Black Bass: Fair. Captain Pat Bennett reports that bait and bass have moved into the creeks and rivers as water temperatures have dropped. Try targeting bass related to shoreline cover proximate to deep water, where they can be caught on shakey head worms and crankbaits. As water temperatures drop further and fish move into a winter pattern the best action will come fishing over deep water for suspended fish. Look for bait schools on your graph, and then lower down a jigging spoon or drop shot rig. Water levels continue to drop, so be careful putting in and running on the lake. Trout: Fair. Captain Steve Pietrykowski reports that fish can still be caught in the main lake, but the best concentration of fish will be found up the rivers. Troll from the surface down to 50 feet with live bait, including free lines far back from the boat, planer board rigs, and weighted baits at a variety of depths. Around DNR stockings trout can also be caught with Rooster Tails cast from shore.
Largemouth and Spotted Bass: Fair to good. Guide Brad Fowler reports that fish continue to be spread out across the whole lake, from shallow to deep, but the topwater action has slowed somewhat. The bulk of the schooling activity is now taking place over deep, open water where bass are feeding on schools of shad. The most productive pattern may be fishing deep, and drop shotting as well as fishing shakey head worms will both work. Fishing shakey head worms around floating docks remains a reliable technique, as it is most of the year.
Striped and Hybrid Bass: Fair. Captain Bill Plumley reports that striper fishing has slowed a little but some fish are in the bigger creeks. Free lining and pulling planer boards will both work, and some fish are also being caught on down lines. Isolated schooling activity is reported. Catfish: Good. Captain Bill Plumley reports that blue catfish are moving into the creeks where they can be caught in 7-25 feet of water with cut gizzard shad. Channel catfish are shallower, and they can be caught in 8-10 feet of water on cut herring and nightcrawlers. Black Bass: Good. Guide Brad Fowler reports that fish are spread out and being caught on a variety of techniques. In the creeks there is a good bite on small crankbaits, spinnerbaits, frogs and buzzbaits, and there is also some schooling activity. The biggest change is that a few deep fish are starting to show up in 25-40 feet of water where they can be caught on drop shot rigs, shakey head worms and jigs. Crappie: Good. Captain Bill Plumley reports that crappie are feeding well around brush and bridge pilings. Fish minnows 10-12 feet down over brush or around bridge pilings in 15-20 feet of water.
Catfish: Fair. Guide Wendell Wilson reports that the best bet for catfish is fishing on the bottom around the large bait schools found in major coves. Anchor and put out cut herring offerings on the bottom, and don't be afraid to chum to draw in the cats. Lately catfish catches have been a bit off. Striped bass: Fair. Guide Wendell Wilson reports that gulls are beginning to arrive on Lake Russell, and so there are visual clues to locate the bait and striped bass. Pulling free lined live herring remains the best technique. Black Bass: Good to very good. Guide Wendell Wilson reports that the bass pattern remains very similar, and bass are feeding well around bait schools 20-25 feet deep in large coves in the mid-lake. Whether the coves have brush or not is unimportant - the presence of bait schools is the key. Drop shot rigs fished just off the bottom and baited with a plastic worm or live minnows will produce, and jigging spoons are also working. Another good pattern is fishing around flooded standing timber at the same depths (20-40 feet) where the bait is holding. Texas rigs and jigging spoons will both catch fish. White and yellow perch: Good. Guide Wendell Wilson reports that fishing minnows just off the bottom in 25-30 feet of water, particularly in the lower lake around the mouth of the Rocky River, is the best pattern. Yellow perch are showing up in good numbers. Perch make of part of a mixed bag right now and will be caught along with bass and crappie. Crappie: Fair to good. Guide Wendell Wilson reports that the crappie are mixed in with the bass and perch around bait schools in large mid-lake coves. Fish minnows to target crappie.
Crappie: Good to very good. Captain William Sasser reports that crappie are feeding well around brush piles 15-20 feet deep in the creek channels. Raysville, Soap Creek and the South Carolina Little River are all producing. In the South Carolina Little River the crappie bite on minnows has been approaching sensational, and anglers have been buying 12-15 dozen minnows and getting through them all.
Black bass: Good. Buckeye Lures in Augusta reports that bass fishing is strong on Clarks Hill and fish are in the backs of creeks where they can be caught in 2-15 feet of water. Most any technique from the top of the water column to the bottom will work, including working spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jigs. The key is to fish around grass where most of the bass are concentrated, and fishing a jig may be the best big fish pattern.
