Freshwater Fishing Trends - January 13, 2017

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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 December 28)

Lake Thurmond water levels are down to 319.18 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures are in the low to mid-60s.

Water temperatures are unseasonably warm for the end of the year, and perhaps as a result of this Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that bass fishing on Clarks Hill is almost like spring fishing. Bass are shallow in the backs of pockets and along the banks, and throwing a small square-billed crankbait you can get all the action you want from one to three pound fish in 4-5 feet of water. Both crawfish and shad-colored crankbaits are working.

There have also been some very good bags caught in recent tournaments, and in one winter event a 22-pound bag did not get a check! There have been reports that some of these big fish have been caught flipping deep docks that have some brush, and 5/8 ounce brown Mop Jigs have been selling very fast.

On the striped bass front Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that very little has changed, but the bite is “awesome.” Fish should be migrating up the lake, but there are still a lot of fish in the mid-lake. Striper and hybrids are being caught on the bottom in 30-40 feet of water at the mouths of tributaries up the Georgia Little River and the Savannah River in areas like Shriver Creek. The only significant difference in the striper bite is that the presence of birds will now point out the areas that striper are holding, even though there is not surface schooling activity going on.

The crappie pattern remains relatively unchanged, and they are catching some impressive numbers of solid fish. William’s boat is still catching nice one-pound plus fish in the backs of tributaries fishing 15-20 feet deep in 25-30 feet of water. Fishing around brush next to the creek channel has been key, and minnows have been catching fish.

Lake Wylie (Updated December 28)

Lake Wylie is at 95.6 percent of full pool and water temperatures are in the lower 50s. There is some stained water but overall the lake is pretty clear. Bass fishing on Lake Wylie continues to improve, and Guide and FLW Angler Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that fish are starting to get on the bait pretty heavily. The largest numbers of fish are in 10-25 feet of water, and they could be anywhere with a funnel or creek channel that starts to narrow down. Jerkbaits, umbrella rigs, spoons and single grubs are all working pretty well in these types of areas, and there are also some fish on a similar pattern in the creeks in 6-7 feet of water. A decent shallow crankbait bite is also taking place in the 3-6 foot range, and this bite is better anywhere that has some stained water. The fish will not necessarily be in shallow areas close to deep water, but that can help. Because the fish are eating crawfish craw-colored baits are best, although Bryan will also throw some shad-colored baits. While not yet excellent Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) rates the catfish bite a solid "very good," and he has caught some very nice fish including a 48- and a 41-pounder recently. Conditions are still a little warmer than would be expected at this time of year, and as the winter progresses Rodgers expects the fishing to improve. For now fish are scattered and they are being caught both anchored and drifting. In the winter if you find bait and birds the fish will be there, and they are often so tight to the bottom that you can’t see them on sonar. Current can also help. Rodger advises starting out deep drifting the main channel to determine how the fish are relating to the channel so that it can be replicated in other areas. He is generally focusing on 30-50 feet of water, although in the afternoon if conditions are very still he will move up shallow and fish in 3-6 feet of water. Gizzard shad seem to be working a bit better than white perch, although they can be more work to get.

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 December 28)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are 55-57 degrees on the upper end, and 63-65 degrees on the lower end.

Tournament bass angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that the bite is really strong right now on Lake Monticello, and in a recent tournament where he and his fishing partner finished first they caught a ton of fish on a spoon. The bite is similar to a month ago, just better! Fish were around the deep points, humps and drops that they like to fish, with the biggest concentrations in 30-35 feet but out to 45 or 50 feet. Fish weren’t on all the spots, but there were some very large schools on some of them. In addition to the deep fish, they caught a nice 3-pound smallmouth first thing on a finesse-style Shad Rap. Another boat caught

Catfish: Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that anchoring has become more productive than drifting on Monticello, and the best depth range remains 45-70 feet. Cut gizzard shad and white perch have been the best big fish baits.

Lake Murray (Updated December 28)

Lake Murray water levels are at 354.24 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam range between 56 and 57 degrees.

It has been a pretty tough period for bass fishing on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that even though there were some pretty good stringers landed in tournaments before Christmas catching good-sized fish has been difficult. There have been decent numbers of fish in the 2-pound range caught, but the better tournament fish have been fairly elusive. One pattern for catching fish has been fishing shakey head worms and jigs in 10-14 feet around sloping banks that have some brush or other cover around them. Other anglers have been fishing a shallow running crankbait, and there are also some anglers fishing deep in 20 plus feet of water and jigging a spoon or the like. With water levels low fishing docks has not been a prominent pattern. If temperatures will get cooler and then stabilize fish should get into a more consistent pattern.

While bass have been finicky striped bass fishing has been strong, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that along with most of the Lake Murray striper fishermen he is fishing up the rivers pulling free-lines and planer boards. He has found most of the fish in about 30-40 feet of water but close to the surface. In addition to live bait fishing there is good action casting around birds with double rigs that have an ice fly behind a bucktail.

There have also been some fish caught in the Ballentine area but the bite has not been as consistent as up the rivers.

Brad reports that the crappie bite has also been good, and he has been finding fish up the rivers around brush in about 20 feet of water. He has only been able to catch them on minnows fished about 10-12 feet deep.

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that that fish are really starting to orient to the main river channel and larger creek beds in about 20-40 feet of water. Drifting cut herring is the best pattern and recently Chris’ boat has caught some good fish.

