Freshwater Fishing Trends - January 25, 2019

Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of, South Carolina's premier fishing report source. Customers of the Angler's Headquarters online tackle store have access to daily updates and full-length reports on its site.

New size limits and dates in place for Santee striped bass

Striped Bass

Recent changes to state law will extend the period during which striped bass caught in the Santee River system can be kept. The law changes also additional size/slot requirements for keeper fish.

Within the boundaries of the Santee River system (including lakes Marion and Moultrie), from October 1st through June 15th, it is “unlawful to take or possess a striped bass less than twenty-three inches or greater than twenty-five inches, provided that one striped bass taken or possessed may be greater than twenty-six inches."

Piedmont Area

Lake Russell (Updated January 25)

Lake Russell water levels are right around full pool (475.00) and water temperatures range from about 48-50. The backs of creeks are stained, with the front of creeks less stained, and the extreme lower lake is fairly clear.

Winter bass fishing on Lake Russell has been pretty good this week, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that his boat is catching fish in 30-57 feet of water with a jigging spoon and drop shot rig. They are mainly focusing on the main lake and mouth of creeks. Some fish are on the bottom and some are suspended.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is still finding a mixed bag of species in about 38 feet of water, but this week they have mainly caught spotted bass and yellow perch.

It’s been a good week for striped bass and hybrids on Lake Russell, and Jerry’s boat has been catching them with a jigging spoon as well as on Alabama rigs in the same areas where he is bass fishing. The best fishing is coming on the lower end of the lake, and the birds are not really helping point to the fish right now. Jerry has seen some fish swirling on the surface and is having success casting to them.

Anglers can also pull free lines in the same areas.

Lake Thurmond (Updated January 24)

Clarks Hill water levels are up to 327.97 (full pool is 330.00) and with all the rain and wind the lake is staying pretty dirty. Water temperatures are in the upper 40s to lower 50s.

It wasn’t quite enough for a tournament win recently, but tournament bass angler Josh Rockefeller of Augusta reports that they are still finding numbers of good 3-plus-pound fish very shallow and catching them on a ¾-ounce Buckeye Lures jigging blade. They found the fish shallow in both clear and dirty water, with some of the fish stacked up on shallow brush and others still relating to points adjacent to ditches. Everything was in about two feet of water with deeper water nearby. Following the loons remains a great way to locate fish, and they will keep you from fishing dead water. They have still not found a deep bite although some anglers may be catching fish around deeper rock.

On the striper and hybrid front, William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports very little change in the pattern. They are still catching fish from 15-20 feet deep down to the bottom in about 30 feet of water, and most of the action is still the creek mouths. Down-lines are still working well but you can also pull free-lines and planer boards. As with the bass, bird activity is showing where the bass are and the bite is overall pretty steady. Most of the action remains concentrated up the lake and out the river arms. Overall the fishing remains very good.

The crappie bite is still pretty good, and William Sasser Guide Service reports that they continue to catch fish near submerged timber in the South Carolina Little River. Trolling jigs about 10-12 feet deep in 20-25 feet of water has been the best pattern.

The bite for big catfish remains highly inconsistent, and Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that locating the big blues from one day to the next remains very tricky. Baitfish can be found from a few feet deep down to 60 feet of water, which means that there are fish from the mouth of the creeks all the way to the backs as well as around main lake humps and points.

Under the circumstances the best approach is still to cover more water than usual, and anchoring on highly travelled areas for 30-45 minutes and then moving on if there are no bites is the best pattern.

Lake Wylie (Updated January 23)

Lake Wylie is at 98.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have dropped into the 47-49 degree range. As of earlier this week the latest round of rain has muddied up the lake again, but because there is so much water being pulled through the lake clarity can vary from section to section.

After a slight improvement in fishing conditions on Lake Wylie last week, tournament bass angler Reid McGinn of Fort Mill reports that the water has gotten dirtier again. One constant is that the bite is still tough and weights continue to be pretty low, with winning bags in recent tournaments ranging from about 11 to 13 to 14 pounds.

There is still no great pattern, but the best results continue to come on a shallow running crankbait fished around rocks and points in about 8 feet of water or less. A jig can also be fished in the same areas, and this is mainly a dirty water pattern.

In areas with clearer water fishing an Alabama rig or a jerkbait around main points in the creeks and main lake is the best pattern. Concentrate on 10-20 feet of water.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that he still rates the action as very good. Rodger is drifting in the morning in 20-35 feet of water, and then in the afternoon when the shallows warm he is anchoring and fishing in 3-8 feet of water. Cut gizzard shad is working well.

Rodger is also still trolling for crappie and finding them suspended 15-20 feet deep in 37-41 feet of water at the mouth of major creeks. You will also pick up some big white perch this way.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated January 24)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 435.07 (full pool is 440.0) and water temperatures remain in the lower 50s. The lake is still very dirty and especially with the latest round of rain they should continue to pull a lot of water through the lake.

