Freshwater Fishing Trends - August 24, 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 August 9)

Lake Russell water levels are around 474.2 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures are generally in the upper 80s. The main lake is still clear.

There continues to be a very strong bass bite on Lake Russell, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that on both the main lake and in the creeks he is still catching tons of fish in 50-60 feet of water. Sometimes they are on the bottom, and sometimes they are suspended 20-25 feet down in the trees. The bite lasts all day.

While the most effective way to catch them has been with live bait, they will also take soft plastics fished on a drop shot rig. Jerry continues to find striper, hybrids, and catfish mixed in the same areas, in what is typically a fall pattern, and the last two weeks white perch have also been showing up in large numbers.

You can catch some bass early shallow on topwater lures or a Carolina rig, but Jerry has found more success sticking to deeper water.

Lake Thurmond (Updated August 24)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 328.00 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures range from about 83 or 84 up to 90. Water clarity is normal.

It’s August, but they are still catching bass on Lake Thurmond. Augusta University fishing team angler Josh Rockefeller reports that the action is not fast but going back in the creeks and throwing a white and black popping frog in the shallow, dirty water they have caught some good ones. It’s not a lot of bites, but when you do get one it’s usually full-grown.

There has also been a deeper bite, but again Josh is catching these fish on topwaters. Fishing off humps and points in 10-20 feet of water you can catch a lot of two pounders, and get even more blow-ups, throwing a clear Spook or Pop-R. The fish seem to be concentrating on smaller bait so they want something more finesse-oriented.

Tournament angler Tyler Matthews with Buckeye Lures in Augusta is also finding fish on a topwater pattern, and he reports that fishing the shaded banks with a buzzbait is working for him. Instead of going to the stained backs of creeks he is concentrating on parts of the creeks with some deep water nearby.

Just as bass can be found deep and shallow, the same can be said for striped and hybrid bass. William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) says that is extremely unusual at this time of year, and they are not sure if it is the result of cooler temperatures, lots of freshwater inflow, or several years of the oxygen lines working. Fish also have a beautiful color and aren’t washed out like deep summer fish sometimes are.

Whatever the reason, in the morning fish can be found from 15 feet out to 60-70 feet. The fish are so scattered that you could pull up onto the side of a hump and find fish anywhere in that range, and accordingly electronics are very important. Start deep and work shallow and eventually you will find fish. Striper are also distributed over a large portion of the lake, from the 378 bridge to the dam. Most of the fish are being caught on down-lines, but pulling umbrella rigs up and down the main channel is also working.

After it gets later in the day fish do back off and suspend in the water column along the edges of the channel, usually in 35-60 feet of water.

Some very small fish can be found in the backs of coves, but they are generally in the ¾ pound range.

There’s not a lot of change with the catfish, and Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the night bite for flatheads is still pretty good. They are also starting to catch some blues and channels at night, too. Anchoring on both main lake points and secondary points is working well, especially points with rocks and boulders present. The night depth can range from a few feet to as deep as 50 feet. Live bream are the best way to target flatheads, and cut herring will catch the other species. Daytime fishing will get better once temperatures cool.

Lake Wylie (Updated August 23)

Lake Wylie is at 97.8 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are about 87 degrees. It’s fairly clear but with some recent rains, some of the creeks are pretty stained.

It’s the dog days of summer on Lake Wylie, and guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) says that there is really no hot bass pattern right now. Fish will get more aggressive as it starts to cool, but for right now the best way to get bit is finesse fishing with shakey head worms, drop shot rigs, and small topwaters. There are times when you can catch a fish on something like an Ole Monster Texas-rigged, but in general finesse baits are the best way to hook up.

While there are still fish offshore, they are not ganged up in big schools like earlier this summer. Now the best zone to fish is 10-25 feet of water, and fish could be around small drops, brush, rock piles or bridge pilings. Bait is starting to move into the creeks just a little, and there is some early schooling activity around the bridges. Most of these fish are small but catching small fish is better than catching nothing!

