Freshwater Fishing Trends - December 21, 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 19)

Lake Russell water levels are around 473.8 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures around 56 degrees. Clarity is normal.

There's not a ton of change in the Lake Russell fishing pattern, and guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that there is still a mix of species grouped up in 25-40 feet, with some fish suspended and some on the bottom. In addition to finding bass, catfish, and perch together, Jerry reports that the striper fishing is starting to improve in the same areas. He is finding the best fish in the middle of the river channel way up the Savannah River, and both bucktails and jigging spoons (as well as live bait) are working for the striper.

At this time of year it's rare to see striper schooling, but at times they are definitely "swirling" at bait on the surface.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is seeing the same thing, and he agrees that the striper are certainly getting more active. There is still a good concentration of striper in the lower Rocky River.

The only other change Wendell reports is that yellow perch have been a bit more scarce this week.

Lake Thurmond (Updated December 19)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 320.91 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures are about 53-56 degrees. Clarity is normal.

The bass on Lake Thurmond are starting to get into a winter pattern that is pretty typical on area lakes. This past weekend tournament angler and guide Brad Fowler of Pendleton fished Lake Thurmond, and he found his fish relatively deep in about 25-35 feet. He found them offshore around drops, and the best group of fish he found offshore near a depth change that had some rock on it. A football jig and shakey head were the most productie, and he also picked up one better one and a few small fish on a drop shot. Reports also indicated that jigging spoons were working well.

That's not to say that there is not a shallower bite for some anglers, and Brad saw fish up shallow around docks. They just wouldn't bite for him.

Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports little change with striper or crappie.

Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports little change with catfish.

Lake Wylie (Updated December 21)

Lake Wylie is at 97.4 percent of full pool and water temperatures are about 49 degrees.

There's not much change with the bass fishing on Lake Wylie, and guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that fish are essentially still in the same deep pattern. Alabama rigs, jerkbaits, crankbaits and jigs are catching fish, with the best numbers in 10 plus feet of water.

No catfish change reported by Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828). Fish are still on the ledges in about 30 feet of water.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated December 19)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 436.03 (full pool is 440.0), and water temperatures are around 50 degrees. Clarity is normal.

It remains a mix of deep and shallower on Lake Greenwood, and State BASS Team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that they are chiefly catching the bass two ways.

First is sitting the boat in 10-15 feet of water and casting towards the bank. On this shallower pattern they are catching some fish on Alabama rigs, crankbaits and jerkbaits along the bank as well as off docks.

Second, they are catching fish on jigging spoons in the mouth of creeks and the main lake near or on the break of creek and river channels. Most of the fish are coming within a few feet of 20 feet on the top edge of the ledge where it breaks off into the channel.

Captain Chris Simpson reports no change in the catfish bite.

Lake Monticello (Updated December 21)

It's the time of year when the Lake Monticello bass should be stacking up on points and drops in 30-35 feet of water and eating a jigging spoon, but unfortunately FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria says they just are not. He reports that a bass bite has been very hard to come by, and even the perch have been inconsistent. It's unclear exactly what is going on.

Luckily, the catfish action on Monticello remains good according to Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857). While drifting will catch fish, he still suggests anchoring in the 50-70 foot range.

Lake Murray (Updated December 21)

Lake Murray water levels are at 354.70 (full pool is 360.00), and water temperatures are in the low to mid-50s. Clarity is normal.

Last week Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reported that the striped bass fishing on Lake Murray had gotten really good up the rivers, but this week if anything he says it has gotten even better! With an extremely cold weekend, then a really warm start to the week, then a really wet day yesterday, you have to be open-minded and willing to adjust to what the fish are doing. Brad says the key is to watch the birds, and they will tell you where the bait is. Once you figure out what depth the bait is in it is just a matter of time until you find the fish. Some days they are out shallow, and some days they are deeper.

Because of the dynamics of guide trips Brad's boat is mainly fishing live bait on free-lines or down-lines, but anglers throwing double rigs are actually catching more fish.

On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that fish are still biting well but they are starting to move into the main river channel. His boat is catching a mix of channels and blues drifting in 45-55 feet with cut shad, herring, perch and shrimp.

Captain Brad reports that the crappie bite is still really tough.

While bass can certainly be caught other ways, for now the best big fish pattern seems to be the one used recently by tournament anglers Steve and Andy Wicker of Pomaria, who busted a monster sack. It weighed 27.74 pounds and was anchored by an 8.40-pound Lake Murray behemoth. Steve and Andy fished from one end of the lake to the other, but all of their weight came off of three spots. They were fishing around brush in about 30 feet of water and used a combination of jigs and spoons.

