch of nice blue catfish between 8 and 20 pounds and even managed a 13 1/4 pound hybrid bass!

Lake Hartwell (Updated February 9)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 650.30 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the low to mid-50s. Because of drought conditions any rain is quickly soaked into the ground and there is relatively little inflow into the lake.

“Winter” weather has been wacky in the Upstate, and as a result Guide Brad Fowler reports that Lake Hartwell bass don’t know whether they should be coming or going. Water temperatures never got and stayed below 50 degrees for any extended period of time, and as a result there was never really a mass movement of fish out deep. Accordingly, Brad says that fish are scattered all over the place. They could be caught in very deep water, or against the bank. And whereas a lot of times winter fish will move up shallow but stay close to deep water, Hartwell fish are as likely to be found up shallow on a flat in the very back as in a main lake pocket near deep water. Fish can also be found in between shallow and deep.

Overall fishing is fair to good, again with the caveat that fish are very, very scattered and finding concentrations is difficult. Certainly fish can be caught around deep structure on spoons and drop shots, and in shallow areas finesse fishing with soft plastics or jerkbaits is working. In more stained shallow areas fish are being caught on crankbaits.

Right now it’s hard to characterize what stage fish are in, and even though temperatures resemble what is typical for the early pre-spawn there are a lot of fish out deep. Brad says this may be a spring like a few years ago when fish went from winter straight to spawning on the banks without an extended staging period.

While bass have been a little hard to pattern, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that crappie fishing on Lake Hartwell has been strong. Good numbers of fish and good sizes have been caught. Fishing 9 or 10 feet down with minnows over brush in 15-20 feet of water has been the best pattern.

The catfish bite has also been good, and Captain Bill reports that they have caught some nice blue catfish in the 20+ pound range fishing in about 30 feet of water with cut bait on the bottom. As water temperatures rise fish should start to move further back into the creeks, but for now they have been at the mouths.

Striped bass fishing has been a little tough, and in a recent tournament bites were very, very hard to come by. Many of the fish that are being caught are coming pulling free-lines through areas where you find birds, and there are also a few fish being picked up on umbrella rigs trolled in the same areas. Captain Bill says they are actually doing better live bait fishing for spotted bass with herring on downlines in 25-35 feet of water at creek bends.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.