Freshwater Fishing Trends - November 30, 2018

Information on fishing trends provided courtesy of www.anglersheadquarters.com/, 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 November 27)

Lake Russell water levels are a couple of feet above full pool (full pool is 475.00), and water temperatures have dropped into the upper-50s. The lower end is clear but up the rivers the water is dirty.

As expected cold weather continues to improve bass fishing on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that with more cold weather on the way he expects it to get even better. Jerry’s boat is catching good numbers of fish with minnows (although you can use soft plastics) on a drop shot rig in about 25-30 feet of water, but because water levels are so high a lot of the fish are suspended five to ten feet off the bottom. You can still catch some on the bottom though. Perch and crappie are still mixed in, but largemouth bass remain hard to locate.

Jerry is fishing the creeks less now with high, dirtier water, and he is spending most of his time on the main lake or in the front of creeks.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is still looking for bait schools to target predators like bass, and what he is finding is generally in 25-56 feet of water. He is also sticking to the main lake and front of creeks but is mainly fishing a drop shot right on the bottom. Wendell’s boat is also picking up some catfish.

Striped bass fishing is improving, coinciding with the arrival of birds, and Jerry reports that on Saturday he caught a bunch of striper up to 16 pounds and hybrids up to 8. He is catching them in the same areas as the bass on bigger live bait.

With the arrival of gulls and loons Wendell says the pattern is getting better every day. He still finds that the best bet is to head to the lower end of the lake and fish around the birds with a free-line rig.

Lake Thurmond (Updated November 28)

Lake Thurmond water levels are at 326.65 (full pool is 330.00) and water temperatures have fallen into the 50s, ranging from the lower 50s to the upper 50s depending on area of the lake. The upper part of the lake ranges from stained to muddy, with the top of the lake like chocolate milk.

Bass are starting to do what they are supposed to do in the winter on Lake Thurmond Hill, and Augusta University fishing team angler Josh Rockefeller reports that the fish have started to move into the ditches in the backs. He is targeting 3-5 feet of water, but instead of wanting to be in straight areas fish are in swings and bends. Bait is still crucial and so anglers should look for loon activity before settling into an area.

Josh has actually seen some surface activity, which has tipped him off to where to start fishing, but the fish don’t seem to want a fluke. However, casting a ¾ ounce Buckeye Lures jigging blade has been working really well.

On the striper and hybrid front, William Sasser Guide Service (864-333-2000) reports that fish continue to move up the lake and out in the river/ creek arms. A lot of fish are in the Georgia Little River. They have now gotten into the very backs, and Captain Brad Sasser reports that fish can be caught on down-lines fished relatively shallow in 15-25 feet of water. Some anglers are also fishing free-lines and planer boards.

A few fish can occasionally be seen swirling on the surface, but the better way to locate fish is to by following the birds. Gulls and loons have finally started to show up and offer some clues for finding fish.

Crappie fishing is wide open, and William Sasser Guide Service reports that up the lake and in the South Carolina Little River they are having great success fishing 6-10 feet down over brush piles in about 15 feet of water. Fish are in the backs of creeks and they are very aggressive – for crappie.

While anglers can catch them tight-lining or trolling, Captain Brad is having the best results double anchoring over brush and fishing 6-8 rods straight down with minnows.

As temperatures have dropped Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the catfish bite has cooled off to a more moderate fair to good, although the pattern has not changed much.

Anchoring on main lake points and humps that top out in the 35- to 50-foot range has been working well, although with baitfish starting to ball up in the mouth of creeks some bigger blues are starting to move into those areas. Cut herring will catch blues and channels in the 1- to 10-pound range while bigger baits like gizzard shad, white perch and bream are better for targeting bigger fish.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) reports that at the top of the lake they are still catching strong numbers of white and yellow perch, with a lot of smaller striper and hybrids as well as some largemouth mixed in. They are catching fish on both minnows fished on a drop shot and jigging spoons in about 25 feet of water. Some fish are suspended as shallow as 8-10 feet where they can be caught on a crankbait.

Lake Wylie (Updated November 28)

Lake Wylie is at 99.0 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have dropped all the way into the lower 50s. With a ton of rain the water is dirty almost everywhere, and because they are pulling water so hard muddy water has moved throughout the creeks and into the main lake.