Striped and Hybrid Bass: Good to very good. Captain William Sasser reports that lots of nice 9-11 pound fish are being caught in the middle to backs of creeks. Raysville and the South Carolina Little River are both producing well. Planer boards and free lines are both catching fish, and dropping some down lines about 15 feet deep will also pick up striper and hybrids. No schooling activity has been reported but single fish can be seen rolling in coves.
White perch: Good. Captain Rodger Taylor reports that white perch are feeding in open water on the edges of humps 25-30 feet deep. Fishing small minnows on a modified Sabiki rig is the best technique.
Catfish: Very good. Captain Rodger Taylor reports that water temperatures are dropping and days are getting shorter, and accordingly bait is moving deeper and so are the bass. Shad can still be seen just before dark in the middle sections of creeks over 25 feet of water, but gone are the huge schools on the surface in the very back of creeks and coves, and only a few shad are popping in the backwaters now. The channel catfish bite is excellent in the morning fishing on the bottom in 20-25 feet and then shallower as the day goes on. The time to catch blue catfish is approaching but the water is not cold enough for them to be in a true winter pattern yet.
Largemouth Bass: Good to very good. FLW Professional and Guide Matt Arey concurs that the greatest concentrations of fish have moved out of the very backs of creeks following the threadin shad schools and are now about halfway back towards the main lake. Some fish can still be found 2/3 of the way back in the creeks to the very backs, and a very few fish have already returned to the main lake. Bait that only migrated into main lake pockets is still there. Small square-billed crankbaits and Rattle Trap-type baits are still working well, and a few fish may still feed on top. In the past couple of weeks Matt's boat has picked up two fish simultaneously on a single Rattle Trap and another double on a Spook/ Front Runner combo. Soon jerk baits and grubs will start to have their day.
Crappie (unchanged from Dec. 1): Fair. Sportsman's Friend reports that spider rig trolling in 6-15 feet of water has been most productive. Jigs have been outfishing minnows recently.
Catfish: Good. Captain Chris Simpson reports that the drift bite remains strong. Some days fish are stacked in the river channel and making drifts in the channel, parallel to the channel or in and out of the channel is the best bet. On other days fish are scattered out across 18-25 foot deep flats where they can also be targeted drifting. Cut shad and herring have been the best baits. Anchoring on channel ledges and using cut and live bream and perch has also produced some big channel catfish and flatheads recently, but drifting is still the most consistent way to put fish in the boat.
Largemouth Bass: Fair. Sportsman's Friend reports that there is still schooling activity scattered across most of Lake Greenwood. Fishing popping bugs behind a popping cork has been effective for putting fish in the boat, and when the schools sound jigging Berry Spoons off near-by points has been effective. Despite the season fish have generally remained pretty deep. Fish have also been caught where wind is blowing into dips and creek channels on crankbaits and plastic worms.
Lake Monticello: (unchanged from Dec. 1)
Catfish: Good. Captain Chris Simpson reports that big fish continue to feed well on Lake Monticello. The fall drift bite is on, and big fish are being caught drifting on the bottom with a Santee-style rig in 60-90 feet of water. The depth can vary from day to day, and fish have been caught as deep as 115 feet of water. Now is also a good time for free-line drifting higher in the water column, and a range of different sizes can be caught with this technique. Cut shad and white perch have been the best baits.
Largemouth Bass: Good. Captain Chris Heining reports that the bass bite is still strong on Lake Wateree. Most fish are being caught around rocks, particularly rocky points, and 6-8 feet of water has been the ideal depth range. Both crankbaits and soft plastics, including shakey head worms, have been productive. Some striped bass have also been picked up on fast-moving crankbaits.
Crappie: Very good. Will Hinson of the Southern Crappie Tournament Trail reports that crappie fishing is very strong on Lake Wateree, and very good numbers of 1 ½ to 2 pound fish have been caught recently. The best bite is from Dutchman's Creek out towards the mid-river and up towards the dam at the top of the lake. Fish are all along the old river channel, and some days they are holding on top of the river ledge in 12-13 feet of water and other days they are flat on the bottom in 18-20 feet of water (particularly if the sun is high and bright). Fishing a maximum of 1-2 feet off the bottom has been a key, and both minnows and jigs are catching fish. Fish Stalker Jigs in Ugly Green and Pearl White have been working. Overall this has been the best fall bite in some time.