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated August 24)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 438.96 (full pool is 440.0).

It’s no surprise that Lake Greenwood bass fishing remains tough, and SC BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that at most it’s taking about 14 pounds to win tournaments. The best pattern is still fishing deep around brush in 18-20 feet of water in the main lake or at the mouths of creeks. Big worms and jigs remain the best baits.

You can catch a few fish shallow, and the best shallow pattern is throwing a frog around the grass.

Lake Monticello (Updated August 24)

Lake Monticello lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

It’s still tough sledding bass fishing on Lake Monticello, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that even though you can see fish out deep on the graph that doesn’t mean you can catch them – at least during normal fishing periods. Whether they are biting in the wee hours of the morning remains an open question.

For now the best way to catch fish is generally targeting them in 10-15 feet of water with soft plastics, and particularly finesse baits like a shakey head.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the summer blue catfish spawn seems to be pretty much over and the action for big fish is starting to improve. Fish can be caught around long points and humps, and the best pattern is anchoring big pieces of gizzard shad and white perch and waiting very patiently. There is no specific depth range and fish are moving around.

Lake Murray (Updated August 24)

Lake Murray water levels are at 357.34 (full pool is 360.00) and surface temperatures have dropped into the low to mid-80s.

Lake Murray striped bass remain in a similar pattern, although Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that there is starting to be some schooling activity. He’s seen it mid-morning, but it could take place at other times.

When they are not on top Brad is finding them 60-80 feet down suspended in the river channel as well as off the side of humps and ridges. The best area has expanded a little, and he is now catching them from the dam to Bomb Island. Fish continue to bite throughout the day.

There is also still some decent night-time trolling activity. At night the fish will come up a bit shallower.

On the bass front SC BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that the suspended bite is starting, and they are catching them on topwaters over 15-18 feet of water. There is also a bit of a shallow bite on frogs and buzzbaits running the bank grass and looking for bream beds.

There is not much good news to report with crappie, but if anglers really want to target them Captain Brad suggests fishing up the river 6-10 feet deep off the end of deeper docks or logs adjacent to deeper water. The fish are mostly suspended over the channels.

In catfish news, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish have gone back into the ditches and creeks. The best depth range is 20-30 feet of water, and fish will eat cut herring as well as other baits.

Lake Wateree (Updated August 24)

Lake Wateree is at 96.8 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have cooled off to about 82-84 degrees.

There continues to be a deep summer bass bite on Lake Wateree, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that fishing around ledges, humps and creek channel swings in 10-18 feet of water is catching fish on crankbaits, jigs and worms. Since water levels have dropped a bit the deep bite has gotten better while the shallow bite has dropped off. Overall the main lake and the front third of creeks are the best places to look.

Lake Wateree crappie remain in a typical summer pattern over brush, but veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that the depth range has opened up a bit and he is now fishing 12-18 feet deep. He has been able to catch some fish on the bottom in 17-18 feet, so it appears that the thermocline layer of water is gone. The best brush has been along the river ledge from one end of the lake to the other.

The best pattern for Will has been one-pole jigging Fish Stalker jigs in army green, mountain dew and pearl white. However, some people are catching them on minnows.

Santee Cooper System (Updated August 24)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.49 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.33 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The lake is still fairly clear and around 85-87 degrees.

B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Guide Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that as cooler temperatures approach the bass bite has picked up somewhat, although the patterns are about the same.

On the deeper side, people are catching some fish on Carolina rigs or dragging a jig in 8-12 feet of water around stumps and wood. Some fish can also be caught around planted brush piles at the same depth.

Anglers can also find a shallow bite around trees in the main lakes in 2-4 feet of water, but it is mostly an early or late deal. Soft plastics or moving baits will both work in the shallow feeding window. When you can find some grass it’s worth fishing it.