The catfish bite is strong on Lake Wylie, but Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find fish. He has had good catches on his last four guide trips, but on each one the fish have been in different areas. There have been acute changes in water conditions each day, with water temperatures going from 57 to 53 very quickly. There is also lots of fresh water coming down the lake and so the lake went from clear to dirty in three days and then to muddy.

It’s hard to suggest a consistent pattern, and one day Rodger caught the fish in the main channel and the next they were in the back of a creek. Drifting cut gizzard shad or perch fillets and covering water is the best bet.

Largemouth bass fishing on Lake Wylie remains tough, and Guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) reports that changing water conditions don’t seem to be helping. Water levels have been up and down, temperatures are dropping fast, and clarity has plummeted. There have been some good sacks in recent tournaments, but after a couple of 14- and 15-pound bags, most anglers are falling short of a limit.

With the water so dirty a lot of fish are shallow, and throwing a crankbait, spinnerbait, Chatterbait, or jig against the bank is one pattern. You can also fish an Alabama rig shallow, but it is more of a visual bait and does not displace as much water, make as much sound, or vibrate as much as some of the other lures. Rip rap is good to target, or any other hard, rocky cover. You don’t necessarily need to fish shallow areas that are near deep water, but generally steeper is better than flat banks. However, fishing is so tough right now that you might as well fish everything and cover a lot of water.

If you can find some deeper water that is cleaner then you can fish around bait, as shad generally want to be in clearer water where they can see and breathe better. Shad are mostly in the creeks right now, but from day to day they can move from the middle to the backs following water quality. If you can find some bait perhaps in a cleaner pocket or channel then an Alabama rig, jerkbait or a spoon can work.

Midlands Area

Lake Greenwood (Updated November 28)

Lake Greenwood water levels are at 437.16 (full pool is 440.0) and water temperatures have dropped into the mid-50s. The lower end has decent visibility at 2-3 feet, while the upper half gets much dirtier ranging to muddy at the top of the lake.

It never seems to fail that bass fishing on Lake Greenwood gets better when it’s cold, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that in a recent weekend tournament they found a really good bite for numbers of solid fish. Fishing a half day before motor issues they were able to catch around 30 fish, with a solid 15-pound limit of near-clones at about 3 pounds each. 16 ½ pounds won the tournament. About 75 percent of the fish they caught were spotted bass. Angers pretty much stuck to the lower end of the lake below the railroad trestle, and they only fished 10 feet or less. However, almost all the fish were in steep areas close to deep water. Pretty much everything came on an Alabama rig and a shakey head.

Veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter of Saluda also advises sticking to the more fishable lower lake, and in addition to Alabama rigs he suggests spinnerbaits. The deep fish are hard to target right now but it’s worth fishing most shallow structure on the lower end.

Lake Monticello (Updated November 29)

Lake Monticello water temperatures are in the mid to upper-50s, and lake levels generally fluctuate daily.

The bite is not fast and furious, but if you are willing to have a little patience it’s an excellent time to catch a monster blue catfish on Monticello. Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that while you can anchor peak conditions still exist for drifting, and he is concentrating on 60-65 feet of water off long points and humps with white perch and gizzard shad. You have to fish slowly and be willing to wait for the big one, but there are teen weight fish to go with some true giants.

It’s also a great time to bass fish on Lake Monticello, and FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that fish can be caught in 30-50 feet on a jigging spoon. In the late fall and winter it’s usually more important to find bait on your graph than fish, as bass seem to be so hunkered down that they are hard to pick up.

Lake Murray (Updated November 30)

Lake Murray water levels are at 353.63 (full pool is 360.00) and surface temperatures are in the mid- to upper-50s. Water clarity is improving as the mud settles out.

There’s a lot of good action on Lake Murray right now, and despite some dirty water that has flowed into the lake Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that the striped bass fishing never really got messed up. Fish essentially ran from the muddy water and tucked into areas such as the Little Saluda, Buffalo Creek and Rocky Creek that stayed relatively clear. The best quality fish are now from Dreher Island on up.

It’s a typical late fall/early winter pattern, and on the live bait side both free-lines and planer boards are working. Anglers are also having success throwing bucktails and ice flies at the birds. The birds are thick from Buffalo Creek up to the rivers, and there are plenty of keepers in that area. Most of the fish are over the channel, but on warm afternoons they will pull up shallower.

