Catch of the Week: Melissa's trout
This week’s qualifier for our Yeti Cooler drawing is Melissa Cole from Hanahan with her trout. She's the third of four to be selected for a chance to win the Yeti filled with goodies from Seel's Outboard. The total prize value is $400!
If you have an epic catch you think could win, CLICK HERE to submit.
Saltwater fishing trends - Provided by SCDNR (freshwater below)
Charleston (Updated September 15)
Inshore temperatures in the Charleston are around 80 degrees, and Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) tells anglers that it's time to get excited – the fishing from about September 15 until October 15 is what fishermen wait all year for.
Before talking about the fish, Rob points out that it's important to talk about another season that is upon us. The shrimp baiting season is now underway, and with a license you are allowed 10 poles. Bull's Bay and Charleston Harbor are traditionally excellent areas for shrimp baiting, and this is a great time to fill up the freezer with tasty fare.
Inshore, the trout bite continues to be nothing short of excellent, and all you need is a popping cork and a live shrimp (or DOA shrimp). With tons of mullet running the beaches trout are also getting in the surf zone. Redfish can be caught around a variety of structure, including docks or oyster beds. Any point that has good oyster beds and current will also hold redfish on moving tides. They can be caught fishing on the bottom or under a float on the top, although your chances of a bonus flounder are better on the bottom. If you want to target flounder, fish the gutter creeks around the inlets. The black drum are also biting well on shrimp fished around docks.
Tarpon are still here chasing schools of mullet, and while they won't be around too much longer watching the tarpon and black tip sharks bust big schools of mullet is a rare treat. They can be found especially on the outgoing tide around inlets.
In addition to inshore reds, from about the middle of September through the end of October is prime time for tangling with a bull red drum in the Charleston area. The most exciting part of this bite is that you don't need to be in a boat to hook up with a monster fish, and the real risk is overcasting the fish. They will be in the surf zone in only 2-3 feet of water, and in a boat anglers cast back towards the beach.
All the beaches will hold fish, particularly around inlet mouths at the points, but Folly Pier and off the end of Folly near Morris Island are two hot spots. Finger mullet or cut mullet will both work well.
Offshore this is the best period for king mackerel fishing pulling live mullet or menhaden in 40-90 feet of water.
North Grand Strand (Updated October 5)
Inshore water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have dropped to around 73 degrees inshore and about 77 in the ocean. Clarity is normal.
Fishing has been good in the Little River area, and Captain Patrick “Smiley” Kelly reports that the action for small redfish in the 15-17 inch range is very strong. They are chiefly catching fish on the lower end of the tides and with tons of finger mullet around cut or live bait fished on a 1/4 ounce jig has been working very well.
Flounder have been biting well recently, and while most of the fish are small they did have a nice 5-pound fish caught yesterday. Again finger mullet fished on the lower tides have been hard to top.
Trout action has been a little slow, and the best time to target specs has been on the higher tides. Black drum have been feeding well on shrimp and crabs on the outgoing.
In the Little River Inlet some big drum are being caught on the incoming tide on large mullet and menhaden. The bait run is still very much underway.
Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that earlier this week they had some spots caught off the pier, and bluefish, Spanish, whiting and croaker are pretty consistent.
Southern Grand Strand (Updated October 5)
Water temperatures in the Murrells Inlet area have dropped into the mid-70s. Clarity is very poor with strong northeast winds recently.
With muddy water Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) adjusted and did what he does when clarity drops – pursued black drum. The fish have been stacked up by the jetties, and even on rough days they will eat cut shrimp. Drum can be caught at each stage of the tide; it's simply a matter of finding the right places around the rocks.
Flounder fishing has improved inside the creeks, with some better sized fish caught recently.
The redfish bite has been very good, and Captain J has been catching lots of 14-15 inch fish just below and right around the slot. Next year should be a great year for reds. Live finger mullet are the best bait right now, but once the pinfish leave shrimp will be effective. At the tips of the jetties bull red drum can be caught.
Captain J has picked up a few spot while drum fishing, a sign that run should start any day now.
Beaufort (Updated September 1)
Inshore water temperatures in the Beaufort area are down from a high of 88 to around 80 or 81 degrees, and clarity is pretty tough right now. On the fly dark colors like black and purple have the best visibility.
The redfish bite in the Beaufort area has been good, and Captain Tuck Scott of Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) reports that in particular the tailing action has been very strong. It should get better as temperatures drop.