Lake Greenwood fishing has not changed much recently, although tournament weights are slightly down. Still, veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter of Saluda reports that bass continue to bite and a shallow pattern still dominates. There have been some good reports on spinnerbaits, and of course a lot of anglers are still fishing a crankbait in shallow, rocky areas. Alabama rigs, usually so popular at this time of year, are still worth throwing but just not as good in the dirty conditions.

Continue to follow the birds to locate fish and keep your eyes open for schooling striped bass.

Lake Monticello (Updated January 24)

Lake Monticello water temperatures remain in the lower 50s, and lake levels typically fluctuate daily. Overall the lake is fairly clear.

Late January is usually a tough time for bass fishing on Lake Monticello, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that recent tournament results are consistent with this expectation. While a nice 18-pound sack won a recent mid-sized tournament on Monticello, weights below that dropped off to 14 pounds in second place and then the rest of the field unable to weigh a full limit. A substantial portion of the field did not catch a fish.

The best pattern continues to be throwing an Alabama rig, and fishing the 10-20 foot range around points is generating the best catches. The spoon bite is almost non-existent, but some fish are being caught on drop shot rigs in 20-30 feet of water around points and humps.

The catfish bite remains a bit slow on Monticello, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the best way to catch fish is anchoring in about 45 feet of water on long points. White perch and gizzard shad are the best baits.

Lake Murray (Updated January 24)

Lake Murray water levels are at 350.24 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures vary from the upper 40s to lower 50s. Up the rivers the water remains the color of a basketball, and the lake is stained all the way down.

Once again a cautionary note is that if temperatures drop the pattern could change, but for now Captain Doug Lown reports that pretty much all the bass continue to be caught in shallow water less than 6 feet deep. Shallow water adjacent to deep water is still best, especially if water temperatures do drop in the next week, and the presence of rock is a key. Fish are being caught on crankbaits, jigs and jerkbaits, and right now it seems that the best area has been the lower lake. In the last CATT tournament it seemed that plenty of fish were caught up the lake but the quality was not as good.

Striped bass fishing on Murray hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past week, but Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that it does seem a few more fish are starting to get up the rivers. Generally fish are in about the 5-6 foot range. A mix of free-lines and planer boards is catching fish, and anglers are also having success throwing double rigs with bucktails and ice flies at the birds. The afternoon bite is still better.

Captain Brad reports that if water levels will ever stabilize crappie should get into a better pattern, but for now fish are pretty scattered and anglers basically have to move around a lot until they find some bait. Up the rivers has not been good because the current has been so strong.

The best pattern has been trolling jigs in the mouth of the creeks in the mid-lake area, and fish have generally been about 5-6 feet down in 20 feet of water. Colder temperatures may push them deeper again.

Unfortunately, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the catfish bite on Lake Murray remains really tough.

Lake Wateree (Updated January 25)

Lake Wateree is down to 95.1 percent of full pool, and temperatures have dropped to the upper 40s.

Bass fishing continues to get better on Lake Wateree, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that with lower water levels the fish are biting better. Dearal still recommends fishing main lake points, and crankbaits, jigs and shakey heads are the best baits. Rocky areas and steep banks are still good to fish, and fishing in the same areas as bait is preferable.

In the last week crappie fishing has improved, and veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that as the lake has started to settle out and the water has stabilized more of the lake is becoming fishable. While there are more reports from down the lake, it’s worth trying up the lake again and fishing 18-22 feet along the river channel right on the bottom. Further down the lake fish 10 feet deep off the edge of the old river channel in about 15 feet of water.

As is typical in January there is also some good fishing in the Beaver Creek area, where it is typically a few degrees warmer in the back. Both long-line trolling and tight-line pushing 6-9 feet deep in 7-12 feet of water will work.

Will still recommends fishing jigs tipped with minnows, particularly Fish Stalker jigs in orange, ugly green and yellow.

On the catfish front, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that in 6-11 feet of water there continues to be a very good shallow bite in the creeks. The creeks are full of bait, and numbers of blue catfish from 8-25 pounds are very good at anchor with cut bait.

You also have a decent chance of picking up a nice striped bass on this pattern.

Santee Cooper System (Updated January 25)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 76.48 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.13 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface temperatures range from about 47-50 degrees. The lake was clearing before the latest round of rain.

It’s still not a good time to catch numbers of bass on the Santee Cooper lakes, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that they are still catching some good ones. The best pattern remains heading for the least stained water and fishing in 6-10 feet with crankbaits and spinnerbaits around wood. Look for little drop-offs where fish are feeding up on cold or even dying shad.

The upper lake is still fishing pretty tough, although with a whole lot of current small breaks in the current do create some opportunities. Overall, though, cold and muddy water is tough sledding and you are better off targeting areas where the water is more settled.