Catfish: Good. Captain Rodger Taylor reports that water temperatures have dropped into the mid-50s in the upper lake area. The anchored bite in the upper lake has been pretty slow, although some big blue catfish have been picked up on the bottom. Drifting in the lower lake and the mid-lake are much better, where huge concentrations of gizzard shad (which are easily caught and make excellent bait) can be found in the main channel. The best concentration of 2-4 pound fish may be in the lower lake, but the numbers of 6-10 pound fish may be better in the mid-lake The anchored bite should improve soon because the best time for catching big fish on the bottom is right around the corner.
Largemouth Bass: Fair. Veteran bass angler Doug Lown reports that fishing has been up and down, but there is a general trend towards a better bite as the fall turnover gets further behind us and water quality improves. Unlike a couple of weeks ago, it's again possible to get a bite. Areas with clear water have produced better than stained areas, and the biggest concentrations of fish seem to be in relatively shallow water that is proximate to deep water. Lake Murray is not traditionally a lake with a major fall creek run, and the very backs of creeks and coves have not been productive. Nor are the majority of fish out in open water chasing small shad, as they seem to be hanging around bream and perch in the shallows. Areas with rocky bottoms are producing much better than soft bottoms, probably because the food is there. Early morning working shakey head worms off secondary points is a good bet, and after the sun starts to get up fishing a worm or jig around docks may produce. Fish have been in the shallows for a couple of weeks now, and they seem to be feeding more aggressively as they get settled in.
Catfish: Good. Captain Chris Simpson reports that cold fronts have slightly reduced the consistency of the catfish bite, but overall the fishing is still strong. At times the pre-frontal bite has been excellent, with the fishing slowing a bit after fronts come through. Baitfish are balling up well and holding in the 20-40 foot range, and channel catfish are being caught in creeks and coves in 15-40 feet of water. Most blues are being caught in open water areas near the main river channel in 25-70 feet, depending on the section the lake. Drifting is most productive but anchoring will also catch fish, and cut herring and gizzard shad are the strongest baits.
Striped Bass: Fair. Lake World reports that fish are being found from the middle of the lake up to Black's Bridge, and the arrival of the birds is starting to provide clues for locating striper. Pulling planer boards against the banks, drifting live herring and fishing down lines in the mid-river in 20-30 feet of water will all work. Artificial lure enthusiasts are also catching some fish trolling in shallow water. Shellcracker: Fair. Lake World reports that the shellcracker bite has slowed and fish are spread out across the lake. Look for fish around points and fish worms on the bottom in 4-10 feet of water.
Crappie: Fair. Lake World reports that the late fall bite is starting to pick up, and fish are being caught in 4-12 feet of water around brushpiles at the mouth of coves. Live minnows and jigs will both catch fish.
Santee Cooper System
Largemouth bass: Good. Captain Jimmie Hair reports that the primary pattern remains similar, but the fishing has improved. Fishing around eel grass with Gambler Super Studs and swimming jigs will catch fish, and in the swamp working square-billed crankbaits around cypress trees is effective. Soft plastics will also catch fish around trees. A number of five pound plus fish have been caught recently, but remember to be careful running the lake with low water levels. In the Cooper River sizes are still small, but when it gets colder bigger fish should be caught on jigs and bucktails. Striped Bass: Fair to good Captain Jim Glenn reports that striped bass are biting well and can be caught at various depths, especially during surface schooling activity. When not seen on the surface most striper are suspended from 35-50 feet deep, and live baits and artificial lures like jigs and spoons will produce fish. Some anglers are also having success trolling deep running plugs.
Crappie: Good to very good. Captain Steve English reports that the crappie bite is still strong around offshore brushpiles, but as temperatures drop fish are heading to slightly deeper brush. More fish continue to be caught in the upper lake, but average sizes are better in the lower lake where some 2 ½ plus pound fish have been caught. Both jigs and minnows are working.
Catfish: Good. Captain Jim Glenn reports that the expected seasonal improvement in Santee Cooper catfishing is about on schedule, as cooler water temperatures have put catfish in a feeding mood. Many anglers have begun to fish the deeper waters of both lakes, and drift fishing is the preferred method for most catfishermen. Anchoring in 10-20 feet is also a viable option in both lakes for anglers who find the right spots. Large numbers of 4-6 pound fish have been caught as well as good numbers of 12-18 pound fish, and occasional 30-50 pound fish have also been reported. Mullet, shad and menhaden are the preferred baits right now.SALTWATER
Little River (unchanged from Dec. 1)
Cherry Grove Pier reports that fishing has slowed. Whiting, spots and a few flounder have been caught.
