Freshwater Fishing Trends - December 1, 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 December 1)

Lake Russell water levels are ranging between about 473.5 and 474.0 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range between about 61 in the morning and 62-63 later in the day. Clarity is still very good.

The pattern for catching bass on Lake Russell remains very similar, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) says that the action has been fast and furious. In general, the fish remain on the bottom, but on warm days it does cause them to suspend up in the water column. His boat is also catching a lot of perch mixed in with the bass.

While plenty of seagulls have arrived, for now they are on loons and aren't providing very useful clues for locating fish. That will change soon.

Lake Thurmond (Updated December 1)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 321.1 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures are in the low 60s. Clarity is normal with very little rain.

It's an in-between time for catching bass on Lake Thurmond, and weights have been pretty low in recent tournaments. Lots of 8-9-pound bags are coming to the scales. With water temperatures still pretty warm fish haven't stacked up in the ditches yet.

Early in the morning the best bet is to throw a square-billed crankbait or a floating worm around the grass. Crawfish, bream and sexy shad colors will all work, and a small 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 foot diver has been the best. There have also been some fish caught slow-rolling a white spinnerbait around the grass.

Once the air warms a little, if there is some wind then bass will be chasing blueback herring. A fluke or Gunfish is a good option, but if they are on very small bait then a small spoon may be the only way to get them to bite.

On the striped bass front, Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that mid-lake they are catching fish pulling free-lines back in the coves early in the morning, generally in 10-15 feet of water. Mid-morning, they are finding striper and hybrids on down-lines 30 feet deep over 30-40 feet of water off main lake points in the same part of the lake. Birds are starting to show up and there is just beginning to be some winter schooling action.

Crappie are in a very similar pattern and William's boat is finding them 15 feet down over 25 feet of water in the backs of coves over brush.

Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the catfish pattern is unchanged, and while the bite is still strong he now only rates it as “good.” It's unclear why the bite has slowed because that doesn't usually happen at this time of year, but it's possible lingering warm weather is responsible.

Lake Wylie (Updated December 1)

Lake Wylie is at 96.4 of full pool, and water temperatures have dropped into the high-50s.

Finally, bass fishing is definitely improving on Lake Wylie. Guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that even though the bite is not as far along as it should be at this time of year, numbers and sizes are both picking up as bait gets in the the areas where it is supposed to be in the fall.

Bryan is having the most success fishing in the creek channels or along the river channel, and while fish can be any depth from dirt shallow to really deep he is starting out looking in 10 feet of water or more. The best baits have been jerkbaits, Alabama rigs, jigs and crankbaits, and there is still a bit of a topwater bite. The key is being around bait in the right areas. You can't look for birds diving to tell you where to fish quite yet, but that is coming.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that fish are still pretty scattered, but they have been catching some nice fish up to the low-30s. While fish can still be found in a broad range of depths, the 12-20 foot range has been the best recently.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated December 1)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 437.06 (full pool is 440.0), and water temperatures down the lake are in the low 60s but several degrees cooler in the upper 50s in the river.

Tournament bass angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria caught 17 pounds for 3rd place in a recent tournament on Greenwood, and he reports that the bite was pretty good and he caught about 20-30 fish over the course of the day. From what he saw, all the fish were oriented to a channel, and up the lake that meant fishing the river channel and down the lake creek channels. Points that ran into the channel also held fish. He caught fish on a jerkbait early, a spoon, and his best fish on an Alabama rig. Reports indicated that a lot of the better sacks came on a spoon. The key depth range seemed to be 30-35 feet.

In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson says that reports indicate that the pattern is still similar on Lake Greenwood but the bite is only “fair.” Fish are super scattered, and drifting between the flats and channels and covering lots of water is key.

Lake Monticello (Updated December 1)

If the results from the day after Thanksgiving bass tournament on Lake Monticello are any indication that lake is still fishing pretty tough, and it only took 12 pounds for the win. Tournament angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria says that right now is the time for fishing a spoon on Lake Monticello, chiefly in the 30-40 foot range. Of course, the exact depth depends on where you are marking bait. Points and drops hold the most fish this time of year.