Up the river there is a shallow bite, and fish can be found from dirt shallow to three feet deep. The best bite is early and late, with a slower bite during the day. Jigs and soft plastics like Texas rigs or Senkos are the best option, as the topwater bite has dropped off a little in the past couple of weeks.

Right now the best catfish action is unequivocally at night, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that catching 250-300 pounds of fish in a night is not unusual. Most of the best fishing is taking place in the lakes out in 25-40 feet of water, although when they pull water hard the canal has been OK but not great. There is some shallower action but it has dropped off late in the summer.

Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that he has found a decent daytime bite in 14-32 feet of water drifting cut shad. Although it is slower than it will be in cooler conditions, there still seem to be some quality fish available.

Captain Steve reports that there are bluegill and shellcracker being caught in the canal in 8-12 feet on the bottom, and there are also some bream starting to show up on brush piles. They are not on the brush in huge numbers yet.

A few more crappie are appearing in the upper lake around brush in 15-20 feet of water.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated August 23)

Lake Jocassee is at 99.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from 80-82 with normal (very high) clarity.

The trout bite has slowed a bit on Lake Jocassee, but even though they are not wearing them out they are still catching mostly rainbows here and there. Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that fish have gone even deeper, and they are now catching them in 90-120 feet. Most of their success has been around the dam, although they are catching some fish where the rivers intersect (although still in the big water). Sutton spoons have been working the best, and when they have fished live bait they mainly seem to pick up very small catfish.

The best bite seems to be in the morning, and fishing has seemed to shut down around 11:00. However, there is not a red-hot bite at dawn.

Lake Keowee (Updated August 23)

Lake Keowee is at 99.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures remains in the mid- to high-80s over most of the lake. Major creeks are still stained from the middle to backs.

Veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that there is still little change in the pattern on Lake Keowee. Schooling action should start in the next few weeks, but it hasn’t taken off yet.

The early morning bass bite remains inconsistent, but fishing early the best bet is to throw crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and topwaters on points and flats until you find fish. 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 remains a good catch at the night tournaments on the lake, and in a recent tournament 13 pounds was good for the win.

Lake Hartwell (Updated August 3)

Lake Hartwell water levels are above full at 660.56 (full pool is 660.00). Water temperatures are about 86 degrees, and clarity remains good despite recent rains.

It’s still certainly summer bass fishing on Lake Hartwell, but already Guide Brad Fowler of Pendleton reports that fish are starting to key on small bait – which means you better tie on small lures. Fish head spins, blade runners and small topwaters are working, and fish are just starting to chase bait and school around small bait over very deep water. Small flukes and small topwaters work in these situations.

You can certainly catch fish drop-shotting deeper water when you see bait balls, and there are also some good fish cruising in wolf packs up shallow. For shallow fish you need something subtle like a small Pop-R, a Senko or a wacky rigged worm. You’re probably not going to catch fish on a chunky spinnerbait right now.

While Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that you can catch a few hybrid bass shallow very early, basically if you are after striper and bigger hybrids right now you need to be fishing very deep. Fish are in a summer pattern at the dam and they caught be caught on down lines fished 60-100 feet deep over clean bottoms. Occasionally some of the fish will be suspended at that depth over deeper water, but more often they are on the bottom. Fish seem to be off the trees right now. It took longer than usual to get here but it’s a true late summer pattern.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) concurs that the best action is on the lower end of the lake fishing very deep, and with water levels above full he’s worried about a fish kill. Fish are already very stressed late in the summer.

The catfish bite remains really good for channels, and Captain Bill is still catching some unusually large ones. They are all over the place in 15-40 feet, and while he is wearing them out on herring plenty of baits will work.

Anglers who want to target flatheads should fish off main lake points and around islands and shoals in 15-35 feet at night with live bait on the bottom.

Crappie fishing has been a little slow, but a few have been caught at night over brush in the mouths of creeks 25-35 feet deep. They can also be caught at that depth over timber or on the bottom.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.