Freshwater Fishing Trends - May 25, 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.

Piedmont Area

Lake Russell (Updated May 24)

Lake Russell water levels are bouncing around 474.90 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are around 80 degrees.

Bass fishing has gotten tougher on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that with the herring spawn pretty much done except in a few places the fish have generally moved out deeper to humps in 15-25 feet of water. He is catching them on drop shot rigs and herring. Despite the high-water levels fishing in the backs has gotten tough.

Even as catching bass has gotten more difficult, the catfish bite has really turned on. Fish are in the backs of shallow pockets off the main lake and in the creeks. Fishing cut herring in 3-15 feet of water is the best pattern, and the catch is mainly channels.

Lake Thurmond (Updated May 24)

Lake Thurmond water levels are again just below full pool, after several more days above full, at 329.69 (full pool is 330.00). Surface temperatures are 76-78 first thing and rising into the low 80s in the afternoon, unless there is a bunch of rain to cool things off. For the most part the lake is very clear, although there are some stained areas. There is a little bit of debris from the rain.

The spring bass bite is transitioning into a summer bite, and tournament angler Tyler Matthews with Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that there is still a very little bit of herring spawn going on but it is dying off. First thing in the right spot you can catch some fish shallow on a fluke, and if there is some wind it is worth keeping it tied on.

However, Tyler has had better luck fishing deeper in the 6-12 foot range over rocky parts of humps and points. He has been fishing a Sled with a green pumpkin Speed Craw in clean areas without grass.

There are still a very few late fish on the bed, but the number of fish shallow guarding fry or on beds is dwindling. However, with the water up in the bushes you can throw a buzzbait or a frog in the shallows during low-light periods.

Augusta University fishing team angler Josh Rockefeller says that fishing has gotten tougher, and as the very tail end of the herring spawn winds down he is seeing the action move out to the main lake – or closer to it off long tapering points at the mouth of creeks.

The offshore bite should be coming on soon, but from what Josh is seeing it hasn’t taken off yet. When there is current being pulled through the lakes it will get hot and for the first couple of weeks before the offshore fish get pressured it should be really good.

On the striped bass front, William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports that as the herring spawn wraps up they are almost exclusively finding a down-line bite off the ends of points in 25-30 feet of water. The best bite is at daylight, and after the sun gets up it tapers off until evening. During the heat of the day the bite can be better in 35-40 feet. They are doing the majority of their fishing from the mid-lake to the lower end, but the bite is pretty good throughout. The South Carolina Little River has been very strong. There has been minimal surface activity.

In the mid-lake area, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the down-line bite has been on fire. He is fishing similar depths, and in the morning he is fishing humps, points and saddles that top out in around 18-25 feet, and then gradually the fish will move down to 35-40 feet.

Chris is also finding that there is not much feeding taking place after 9 a.m., but usually the boat already has a limit by then. Then in the evening there is also a really good bite taking place in the same areas about an hour before dark as fish head back to the shallower side of humps, points and saddles. Fish are also being caught in the dark under lights.

Captain Chris reports that catfish have also been pretty active, and anchoring in the same areas as for the striper and spreading cut bait around has been working until about 11 a.m. At night the fish are in the same areas but as shallow as 5-10 feet. The catch is mostly consisting of 2-12 pound channels and blues, but if you want to increase your chances of tangling with flatheads live bream are the best bet. Some really big flatheads can be caught at this time of year.

Lake Wylie (Updated May 25)

Lake Wylie is at 98.6 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the mid-70s on the upper end of the lake.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports a very good pre-spawn bite. When there is good current flow then anchoring on the upper end of the lake is working very well, and in four hours of fishing recently 350 pounds of catfish were caught – including a 26- and 15-pound flathead, and a bunch of 8-20 pound blues. The best pattern has been anchoring in 7-8 feet of water near drops that go out to about 30 feet and then fan-casting cut gizzard shad across a range of depths along the ledge. Even if you cast a bait into the deepest areas it’s hard to keep it out there, and it’s not clear if there are fish in the middle of the channel anyway. It’s a good idea to also have another bait, such as bluegill heads, to see what the fish want on a given day.

Once the current dies then anglers should head into the backs of creeks in 7-8 feet of water and look for another group of actively feeding fish. The main lake bite is highly current dependent.

Within a few weeks the bite will abruptly shut down when the spawn gets heavy, and then anglers will need to drift in the mid-lake to look for scattered fish that are later or were very early to spawn.

Guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) not recall a time when the water on Lake Wylie has stayed this high this long, and every time it starts to come down a few inches a fresh round of rain brings it back up. The lake is not technically flooded, but from a fishermen’s perspective it is.

Overall the bass fishing remains tough. Typically at this time of year there would be a very strong offshore bite starting and you could catch a fish on every cast, but with the dirty water they aren’t going to get offshore very well. As a result bass are scattered in shallow water, with most of the fishing taking place in less than 7 or 8 feet of water. Any shallow cover is worth throwing at, but pockets off the main channel and creeks have been better than open stretches of bank.

