Catch of the Week: Darcy's spottail bass
NOTE: A previous version of this article misidentified the catch as a catfish. After a closer look we have realized this was a spottail bass. We apologize for the error.
This winning catch was sent to us by Darcy Hill of Mount Pleasant.
Darcy titled her photo 'That Escalated Quickly'.
As our Catch of the Week winner, Darcy will be receiving a $100 gift card from Seel's Outboard in Mount Pleasant.
If you have an epic catch you think could win next week, CLICK HERE to submit.
Saltwater fishing trends - Provided by SCNDR (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 September 15)
Inshore water temperatures on the north end of the Grand Strand have dropped and range from the low 80s in the creeks to about 77 in the surf. The water is very dirty.
The bite hasn't changed a lot since the storm even though the water has gotten dirty, but there have been decent numbers of small redfish caught inshore – before the storm they were a little hard to locate. Captain Patrick "Smiley" Kelly reports that his boat is now catching them in very shallow water throwing 1/4 ounce jigheads with live mullet, live shrimp or cut mullet.
Trout and flounder are still being caught, and the bull drum are being caught on dead high tide near the Little River jetties.
Cherry Grove Pier (843-249-1625) reports that there are lots of reds and black drum being caught off the pier in only 3-4 feet of water, with the reds running generally 30-35 inches. Plenty of 10-15 inch bluefish are around as well as the usual croaker, whiting, and perch. There is a king mackerel tournament off the pier this weekend.
Southern Grand Strand (Updated September 15)
Water temperatures in the Murrells Inlet area are around 80 degrees. Conditions were muddy until yesterday, when some crystal clear water came through (possibly pushed up from further south). It's unclear if that will last.
It doesn't appear that too much has changed at the south end of the Grand Strand after the storm, although Captain J of Fishful Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356) did what he always did when it gets muddy... fished for black drum. Drum have super sensitive senses of smell and right now they are thick out by the jetties. Fresh cut shrimp is the ticket.
Except for emphasis on drum the pattern is about the same, and mullet are still everywhere. The bull red drum numbers are also getting better around the jetties.
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 September 15)
Inshore water temperatures in the Hilton Head area should still be in the lower 80s, even after 4-6 inches of rain. The water is very dirty but starting to clear slightly.
Before the storm Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley (843-368-2126) reports that the bite was pretty similar to two weeks ago, meaning he was catching a lot of small redfish and the occasional bigger fish. They had two 31-inchers in the creek last week.
The trout bite was already tough before the storm, but this should set it back even further.
The most exciting new action is that bull red drum are starting to show up. For about a week there have been bull drum around the Highway 171 bridge over the Broad River, and they should be in the area through the latter part of October. Popular spots are around the major sandbars in the Broad River where anglers fish for cobia, at the mouth of the Port Royal Sound around limestone hard bottom areas, on the Hilton Head side of the Beaufort shipping channel, out from the docks of Spanish Wells in the Calibogue Sound, and at a variety of areas off Harbour Town depending on the tide. Later on in the season they will be around underwater submerged rock piles on the edge of the Savannah River shipping channel.
Freshwater fishing trends
Lake Russell (Updated September 15)
Lake Russell water levels are ranging between about 471.5 and 472.5 daily (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures had fallen into the mid-70s after the storm. Warm weather should raise them a few degrees again. Clarity is not bad in the main lake, but some of the creeks are muddy after about 2 1/2 inches of rain.
On the bass front, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that there is not a lot of change in the pattern but with cooler temperatures the fishing is getting better. There are more fish grouping up on the points.
Unlike Hartwell and other area lakes, the schooling activity on Russell has been insignificant. That could change at any time so be sure to have a topwater lure tied on during this early fall period
Lake Thurmond (Updated September 15)
Lake Thurmond water levels are at 323.25 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures have dropped and then rebounded. They are around 82 right now. Clarity is normal.
Bass fishing has gotten really good on Lake Thurmond, and Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that schooling activity has been pretty awesome on the lake – particularly for 2-2 1/2 pound spotted bass. They generally stay up for ten to twenty seconds, then go down, and then surface five minutes later maybe 50 yards away. You have to be ready when they come up but if you make a good cast you can get bit every time they surface. A Gunfish or double fluke rig is hard to beat.
