Freshwater Fishing Trends - February 9, 2018

Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of www.anglersheadquarters.com/, 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 February 9)

Lake Russell water levels have been above full pool (full pool is 475.00), but have just fallen back to 474.0. Water temperatures are up to about 50-51 degrees. The water is very muddy up the creeks and rivers, but the main lake is still clear. The lower ends of creeks are also still fishable.

With water temperatures only a degree or two warmer there isn’t a lot of change in the pattern on Lake Russell. Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that the bite for a mixed bag of species (including spotted bass, striped bass, largemouth, white perch, yellow perch and crappie) continues to be about the same on Lake Russell, and the only significant change is that – while fish are still 45-50 feet deep – at times they are suspended at that depth over water as deep as 90 feet.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that he is also still finding bass on the side of points, generally in the 20-28 foot range.

Wendell also reports that striper are still up the Rocky River and Beaverdam Creek. In addition to free-lines and planer boards, Alabama rigs have also been effective.

Lake Thurmond (Updated February 9)

Lake Thurmond water levels are up to at 324.64 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures still range from about 49-52. The upper part of Lake Thurmond is very muddy and has a lot of floating debris, while lower down the lake is still relatively clear.

In striped bass news Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that the pattern is relatively unchanged. They are still fishing mainly from the mid-lake to the dam, and off secondary points in the mid-lake they are catching fish on down-lines 20 feet down over 30 feet of water. The only change is that they are also catching some good striper that way, and not just 3-5 pound hybrids. You can also still pull free lines with herring or small gizzard shad in the backs of coves in the major creeks to hook a big one.

William also reports that, even though water temperatures are still pretty cold, crappie have started to move up some. They are catching them in the backs of coves around Fishing Village about 10 feet deep around docks and other cover.

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that lots of cold water dumping into the lake has kept the bait and catfish deep in the trees on the main lake flats near the river channel. Anchoring in about 40-50 feet at the mouth of major creeks is still the best pattern.

Augusta University bass team angler Josh Rockefeller reports that the bass pattern has not really changed on Lake Thurmond, but recently bites have been a little harder to come by. It’s still worth fishing crankbaits in ditches.

Lake Wylie (Updated February 9)

Lake Wylie is up to 98.7 percent of full pool and with the warm rain water temperatures have risen to the low-50s in some creeks and the high-40s on the main lake. There is lots of dirty water in the creeks now.

There is certainly still a deep bass pattern on Lake Wylie, and guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that you can still catch fish around main river channel and creek channel drops on Alabama rigs, jerkbaits and jigs. However, with the influx of dirty water the biggest change is that a shallow pattern has come on board, too. Throwing a crankbait around shallow rocks will catch fish, and bass are also being caught on spinnerbaits and chatterbaits.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that fish are still being caught drifting the lower lake in 22-27 feet of water on deep flats just off the main river channel. Gut gizzard shad has been most productive.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated February 9)

Lake Greenwood water levels have risen fast to 436.60 (full pool is 440.0), and water temperatures are as warm as the low 50s. Much of the lake is stained to muddy with recent rains.

With the water dirty and rising a lot of Lake Greenwood bass have moved up, and state BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that throwing a Shad Rap around rocky points and an Alabama rig around boat ramps is catching fish. There are a good number of fish in 8 feet of water or less, and for the A-rig in particular finding some dingy water is ideal. There are probably some fish still out deep, but it’s apparent that most of the shad have started to move into the creeks and with temperatures warming up quickly they are certainly headed that way.

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson reports that cold, muddy water has got the fish holding tight to the river and creek channels on Lake Greenwood. Drifting cut bait in 20-30 feet is the best bet.

Lake Monticello (Updated February 9)

Overall, FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that bass fishing on Lake Monticello is still tough as nails. Fishing deep with Alabama rigs and shakey heads around rock in 15-25 feet is the best bet, but nothing is hot. On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports anchoring on deep water humps with cut bait is still the best way to catch fish. Both white perch and gizzard shad are working well.

