Freshwater Fishing Trends - November 15, 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 November 14)

Lake Russell water levels are just above full (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures have dropped into the lower 60s.

It seems that bass fishing is better on Lake Russell when it starts to get cold, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that right now is no exception. Jerry’s boat is catching good numbers of fish with minnows (although you can use soft plastics) on a drop shot rig in about 25 feet of water. He is mainly fishing in the creeks around brush, regardless of the presence of bait schools, and there are perch and crappie mixed in. Largemouth are few and far between, though. Spots have been schooling sporadically.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is fishing a similar pattern, but he is coming at the fish from a different direction. Instead of looking for brush he is looking for bait schools, generally in 25-30 feet of water in the creeks and large coves off the main channel where bait has migrated after leaving the main lake flats. Fish are close to the bottom, and in a pretty typical late fall/early winter pattern he is catching a mix of spots, white and yellow perch, and catfish.

Because Wendell is fishing away from brush he is not picking up many crappie in his standard pattern, but when he wants to pursue crappie he is heading into the creeks and fishing minnows 10-12 feet down over brush in 20-25 feet of water.

Striped bass fishing has been a little tough, but Wendell says that with the first seagulls starting to show up chances for catching fish will improve. The best bet is to head to the lower end of the lake and fish around the early gulls and loons with a free-line rig.

Lake Thurmond (Updated November 14)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 327.38 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures have fallen into the lower 60s.

It would be hard to lead off by talking about any species besides catfish on Lake Thurmond right now, and Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the bite for big fish is as good as he has ever seen it anywhere. One recent morning he caught three fish over 40 pounds, something he has never done before on Santee, Monticello or any other lake!

The pattern hasn’t really changed, and anchoring on main lake points and humps that top out around 30-50 feet has been the ticket. Cut herring will catch blues and channels in the 1- to 10-pound range while bigger baits like gizzard shad, white perch and bream are better for targeting bigger fish. The bite has taken off because the lake has finally finished turning over.

Bass fishing on Lake Thurmond isn’t as good as that, but it has been steady – even though Augusta University fishing team angler Josh Rockefeller reports that the pattern has changed since it got cold. Before the cold snap he was catching fish shallow flipping any piece of cover (docks, trees, even points) with a jig. After the cold he is still concentrating on less than 3 feet of water, but cranking square bills or fishing jerkbaits has been the ticket. He is basically going around rocky points with stained water and casting.

In the fall bait usually runs up the creeks on Lake Thurmond, and Josh has found that he absolutely has to be in areas with bait to get bit. He can either mark the bait on the graph or see it flickering on the surface, but in areas without bait he has learned not to spend much time casting. While he has marked some fish deeper he has not found a deep pattern.

It has not been ideal weather for guiding anglers to catch striper and hybrids, but when they can get out between the wind and rain William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports that fish have moved up the lake and out into the branches of the Georgia Little River and South Carolina Little River. The fish are pretty aggressive, and fishing down-lines 20-25 feet deep just off the bottom near primary and secondary points has been the best pattern. A little later in the season fish will be in the very backs of the creeks but the points are their stop on the way in.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a crappie report on Lake Thurmond, but William Sasser Guide Service reports that on the upper end of the lake and in the South Carolina Little River fishing around brush piles 8 feet deep in 15 feet of water has been working. Anglers are having success both trolling and fishing tight lines.

In one other fish worth checking out, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that at the top of the lake they are catching phenomenal numbers of white and yellow perch. In three hours he caught 182 fish one day this week! The best pattern is fishing small minnows on a drop shot, or small jigs, in 9-12 feet of water.

Lake Wylie (Updated November 12)

Lake Wylie is at 98.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the lower 60s. With all the rain today it should be no trouble to find some dirty water.

Frankly, largemouth bass fishing on Lake Wylie remains tough, and Guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that to have a great day right now you probably need a little luck. Over the last couple of months water levels have been really up and down, and that seems to have hurt the fishing.

By this time of year fish should already be starting to get into an Alabama rig/jerkbait pattern, and while that is coming things are running behind. Shad are in the backs of creeks and fishing a crankbait in stained water around riprap or wood is a decent pattern. There should also be a couple more weeks of topwater fishing in four feet of water or less, but when temperatures hit about 56 it will basically go away. Once temperatures drop a few more degrees look for the Alabama rig to get hot.

Even though the bass fishing may not be hot, there are a couple of other bites that are really good. The white perch fishing is excellent again, and Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that although you have to fish through plenty of small ones about one out of five fish is in the big 1-pound range. The best depth range has been 22-27 feet, and in the right areas you will catch a fish as soon as your bait gets to the bottom. Sabiki rigs baited with small one-inch shad, plentiful in the back of just about every cove, have been ideal.

Catfish have also been doing really well, with Rodger reporting a good to very good bite for blues. Most of the fish have been in the 10-15 pound range with the occasional lunker up to 30 plus caught. Drifting gizzard shad and white perch fillets in about 30 feet has been working very well in the lower lake.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated November 15)

Lake Greenwood water levels are up to 439.26 (full pool is 440.0) and water temperatures have fallen into the lower 60s, with the riverine sections colder than the lower lake. There is a ton of muddy water coming down the lake.