When fish are not on the surface, a 1/2 ounce Su-Spin blade (our store still has the double-bladed version) with a pearl paddle fluke is a good way to get bit in the same areas. Most of the schooling has been on the deeper ends of points and there are also some fish out on humps.
As temperatures cool the shallow buzzbait bite is getting better, and instead of being an early morning bite you can throw it all day in pockets with laydowns and docks. A white floating worm a couple of feet behind a small barrel swivel is also a good bet right now.
Theres not a lot of change with the striper and hybrid pattern, and Captain William Sasser (864-333-2000) reports that his boat is still catching fish about 50 feet deep. However, now they are catching those fish on the bottom off points. There has also been some good schooling activity around Parksville out in the middle where fish are chasing threadfin. There are some decent fish mixed in with a lot of small ones. The best schooling has been mid-morning and late in the afternoon.
On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that there is not a lot of change, but while the shallower point/ hump pattern is still good he is also catching some fish a little deeper now. Some of the bigger blues are being caught in 50-60 feet of water at the bottom of ledges.
Lake Wylie (Updated August 31)
Lake Wylie is at 96.7 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have dropped into the low 80s. There is some stain in the creeks but it's not bad.
After a tough summer for bass fishing, guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that fishing is finally getting better on Lake Wylie. Fish can still be caught in 8-15 feet of water off points, but the shallow bite is starting to pick up on topwaters, jigs, square-billed crankbaits, Chatterbaits, and basically any other lure than you can cover a lot of water with and have confidence in.
Since the weather has broken early this year the creek bite is coming on right now, and shad are starting to migrate into the backs and fish are following them. The resident creek fish are also biting better with more bait back there to activate them.
Schooling has also gotten better, and you should certainly look around bridges. Creek flats are another good place to look for surface action.
No change in the catfish bite, which Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports is still very good.
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 September 15)
Lake Murray water levels have stabilized around 355.18 (full pool is 360.00), and water temperatures have fallen into the mid-70s. Overall the lake is pretty clear, but there are some areas where the wind has really stirred up the silt and stained it. The river is pretty dirty.
Bass are in a transition period, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that with days getting shorter as well as weather changes bait seems to be starting to move into the creeks in a typical fall move. Fish are transitioning out of their summer pattern and getting shallower. They are in different places that 4-6 weeks ago around the time that the FLW Championship was here, and Doug says that a lot of fish are in the last places they go before transitioning to the bank. Instead of being in 18-20 feet of water now they are more likely to be found in 8-13 feet. While fish can still be caught in some of the same places as during the Cup, they are more likely to be smaller ones. But until the lake turns over fish will be chasing bait/ suspending and so throwing something like a Pop-R that can cover water is a good bet.
While fish are headed towards the bank, many are holding in the middle of bays and pockets as where a drain runs back into a cove. Others are relating to subtle underwater points. Instead of positioning your boat where you can cast onto the bank try staying two casts off of it. Dropping water levels before the storm is another reason fish have been hesitant to get close to the bank.
The Oakley Big Bass Tournament is next weekend, and for the last couple of years most of the big fish have been caught shallow on buzzbaits. If you like fishing this way try throwing a small buzzbait or a floating worm in about 3-6 feet of water slightly off the bank.
On the striped bass side, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that from Burton Point to Dreher Island there has been a lot of schooling activity. Fish seem to be related to the channel, and it seems as if their positioning has a lot to do with bait migrations. Since SCE&G stopped pulling water to lower the lake before the storm it seems like fish have started heading back into the creeks, after briefly backing up when they were pulling last week. There are still some fish in the extreme lower pool.
While fish can be caught in 30-40 feet on down-lines or on free-lines, right now it seems that the best fish are being caught schooling. While it's a random bite and fish could come up in the morning, mid-day or evening, if you stick with it in areas where bait is present they will come up.
On the crappie front, Brad says that fish are starting to bite over 15-20 foot brush at the mouths of creeks.
Lake Wateree (Updated September 15)
Lake Wateree is at 97.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have dropped further into the mid-70s. The water is stained but not muddy.
Once again, the results of the most recent CATT Open on Lake Wateree reflect that bass fishing on Lake Wateree is pretty tough. On September 9 Craig and Tim Haven (pictured below) brought an impressive 14.05 pounds to the scale to win a tournament in which no other team surpassed 11 1/2 pounds.
