Catch of the Week: Kevin's tarpon

By Kevin Epstein

This week’s qualifier for the Yeti cooler is Kevin Epstein from Mt.Pleasant! Kevin is our fourth and final qualifier for the drawing to be held on next week.

If Kevin and his tarpon are selected as the winner, he will get the Yeti filled with goodies from Seel's Outboard, valued at $400.

Saltwater fishing trends - Provided by SCNDR (freshwater below)

Charleston (Updated October 20)

Inshore temperatures in the Charleston area are around 75 degrees, and water conditions are clearing.

The peak of the inshore fishing season in the Charleston area comes when temperatures are between about 65 and 75 degrees, and so Captain Rob Bennett of Lowcountry Inshore Charters (843-367-3777) reminds anglers that for the next week 3-4 weeks conditions should be as good as they get.

First, October is a trout month. The best way to catch trout is concentrate on the mouth of a creek when the tide is going out, be it a 20-foot wide creek or a 100-foot wide one. At the point where the current from the creek meets the main river there will be a "V," and this is the perfect place to fish. Generally this will mean fishing in 3-10 feet of water, and you can cast a live shrimp or a DOA shrimp under a rattling float with a couple of feet of fluorocarbon line to hook up. You can also throw paddle tail or twist tail grubs, or even troll them in likely areas. One-quarter ounce chartreuse or red jigheads with a Zman electric chicken bodies are tough to beat. Red drum will be found in the same areas, and like trout they will also take mud minnows.

There are also a lot of black drum, including some really good ones, around right now. They will eat shrimp fished under a cork or on the bottom, and they can be found around oyster beds and docks. There is no particular tide when you need to target them, and on Rob's boat they are generally a bonus catch.

There are also plenty of flounder around that will eat the same baits as the reds and trout.

Out at the reefs weakfish are thick, but be cognizant of the very restrictive limits on this species. Mud minnows are the best bait, and you will also pick up a lot of flounder and black sea bass at the same time. When you are out at the reefs always put out a live bait on a king mackerel rig, as this is the best time of the year for kings.

North Grand Strand (Updated October 20)

Inshore water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have dropped to around 69-70 degrees; water clarity is still pretty low.

It's a very good time to be fishing on the north end of the Grand Strand, and Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly reports that in the Little River area they have been doing really well for redfish. Plenty of over the slot red drum have been caught, and on calmer days when you can sit in the inlet if you put in the time you will catch a big one. Inshore plenty of 24-26 inch reds are being caught on finger mullet fished on a 1/4 ounce jighead, with the last hour of the outgoing and then the incoming tide best.

Flounder have been picked up also fishing the bottom of the tide and then the incoming, and again there are a mix of small fish and keepers. In addition to finger mullet on a 1/4 ounce jighead flounder (and reds) will also take Gulp! baits.

Black drum have been biting pretty well on the incoming on shrimp fished on a 1/4 ounce jighead, while trout fishing has been a little off but should pick up soon.

Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that off-and-on for the last ten days there has been sporadic spot activity, and there have also been some nice whiting, croaker and pompano caught as well as small black drum. Despite menhaden so thick you could walk on them there have been relatively few bluefish and Spanish mackerel around. Flounder fishing has been poor as with the beach renourishment oxygen levels on the bottom are bad. A 14 ½ inch weakfish was also caught today.

Note that there will be an inshore fishing tournament and festival November 4 out of Cricket Cove Marina. For more information check out

Southern Grand Strand (Updated October 20)

Water temperatures in the Murrells Inlet area have dropped into the lower-70s.

The bull red drum have showed up off the south end of the Grand Strand, and this morning Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) found an outstanding bite for bull red drum in about 30 feet of water off the beach. Cut menhaden fished around a rock pile was the ticket.

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 20)

Inshore water temperatures in the Hilton Head area are holding pretty steady, and they have only dropped into the high-70s. Clarity is low.

There has been a lot of wind and big tides in the Hilton Head area, and as a result Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the trout fishing is still a little off.

The pattern for catching redfish is basically unchanged, and you need to get in the small creeks and target them around structure. However, the bull reds seem to have left the inshore waters after briefly showing up. With cooler weather anglers hope they will return again.

Sporadically there have been some good catches of black drum, particularly fishing live shrimp near the bottom around structure in fairly deep inshore water such as holes in the back of creeks.

Freshwater fishing trends

Piedmont Area

Lake Russell (Updated October 20)

Lake Russell water levels are ranging between about 473.5 and 474.5 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures have cooled off to around 74-75 degrees. Clarity is still very good.

There's really no change in the pattern for catching bass on Lake Russell, but Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) says that the fishing is getting better. In addition to schooling activity the suspended bite is picking up, and Jerry reminds anglers that when temperatures cool off a few more degrees fish will get closer to the bottom.