The pair loves fishing in the winter because the fish group up well, and when you activate them you can get healthy very fast. On Lake Monticello you can catch 10 or 15 fish before the school cools off, but on Murray the bass are so educated that catching three is good. Andy and Steve caught their three of their biggest, including the 8+ pounder, in a matter of minutes. (In fact, they thought the big one was a catfish until it came to the surface!) A lot of the day they could see the schools on the depth finder but they were shut down. Water temperatures ranged from 47 to 53 degrees, and visibility was normal for Lake Murray: 2-4 feet on the upper end and 5-10 feet on the lower end. Thanks to Andy and Steve for sharing their winning secrets and good luck to Andy on the FLW tour next year!

Lake Wateree (Updated December 21)

Lake Wateree is at 96.7 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 50 degrees. There is still a pretty strong mud line partway up the lake.

In catfish news, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that his boat has found a very good bite on Lake Wateree recently. The best bait has been shad, and on Rodger's most recent trip they caught about 200 pounds of catfish with fish up to the high-teens/ twenty pounds. They have caught fish in a variety of patterns, including anchoring shallow in the backs of some mid-lake creeks, anchoring deeper up the lake, and drifting shallower and deeper.

However, the most productive pattern has been drifting in 10-20 feet.

On the crappie front, veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that the crappie are still in about the same pattern as a week ago. Right now most of the boats are around the State Park, and the mouths of Dutchman's and Taylor Creek are still seeing a lot of action. Tight-lining the channel ledge near the bottom in 18-21 feet of water is still the most popular pattern.

Will notes that even though the upper river run is still muddy, after four or five days for the fish to get used to the mud they will bite again. So, even though the majority of fishermen are further down the lake the upper part should be turning on again.

No bass updates from FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden.

Santee Cooper System (Updated December 21)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.21 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.33 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are up slightly and range between about 50-54 degrees. Clarity is pretty good for the Santee Cooper lakes.

The catfish bite seems to be a little off on the Santee Cooper lakes right now, which Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) says could be the result of a variety of things – or a combination of factors. For now he is finding some fish in 25-30 feet as well as some showing up in 35-40 feet, but he believes that the next cold front should likely put better numbers in 35-40 feet and improve the bite.

In crappie and bream news, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the bite is about the same. However, with temperatures a little warmer they seem to be a bit more scattered out and at some shallower depths than a week ago. Right now his boat is finding fish 12-20 feet deep over brush in 20-35 feet of water, with the lower lake producing much better than the upper.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated December 14)

Lake Jocassee is at 91.3 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the low 60s. Clarity remains normal (very high).

With water temperatures still relatively warm, Lake Jocassee trout fishing is still a bit tough, although Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that some fish are starting to be caught. In the recent tournament only two fish were weighed, and a 3 ½ pounder won, but as temperatures start to dip some good fishing is right around the corner. It's about to get good.

Fish can be found in relatively shallow water, and the best action has been in about 16-40 feet. People are trolling lures and drifting live bait, and there have also been some fish caught by bass anglers casting lures. Fish can be found to about halfway up the rivers. The trout have not gotten super shallow yet, but when water temperatures get below 60 a lot more will be found on the surface and very shallow.

Also of note, SCDNR has already completed its stocking. More fish were stocked than last year, and some larger fish over 15 inches were also included.

On the bass front, Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) reports that even though water temperatures are a little warm right now he thinks the best pattern is to fish a jigging spoon in the creek and river channels in 40-80 feet of water. Adjust the depth according to where you are marking fish and bait. Additionally, fish can be found off points in 25-45 feet of water. Don't blind fish a point unless you are marking fish.

Bass can also be caught slowly hopping a jig down a chunk rock bank.

Lake Keowee (Updated December 11)

Lake Keowee is at 97.2 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are falling with the lower and upper ends of the lake around 60 degrees and the mid-lake area around 64 degrees (because of the warm water discharge). Clarity is normal.

With dropping water temperatures fish are getting into a more seasonable pattern, and veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that the best pattern is finding schools of bait with suspended bass in and around the bait. These will be primarily spotted bass with an occasional largemouth mixed in. Fish a drop shot or jigging spoon around the bait, which can be found from 30 to 50 feet deep typically. Anglers should also look for surface activity with diving gulls/loons to locate schools of bait. If fish are on the surface they can be caught with topwater or lipless crankbaits while they are chasing bait.

Fish can also be caught on shakey heads or jerkbaits on windy points.

Lake Hartwell (Updated December 19)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 651.70 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are around 54 degrees. Clarity is normal.

It's still a little tough to catch striped and hybrid bass on Lake Hartwell, but Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that there has been some improvement in the bite. Fish are definitely up the rivers, and the most successful pattern has been fishing down-lines in 35-38 feet of water. However, he has also caught some fish pulling free-lines through areas that birds are working.

The best catch, however, has been spotted bass. Out of 31 fish they caught on a recent trip the majority were spotted bass. There are still a lot of spots offshore and they are hungry.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.