Catch of the Week: Bass brings smiles
This bass caught by Heather Morgan is our catch of the week!
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Saltwater Fishing Trends (freshwater below) - Provided by SCDNR
Charleston (Updated July 1)
The trout bite has been pretty good recently, and Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) reports that they are catching a lot of small fish to go with some heavier roe fish. However, he advises releasing these bigger fish – the meat is softer and killing them means killing literally thousands of future trout. Live shrimp under a popping cork are hard to beat.
While action for slot-sized redfish has been a little on the slow side, they are catching big bull reds at the jetties, around Dynamite Hole, and generally in deeper water.
However, by far the most exciting bite right now is for tarpon, and silver kings have showed up off the beaches, inlets and sandbars. This week Rob's boat caught a 110-pound tarpon after a half-hour fight!
The fish have followed the schools of menhaden here, but they will eat both live menhaden and live mullet. Rob advises fishing two baits on the bottom and two on the top, rigged on 8/0 to 10/0 circle hooks, just beyond the breakers.
A mile or two offshore Spanish mackerel fishing has been good, and just yesterday Rob's boat filled the box. Around the jetties, at Castle Pinckney, or just outside the Stono Inlet or North Edisto Inlet fish can be caught casting or trolling a 0 or 00 Clarks Spoon or Sidewinder.
Spadefish are very thick at the reefs where they will eat jelly balls.
Little River/North Myrtle Beach (Updated July 13)
Inshore water temperatures on the North End of the Grand Strand are around 80 degrees, and water clarity is pretty good for now.
The heat of summer has arrived in the Little River/North Myrtle Beach area, and Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly (843-361-7445) reports that as a result fishing is a little bit of a roller coaster right now. On days like today his boat had caught more than a dozen trout to go with redfish and bluefish by 9 a.m., but on other days the fishing is slower and they only catch a few fish.
Overall the trout bite continues to be about the best thing going, and early in the morning they are catching fish on topwater lures like Mirrolure Top Pups and Zara Spooks before switching over to live shrimp underneath a popping cork. Today they caught a 4-pounder on shrimp.
Redfish are eating Gulp! jerkshad and shrimp, and they are also picking up reds dead sticking baits around docks. In the Calabash River there are giant schools of pogies, and fishing these baits on the bottom around Tubbs Inlet, Tillman's Dock and Bonaparte Creek is letting anglers tangle with some big drum.
The black drum bite has slowed down in the summer heat, but they are still catching a decent number of short flounder as a by-catch. Overall it's been a down year for flounder, however.
Beaufort (Updated June 22)
Overall the redfish bite in the Beaufort area has been good, and Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) reports that on high tide the tailing activity has been strong. Redfish are gorging on fiddler crabs, and so on the fly Puglisi crab patterns, Dupre spoon flies, or most any weedless fly pattern is working well. Presentation is more important than the perfect fly, and Gulp! baits are also working well for tailing fish.
There has also been a good redfish bite on moving tides and particularly dropping water, and around creek mouths and oyster bars fish are feeding well on live shrimp, finger mullet, or mud minnows fished below a popping cork.
Trout fishing has also been pretty good on both the incoming and outgoing tides, particularly over oyster shells that have some water rushing over them. Live shrimp under a popping cork are hard to beat, and Gulp! paddle tail grubs in new penny color fished on a 1/4 ounce jighead are also deadly. Because of the heat trout are likely to be in a little deeper water in the 3 foot plus range.
There have also been some tripletail spotted on the surface, and these fish are likely to be lying on the top along with floating debris. They will eat a range of small artificial lures, particularly crab imitations. On the fly black deceivers are a good bet. While tripletail could be along the edges or flats, generally you will see them out in the middle of the river and so when you are running is the most important time to keep your eyes peeled.
Tarpon have not showed up en masse yet.
Edisto Island (Updated June 21)
Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) reports that Edisto Island-area inshore water temperatures are around 84 degrees – it got hot fast early this summer! Because of rain the last two weeks the South Edisto (the actual river) is not as clear as the North Edisto. Fish are eating well when you can find them.
Ron rates the inshore redfish bite as "fair," basically a result of numbers being down. When you can find fish they are willing to bite baits and lures. On the flats fish will take fresh shrimp or mullet fished on a jighead or Carolina rig, and the first couple of hours of the day there is also a good topwater bite. In the creeks the bite is pretty good early with cut shrimp or cut menhaden fished around docks, rocks, and trees found around bends in the creek.