Fresh off a fourth-place finish in the SC BASS Federation two-day championship on Lake Greenwood, and a second-place finish for his son Bryan, veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter of Saluda is just the person to update us on the Greenwood fish. Fishing is okay, but out of about 30 boats only seven individuals finished with a limit both days. It took about 28 pounds over two days for the win on the boater side.

Fish can be caught from 2 feet to 25 feet, and with a range like that as expected there are a bunch of different patterns going. While it’s mainly catching small fish right now you can run docks with an Alabama rig, and Stan says they did catch a 3 1/2 pounder that way. As good at the A-rig is already working, when it’s really not cold enough to peak, Stan thinks that bite is about to get awesome.

There is also another shallow pattern fishing jigs around shallow laydowns and brush, but the best fish seemed to come out of deep water. The winning angler apparently caught everything on a jigging spoon in 25 feet, and the Gunters found their best fish around brush in 15-18, and sometimes 20, feet of water. They caught them on spinnerbaits, jigging spoons, drop shots, Texas rigs and shakey heads. Some of the best fish came on a shakey head, which was outfishing an Ole Monster.

Fish seem to be closer to the main lake in the fronts of creeks to about halfway back, but Stan anticipates that more fish will get into the very backs as the temperatures drop a few more degrees.

Finally, it’s worth noting how prolific spotted bass have become on the lake. It’s much easier to catch spots than largemouth now, but there are also starting to be some big spots in the 3- to 4-pound range weighed in. And even bigger ones are almost certainly swimming around.

Lake Monticello (Updated November 15)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are in the lower 60s, and lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

It’s getting to be the most exciting time of year to bass fish on Lake Monticello. While the last few weeks better fish have been coming on Alabama rigs fished relatively shallow, and the main fish caught on spoons have been perch, that is about to change. LW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that this hard cold snap should push the bass into biting in 30-50 feet on a jigging spoon. In the late fall and winter it’s usually more important to find bait on your graph than fish, as bass are apparently so hunkered down that they are hard to pick up.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that this is the best time of year for drifting on Lake Monticello. Fish can still be caught at anchor, but with conditions right for drifting he’d rather fish that way and has more success. Gizzard shad and white perch fished in 50 plus feet of water are the best way to catch fish.

Lake Murray (Updated November 15)

Lake Murray water levels are at 354.62 (full pool is 360.00) and surface temperatures are in the mid- to lower-60s. The river and the backs of creeks have already gotten muddy from this rain.

It would not be fair to lead off talking about anything besides catfish on Lake Murray, as Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the bite has been wide open. He predicted that within the next couple of weeks it would be on fire, and that’s exactly where we are now.

Fish can be caught drifting 30-45 feet deep, although if the water gets much colder after this rain they could go even deeper. Some days fish are close to the river channel, while some days they are on the flats off the channel. Most of the time they are closer to the main lake, in the mid-lake area, and William has not found much up the creeks.

The catch is a mixture of blue and channel catfish, with the occasional striped bass thrown in. Both herring and white perch are working.

William hopes that the rain doesn’t muddy the lake too much, and if it does then fish will scatter until the water clears a bit and they can return to the same pattern. How muddy it gets probably depends on how much water SCE&G pulls down the lake by releasing it.

Fish had been roaming and suspending, but it is hoped that with the dropping water temperatures they will start to get into a normal late fall pattern around 45 degrees points and channel banks. As long as water temperatures stay in the 60s fish can still be caught shallow, but they will be more likely found in shallow water close to deep water.

Buzzbaits had been working well before the cold snap, but a shakey- head worm should be hard to beat after the temperature drop.

Lake Wateree (Updated November 14)

Lake Wateree is at 99.3 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have fallen into the lower 60s.

Bass fishing has been pretty good on Lake Wateree, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden and his tournament partner landed more than 16 pounds to win a recent local tournament. They found the fish in the main lake related to shad, and the fish they caught were suspended off the bank around points, rocks, and outcroppings. Spinnerbaits and Spooks were both catching fish, but the topwater bite is probably done by now. Dearal has not found much action in the creeks.

Perhaps the most exciting biting on Lake Wateree right now is for striped bass, which have been schooling in similar areas to the bass but further out towards the main channel. You can also see them in the front of creeks but usually they are on the main lake.

Crappie fishing has improved on Lake Wateree, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that fish have been up the lake along the channel from about June Creek to above Wateree Creek. Most people are fishing with either plain minnows or jigs tipped with minnows, and the best fishing has been in about 18-22 feet of water. Fish are very close to the bottom and want a slow presentation, and so tight-lining about 6-8 inches off the bottom at low speed has been most effective. If this round of rain muddies up the lake then anglers will want to fish further down; essentially, you need to fish “in front of the mud.”

In catfish news, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that there is an excellent bite for 6- 20-pound blue catfish. Fish can be caught in the lower two-thirds of the lake from June Creek to Clearwater Cove, and the best pattern is drifting with cut gizzard shad. Concentrate on 22-36 feet of water.