As water temperatures drop he also expects the reds to get more and more oriented towards chasing shrimp, and on low tide fish can already be caught in small channels in the flats on shrimp and artificials that imitate them. On both the dropping tide and the incoming drum are sitting around shell bars in places they can ambush prey.
Trout have been feeding well, and fish are feeding around swift moving water where they have some sort of obstacle that creates an ambush point. 3-4 feet is a good depth range. In addition to live bait 1/4 ounce jigheads with paddletail grubs, Gulp! shrimp or swimming mullet are working well.
Trout are also biting well at light changes (particularly in the morning) on topwater lures. Ladyfish and jack crevalle can also be caught the same way.
There are also a fair number of tripletail around, and on the flats and even over deep water if you see a dark spot it is worth looking to see if it is a tripletail laying on the surface. On spinning tackle they will eat a finger mullet, mud minnow, or live shrimp, or a shallow suspended twitch bait. A dark baitfish pattern is best on the fly.
Tarpon are around and guides have seen them busting bait.
Edisto Island (Updated September 15)
Inshore water temperatures around Edisto Island have dropped to around 81 or 82, and with 8 inches of rain during the storm the water is very tannic – although it is beginning to clear. Clarity is better in the North Edisto. In a few days Captain Ron Davis Jr. (843-513-0143) expects water conditions to normalize.
Before the storm fishing hadn't changed much from the last report, and since the storm there hasn't been much fishing activity on Edisto. The front beach only got power on Wednesday, with the rest of the island restored yesterday. Early indications are that with the amount of rain the numbers of shrimp will be down, but they are still there. Big schools of mullet are still running the beaches.
Migratory species like jacks and tarpon should be present through the end of the month, and about that time the bull red drum should get very active.
Offshore the wahoo bite has been excellent, and there are lots of fish along the ledge 60 miles out. Trolling the Edisto Banks area has been productive for fish like these two 45 and 65 pounders.
Hilton Head (Updated October 5)
Inshore water temperatures in the Hilton Head area are around 80 degrees, with water clarity pretty low.
It's been a tough time for fishing with gale-force winds, and Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley (843-368-2126) reports that that about the only way you can fish is to get in the backs of creeks and fish around bends with fallen trees, docks, riprap and other structure. There are still a ton of small redfish around, and while most of them are 13-14 inches there are now some in the slot. Occasionally you will get a fish in the middle of the slot or bigger. There is an abundance of bait in the creeks, and with the best fishing for a couple of hours either side of low tide you can throw your net in a feeder creek early in the ebb and then have enough bait to fish the next few hours. Live shrimp may also pick up some black drum and trout, but black drum numbers have been inexplicably low. Trout were biting well until the water muddied up.
There are spotty reports on the big drum, but everyone is expecting them to make their way inshore soon.
Freshwater fishing trends
Lake Russell (Updated October 5)
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between about 474.0 and 475.0 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures have cooled off into the upper 70s.
It's a fun time to bass fish on Lake Russell, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that fish are schooling in the main channel. He advises keeping a small topwater handy as they will be seen chasing bait on most calm days.
When they aren't on top Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) says the fish are suspended, and he is finding them off main lake points 20-25 feet deep over 30-35 feet of water around the edge of timber. Live herring is the best way to catch them, but artificial lure anglers can also catch them on drop shot rigs. When it cools fish will move to the bottom.
Wendell reports that crappie fishing is very good, and he is finding fish that are moving into the creeks in many of the same backwater areas where they are found in the spring. Fishing minnows 5-8 feet down around brushpiles in 12-15 feet of water has been the best pattern, although Jerry has found them slightly deeper in the middle part of the creek suspended from 12 feet down to the bottom in 17-18 feet of water. Catfish are being picked up on minnows at both of these depths, and Jerry suggests fishing cut bait on the bottom in 15-20 feet in the creeks.
Striped bass are moving down the lake from the Hartwell tailrace and scattering out, and Wendell reports that his boat has picked up some fish on down-lines 30 feet down in 40-50 feet of water.
Both species of perch are being caught very deep on minnows on a drop-shot rig. Wendell says he is finding them 40-50 feet down in the main channel or on deep flats where there is bait. A few channel catfish are also mixed in at this depth.
Lake Thurmond (Updated September 26)
Lake Thurmond water levels are at 321.92 (full pool is 330.00) and main lake water temperatures are 80-83 with the backs of creeks around 79-81. Water clarity on the main lake is good (5-8 foot range) but stained in the backs of creeks.
Tournament angler Bruce Kastner of Simpsonville reports that Lake Thurmond bass seem to still be in a late summer pattern. In a recent club tournament, which they won with 12 pounds, most of the fish were caught early and late off of main lake humps with grass. An Alabama rig and Rapala DT-10 were the best baits.