Jigs, Chatterbaits and topwater lures have been most productive.

The shad spawn is pretty much over since water temperatures have gotten so warm.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated May 24)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 438.97 (full pool is 440.0) and water temperatures are in the upper 80s.

Bass fishing is still tough on Lake Greenwood, but instead of a post-spawn funk the culprit now seems to be that fish are transitioning from shallow to deep.

SC BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that in the most recent tournament it took about 19 pounds to win, with those fish reportedly caught out of the eel grass around the State Park, but weights dropped way down into the low teens below that. There are still a few fish shallow around sea walls and the like, and they can be caught on Pop-Rs and floating worms. There are also starting to be a few fish in deep brush in 15-18 feet, which can be caught on crankbaits and big worms, but they still aren’t out there in very good numbers yet. The better fish may be in the 10-12 foot range around rock and points, but they are challenging to locate.

Lake Monticello (Updated May 24)

Lake Monticello water temperatures range from about 80-82 degrees, and lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

It’s starting to get into a summer pattern on Lake Monticello, but FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that the bass are not yet stacked up in deep water. Early, you can find a good topwater pattern fishing around points and former spawning pockets where there may be some fry guarders and late post-spawn fish, but during most of the day the best place to look is in transition areas in the 10-15 foot range off points or even in front of docks. Crankbaits, big worms and spoons are the best baits.

There are already a few fish on the deep holes that Andy likes to fish, but instead of catching two or three bass you are lucky to get one. They should stack up deep soon.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that there is starting to be a pretty good free-line drifting bite on the lake, particularly with small pieces of cut herring. There is also pretty good action for larger fish anchoring cut bait on humps and long points in 35 or less feet of water, and any time now he expects the free-line bite to take off.

Lake Murray (Updated May 24)

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.92 (full pool is 360.00) and surface temperatures at the dam are around 78 degrees in the morning.

The striped bass bite has improved to very good on Lake Murray, but Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that the keeper ratio is only about 1 in 4. Come June 1 when summer rules go into effect that will not be a factor, but it does indicate that the survival rate of small fish that they are putting into the lake must be very good.

They are starting to catch some good numbers of fish on down-lines fished in 40-50 feet of water, and the fish are scattered all over the place from the creeks to the main lake. However, the herring spawn is still on and most of the keeper fish are being caught casting artificials at schooling fish on top. For the first hour or two the best bet is to pull free lines and planer boards and keep your eyes open for schooling fish.

Recently, veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown and his tournament partner Rhett Manus won the first CATT Open of the season with 21.17 pounds, and even though they were targeting largemouth bass, Doug reports that they couldn’t stop catching striper. Eventually they discovered that some of the largemouth were setting up deeper in the places that they like to fish for suspended fish, and that’s where they caught the weight that they took to the scales. However, that bite died about 9:30 and it’s clear that it will be a week or two before the fish really get set up well out there.

Looking for a bite after the early flurry remains a challenge on Murray, and heading up the river with a buzzbait and then a jig may be the best way to fish because there is so much cover and the water has more color to it.

Captain Brad reports that most of the crappie are being caught in creeks from Dreher Island up around deeper docks and brush in the 12- to 20-foot range. The bite is only fair. It doesn’t seem like there has been much of a shad spawn yet, which usually occurs after the herring spawn.

In catfish news, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the dip bait bite is getting better and better on shallow humps, points and in the backs of creeks. 25 feet and shallower is the best depth range.

Lake Wateree (Updated May 25)

Lake Wateree remains at 96.8 percent of full pool.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that the pattern is pretty similar to Lake Wateree and you are also looking for pre-spawn fish. The best bet first thing when there is some current flow is to fish the upper end of the lake and fan-cast baits on the bottom. Wateree has some good deep holes, and so the fishing may be a little deeper than Wylie. Later in the morning the best bet is to head into the backs of creeks on the upper end, such as Wateree Creek, and look for a shallower pattern. The creeks are less likely to generate monster bites but there are certainly plenty of good fish back there at this time of year.

Again, have a couple of different baits available to see what fish prefer on a given day. Gizzard shad and bluegill are two of the best choices this time of year.

Lake Wateree crappie fishing is getting better and better, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that with every day more fish get on brush. From dam to dam fish have pulled out of the creeks into the main lake, but they are not quite in the river channel yet. They are closer to the bank around brush in 12-18 feet of water.

Early in the day fish are higher in the brush, and later they will drop down in it. Will is having the best success fishing brush with a single pole and Fish Stalker jigs in Ugly Green, black and chartreuse and black and yellow. Other anglers are tight-lining minnows around the brush. Bridges are also holding some fish.

Bass fishing remains tough, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that in the recent Take a Child Fishing tournament it took 16 pounds to win and then weights dropped off sharply below that. Nothing is hot, but throwing spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and frogs in the morning is a decent pattern. When the sun gets up jigs, shakey heads, and Carolina rigs fished around rock in 5-10 feet are as good as anything. There are no reports yet on a deep bite, and last summer it never really came together.