Lake Thurmond (Updated October 20)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 321.01 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures are in the low to mid-70s. Water clarity is very good with the absence of rain.

It's not a great time for catching huge striper on Lake Thurmond, but with a solid 10-pound average and fish up to about 15 pounds it's a good time to catch a bunch of quality fish.

Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that his boat is catching fish early in the morning on the bottom off points in 30-40 feet of water in the mid-lake area. Parksville, Shriver Creek, and the Georgia Little River between the bridges have all been good.

Mid-morning 2-5 pound hybrid bass have also been schooling in the same areas.

Of course, there are also still some fish on the lower end that will stay there through the winter.

William advises that crappie can be caught in the backs of creeks 15-20 feet down over 30 feet of water in the channel. They can be caught fishing minnows around brush, or pilling little jigs.

On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that fishing is fair to good. Anchoring on mid-lake points and humps and fan-casting herring is the best pattern, with most of the blues coming in 40-60 feet and most of the channels coming in 15-30 feet. Putting out some live perch or bream in the same areas increases the chances of a flathead biting. Some large blues are also being caught on the upper end of the lake along the river channel.

Lake Wylie (Updated October 20)

Lake Wylie is at 96.8% of full pool, and water temperatures are around 74-76 degrees. The lake is pretty clear for Wylie, although in the very backs of some creeks there is some color.

While there still isn't a clear pattern for catching bass on Lake Wylie, the junk-fishing bite is slightly improved in the last couple of weeks. Guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that it's still not easy to catch fish, but with some cooler, more stable weather things are picking up a little. You will still need a combination of techniques to put together a limit on the lake.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated October 20)

Lake Greenwood water temperatures have dropped to around 73 degrees, and water levels are at 438.08 (full pool is 440.0). Clarity is pretty good.

When he isn't winning 278-man tournaments on Lake Murray, veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter is keeping up with the Lake Greenwood bass for us. He reports that it's still not taking a ton of weight to win on Greenwood – recently about 14 pounds has been good enough. As temperatures cool, though, these weights will get better, and fish will move into the creeks. By now they are pretty much all off of deeper brush.

For now, Stan advises starting out fishing main lake pockets and working your way back into the creeks. A buzzbait is still a good bet to throw, as is the Whopper Plopper. It might be a little early for Shad Raps but soon they will be catching fish, and so will a methiolate floating worm. Flipping docks should be part of any pattern your run right now.

Lake Monticello (Updated October 20)

Lake Monticello water temperatures have dropped into the mid to lower-70s, while clarity is still very good. Lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

After a late-summer slowdown, bass fishing on Lake Monticello is getting better, and tournament angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that fish are starting to move shallower. That's Monticello-shallow, not Lake Wateree shallow, and so some good fish are being caught in 7-10 feet of water on Carolina rigs. There has also been a pretty decent topwater bite early in the morning.

Plenty of fish remain deep, too, and using a jigging spoon you can catch bass as well as scads of perch off the right points.

Lake Murray (Updated October 20)

Lake Murray water levels are down to 354.41 and slowly dropping (full pool is 360.00), and water temperatures are in the mid- to lower-70s. Clarity remains good.

In the SC BASS Federation 6-man bass tournament on Lake Murray recently the Greenwood Bassmasters extended their domination over the event and the lake. The Greenwood Bassmasters caught 155.39 pounds over the two-day event, while the next closest team didn't break into triple digits. Individual champion Stan Gunter had 37.25 pounds, more than four pounds more than the second place angler. Stan's individual weight was more than about half of the clubs' total weights.

Stan heard that a few fish were caught on buzzbaits, and there were probably a few fish caught running the banks (although it is obvious from weights that "just fishing" was not a successful pattern. Unless you know what you are doing it's tough out there).

For Stan individually as well as the overall Greenwood Bassmasters everything was caught "over cane." Stan caught about 20 fish Friday when he weighed over 22 pounds, and even though he only caught five Saturday they were the right ones and he still put up more than 15 pounds. A front came through, and he went from wearing a T-shirt and shorts to a jacket.

All but two of the fish Stan weighed came on a fluke, and most of the fish were in about 18 feet of water. Since the FLW Cup the fish have been beat on so much that just casting at the cane isn't enough, and the Greenwood Bassmasters (who won the 2009 6-Man on Murray with a similar lead) have been fishing for these suspended cane fish long enough that they know how to adjust from day-to-day. That there are three "Gunters" on the Greenwood Bassmasters and they all share information doesn't hurt.

Lake Wateree (Updated October 20)

Lake Wateree is at 97.6 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 73-74 degrees. The lake is pretty clear for Wateree.