The trout fishing was excellent, but now rates a good as it has gotten hotter. Lots of small sub-keeper sized fish have been caught to go along with some better fish. The first two hours of the morning there has been a good topwater bite, and after that mud minnows/finger mullet, live shrimp and DOA shrimp fished under a rattling cork in 3-5 feet of water have been working well. Live shrimp are the best bait with finger mullet second but there aren't a ton of either around in the creeks. Main river shell points and creek mouths are holding almost all of the fish, and while the particular tide has not been that important finding clear water is key.
Flounder fishing is fair in the inlets, but the hurricane last year has added a wrinkle. You can only get in and out of inlets like Townsend and Frampton with 3/4 tide or better, and most of the better fishing is at the bottom of the tide cycle. You either have to fish the weaker high tide, or commit to staying for a while and fish through low tide back to high tide again. Mud minnows and finger mullet on the bottom are both working, and there are a lot of small flounder around. At the nearshore reefs there are also flounder to be caught.
Inshore sheepshead fishing is good, although the sizes are a bit hit-or-miss with lots of small fish around. Because there are so many croaker and pinfish present fiddler crabs are a must, and you want to target docks with 6-10 feet of water at low tide. The best period is three hours either side of low water.
In the surf whiting fishing is good around turbulent sand bars at the mouths of inlets – you won't find too much on the plain beach. Tarpon are just starting to show up and will be here through September.
Just offshore Spanish mackerel fishing has been good in 30-40 feet of water. Look for birds diving and then cast small spoons at the fish. On the nearshore reefs the spadefish bite has been outstanding – so good that Ron says it is probably the hottest thing going. Any reef in less than 60 feet of water are holding the fish, and he says it is probably the best bite he has ever seen. Usually the fish are very finicky, but perhaps due to the lack of jelly balls fish are hungry and so they are very willing to eat a 1/4 piece of shrimp on a 1/0 or 2/0 hook either free-lined or cast with a small piece of split shot.
The offshore bite for wahoo, tuna and dolphin has slowed a lot, but the best bet is start out very early and troll until about 9:00 a.m. between 120-160 feet of water out to the ledge, and then bottom fish after that for vermillion snapper, black sea bass, grouper, triggerfish, etc.
Greater Murrells Inlet (Updated June 21)
Perry's Bait and Tackle in Murrells Inlet (843-651-2895) reports that they are still getting some good catches of flounder along the South Grand Strand, but they are receiving really strong reports on redfish and black drum. Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) says that he is catching both species on pieces of shrimp fished over shell bottoms where there is some current. The shells can be live or dead, but the key is just not having a mud or sand bottom. The tide hasn't mattered much, and it will take some patience to weed through the pinfish but after a few minutes the drum show up and seem to run off the bait stealers.
Trout fishing has also been pretty good inshore, with plenty of 15-16 inch fish being caught on live shrimp and smaller live finger mullet.
At the jetties sheepshead fishing has been strong, and off the beaches there have been a lot of sharks, bluefish, ribbonfish, ladyfish and croakers caught. Before the storms pompano were doing well, but they have slowed down since the rain started.
Nearshore Perry's reports weakfish, gulf flounder and spadefish at the 3-Mile and 10-Mile reefs, although Captain J. says that at times it's been a little tough to catch spadefish with so much of their natural bait (small jellyfish) around.
Captain J. is having a lot of success trolling 16-18 miles offshore in 30-60 feet of water for king mackerel. Pulling live menhaden and cigar minnows over live bottom areas has been producing a good number of smaller 10-12 pound fish, while the artificial reefs have barracuda which often don't mix well with kings. Perry's has gotten good king reports at Belkie Bear.
Georgetown Landing Marina (843-546-1776) reports that they have had some bottom fish hit the docks, and the trolling trips have produced some spotty dolphin fishing. Blackfin tuna are in their traditional areas – the trick is just getting them to bite!
Hilton Head (Updated July 14)
Inshore water temperatures in the Hilton Head area are in the mid-80s and above, and clarity is good.
Considering the summer heat it's not surprising that one of the best inshore patterns going in the Hilton Head area is a deep bite. Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the creek shrimp have gotten big enough to use as bait and his boat has been using a slip cork rig to fish them in the deep bends of creeks, particularly those that have docks or trees. He is getting the bait down about 8-12 feet, and sometimes as deep as 15. This technique is picking up some big redfish, some legal black drum, and some trout. He has found some holes that are fishing best on the outgoing to low tide, and some that are most productive on the incoming.