Around now the birds become a useful tool for finding fish on Monticello, although if you see them over very deep water in the 100-foot range they are probably over catfish and perch. However, any activity closer to the bank is a good sign that bass are nearby.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the drift bite really hasn't picked up yet, and so he recommends anchoring. At times it has been a little slow, but there are still some good fish being caught in 50-70 feet on humps and long points with cut bait. Patience and being at the right place at the right time is the key.

Lake Murray (Updated December 1)

Lake Murray water levels are down to 354.56 (full pool is 360.00), and water temperatures are in the lower 60s down the lake but in the mid-50s up the lake.

It's been a weird fall for bass fishing on Lake Murray, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that fishing is pretty tough. 15-16 pounds is a really strong tournament bag right now.

All fall fish never really got into a good shallow pattern, and now it seems as if they have skipped over the fall pattern and gone straight into a winter bite. The best bet for catching bass seems to be fishing around rocky 45-degree banks with a shakey head, no shallower than 6-10 feet of water. More often 10-20 feet is a better depth range.

The Alabama rig is just starting to catch some fish, but only in certain places. And unlike last year docks have just not been very productive. The low water doesn't help, but they don't seem to even be around deeper docks.

In striped bass news, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that the bulk of the keepers are being caught way up the Big and Little Saluda Rivers. That's not to say they can't be caught in some other areas, but the best pattern has been pulling live bait on free lines and planer boards as well as throwing double rigs up the rivers. There are really good numbers of fish up there. Early in the morning fish are out over the channel in 20-something feet of water, and when the afternoon warms the bays they move into 8-10 feet. The bite has overall been better later in the day.

When the water temperature really cooled down crappie got extremely finicky, and Brad reports that they were biting very light. However, things are beginning to level out now and anglers are catching some fish trolling jigs and minnows. Most of the fish are being caught adjacent to the channel, and if you can find any kind of cover it is concentrating fish. Fish are very scattered but 12-15 feet has been the best depth range.

No change on the catfish front.

Lake Wateree (Updated December 1)

Lake Wateree is at 96.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 60 degrees.

Bass fishing remains very tough on Wateree, and FLW angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that it has only been taking about 15 pounds to win in recent weeks. Water levels are relatively low and so fish can be found off rocky points or on the ends of docks, and shad are mainly out towards the main lake. Baitfish can also be found at the mouths of creeks or in pockets, but it isn't worth spending much time heading back into the creeks. The best depth range right now has been 4-8 feet, and crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs in that order have generally been working best. The Alabama rig has also been catching some fish, fairly unusually for Wateree.

On the crappie front, veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that fish are truly starting to get into a winter pattern. That means that fish are being caught in the river channel above Wateree Creek, mostly by anglers tight-lining near the bottom in 18-22 feet with jigs tipped with minnows. Working along the edge of the river channel has been the best bet.

There are also some reports of fish being caught around brush in 18-30 feet of water all over the lake. While the better numbers are up the river, some pretty good fish are being caught on brush.

Striper schooling activity has been reported.

Santee Cooper System (Updated December 1)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.38 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.32 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped all the way into the mid-50s.

With dropping water temperatures, the catfish bite on the Santee Cooper lakes is starting to change. Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that with cooler water it's the time of year when all sizes of catfish can be at any depth, and so from day to day you have to find the most productive range (which can vary in different areas of these large lakes.)

Generally, Jim has found that smaller blues in the 2-6-pound range are biting well for anglers drifting in 24-28 feet. Some bigger blues can be found scattered at various depths, particularly the 12-25 foot range, but the small fish still dominate the creel. Any fresh cut bait including shad, perch, menhaden and mullet will work.

