Freshwater Fishing Trends - September 21, 2018

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 September 18)

Lake Russell water levels are around 471.8 (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures range from about 83-86.

Bass are still biting on Lake Russell, but not like they were a few weeks ago. Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that one day he was catching tons of spotted bass and perch out in deep water, and when he went back the next day they were all gone. None of his 7 or 8 spots produced. Despite the warm water Jerry is seeing some signs of an early turnover, with some bubbling on the surface, and so he wonders if water quality has something to do with it.

The bass Jerry is still catching are in 10-20 feet of water around brush, mostly in the main lake and the middle section of creeks. They are not in the backs. He has caught a few fish on live bait but most have come on soft plastics fished on a shakey head or worm.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports that spotted bass have started schooling, and at times he has found some pretty good action.

Wendell reports that he has spent the most boat time recently fishing for striped bass on Lake Russell. Fish can be caught on both ends of the lake, and in the Hartwell tailrace he has gotten fish on live herring pulled on planer boards and free-lines. However, the bite has been a little better on the lower end of the lake down-lining 30-40 feet deep.

Wendell’s boat has also been picking up some white and yellow perch on drop shot rigs in 25-30 feet of water, and there are a few spotted bass mixed in.

While Wendell has not been targeting crappie they can be caught in the creeks fishing with minnows around brush 12-14 feet down over 20 feet of water.

Lake Thurmond (Updated September 21)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 326.55 (full pool is 330.00), and water temperatures remain in the mid-80s. Water clarity has mostly returned to normal.

Back on the water after the storm, William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports that the pattern for striped and hybrid bass has changed very little. In the morning they are still catching fish in 30-38 feet of water on down-lines fished around humps in the mid- to lower lake. Some people are pulling umbrella rigs. There are very occasional fish breaking, but water temperatures will need to cool a bit before schooling activity takes off in earnest.

On the bass front, Augusta University fishing team angler Josh Rockefeller reports that the patterns remain about the same since temperatures have not really dropped. Going back in the creeks and throwing a white and black popping frog in the shallow, dirty water is a good way to catch some quality fish. There is also a suspended bite and fishing off humps and points in 10-20 feet of water you can catch a lot of two pounders, and get even more blow-ups, throwing a clear Spook or Pop-R. The fish seem to be concentrating on smaller bait so they want something more finesse-oriented.

There’s also still not a lot of change with the catfish, and Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the night bite for flatheads, blues and channels is still pretty good. Anchoring on both main lake points and secondary points is working well, especially points with rocks and boulders present. The night depth can range from a few feet to as deep as 50 feet. Live bream are the best way to target flatheads, and cut herring will catch the other species. It’s a broken record, but daytime fishing will get better once temperatures cool.

Lake Wylie (Updated September 21)

Lake Wylie is at 97.5 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have fallen into the low 80s. There is dirty water coming out of all of the creeks and by the weekend the whole lake should be stained. A ton of water is running through the chain.

Guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that fishing has been really tough on Lake Wylie for a while now. However, the dirty water offers a glimmer of hope for a couple of better weeks of fishing. Bryan anticipates throwing topwaters, Chatterbaits, square-billed crankbaits and other baits that typically create a lot of noise and/or vibration up shallow in the dirty water.

Because there is a lot of current in the lake there may still be some fish offshore, and so anglers can look around tapering points, ledges, steep drops on the river channel and other offshore spots. But with clarity being low Bryan expects better results shallow.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated September 21)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 438.08 (full pool is 440.0).

It’s typical for the Lake Greenwood offshore bass bite to deteriorate this late in the season due to a variety of factors, including a long summer of fishing pressure and reduced water quality. Add in the effects of recent rains and SC BASS team boater Stan Gunter of Saluda says that it’s a no-brainer to start shallow in the creeks and up the rivers and fish the dirtiest water you can find. Stan has had success lately fishing square-billed crankbaits, buzzbaits, and flipping cover, keying on any wood or shallow docks he can find. However, you want to fish areas with some deep water nearby and not very shallow, flat creeks.

Lake Monticello (Updated September 21)

Lake Monticello lake levels generally fluctuate daily and water temperatures are still in the mid-80s.

Even though temperatures are still hot on Lake Monticello, FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that the bass are starting to make some seasonal changes and gang up around bait out deep. The best lures to use are jigging spoons, drop shot rigs and Alabama rigs.

With temperatures just beginning to (maybe) cool off Andy also suggests throwing topwater lures around the banks.

Lake Murray (Updated September 21)

Lake Murray water levels are at 354.54 (full pool is 360.00) and surface temperatures are in the low to mid-80s. Clarity is good over almost the whole lake.

Lake Murray striped bass have gotten into an early fall pattern, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that late in the afternoon there is a lot of schooling activity in the area between Bomb Island, Spence Island and Pine Island. There are also a ton of fish being caught on down-lines fished 30-50 feet deep in the same stretch over the river channel. This is pretty much a morning bite.

On the bass front, FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that the pattern has been pretty consistent for the last month or so although the fishing has been tough. He is almost exclusively fishing over cane piles in the 18-20 foot range, throwing topwaters and flukes. There has also been a little schooling activity, and there seem to be scattered decent feeding windows throughout the day. Very soon the bite should change, however, and the same pattern should get much better through mid to late-October when the water cools off enough to turn over and then messes up the suspended fishing.

There have also been reports of some fish caught very shallow in the backs of creeks.

In catfish news, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that the fishing still hasn’t gotten very good – although it should very soon. He has picked up a few fish drifting around ledges and humps close to the main river channel in 15-40 feet of water, and you could probably catch some fish anchoring too. The last couple of weeks of September are typically slow but with some cooler weather October should be much better.