Along the edges of the grass and oyster bars Coach has been catching a ton of juvenile redfish on the incoming tide. While this is obviously a good sign for the future, he is wary of handling too many of these fish that we want to grow up.
While there have been tons of big schools of mullet around, the tarpon sightings and catches have been sporadic. It's basically been a report of one here and one there, not huge numbers of them.
Freshwater fishing trends
Lake Russell (Updated July 14)
Lake Russell water levels are at 473.49 (full pool is 475.00) and water temperatures are in the mid to upper 80s.
With the summer heat the numbers of crappie being caught on Lake Russell have dropped slightly, but Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that they continue to catch some really nice fish. The best pattern has been fishing around brush piles in the creeks or just off the main channel in smaller creeks, and fish have been from 10 feet down to the bottom in 15-20 feet of water. They are catching fish on minnows fished on a drop shot rig.
On the bass front, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports there is not much change in the pattern. If he had to look for some big tournament fish right now he might start out throwing a buzzbait or topwater plug early in the backs of creeks, before getting on the deeper pattern.
Wendell reports that they have been catching a lot of bass even in the heat of the day by fishing around bridge pilings when some water is being pulled (most days). Fishing a Su-Spin blade with a fluke is a good way to catch them, and live bait will certainly also work. About 1 out of 20 fish is a largemouth with the rest spots.
In striped bass news Wendell reports that fish can still be found on both ends of the lake but that they are doing better fishing down-lines 25-40 feet down over 70-90 feet on the lower end.
The catfish pattern is unchanged and fish are still biting very well.
Finally, Jerry has found some very large white perch in the 1 1/2 pound range out deep on the edge of timber along the main river channel. They are catching them on big baits such as herring as well as spoons.
Lake Thurmond (Updated July 14)
Lake Thurmond water levels are at 324.49 (full pool is 330.00), and surface temperatures are in the mid to upper 80s. Clarity remains good.
Many people think of spring when they think of crappie, but Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that the bite has been exceptional in the heat of this summer on Lake Thurmond. On a trip last Friday his boat caught 83 good fish! They have been fishing over brush in the backs of coves in the mid-lake area including the Georgia Little River, and fishing about 20 feet down in 30 feet of water has been the best pattern. Fish can be caught on jigs but minnows have been working much better.
The hybrid bass fishing on Lake Thurmond has been very good this week, and they have been catching some very nice fish in the 5-8 pound range fishing before daylight on the bottom in 40 feet of water. Main lake points in the lower lake have been the key. Some nice striped bass have sometimes been mixed in with the hybrids, but the striper have overall been a little scarce.
Smaller hybrids can be caught in the back of coves in 30 feet on the lower lake, which is full of 2-3 pound fish. Hybrids can also be caught in front of the dam at night tied up to the cable in 25-40 feet of water. Schooling action has been very rare, but perhaps one out of seven days you will see fish on top.
On the bass front Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that weights are a little down from a couple of weeks ago, with about 12 pounds winning 3-fish night tournaments. The pattern however is unchanged except that there has been some schooling activity over deeper humps. At other times you need to slow way down to catch fish.
Lake Wylie (Updated July 14)
Lake Wylie is at 97.4 percent of full pool, and although clarity is basically good with some afternoon storms there are areas of the lake that are stained. Clarity will vary from day to day and is also very location dependent.
It's not the best time of the year to catch trophy catfish on Lake Wylie, but Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that there is no doubt that some good fish can still be caught in this post-spawn phase. His boat has recently caught a good number of blues up to the mid-teens, as well as flatheads up to about 20 pounds.
It's also not the most comfortable period of the year to fish if you don't pick your times, and so Rodger suggests targeting fish either early or late. One option is to fish from about daylight until 10:30 and then call it a day, and the other choice is to fish in the evening from about 7:30 p.m. until 12:30 or 1 a.m.
It's hard to pattern the fish right now until you are on the water, and so it's important to be flexible. On some trips Rodger has found a much better bite drifting, and at times he has had better results anchored. At night he has had the most success anchored around mid-lake humps where fish would be coming off of flats close to the channel. Most of the bites have come in 6-12 feet of water. In contrast, one morning he found a good bite drifting right up the middle of the river in deeper water. Conditions and preferences vary from day to day, and so flexibility is very important.
Gizzard shad from Wateree have been the best bait.