The pattern for striped bass fishing is mostly unchanged, and Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that they are still catching some fish trolling Rattle Traps. Numbers are not what they would be if the water were clear as conditions have fish scattered, but around deep water or deep drops fish are can be found around bigger schools of bait. There are schools of shad suspended in deep water, although if the shallows warm a couple of degrees they will move up. Some fish are also being caught on jigging spoons in 20-30 feet of water.

Crappie fishing remains a little slow, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) has actually been heading to the Santee river rather than focus on the lakes. However, some good ones can still be caught in the lakes even though the numbers are way down. The best pattern is still fishing 14-20 feet down in 25-30 feet of water. They do not expect a huge improvement in the bite until spring.

On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn reports that with tough weather conditions there has not been a lot of fishing activity in the past week. However, the pattern is mostly unchanged and fish still seem to be concentrated in 30-40 feet of water. Drifting flats with some bait on them with cut gizzard shad is the best pattern.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated January 23)

Lake Jocassee is at 96.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are down to about 55 degrees. Water conditions have stabilized and there is less floating debris than last week.

The trout bite on Lake Jocassee has varied from day to day, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that in the tournament Saturday there were not a lot of big fish caught. However, the two days before that they caught a lot of 4- to 6-pound fish. While the fish do seem to be taking the occasional day off of biting, overall it remains a good time to catch big fish.

Fish are scattered out around the lake, and they can be still be caught from the dam to up the rivers. Most of the fish are coming in about 40-45 feet, but Sam’s boat also caught a good one at 28 feet recently. His boat is still exclusively pulling spoons, but there have also been some nice fish caught on live bait. They are also catching a lot of spotted bass and even some big yellow perch, particularly for the guys fishing live bait.

Water temperatures are still above normal, and as a result Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) reports that there is not a lot of change in the pattern, and it’s still a really good time to catch spotted bass.

The best bet is to head into the creeks and look for deeper holes with 60-80 feet of water. Spots (as well as trout and yellow perch) will be stacked up in these areas, with most of the perch and bass related to the bottom and the trout higher in the water column. Jigging spoons, blade baits, and live bait will all work.

Once temperatures drop a few more degrees it’s a good time to start look at steep bluff banks and thinking about fishing a floating fly. However, temperatures need to approach the 40s for this pattern to really take off.

Lake Keowee (Updated January 17)

Lake Keowee is at 98.8 percent of full pool. Water temperatures have dropped to around 53 degrees on the ends of the lake, while they remain in the low to mid-60s around the warmwater discharge in the middle of the lake. Clarity has improved again.

Unlike some Upstate fish that can get lethargic in the winter, Lake Keowee bass and particularly spotted bass continue to feed right on through. Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that Keowee can be a great place to use typical striped bass techniques when the mercury drops and Hartwell striper get sluggish.

This week he has found schools of fish on the bottom in about 40 feet of water, with fish so flat to the bottom that sometimes only one fish out of a big school would show up on electronics. He advises stopping even if you only mark one fish. The best action has come down-lining live herring 35-45 feet deep on the Seneca side.

Bill finds that Keowee spotted bass don’t really want to eat small herring or minnows, but they will attack larger herring by the tail. Sometimes they will pull the rod tip in the water without getting the bait, as if killing it before eating it. The hook-up ratio is not as good as with striper but they can be caught with some patience.

On the artificial lure side, veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that fish can still be caught on shakey heads, drop shots and jigging spoons in the 30- to 50-foot range. Look for bait in the back of creeks and on the main lake in deeper water.

Lake Hartwell (Updated January 23)

Lake Hartwell water levels are down to 658.34 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have dropped into the mid- to upper-40s depending on location. With another round of rain there are some stained areas.

There’s no major change with the striper and hybrids, and Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that fishing remains a little tough. There are several patterns, with one being free-lining in the mouths of creeks. You can also free-line or pull umbrella rigs in the clearer water on the main lake, and if you mark fish you can sit on top of them with a jigging spoon.

You can also still fish down-lines, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that he is still finding fish relating to points, ridges and humps in 35-45 feet of water in the rivers. Dropping temperatures could move the fish further up the rivers or make them more lethargic, but so far he finds the bite fairly stable.

Captain Bill Plumley reports that catfish continue to be really difficult to catch, although the crappie bite remains good. They are catching fish both trolling and anchoring over brush about 15-20 feet down over 25-30 feet of water. Both minnows and jigs are working.

On the bass front, the bite is still pretty tough, and it’s only been taking about 13 pounds to win tournaments. Guide Brad Fowler reports that with the water high and getting stained again he continues to look to shallow patterns. In the muddy creeks there continues to be a shallow bite fishing around rock, wood, or broom straw with crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

In the creeks there isn’t much of a deeper bite, but with the main lake still clear there continues to be a good deep bite in 30-50 feet of water. With water levels high for Hartwell in the winter a lot of the ditches that bass like to stay in are deeper than their ideal 35-45 foot range, and so more fish remain suspended right now than usual. Spoons and drop shots are both working for deep fish. Brad advises looking for the birds to help locate fish on the main lake

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.