There is some schooling activity on the main lake throughout the day, but it is strongest in the morning. Casting accuracy is a most to target these fish as you pretty much have to land a lure in the middle of the surface commotion to get a take.
Some fish are also being caught around bridges in the backs of creeks, but with water still warm the major fall migration has not taken place yet.
Lake Wylie (Updated October 5)
Lake Wylie is at 95.8 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have finally fallen off into the high 70s. The lake is fairly clear with some stain in the creeks.
It looked like bass fishing was getting better on Lake Wylie, but after the BFL super tournament recently, guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that it's clearly gotten very tough again. Only a handful of anglers caught a limit both days, and it only took about a 13-pound daily average to win.
A couple of factors could be in play, and the fact that the weather has gone from summer to fall back to summer and then maybe into fall seems to have the fish confused. Additionally, the fall bait migration is getting underway and so there is not a very big group of fish anywhere.
As would be expected considering the weights, there is no one really good pattern right now. In the BFL event Bryan had 17 rods on the deck both days and threw all of them, and he still only caught 5 the first day and 4 the second. It's a lot of junk fishing, and you might run a topwater down the bank, hit a deep brush pile, then fish some mid-depth rocks, and then cycle back through drops and points. Overall finesse fishing is the best bet, but there is no clear pattern.
Although there is a lot of schooling it is very random and almost impossible to predict where the fish will pop up. You could be going down the bank, they could come up in the middle of nowhere and offer one cast, and then not surface there again. This is likely the result of shad being on the move right now. Bridge schooling has died off, and while it may still be going on a little bit Bryan hasn't seen it.
Lake Greenwood (Updated September 15)
Lake Greenwood water temperatures have dropped into the mid-70s, and water levels are at 438.32 (full pool is 440.0). The water is still clean on the lower end while the upper end is dingy to dirty.
It's getting to be fall on Lake Greenwood, and veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter reports that bass are starting to move into the creeks and pockets as water temperatures have cooled with all this rain. He suggests starting out fishing shallow with a buzzbait or shakey head/ jig around docks.
Also be alert for schooling activity which could pop up at any time.
In catfish news, Captain Chris Simpson says that reports indicate that, while anchoring will still catch fish, the drift bite is starting to improve. Regular-sized cut bait or shrimp drifted on main lake flats in 10-20 feet of water is a good pattern for catching channel catfish, and if you want to improve your chances of tangling with a flathead drag bigger white perch or bream.
Lake Monticello (Updated August 31)
Lake Monticello water temperatures have dropped several degrees from their highs in the 90s. Lake levels generally fluctuate daily.
Tournament angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that towards the end of the summer lake Monticello bass fishing got tough, and whereas 20 pound sacks were winning night tournaments earlier in the season weights well under 10 pounds were good enough by the end. Most of the fish are still offshore, but the bite has really slowed.
Although September can still be a tough month, Andy expects the deep fish to bite better. He will be dragging a worm around deep spots including brush and drop-offs in 30-40 feet, and when water temperatures cool a few degrees there should also be a decent topwater bite early. Some fish are already being caught on a Pop-R first thing but the window should get longer.
As the fall progresses fish will be relating more to bait, and by late September or early October anglers will want to idle around and locate bait schools. By mid-October Andy will be fishing vertically with a spoon.
On another front, the free-lining catfish bite continues to be really good. Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that in addition to numbers of fish they are still catching some really nice ones free-lining pieces of cut herring. The depth varies from day to day but the best results have come recently over 100-plus feet of water, with the baits generally running 5-15 feet down. The hottest action has been close to the discharge where William speculates that the fish are eating cut bait that gets churned back up. Look for the big fish bite to come on once temperatures cool off.
Lake Murray (Updated October 5)
Lake Murray water levels are down to 354.63 and dropping (full pool is 360.00), and water temperatures are around the mid- to upper-70s. Clarity has been good.
In striped bass news, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that as temperatures rebounded fish moved back out to deeper water and pulled out of the creeks, and he has found the most fish 30-50 feet down in about 50 feet of water at the mouth of creeks. Down-lines have been the best way to target them. There has been some isolated schooling action but it's not like it was.
Crappie can also be found at the mouth of creeks, with the best numbers in the middle part of the lake where the fish are following the big schools of threadfin shad. Fish can be caught 12-15 feet down in about 15-20 feet of water, with brush, docks, or most any cover in that depth range holding them.