In crappie and bream news Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that in the lower lake the bite has been very good for crappie, and the fish are starting to group in 12-14 feet of water. Both bluegill and crappie are being caught around natural structure of various sorts as well as brush. Both species are ganging up in big schools as temperatures drop.

In the upper lake both crappie and bluegill are starting to move towards the river channel. On warmer days they will be found in 12-15 feet of water, and at other times they are holding on the edge of the channel in about 18 feet.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated November 30)

Lake Jocassee is at 88 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 65-66 degrees. Clarity remains normal (very high).

While there is no reason to think that the spotted bass fishing has slowed down, Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) reports that the largemouth bass fishing has been unusually tough this fall. He looks forward to November on Jocassee all year, but it just hasn't materialized this month. With water temperatures still atypically warm he is optimistic that December will shape up to fish like November usually does.

In trout news, Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that the lake is still fishing tough. It will be interesting to see what is caught in the upcoming Jocassee Outdoor Center trout to see if things are beginning to turn around.

Lake Keowee (Updated November 25)

Lake Keowee is at 98.9 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the low to mid-60s on both ends of the lake and around 70 mid-lake (because of the warm water discharge). Clarity is high all over the lake.

Veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that fall fishing has finally arrived over much of the lake, but it is still 3 or 4 weeks behind where it was last year. More fish are moving into creeks and the back of coves chasing bait now. They can be caught on drop shots, spoons, crankbaits, and flukes in water ranging from 25 to 55 feet deep.

Some fish are also schooling at times in area where large shad populations are present.

Fish in the middle part of the lake have not really gone to a fall pattern yet given the water temperature there. The best bet in that area is shakey heads and soft plastics in 15 to 25 feet.

Lake Hartwell (Updated December 1)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 652.15 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the upper 50s in the morning to the low 60s in the afternoon. The lake has almost completed the annual fall turnover and is pretty clear.

With afternoon water temperatures still getting into the 60s Guide Brad Fowler reports that Lake Hartwell bass have not gotten into a true late fall/winter pattern yet. There are still some fish shallow, and he is still seeing some fishing chasing bait on the surface. Again, a small swimbait or other subsurface lure is a better option than a topwater as fish are rolling on bait more than blowing anything up.

Overall, the best bet for getting bites is still to fish offshore in the main lake. Working shakey heads and drop shots in 18-20 feet on out to 40 feet is the best way to catch a bunch of spotted bass, and the better tournament fish seem to be out there too. Early there has been a good spoon bite. The key is fishing close to natural timber and the creek channel. While there are fish in both the creeks and main lake more and more fish seem to be staying on the main lake.

On the striped bass front, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that fishing has definitely improved. Fish can be found all over the lake and they are spread out in the Seneca, Tugaloo and larger creeks. Because fish are scattered free-lining and covering water has been the best bet, although down-lining has also been productive at times. Fish could be in 5-10 feet or out to 40 feet; with a good number of gulls and loons moving in they can help anglers locate the fish. If you locate deeper fish and drop down-lines to them position the bait a couple of feet above the fish – present herring at 37-38 feet for striper at 40 feet, as they would rather go up than down to chase bait. Very little striper schooling activity has been seen, although some spotted bass have been on top.

Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) also reports that he is finding fish spread out in the creeks and rivers, with lots of fish well up the rivers and some still about mid-way. On warm days there are also good reports in the backs of creeks when the water heats up. He is also catching fish on a mix of free-lines and down-lines, and on days when fish get in the channel he has found some fish 20-25 feet down in 35-60 feet of water. Chip has not seen schooling in three weeks, but he is also seeing plenty of gulls.

Catfish continue to feed pretty well, and Captain Bill reports that both channels and blues can be found in 8-30 feet of water in the creeks. However, the greatest concentration of blues can be found in 25-30 feet, and drifting in the creeks or main lake humps is the best way to target them.

Bill reports that crappie remain in a similar pattern, mostly on deep brush in 18-20 feet of water, mostly in the creeks. Some fish are also being caught under bridges at night if you don't mind the cold.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.