Santee Cooper System (Updated November 15)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.39 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.47 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped all the way into the 60-degree range to the high-50s.

Before the cold snap B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that bass were still on wacky worms and crankbaits around shallow trees, but changing conditions will put the fish deeper and make them want a slower presentation. The good part is the big fish will bite better and better!

The best place to look right now is in the 6- to 12-foot range with slow-rolled crankbaits and jigs. If the cold really knocks the fish in the head you want to pick up a shakey head in the toughest conditions. In the early to mid-fall fish are more likely to be around gently sloping banks and flats, but as it gets cold they want sharper drops. When temperatures get below 55 they will be relating better to stumps, brushpiles and wood instead of bait.

Patterns are similar in both lakes, but current can create variations in some areas. Up the river, in the swamp area and around the canal you can see some current moving, but in other parts of the lake it can be hard to detect much effect.

Even with nasty weather Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that this week they have caught some nice bream and crappie when conditions allowed them to take guide parties out. Fish have been around mid-depth brush in the 20- to 25-foot range, and they are fishing 10-16 feet deep. Some fish are shallower but not many fish have moved onto the very deep stuff yet.

There are a range of depths where catfish can be caught, and to be sure some anglers have been catching fish fairly shallow in 10-15 feet of water. However, most of the bigger fish seem to be in deeper water now and drifting as deep as 40-45 feet has been the best pattern. Cut herring and shad are both working. Overall the bite is good and a lot of fish have been caught.

There is not much going on in the canal where they are pulling water so hard that most people are fishing the lakes.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated November 12)

Lake Jocassee is at 98.3 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 69 degrees.

It’s that time of year again when Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) is back on Lake Jocassee bass fishing, and on his most recent trip he reports that fish were grouped up on points instead of laydowns where he would typically expect to find them. The best concentration of fish has been in 18-30 feet of water, and location didn’t seem to matter very much. He found them on the main lake as well as in the rivers and creeks. Lots of spots as well as some smaller largemouth are being caught with this pattern on drop shots.

For bigger fish Rob suggests concentrating on shallow water. On calm, clear days he will continue to fish topwater lures like Spooks on into December, and when there is some wind and clouds/ rain you can sometimes land some fish out of the trees on a spinnerbait. Anglers should also be vigilant for very occasional schooling activity and cast quickly. The laydown bite should pick up very soon.

Trout fishing is still really tough on Lake Jocassee, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that with water temperatures the same all the way down to 80 feet fish are still very deep. You can see them on the graph along with a ton of bait – which may actually be the problem. The fish are acting like they have full bellies already. The recent cold, rainy weather should improve things if it drops water temperatures.

Lake Keowee (Updated November 2)

Lake Keowee is at 98.6 percent of full pool and water temperatures have dropped into the mid to lower 70s on most of the lake, although it’s a little warmer around the power plant.

With dropping temperatures veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that fish are moving quickly into a more traditional fall pattern following bait fish. Many fish are still out on the main lake, but there is some movement into the mouths of major creek arms now. When conditions are right there is also schooling activity where bait fish are present. Early, fish can be caught on crankbaits or spinnerbaits on points or flats. After the sun comes up the key is finding baitfish. Bass are usually in the vicinity and can be caught on topwater lures, crankbaits, drop shots, or shakey heads depending on how deep they are. As the water continues to cool this pattern will only get stronger over the coming weeks.

Lake Hartwell (Updated November 14)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 658.97 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have dropped into the lower 60s.

The recent cold rain will undoubtedly affect the bass fishing, but Guide Brad Fowler reports that for a little while now it’s been easy to catch a lot of small fish offshore on drop shots rigs and the like. However, to get a decent bite you’ve had to do something different.

The better fish have come shallow on spinnerbaits or crankbaits, and before the cold snap you could also catch some fish on a Spook. However, now that it has gotten cold it will be very difficult to bring fish to the surface and so fish head spins and blade runners will work better for fish chasing bait. There have also been some good fish caught on soft plastics and jigs fished around cover.

On the striped bass front Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that fish have made their annual fall migration into the creeks. They started late this year, and so at this point they have made it about halfway back.

The best catches have come 35-45 feet deep around points and humps in areas with bait. Dropping down-lines has been the best pattern, but when fish come up to the surface then pitching a free-line is almost a certain way to get bit. There has been some spotty schooling activity.

Overall fishing is good and they have been able to catch a solid 25-35 fish on each trip. Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) has been concentrating on the mid-lake area with 30-40 feet, and he has also seen some schooling activity. His boat is fishing a mix of free-lines and down-lines.

The blue catfish bite should be right around the corner, but for now the fish are still out in deeper, often unfishable areas. However, Captain Bill reports that there are plenty of channels to be caught in 25-35 feet on cut herring. There have also been some nice flatheads caught recently.

Crappie are in the creek channels in 25-30 feet of water, and Captain Bill reports that anglers have been catching them fishing 10-15 feet deep.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.