Bass remain in a transition period, and overall the bite has still been a little tough. When temperatures cool a few more degrees fishing should get more predictable. Good numbers can be caught throwing a buzzbait around the bank, but getting better fish has been a challenge.
Lake Wateree (Updated October 5)
Lake Wateree is at 98.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 78-79 degrees. The lake is pretty clear for Wateree.
There's not much exciting news to report with Wateree bass fishing, and FLW angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that it only took about 12 pounds to win a CATT tournament recently. With water temperatures just dropping below 80 the shad should start moving back into the creeks, but obviously there isn't a hot pattern yet. The best options remain throwing a frog or flipping the grass, fishing a crankbait around rocks, and throwing a jig or worm around docks. Certainly anglers are only fishing for a few bites right now.
The better bet to catch Wateree fish remains crappie, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that the fish are still on brush in the main lake. The best depth range is 18-22 feet, and early in the day they are on top of the brush but sinking towards the bottom as the sun gets up. Ugly green and pearl white Fish Stalker slab tail jigs have been hard to beat. This pattern should hold through the end of the month when fish may start to move up the lake. Right now nothing is changing since conditions are so stable.
Santee Cooper System (Updated October 5)
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.82 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.75 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).
Water temperatures have dropped about 10 degrees in a week down to 74. Clarity is good.
The catfish bite on the Santee Cooper lakes is picking up, and Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that his boat has found a good drifting bite in 18-24 feet of water with cut shad. Some bigger fish in the 10-25 pound range are showing up as well as tons of nice 2-6 pound blues – and some channels.
Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) advises that you can also catch some nice fish shallow, and on days when the wind forces him closer to the bank they are doing well drifting in 9-12 feet of water.
The crappie bite has finally turned around, and Steve reports that while yesterday was a little off (only 25-30 fish) they have generally been having 40-50 fish days. Fish range from shallow brush in only 10 feet out to deeper stuff in 25 feet. The best action has been in the upper lake.
Some better bream are starting to show up on brush as well.
Lake Jocassee (Updated October 5)
Lake Jocassee is at 87.5 percent of full pool, and surface temperatures range between 74 and 76 degrees. Clarity is normal (very clear).
In trout news, Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that the fishing is still really slow. His boat is picking up some bass trolling crankbaits, with the best action coming pulling crankbaits across points. He is also picking up some spotted bass over 100 feet deep while trolling for trout.
Bass fishing on Lake Jocassee isn't easy but can pay off with some nice fish, and veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that there is a good early bite on shakey heads as well as some topwater action. Some big largemouth are being caught at first light. There are also some isolated schooling fish but the water temperature is still too warm for this pattern to be widespread.
After the first couple of hours in the morning, the bite gets very tough and fish are deeper. They can be caught on drop shots or shakey head with finesse worms/baits.
Lake Keowee (Updated September 26)
Lake Keowee is at 97.5 percent of full pool and water temperatures have warmed back up a few degrees with the recent warmer weather. On the lower and upper ends of the lake, temperatures are in the high 70s to low 80s. In the middle of the lake, temperatures are in the mid-80s.
It's gotten warmer, and as a result Lake Keowee bass have been acting more like it's late summer than early fall. Veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that there is a good early morning bite on topwaters, crankbaits, and shakey heads. This bite lasts for only a couple of hours at most depending upon how sunny it is.
After that, fish can be caught deeper on drop shots or shakey heads. Some fish are also coming on deeper crankbaits.
There is some schooling activity on the lake, but it is not widespread yet as the water is still too warm. Charles expects the fishing to rapidly improve with the cooler weather projected for the next few weeks.
Lake Hartwell (Updated October 5)
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 651.28 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are in the 77-78 degree range. Clarity is very good with the lack of rain.
The pattern for catching striped and hybrid bass has not changed a lot on Lake Hartwell, although Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that the schooling activity has slowed down. Some days you can find the fish on top early and very late, when they will take most any artificial. However, it's not something you can count on right now.
The best way to catch fish is with down-lines fished 30-60 feet deep over 90-125 feet of water in the creeks. Fish are suspended at different depths from day to day. They are starting to move up the rivers a bit, but it's not a proper migration yet.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) adds that you can also still catch some fish trolling lead core line and bucktails with 12-14 colors out, but overall he finds the bite to be in the annual fall slowdown.
Bass fishing is about the same, with numbers still relatively easy to locate but better fish a little scarce.
Channel catfish are still in the same pattern 15-40 feet deep, and Captain Bill says they will eat about anything.