Lake Murray (Updated February 9)

Lake Murray water levels are up to 355.99 (full pool is 360.00). Water temperatures on the main lake are still around 49 degrees, while they may be as warm as 52 or 53 degrees in the backs. Up the river and in the backs of creeks it is muddy, but with water not being released the mud line isn’t really moving down the lake.

The top teams in the recent Carolinas Bass Challenge event on Lake Murray brought some impressive weights to the scale, and in first place Bradford Beavers and his father Dwight Beavers weighed an impressive 27.270 pounds. In second place were Thomas Hardwick and Tommy Williams with a big 26.820 pound bag, and there were 13 total bags over 20 pounds. With weights like that you could be forgiven for thinking the bass fishing is on fire.

However, it’s worth remembering that some of the very best fishermen in the Carolinas and beyond were fishing, and of this 165-boat field more than half weighed 10 pounds or less. Veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown, who cut a check in the tournament with partner Rhett Manus, says that overall it looks like the bite was fairly feast or famine. Yes, weights (with over 300 anglers fishing) were better than the previous two weeks – but not for everyone. Certain areas were producing, but not everywhere and not for everyone.

Overall, it seems that anglers caught fish both deep and shallow – and in between. Muddy, rising water conditions did have some fish up shallow in certain places, but these shallow fish were mainly close to deep water. First thing there has been a decent shallow bite on crankbaits. When there is some wind even more fish pull up shallower to feed.

While there were certainly some anglers who finished well and were fishing deep, it seems like the best sacks might have come not deep or shallow but suspended off the break. Alabama rigs, jerkbaits and jigs fished in 8-16 feet of water produced some of the top bags.

Conditions are supposed to stay warm, and so more and more fish should make their way towards shallower water.

On the striped bass front, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that even though it has gotten muddy up the lake anglers are still having success with bucktail/ ice fly double rigs. On the live bait side free-lines and planer boards are still working. The best fishing has been in clear pockets, but as the whole upper lake gets muddy the bite may slow down and some fish could be pushed down the lake. However, as fast as that happens the river bite may also bounce back.

Even though it hasn’t gotten warm, Captain Brad reports that most of the crappie are already in 10-12 feet of water or less. He predicts that as the lake rises most of the fish will go shallower, and now that the water has some good color it should warm a little faster. Rising spring water levels usually take the crappie with them, and especially in the afternoon anglers should not be afraid to look shallow. Tight-lining minnows and jigs is still the best pattern.

In catfish news, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are still biting very well in 50 plus feet of water. He is catching a mixed bag of species drifting with cut bait.

Lake Wateree (Updated February 1)

Lake Wateree is at 96.7% of full pool, and water temperatures are around 46-48 degrees.  With recent rainfall the lake is getting muddier. 

In bass news, FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that fishing is picking up on Lake Wateree as the fish see longer days and get a bit more active.  The best bite has been on main lake rocky points and in the first part of creeks, mainly in 10 feet of water or less.  Alabama rigs, Shad raps, and shakey head worms and jigs are working. 

On the crappie front, veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that fishing has been slow.  Some fish are being caught in the rivers, but with cold, stained water headed down the lake conditions are not ideal.  The best pattern has been tight-lining 18-26 feet of water with jigs tipped with minnows about a foot off the bottom.

Probably the best Lake Wateree bite right now is for catfish, and Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that his boat has caught a good number of 6-10 and 12-20 pound fish.  The shallow bite has become almost non-existent, but in the middle of creeks out to the main channel there has been some good action drifting cut gizzard shad in 15-28 feet of water.  The best fishing is when they are running some water.  Look for birds to point out areas holding bait and catfish.

Santee Cooper System (Updated February 9)

Santee Cooper water levels are up to 74.74 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.97 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures range from as cold as 47 on the main lake to 54 in some of the backwater areas, and there is muddy water coming down the lake.