Captain Brad reports that the crappie bite has also been really good, and they are catching a lot of nice fish 10-12 feet deep over brush about 20 feet deep on the upper end of the lake. While you can tight-line or even troll for these fish, his boat is anchoring in one place (with the trolling motor) and dropping minnows and jigs down vertically.

On the bass front, FLW angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria reports that there has been a good bite up shallow as well as deeper. Even though the water has dropped a lot fish have been eating spinnerbaits and crankbaits fished shallow in wind-blown areas. There has also been some good action with Alabama rigs and jerkbaits along steep banks that drop off into deep water.

The catfish action is still wide open on Lake Murray, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that rain and muddy water didn’t even slow it down. Fish can be caught drifting 30-45 feet deep, and some days they are close to the river channel while some days they are on the flats off the channel. Most of the time they are closer to the main lake, in the mid-lake area, and William has not found much up the creeks. The catch is a mixture of blue and channel catfish, with the occasional striped bass thrown in. Both herring and white perch are working.

Lake Wateree (Updated November 29)

Lake Wateree is at 96.6 percent of full pool, and water temperatures have fallen into the mid-50s. Water conditions are very muddy.

With cold, muddy water coming into the lake it’s no surprise that bass fishing has gotten really tough on Lake Wateree, and FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden report that it’s hard to get even a bite. Hopefully conditions will warm up and the lake will settle a bit soon.

The best bet to get action on Lake Wateree is to try and locate the bait schools on your graph, and looking for the birds may help do that. Fish will probably not be suspended out as much with muddy conditions and steep, rocky banks are good places to look. You want to get out of the wind in these conditions because in calm areas the water can warm a bit on sunny days. Fire tiger or orange crankbaits are as good a bait as anything.

In a similar vein, veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt reports that crappie fishing has also gotten tough on Lake Wateree. Still, there have a been a few catches on the lower end as fish have moved down the lake out of the most intense current and mud.

From Colonel Creek to the dam fish are trying to get off the edge of the river channel in sloughs out of the current, and they are sitting off ledges in 16-22 feet of water that provide current breaks. Fish are suspended 1 ½ to 2 feet off the bottom and they are feeding on bait that falls over the ledge. Straight minnows are the best option. As soon as the lake levels out fish should head back up the river in a typical late fall/ winter pattern.

In catfish news, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that there is still an excellent bite for 6- to 20-pound blue catfish. Fish can be caught in the lower two-thirds of the lake from June Creek to Clearwater Cove, and the best pattern is drifting with cut gizzard shad. Concentrate on 22-36 feet of water.

Santee Cooper System (Updated November 15)

Santee Cooper water levels are at 76.20 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.72 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are in the low to lower mid-50s. The upper lake is very muddy, while parts of the lower lake are cleaner.

It’s not what you expect to hear in cold, muddy conditions, but B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that the massive inflow into the lake is creating a ton of current and as result both bass and striped bass are schooling on both ends of the canal. These fish can be caught on crankbaits, swimbaits and lipless crankbaits.

Outside of the canal area, even though fish were starting to get into a deeper pattern before the rain muddy water has pushed them to the banks again and so 2-4 feet is a better range to search. Lake levels have been up-and-down and so fish are a little skittish, but a spinnerbait is a good bet for shallow fish in these dirty conditions.

By his standards they aren’t catching a ton of crappie with Captain Steve English (843-729-4044), but he reports that they have been getting some really nice ones. Recently, they “only” caught 22 fish, but they ran to almost 3 pounds, and they have caught multiple fish in the 2 1/2- to 3-pound range.

With the lower lake cleaner than the upper his boat has been concentrating on Moultrie, even though mud does not necessarily stop the brush pile bite. They are fishing 14-20 feet down over deeper brush in the 30- to 35-foot range. Some big bream are mixed in with the crappie.

The common denominator with the catfish seems to be deep, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that he has found fish in the teens on up to the high 20s drifting the lower lake in 40-45 feet of water. Cut gizzard shad have been working well. Expect more big fish to turn on as it gets colder.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that he is also drifting deep, and his observation is that drifting in the 30- to 37-foot range is the best place to pick up fast numbers of 3- to 10-pound fish. Cut herring and shad are both working well for these eating-sized fish. For now catfish are roaming more, but as it gets colder they will relate tighter and tighter to bait schools – particularly when the bait starts dying.