On the bass front, guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that there is not a lot of change in the pattern – but the fishing has gotten tougher. Dragging a big worm or football jig through the offshore community holes is still the best thing going, although you can also fish shallow. However, if you fish shallower you are probably only going to see 6 or 7 bites all day and they are not necessarily any better quality than the deeper fish.
Lake Greenwood (Updated July 14)
Lake Greenwood water temperatures are in the mid- to high-80s, and water levels are at 438.97 (full pool is 440.0).
Bass fishing on Lake Greenwood remains tough, and veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter reports that it's only been taking 12-14 pounds to win and 8 or so pounds to get a check in night tournaments. The pattern remains relatively unchanged, with the addition that decent numbers of fish have been caught with drop shot rigs fished around brush piles in 15-18 feet of water. However, most of these fish have been small to medium with a lot of introduced spotted bass in the mix. There have also been some fish caught shallow around bream beds.
On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson reports that anchoring on points and humps and fan-casting stinkbait is the best bet to get channel catfish of all sizes in the boat right now. 5-20 feet is typically the best depth at this time of year. If you want to target larger channel catfish or flatheads doing the same thing with live bream or perch is a good option, and cut herring and shad will also work well for bigger channels.
Lake Monticello (Updated July 14)
Lake Monticello water temperatures are hot, and by the evening they are in the lower 90s. Lake levels generally fluctuate daily.
The offshore bass bite continues to be pretty good on Lake Monticello, and tournament angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria and his brother recently won a night tournament with 20.7 pounds. Last night weights were more modest again, but the fishing is still good.
Overall the deep pattern is holding pretty constant, but there are a couple of changes. First, as the summer has gotten hotter the fish have actually moved shallower, perhaps looking for better oxygen levels. There are still some fish out in the 35-foot range but the 20-22 foot zone has been better. Second, more fish have been around brush recently.
On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports no change.
Lake Murray (Updated July 14)
Lake Murray water levels are at 357.73 (full pool is 360.00), and temperatures are in the mid- to upper 80s. Clarity is good.
Even though the fish are deep it's a great time to be striped bass fishing on Lake Murray. Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that, as expected this time of year, most of the fish are grouped up in the lower pool 60-100 feet deep and they are coming on down-lined herring. Fish will be around humps, main lake points, and ridges, and you need to use your graph to locate them. It's always advisable this time of year to get on the water early, when the fishing is more enjoyable, and a lot of times the best bite is first thing. However, that varies day-to-day and some days the bite gets better later.
Tournament angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that there is a surprisingly good bass bite for the first couple of hours of the day on topwater plugs and buzzbaits. However, by about 7:45 or 8:00 it's time to get out of the bass boat and into a pontoon boat!
Still, if you stay out on the water in the heat that's not to say you can't catch some fish out in deeper water. There has been some random schooling action right through the day over very deep water in the 50-60 foot range and deeper, including some really nice fish coming up and eating. You have to move fast when they surface.
Crappie fishing continues to be good, and Brad reports that they are catching some nice fish 10-12 feet deep over brush in 15-20 feet of water. They are fishing from Dreher Island up around the mouths of creeks and on the side of the river channel, and they can't get the fish to eat anything except very small minnows.
Lake Wateree (Updated July 14)
Lake Wateree is at 97.3 percent of full pool and by Wateree standards the lake is very clear. Water temperatures are in the upper 80s and even higher.
Even though it's gotten hotter, the crappie fishing has gotten better over the last couple of weeks according to veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt. He reports that the fish are now on brush in the 15-20 foot range, mostly on the main lake and scattered from one end of the lake to the other. They aren't on all the brush piles in that range, but by now they seem to be on about 85 percent of them as the heat has made them more structure-oriented. Early in the day they are suspended over the brush, and as the sun gets up they sink down towards the bottom. Fish Stalker jigs have still been the best bet.
It's definitely the dog days of summer for bass fishing on Lake Wateree, and on a recent trip FLW angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden read 91 degrees when he got out on the water in the afternoon! Accordingly he spent the afternoon and evening trying to find a deep bite, but as other anglers have found it still continues to be basically non-existent. The best bite remains shallow around the grass.
On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that right now with fish essentially in a post-spawn period the best bet is to get out early in the morning and fish out of June Creek or another landing in the mid-lake. He advises anchoring around mid-lake humps that might rise to within 7 or 8 feet of the surface on a flat of 12-15 feet of water. There are a lot of mussel beds in this area, and fan-casting a bunch of rods at various depths is the best way to pick up fish. If rods don't move anchored up after a few spots then you can turn to drifting to cover more water. At this time of year most of the fish won't be giant but you could catch a good one up to the mid-20s or bigger. Cut gizzard shad is the best bet.