Black drum and sheepshead: Fair to good. Perry's reports that sheepshead have really slowed down, but black drum have been feeding very well on shrimp in the creeks. Small black drum are also being caught off the beach.
Surf and Pier report: Some snapper bluefish are still being caught off the beach, and whiting are being caught off the piers - especially at night. A few spots and croaker are still around.
Trout: Very good. Perry's Bait and Tackle reports that trout are biting very well around the Murrells Inlet Jetties and especially in the backs of creeks. Around the jetties most anglers are fishing live bait under a float rig, and in the creeks anglers are working the edges of oyster bars for a couple of hours either side of low tide. On the rising or falling tide fish can also be caught against the grass. Live shrimp are the best bait, but Mirrolures in Texas Chicken and Christmas Tree colors have also been catching big fish. Paddle tail grubs have also been effective.
Spottail Bass: Good to very good. Perry's reports that bull red drum are still being caught off Huntington Beach, Garden City and the Surfside Beach ledges on cut bait offerings. A few slot-sized fish are being caught in the surf, but most of the fish are 30-40 plus inches. Slot sized redfish are feeding well in the creeks where the best action has been on the incoming tide. Live mud minnows, live finger mullet, live shrimp and a variety of artificial lures will all work.
Flounder: Fair to good. Perry's reports that the number of flounder caught is way down, but the few fish that have been caught have been very good sized. Cast or troll Carolina rigged live mud minnows on the bottom over sandy bottoms and around hard structure. Fishing is often best for a couple of hours either side of low tide.
Offshore: Haddrell's Point reports that bottom fishing closures have slowed the number of anglers heading out, but there have been some fantastic grouper reports from anglers fishing in 90-150 feet of water. Live pinfish are always a bait of choice, but cigar minnows and butterfly jigs are also good options. Nearshore weakfish are also holding pretty well on nearshore reefs, where they can be caught on a DOA shrimp fished vertically or a Zman Ultra shrimp.
Trout: Fair. Haddrell's Point reports that the trout bite continues to be sporadic. The most successful pattern has been trolling soft plastics along the grass line near high tide. For casting DOA Shrimp, Zman MinnowZ, and suspending Mirrolures will all catch fish. It's also hard to go wrong with live shrimp.
Spottail bass: Very good. Haddrell's Point reports that redfish continue to feed very heavily. Live bait is sure-fire, but this is also the time of year when artificials can be just as effective. Gulp! Shrimp and Jerkshad, Zman PaddlerZ, DOA Shrimp, Chatterbaits and more will all catch fish. Fish are schooling on the flats at low tide, and there are also plenty of redfish feeding around shell points and creek mouths on moving tides.
Sheepshead: Good to very good. Haddrell's Point reports that sheepshead fishing is still very strong from the jetties to most any bridge pilings to docks with plenty of barnacle growth. This is the time when live shrimp under a float can be just as good as fiddler crabs, which are still hard to beat.
Trout: Good. Bay Street Outfitters reports that the trout bite is strong and trout will eat pretty much anything right now - including live shrimp or mud minnows under a popping cork, Gulp!, and a variety of soft plastic baits. The bigger trout will be found around moving water, and the smaller fish will be caught on mud points in about 4 feet of water. A fair number of keeper sized fish are being caught.
Spottail Bass: Good to very good. Bay Street Outfitters in Beaufort reports that redfishing is strong and there is starting to be some excellent sight-fishing on low tide. Fish have generally finished tailing for the year as fiddler crabs have gotten scarce, but on low tide fish can be seen chasing bait on the flats. Redfish are congregating around oyster bars, oyster points and grass points. Sight fishing will only get better as the water gets clearer. Redfish are starting to move into winter schools, but they are not in huge groups yet. Captain Dan "Fishin' Coach" Utley reports that the incoming tide is the best to fish since the water has started to cool. As winds have calmed a bit the water is starting to clear and so artificial baits like Gulp! Shrimp in the New Penny color are working great. Fish the grass edges on the rising water and also back in the grass as the water gets higher. On low tide fish are also starting their schooling pattern and can be caught with ¼ ounce jigheads and a Gulp Shrimp! or gold spoons. The best time of the year for sight fishing for redfish is right around the corner, especially when the winds lay down.