Lake Wateree (Updated September 21)

Lake Wateree is at 98.1 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are in the lower 80s. The water is dirty.

Just days ago Lake Wateree was over full, but now that the waters have receded somewhat veteran tournament crappie angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that fish will be back on the brush in 15-21 feet of water. At times and in areas with a lot of current you need to fish in the brush where fish will try to get out of the current, and when the water is calmer they will suspend just over it. Vertically jigging Fish Stalker jigs is still Will’s go-to method for fishing brush, but he also suggests trying minnows as often the fish want the most natural presentation after flood conditions. It’s a good time of year to start looking on the upper end of the lake once the mud and current settle out.

Weather and very high-water conditions have limited bass fishing on Lake Wateree, but FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden reports that there could be an improved shallow bite with the high water levels. He still suggests concentrating on the main lake and front third of creeks with the summer water (and air) temperatures.

Santee Cooper System (Updated September 21)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.63 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.07 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). While a good bit of water is moving through the system it is not too dingy.

Right before the hurricane, bass fishing was already getting better, and B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Guide Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that fish are still moving into a fall pattern. Depending on what end of the lake they are on fish are making a similar but opposite transition into about 2-4 feet of water. On the upper end of the system they are coming out of the woods onto the flats, and on the lower end of the lake they are coming up out of deep water towards shallows. Fish will be setting up around wood and trees in the target depth range, and shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits will both work well. Soft plastics are also still catching fish. In the next week or two as temperatures cool topwater baits should get going.

It’s unclear how the storm has affected the catfish bite, but beforehand Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that he was having good success drifting cut shad in 20-35 feet with the best bite on the deeper end of that range. Fish in the teens and twenties seemed to be around 30 feet, while smaller blues were around 35 feet. There were also a lot of 6-9-pound blues in 25-30.

On the crappie front Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) also has yet to get back on the water, but before the storm fish were biting around brush in 15-20 feet of water.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated September 18)

Lake Jocassee is at 93.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from 80-84 with normal clarity.

It can be difficult to get year-round bass information on Lake Jocassee, but angler Beau Wilder of Charlotte has been on the lake this September and reports that largemouth, spots and smallmouth have all been caught in 20-30 feet of water on soft plastics. He has had the best luck with drop-shot rigs with a morning dawn Roboworm. Most of the fish are in the 2-3-pound range, but they also caught a 9-pound, 5-ounce monster recently on a 3/16-ounce Spot Remover with a green pumpkin Trick Worm. Fish are related to bait, and instead of following a specific break line they are watching the electronics closely and really slowing down around the bait schools. Some fish have also been biting topwater lures up the rivers in areas with running water.

The trout bite continues to get tougher on Lake Jocassee, but Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that they are still catching some fish. There may still be trout at the dam, but perhaps because there is so much bait in the area they have been harder to catch. The better bite has been at the mouth of the rivers, and they are still catching fish trolling spoons in 80-110 feet of water. Remember that come October 1 the minimum size limits will apply again.

Lake Keowee (Updated September 20)

Lake Keowee is at 97.4 percent of full pool, and water temperatures range from 85 on the southern and northern ends of the lake to 91 around the power plant. While water temperatures have peaked, they have not dropped more than a degree or two so far. Water levels on the lake are also down a few feet, most likely due to precautions from the potential hurricane rainfall.

It’s still September, and it still looks a lot like the dog days of summer on Lake Keowee. Veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that fishing remains pretty tough on Keowee with the high-water temperatures, and fish have not started to get into much of a fall pattern yet. When the water does begin to cool, there will be much more schooling activity as the bass chase shad – but so far this is not happening to any significant degree.

The best bet is to fish topwaters early and then move out to deeper water with a shakey head or drop shot in 30 to 40 feet. Keep the topwater handy at all times should fish come up around you.

Lake Hartwell (Updated September 18)

Lake Hartwell water levels are above full at 661.06 (full pool is 660.00), and even though water temperatures dropped a few degrees around the storm they are expected to quickly rebound to 84-85 with the hot weather.

It’s a tough bass bite on Lake Hartwell, and in the recent two-day tournament it only took about 23 pounds total for the win. However, Guide Brad Fowler says that some good things are just starting to happen and schooling activity is picking up on the lake. A lot of fish are out suspended in open water keying on very small bait, and to target them you need to fish something very small like a tiny Blade Runner or a 1/8-ounce bait. Of course you can still catch a bunch of small fish on drop shots fished around offshore brush.

There has also been some very late bream bedding activity on local lakes which opens up a shallow bite, and Brad says that he has seen 3- or 4-pound spotted bass sitting off bream beds at local boat ramps. He has seen bream bedding into August but September was new to him.

Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that water temperatures are several degrees warmer than typical for the time of year, and as a result striped and hybrid bass are still in a deep pattern. His boat is chiefly catching fish early and late down near the dam and at the mouth of creeks. One group of fish is flat on the bottom over humps in about the 60-foot range, although that bite has slowed a bit lately. The better action is fishing 40-60-feet down for fish suspended over very deep water in the 100-plus range. The oxygen levels aren’t great below about 40 feet and so fishing at the shallower end of that range has been better until the fish get really activated. Some early schooling activity is just starting but temperatures really need to drop for it to take off.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that he has found a better bite at night than during the day, and he has also started to see some smaller fish schooling around the dam in the afternoon. Fish are moving around a lot but he has had the best success starting out looking along the river channel.

The catfish bite remains good for channels in 15-25 feet in the evenings, and Captain Bill suggests nightcrawlers, cut herring and dip baits. Anglers who want to target flatheads should fish off main lake points and around islands and shoals in 15-35 feet at night with live bait on the bottom.

Crappie fishing is slow but the best pattern is to fish in 25-30 feet of water around standing timber or brush at the mouth of creeks.

South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.