With a high school tournament championship on Lake Wateree recently, FLW angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden says that after Duke drew down the lake in anticipation of more hurricane-related rain than actually materialized fish are pulled out of the creeks. He advises looking on the main lake or the front third of creeks, and staying out of the backs even though fish are shallow. The primary patterns are throwing a frog or flipping the grass, fishing a crankbait around rocks, and throwing a jig or worm around docks. With weights where they are obviously nothing is hot.
Each morning there has been some fog, and unlike on some other lakes Dearal notes that on Wateree that usually shuts down the topwater bite.
Santee Cooper System (Updated September 15)
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.67 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.51 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are around 78. Clarity is normal right now as the area did not have a tremendous amount of rain or windy during the storm – although runoff could change that.
This still isn't the time to catch monster catfish on the Santee Cooper lakes, but if you are looking for numbers of fish it's an excellent time to go after them. Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that on days when there is a little wind for drifting the mainly 2-6 pound fish have been biting like crazy, with some better ones mixed in. In a day of fishing from daylight to dark catching 100 fish is quite possible.
The best depth has been to fish in the high 20s up to about 32-34 feet, but if you get into water 35 feet or deeper then you have to deal with little 8-inch fish by the ton. This is typical at this time of year.
Lake Jocassee (Updated September 15)
Lake Jocassee is at 91.0 percent of full pool, and surface temperatures are still in the mid to upper 70s. Clarity is normal (very clear).
On the trout front, Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that the annual fall slowdown is taking place right now. The fishing has gotten tough, and on the last couple of trips he has ended up targeting spotted bass to get clients' lines pulled.
Catching bass on Lake Jocassee certainly isn't easy, but with water temperatures starting to drop the bite is beginning to improve. Veteran angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that early in the morning fish can be caught on topwater lures, spinnerbaits and crankbaits fished shallow off points. After the sun gets up most fish are being caught deeper on soft plastics on either a shakey head or drop shot in 30 plus feet of water. The best deep bite has been on structure in the 50-foot range, or in areas where bait is present.
Very limited schooling activity has been observed.
For now any tournament bag with 12 or more pounds has been a good sack, but look for weights to improve as temperatures continue to drop.
Lake Keowee (Updated September 15)
Lake Keowee is at 96.4 percent of full pool and water temperatures are in the high 70s on the upper and lower ends, and in the mid-80s in the middle section of the lake around the power plant. Water clarity is good with a little stain in the back of some creeks.
The tropical storm brought a few inches of rain and some cooler days which has finally allowed the water temperatures to begin falling, and as a result bass fishing has improved.
There is a good morning bite on crankbaits, shakey heads and topwater lures on points and shorelines that are shallow and then fall into deeper water. After the sun comes up, shakey heads and drop shots will catch fish.
More schooling activity is underway now. Be sure to have a bait ready at all times to cast to breaking fish. The key is to find areas with concentrations of shad.
Look for schooling fish in depths from 30 feet out to 60 or more feet, and anticipate this activity to continue to increase over the next few weeks. It can happen throughout the day.
Lake Hartwell (Updated September 15)
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 652.53 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have fallen all the way into 73-75 degree range. From the mid-lake down to the dam the water is pretty clear, but up the lake it is quite stained from the storm and appears to be turning over in places.
Fishing for striped and hybrid bass has gotten a lot more exciting in the last couple of days on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that schooling activity has really turned on since the storm. Fish can still be caught on down-lines fished in 25-65 feet of water over 100 plus feet on the lower end of the main lake, and there are also some fish making their way up the creeks that can be caught 25-50 feet down over 60-100 feet. However, these fish have been slow to eat.
The very best bite has been for schooling fish, and when you locate these fish they are hungry. Some days the schooling activity has been first thing, but on days like yesterday Chip saw the action from 11:00 to 1:00 when fish pretty much stayed up the whole time! Sometimes they were over 90 feet of water, but at times they would chase the bait up as shallow as 10 feet.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that you can also still catch some fish trolling lead core line and bucktails with 12-14 colors out.
On the bass front, Guide Brad Fowler reports that you can catch fish about any way you want to. As water temperatures have improved the bite has really picked up, and on drop shots, offshore topwaters, and more fish are feeding well. Plenty of bass are mixed in with the striper schooling.
The only question mark is where the big fish are, and right now the better ones have been a little scarce.
Catfish continue to feed well.