Bass fishing is still really tough on Lake Wateree, and CATT owner Brett Collins says that this is the latest in October that he has seen the fishing this difficult. Usually by the first of October he sees fish moved up shallow in the pockets, but this year it just doesn't seem to have happened yet. With the CBC next weekend anglers are being pretty-tightlipped about how they are catching them but there doesn't seem to be a good pattern right now. 12 pounds is a monster bag on Wateree at the moment.

The better bet to catch Wateree fish remains targeting crappie, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that with cooler temperatures fish are starting to move around a bit. You can still catch some fish on brush in 15-20 feet, and they are suspended higher than a few weeks ago because of the sun's angle.

However, the most exciting new bite can be found up the lake in the river run around Wateree Creek. There aren't a ton of fish up there but the bulk of the crappie should be headed that way, and you can catch some fish pushing (tight-lining) or pulling (long-lining/ trolling) minnows. Sometimes they are up on the ledge in 11-12 feet, and sometimes they are backed off into 15-18 feet. Because the crappie are following the baitfish, which are themselves still moving around, they aren't staying on one spot yet.

Santee Cooper System (Updated October 20)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.21 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.18 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). In less than a week water temperatures have dropped almost 10 degrees from 79 to 70. Clarity is better than normal.

The catfish bite on the Santee Cooper lakes is still pretty good, and Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that the best bite is in the 20-30 foot range, with a few fish caught in less than 20 feet. Drifting cut shad he has picked up lots of 2-6 pound fish, and there have been a decent number of 20+ pound fish caught.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that he has also been catching fish in the same depth range, although with the cooler weather he wonders if they will move shallower soon.

The crappie bite remains pretty good, and they are still catching them fairly shallow in 8-14 feet of water over 15-24 feet. While they have looked around the deeper brush fish just haven't moved there yet. There are also getting to be pretty good numbers of big bream on the brush piles.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated October 20)

Lake Jocassee is at 90 percent of full pool, and surface temperatures are around 73 degrees. Clarity is normal (very clear).

Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that trout fishing is still very slow on Lake Jocassee, but luckily Guide Rob McComas' (828-674-5041) is back on Jocassee and getting dialed in on the big largemouth. Rob says that even though it is the middle part of October the lake is still fishing like September or even late August, and the fish are basically still in a late summer pattern. There does not appear to have been a big migration of fish towards the banks.

When water temperatures are still warm Rob says that there are basically two options for catching fish on Jocassee. You can either fish deep, or you can grind it out with topwater lures around tree tops or rock ledge banks. Rob prefers the latter, as he believes that even though the fish spend a lot of time out in open water when they are ready to feed they go shallow. It's almost like musky fishing that way, he says. While some laydowns/ trees are holding fish right now, he is having better luck with a walking bait around rock ledge banks. The "mid-lake" area around Jumping Off Rock – not way up the river or in the big pool – has been most productive.

Rob notes that if you find a big school of spotted bass they can be aggressive, while individuals are less likely to take a bait. He is still marking a lot of fish off points in about 30 feet of water.

Lake Keowee (Updated October 20)

Lake Keowee is at 96.0 percent of full pool, and with cooler weather water temperatures have started to drop. The southern and northern ends of the lake are around 78 degrees, and in the mid-lake they are in the lower 80s. Water clarity is very good on the main lake.

Fall fishing continues to improve on Lake Keowee, and veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that fish are feeding heavily on threadfin shad and there is more schooling activity throughout the day. Fish are following bait and moving quickly, but when they are on the surface they can be caught on a variety of topwater lures and crankbaits. Most of the schooling fish are in the main lake and entrances to the major creeks, but as water temperatures drop they will move further back into the creeks.

Lake Hartwell (Updated October 20)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 651.72 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are around 73-75 degrees. Water clarity remains very good.

It's a pretty good time to catch striped and hybrid bass on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-230-7363) reports that the fish are slowly working their way up the lake. Right now they are about 1/3 to halfway up both the Seneca and Tugaloo Rivers, and continuing to move up.

Most days the fish are being caught on down-lines fished out in the river channel, with herring down about 40-50 feet over 115-140 feet of water. Some days, though, the fish are all on ridges and humps in 45-48 feet of water. There is some light schooling activity, almost exclusively in the evening.

Lake Russell guide and veteran tournament angler Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) won the recent ABA Ram Open Series Championship on Hartwell, and he caught most of his bass on topwater lures and a drop shot. He was concentrating on main lake points in 25-40 feet of water, and he found most of the fish around brush and some over standing timber. A few fish were as shallow as 10-12 feet. The first day he caught most of the fish on top with an Ima Skimmer, and while they weren't on the surface the second day he managed to get bites in the same areas with a watermelon seed worm.

On the crappie front, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that there have been some nice fish caught on minnows over brush and around bridges at night about 10 feet down over 18 feet of water.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off