The most exciting news on the Santee Cooper lakes this week is that crappie are starting to move shallower, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) says that they are catching some fish shallow. He even talked to one bass angler who caught three crappie very shallow on jerkbaits. Steve says there are still some crappie on deeper brush, but not like it was.

Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) has had a similar experience, and he reports that with some 60 and even 70-degree days some of the backwater ponds have gotten into the mid-50s. When that happens some of the crappie move up. After looking on open lake, deep brush to catch a few for dinner – and finding nothing – he decided to head shallow where he caught several nice crappie 1 foot deep in 2 ½ feet of water swimming a small jig. They aren’t everywhere in the shallows, but in some places they have clearly moved up.

On the catfish front, Steve and Jim both report that there continue to be some really nice catches in deep water in both lakes. One angler couldn’t keep more than two rods baited earlier this week in 54 feet of water. There are also tons of small blue cats in 35-48 feet. In striped bass news, Jim reports that striper are still suspended in deep water in both lakes. Trolling, jigging spoons, or fishing live bait will work. On warm days fish can run up as shallow as a few feet of water following bait.

In bass news, tournament angler Steve Harmon says that most of the bigger fish are still deeper in 8-12 feet of water, but on warm afternoons they will come shallow – including into the backwater areas. Crankbaits, chatterbaits, swimbaits, worms and jigs will all catch fish.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated February 9)

Lake Jocassee is at 97 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are up to about 52 degrees. Water clarity remains normal (very high).

There’s not a lot of change in Lake Jocassee trout fishing, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that they are still catching some decent fish trolling spoons in 30-55 feet of water. His boat is mostly still concentrating on the dam area, where the biggest fish have come recently, but they have also fished up the rivers too. Trout up to about four pounds have been caught in the last week.

No new report from Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041).

Lake Keowee (Updated February 9)

Lake Keowee is at 98.2 percent of full pool.

There’s no strong new pattern on Lake Keowee bass to report, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that the fishing remains tough. You have to be willing to try different things to get bit. Brad fished the BFL Savannah River division tournament recently, where fish were hard to come by. With more than 100 boats only 12 bags over 10 pounds were weighed in, and 9-1 was good enough for a check.

J.R. McKay of Helen, Georgia, won the boater side of the event with a strong 15-7, and even he reported that the places which had produced for him in practice didn’t pan out for him on tournament day. He ended up heading into the back of a creek with some stained water and flipping a jig for three of the fish he weighed, then caught another on a jig on a long flat on the main lake. He rounded out his limit with a swimbait off a rock pile in 70 feet of water on the south end.

Lake Hartwell (Updated February 9)

Lake Hartwell water levels are significantly up to 654.24 (full pool is 660.00), while water temperatures are still around 45 degrees. The main lake is still clear but with rising water there is some color in the creeks.

Bass on Lake Hartwell can still be found mixed between deep and shallow water, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that there is still a pretty good deep bite in 30-40 feet of water on drop shots and shakey heads. Besides channels and timber he has also found fish around deep rock.

However, the biggest change is that with rising water levels there is a better bite in the creeks where fish have moved up into the stained water. Fishing a shallow running crankbait is the best bet.

On the striped bass front, Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that fishing is still not good – but there are more decent days than there were even a week or two ago. You can catch a few fish, which is better than it was, and with no major cold coming it should only get better. Instead of 1-5 fish in a long day you have a realistic shot at catching 6-12.

The best pattern to catch a big striper continues to be fishing free-lines and planer boards in the back of creeks after the sun has warmed the water, and fish can be found as shallow as over 20 feet of water. For numbers the best bet is still to concentrate on the creek channels and flats with down-lines in about 30-40 feet. Fish could be on the bottom one day and suspended the next.

Birds have been pretty active on bait, which helps anglers locate the fish.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that the catfish bite has been really tough, and on his last trip he managed three small catfish.


South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.