Mountains Area

Lake Jocassee (Updated November 12)

Lake Jocassee is at 98.3 percent of full pool, and water temperatures are around 69 degrees.

It’s that time of year again when Guide Rob McComas (828-674-5041) is back on Lake Jocassee bass fishing, and on his most recent trip he reports that fish were grouped up on points instead of laydowns where he would typically expect to find them. The best concentration of fish has been in 18-30 feet of water, and location didn’t seem to matter very much. He found them on the main lake as well as in the rivers and creeks. Lots of spots as well as some smaller largemouth are being caught with this pattern on drop shots.

For bigger fish Rob suggests concentrating on shallow water. On calm, clear days he will continue to fish topwater lures like Spooks on into December, and when there is some wind and clouds/ rain you can sometimes land some fish out of the trees on a spinnerbait. Anglers should also be vigilant for very occasional schooling activity and cast quickly. The laydown bite should pick up very soon.

Trout fishing is still really tough on Lake Jocassee, and Guide Sam Jones (864-280-9056) reports that with water temperatures the same all the way down to 80 feet fish are still very deep. You can see them on the graph along with a ton of bait – which may actually be the problem. The fish are acting like they have full bellies already. The recent cold, rainy weather should improve things if it drops water temperatures.

Lake Keowee (Updated November 28)

Lake Keowee is at 98.4 percent of full pool. Water temperatures have fallen into the lower 60s on the lower and upper ends of the lake, and the mid-60s mid-lake. Despite a lot of rain clarity is pretty normal.

Temperatures continue to fall in the Upstate, and veteran tournament angler Charles Townson of the Keowee Anglers reports that the bass fishing remains good on similar patterns.

Shallow fish can be caught with a shakey head or Texas-rigged soft plastic on points or rocky shorelines.

For mid-depth fish, a Carolina rig is working well further out in the 10- to 20-foot range in the same areas. Jerkbaits continue to produce some fish as well.

Deeper fish can be caught on drop-shots, jigging spoons or deep diving crankbaits. A good depth to look right now is in the 35- to 50-foot range. If there is bait in that depth, fish are usually nearby. There appears to be a very healthy population of bait fish (shad) in the lake this year, and finding them remains a key to finding the spotted bass.

Lake Hartwell (Updated November 28)

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 659.06 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have dropped into the mid-50s. The rain has had relatively little effect on water clarity, except that some of the creeks are stained. However, while the lake is not too dirty it’s been so windy that some areas, which are usually clear are more off-color than usual.

Bass fishing is pretty tough on Lake Hartwell, and while Guide Brad Fowler reports that a nice 18-pound sack won a tournament recently, weights dropped off sharply below that. And 10-11 pounds has won other recent events.

With some dirty water and the lake at full pool there is definitely a shallow bite, and Brad reports that if you fish around rock, wood, or broom straw fish can be caught on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jigs. In shallow areas with dirty water the crankbait and spinnerbait have been good.

Some fish are also starting to get deep, too, into places over 30 feet. Some of them are on the bottom, while others are suspending. You can fish a drop shot, a jigging spoon, shakey head or drag a jig in these areas.

On the striped bass front, Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports very little change, with fish continuing to get further back in the creeks.

The best catches have still come 35- to 45-feet deep around points and humps in areas with bait. Dropping down-lines has been the best pattern, but when fish come up to the surface then pitching a free-line is almost a certain way to get bit. There has been some spotty schooling activity, but most of that is taking place in the afternoon right now.

Overall fishing remains good and they continue to be able to catch a solid 25-35 fish on each trip.

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is fishing a similar pattern, but he points out that with a lot of birds having arrived that is the best way to locate the fish.

The blue catfish bite is improving, and Captain Bill reports that they are starting to move out of the deep timber and into the creeks in 30-40 feet of water where they will eat cut shad. There are also still plenty of channels to be caught in 25-35 feet on cut herring.

Crappie remain in the creek channels in 25-30 feet of water, and Captain Bill reports that they have moved deeper and are now suspending in the 18- to 25-foot range. Fish are following the creek channels and will be there regardless, but if you can find areas with some brush that is ideal.


South Carolina freshwater recreational fishing regulations.