Lake Wateree (Updated December 27)

Lake Wateree is at 98.3 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from the upper 40s to lower 50s.
Bass fishing is a little tough on Lake Wateree, but tournament angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden says that fish are getting into a pretty typical winter pattern. While a lot of fish are holding out deeper, the most catchable fish move up shallow into about 5 feet of water to feed. They can be can be found around 45 degree banks as well as rocky banks with deep water nearby, and most fish are in the main lake or the front part of creeks. Again, rock is a good bet. Jigs, crankbaits and even Carolina rigs have been catching some fish.
While bass may be a little finicky, veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt advises that this a really good time to catch crappie on Wateree. Sizes are strong, with most fish being caught in the ¾- to 2-pound range. Crappie can be found from Dutchman’s and Singleton Creek up to Wateree Creek and the old river run, with most fish along the river channel. There are also some fish at the mouth of Taylors Creek where the channel swings inwards. Fishing about 18-22 feet deep in 18-26 feet of water has been the best pattern, and tight-lining has been the most productive technique. A lot of anglers are simply tight-lining plain hooks and minnows, while Will is having the best success with Fish Stalker jigs in Ugly Green or Midnight colors tipped with minnows and Skipper moon jigs in orange or chartreuse also tipped with minnows.

Santee Cooper System (Updated December 28)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.02 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and also at 74.02 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).

It's that time of year on the Santee Cooper lakes, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) advises that both the crappie and bream have moved onto deep brush in the 28-40 foot range. Fish are about 20-30 feet down, and the bite has been a little better in the lower lake than the upper. In the canal a lot of bluegill and shellcracker have also been caught casting worms from the bank.

More bass and catfish information to follow, but limited reports indicate that small catfish are being caught during the day with some bigger fish caught at night on white perch and bream fished on the bottom. The catfish are also deep.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated December 28)

Lake Jocassee is at 89 percent of full pool, and water temperatures throughout the water column are about 59 degrees. Clarity remains very good down to about 12 feet.

Water temperatures are finally dropping (albeit slowly and sporadically) on Lake Jocassee, and as a result Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that fish have spread out throughout the water column from the surface down to about 60 feet. On recent trips he has caught a bunch of small fish and they have been scattered all over the lake, including in the area where the three rivers meet as well as up the Toxaway River. Fish are being caught on Sutton and Doctor spoons, and he has also caught fish pulling Rapala baits. There have been some fish seen finning on and breaking the surface.

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.

Lake Keowee (Updated December 30)

Lake Keowee is at 95.9 percent of full pool. Water temperatures are in the mid to upper-50s in the majority of the lake and clarity is very good.

Bass are finally starting to settle down in their deep holes on Lake Keowee, even though Guide Brad Fowler reports that water temperatures are still a little behind where they usually are at this time. The fish are slowly getting into a typical winter pattern, and there is a decent bite with good numbers of fish. Fish are being found in 50-60 feet of water around drops, ditches and other depth changes, and there are also some fish as deep as 70-90 feet. Brad reports that birds will sometimes offer clues about where fish are located (even though there isn’t much surface activity on Keowee in the winter), and dropping baits under the birds is usually a good area. Finding bait and fish on the Lowrance is even more productive but can take a little more looking if you don’t know the lake. Drop shot rigs, spoons and fish head spins will all catch fish.

Lake Hartwell (Updated December 28)

Lake Hartwell water levels have dropped to 649.44 (full pool is 660.00), while water temperatures are in the mid-50s. Clarity is very good although there has been just enough rain to create some stained water in the creeks.

Bass are settling out deep on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that on the shallow end he is finding a good number of fish in 20-25 feet of water. These could be around brush or structure, and with water temperatures about 10 feet down that also means that a lot of these fish are at the edge of the timber. Brad has also found a good bite out as deep as 35-37 feet, and with relatively warm water temperatures a lot of the fish are suspended. Fish are eating spoons as well as football jigs dragged along the bottom, but drop shot rigs have been the most productive. Brad has also picked up some fish on fish head spins. As on most lakes there are some fish shallow, and some anglers have been catching fish on a shallow running crankbait. Brad has also seen a bit of surface activity, and on one recent trip he saw bass coming up in areas where striper had bait pushed up over about 30 feet of water. Overcast, drizzly days can put the bait higher in the water column.

Striped bass: Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that fish are moving up the creeks and they are scattered all over the place. On his most recent trips Bill has caught fish on down-lines fished about 33-35 feet down over water up to 55 feet deep. He has not observed any surface schooling activity. Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) has also found a lot of fish and bait in the backs of creeks, and he is also having the best luck fishing down-lines about 30-40 feet down (near the bottom). Chip has found that the backs of creeks are really slammed with bait. Some anglers are pulling free-lines and planer boards to targets some bigger “teenage” sized fish, but numbers have been far better on down-lines. Chip has only found negligible schooling activity and in his experience it has usually been spotted bass that have come up.

Blue catfish are feeding pretty well in the creeks, and Captain Bill has found them feeding along the edge of the channel in about 25-30 feet of water. Fresh, cut perch and herring are both working. There has been a pretty decent crappie bite over brush, with the best action about 4 or 5 feed down over 12-15 feet of water. Fish have been found at that depth in both the main lake and the creeks and some good crappie have been biting.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.