Santee Cooper System (Updated July 14)
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.38 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.32 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).
The catfish bite on the Santee Cooper lakes continues to be variable, with Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reporting some scattered bites in mid-depth water as well as positive reports in shallow water late in the day. Overall cut perch and shad have been the best baits.
Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that his boat has found better action in the lower lake than the upper, and that fishing in the canal continues to be strong in the same pattern. He also reports that he has been catching fish shallow in 5-8 feet of water – both day and night! He has heard good reports in deep water at certain times and in certain locations, but not everywhere.
Crappie fishing is still tough, and catches have actually slowed down again.
The bigger bream are still a little scarce, but there were some good bluegills caught off the beds last week. Steve's boat even landed a big 1-pound 3-ounce fish. On the August full moon there should be another good wave of spawning activity, and there could even be a new moon phase in between.
Lake Jocassee (Updated July 14)
Lake Jocassee is at 93.5 percent of full pool, and surface water temperatures are about 80 degrees on the main lake in the morning, rising to around 82 in the afternoon. The rivers are a couple of degrees warmer and clarity is normal.
The trout continue to follow the seasonal pattern on Lake Jocassee, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that as water temperatures have gotten warmer trout have moved deeper. They haven't quite hit the 100-foot mark yet, but he is catching fish in 70-90 feet of water. His fishing is mainly concentrated on the big pool, although action at the dam has been a little hit-or-miss. He is also spending some time in the rivers, but only at the very edge of the big water. They are still sticking exclusively to hardware, with Apex and Sutton spoons accounting for almost all of the fish. Occasionally a Doctor spoon will get some use.
Lake Keowee (Updated July 12)
Lake Keowee is at 96.8 of full pool and surface water temperatures are in the low to mid-80s throughout the lake. Water clarity is very good all over Keowee.
Lake Keowee bass continue to feed this summer, and veteran Lake Keowee fisherman Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that night tournaments have been taking a healthy 12-15 pound sack to win. Still, a 10-pound bag is a good catch on the lake right now.
Early in the morning there continues to be a good bite on topwater baits, and some days a chugger is better while on other days a walk-the-dog bait is better. Crankbaits will also catch some fish early on points.
Some fish are cruising the shorelines and back in coves, and there is also some schooling activity at times where schools of shad are present. This trend should continue to improve as the summer goes on.
After the sun gets up, most anglers are fishing deeper in 30 to 50 feet with drop shots.
Lake Hartwell (Updated July 14)
Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 653.43 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are around 85 degrees even first thing in the morning. Clarity is good.
The striped and hybrid bass bite has slowed down marginally on Lake Hartwell in the heat, but Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that they are still catching very good numbers of fish. The biggest change he has noticed is that striper have moved further down the lake, mostly out of the rivers, and started to suspend over the deep timber. In addition to down-lining live herring they are catching some nice fish dropping big spoons down into the fish and then ripping them up.
Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) has also noticed a slight summer slow-down in the heat, but more significantly he has seen the big fish going a bit deeper into 40-60 feet. More fish are starting to be on the deeper end of that range as the water warms up. He is finding fish at the mouths of some deep coves and occasionally a little way up the main rivers. Some days they are over clean bottoms, but the next day they could be over trees. There is occasional schooling very early in the morning but it does not last long.
On the bass front, Guide Brad Fowler reports that fish remain in a pretty typical summer pattern on Lake Hartwell. Recent tournaments have had some good sacks in the 17-18 pound range at the top, and maybe another good bag over 15 pounds, but there is usually a pretty steep drop-off after that.
The patterns and baits are still about the same, including an offshore topwater bite, an offshore deep bite, and a shallow topwater bite. Brad says that if you are looking to catch some good fish it's really a toss-up whether to fish shallow or deep, and you are just as likely to catch a good one either place. The shallow fish seem to be eating bream and you can throw topwater baits at them all day long.
Captain Bill reports that there is not much change on the catfish bite which remains good, with channels eating about anything in 5-40 feet. Blues are out in the deep timber but you have a shot of catching them in 25-30 feet of water at night. Flatheads can be caught at night on live perch or bream around brush.
There is not much change with the crappie either, and overall the bite remains a little slow. Captain Bill reports that a few have still been caught at night over brush in 18-20 feet of water, and some fish are also still being caught under bridges at night.