Santee Cooper System (Updated May 24)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.77 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.04 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures are around 78 degrees and the water is fairly clear with a healthy amount of color.

The bass spawn is very nearly finished on Santee, but tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that right now fish can be caught feeding on spawning bream. They are around grass, lily pads, trees and any other cover that bream use, and they will take topwater lures, spinnerbaits, flukes and worms. Very soon, however, most of the better fish will head deeper into 10-20 feet for the summer. Some smaller fish will stay shallower but the oxygen levels are generally not as good shallow.

On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that days without wind and stalled high pressure can be a little tough, but he recommends fishing in areas that usually hold fish at this time of year. Anchoring around trees and stumps in 4-10 feet is a good bet, and drifting in 10-20 feet or deeper is a good option. Fresh cut shad, perch and herring will all work. There are also a lot of fish on the upper end of the system right now in the shallow swampy areas as temperature and oxygen conditions are ideal right now and there is excellent spawning habitat.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) adds that some good fish have been caught anchored shallow at night.

Steve’s boat is doing more catfishing than usual because the crappie bite has been slow. However, they have been catching both bluegill and shellcracker fishing around shallow beds as well as around brush 7-10 feet deep in 15-18 feet of water.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated May 22)

Lake Jocassee is at 98.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have jumped to about 71 in the morning and the mid-70s on warm afternoons.

Trout fishing remains pretty good on Lake Jocassee, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that overall sizes have improved. The smaller ones have grown to 15-16 inches. On June 1 the size limit will go away for the season.

Action at the dam has really picked up, with the best bite early, and first thing you have a good shot at some rainbows and then later the chance at a big brown. The best pattern remains trolling hardware in 30-60 feet, as the fish have still not gone really deep.

Lake Keowee (Updated May 17)

Lake Keowee is at 97.8 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have jumped to the high 70s in the lower and upper sections and the low-80s mid-lake. Clarity is high on the main lake, but there is some stain in the back of creeks due to heavy rainfall the past two days.

After a strange spring, it seems we have moved quickly into summer – but veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports the bass have not fully moved into a summer pattern. Fishing overall has gotten tougher the past two weeks with many fish in a post-spawn funk. Many of the fish caught in the past two weeks show the stress of the spawn.

Early, fish can be caught around shallow rocky points on topwaters such as a Sammy or popper, and also on small crankbaits like a 1.5 square bill. They can also be caught on soft plastics such as a fluke or shakey head.

After the sun comes up, fish can be found deeper in 10 to 40 feet as they are moving out to summer depths. These fish are scattered, however, and you have to work a variety of depths to pick up a fish here and there. The more shallow fish can be caught on a shakey head or Carolina rig, and for the deeper fish a drop shot works better. Look for fish on deeper drop offs on points or any structure where there is a depth change such as a hump.

The bite on docks has been very slow recently.

Lake Hartwell (Updated May 24)

Lake Hartwell water levels are way above full pool at 661.44 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are in the upper 70s. Despite the high water levels it is still pretty clear.

Striped bass fishing remains very strong on Lake Hartwell, although Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that schooling action is more sporadic and occurring mainly at dawn or dusk. Early and late they are still fishing free-lines in the same areas, and then most of the day they are fishing downlines in 25-40 feet. There are a lot of fish mid-river and in the middle of creeks, and as always there are also some at the dam.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is fishing a similar pattern, and although the bait has pretty much completed spawning and pulled off the banks he is also fishing free-lines around the banks first thing and then fishing down-lines in 25-40 feet after that. From what he is seeing fish are migrating out of the creeks and rivers towards the lower lake.

On the bass front, Guide Brad Fowler and tournament partner Brock Taylor are fresh off a top-10 finish that sealed the points championship in the Skeeter/ Boatin’ Atlanta Trail last weekend on Hartwell. In two days of fishing, as expected, they confirmed that you can do about anything on Lake Hartwell right now. However, nothing is great and as a results weights were low with less than 32 pounds over two days enough for the win.

The herring spawn is dwindling, and they did their best fishing throwing topwaters offshore for suspended fish. The fish are setting up a little differently with the high water, but bass seemed to want to look up to eat and a drop-shot was only good for catching some very small fish. The combination of past low water, causing the grass to grow up, and high water now certainly means that a ton of fish are up shallow, but it’s also hard to know where to fish with the sheer volume of cover up shallow.

Captain Bill reports that blue catfish have started to spawn, which means they are pretty much done until late in the year. When the spawn begins the big fish essentially stop biting, and then after that they will head out to the Hartwell timber and basically become uncatchable. The channel catfish bite is good on night crawlers, chicken livers, dip baits and cut herring.

Crappie are starting to pull out towards their summer haunts, and Captain Bill says they can be caught along brush and stumps in creek channels in 18-25 feet of water. Fishing vertically with minnows and jigs is the best pattern. Fish can also be caught around bridges at night.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.