2018 South Carolina Catfish Forecast
May 17, 2018
Catfishing, a summertime specialty throughout South Carolina, is widespread and popular partly because most lakes in the state provide very good catfishing. We've highlight a few that consistently produce excellent fishing during the summer along with tips and techniques for summertime success for each.
Lake Wylie was once known simply as an outstanding channel catfish lake, but the introduction of blue catfish, along with a surge of resident flathead catfish, has made this lake an outstanding fishery for the 'Big Three' of catfish including the blue, flathead and channel catfish.
All three provide outstanding fishing throughout the summer months, and to add one more plus, the fishing can be excellent by both day and night.
Jeff Manning is a catfish tournament angler who calls Lake Wylie his home lake. Because of the nature of tournament fishing during the warm months, Manning typically fishes late evening and into the night, giving him the opportunity to enjoy both day and night opportunities on any given evening.
"Since the lake is split between South Carolina and North Carolina, I have fishing licenses for both states and that does enhance odds of success," Manning said. "However, excellent fishing is available for all catfish species in both states if someone wants to only fish in South Carolina. Much of the lower, deeper end of the lake is in South Carolina and fishing near or in deep water is a key to summertime success."
Manning said you do not always have to be in deep water to catch quality fish but the proximity of deep water nearby is a real key.
"Both anchor fishing and drift fishing produce well on Lake Wylie depending on weather and water conditions," he said. "My personal preference is anchor fishing and I'll use my graph to set up on main lake points, humps and ridges and fan cast around the boat. The deeper water on the lower end of the lake is a prime target for anchor fishing. I set up at a depth where I can place baits in various depths of water. Often I'll find fish surprisingly shallow on some of the points and humps, but I'll work all depths until I find the pattern for the day."
Click the video link above to get great catfishing tips for your future trip.
Manning said the same kind of areas work well for drift fishing and drifting rigs over large flats adjacent to deeper water. Either technique can produce good results.
"Drift fishing is very productive for summertime fishing when targeting blue and channel catfish. The high water temperature often makes drift fishing a great choice because catfish are often aggressive," he said. "When tournament fishing I usually target the big cats, but by mixing the size of your bait you'll increase the opportunity to catch smaller blues and channel catfish, and the lake is loaded with both."
Manning said he'll target big flatheads on the same places described above and will catch flatheads on fresh cut bait, usually gizzard shad or perch. But he usually fishes one or two big live baits to tempt big flatheads as well.
"Flatheads will bite fresh cut bait, but they do have an affinity for live baits," he said. "And I catch plenty of good blues on live bait as well."
Manning said the key to successful catfishing on Lake Wylie is fishing specific targets either day or night. At night, the catfish move shallower and he still fishes areas with the same characteristics, but the bite is usually shallower and he definitely prefers anchor fishing at night.
LAKE MOULTRIE AND THE DIVERSION CANAL
Catfish anglers enjoy exceptional catfishing almost year around on Lake Moultrie — and during the summer the catfish get into predictable patterns. Large numbers of fish as well as big fish are taken.
Guide Dave Hilton guides out of Black's Camp on the Diversion Canal and fishes both lakes for catfish.
Hilton (843-870-4734) said the basic fishing styles are similar on both lakes, but on Lake Moultrie, the fishing patterns are generally a bit deeper because of the depth of the lake.
"Both lakes are full of humps and hills that drop into deeper water and that's the key for finding catfish during the summer," he said. "They're not always going to be in the deepest water — they may be on top of the humps or ledges, along the slopes or holding at the bottom. That's where electronics come into play to help me determine their location."
Hilton said he'll graph the drops and ledges but the key to catching catfish is always related to the location of the forage. Forage is so important that even if he marks large fish but sees no forage on the graph, he seldom fishes that area.
"The catfish and forage, usually gizzard or threadfin shad, don't have to be stacked up together in the same place, but I want to find them nearby," Hilton said. "I'll drift fish with the typical Santee Rig and work along ledges and on top of submerged humps and then on the deeper slopes, wherever I mark plenty of catfish."
The Diversion Canal connecting lakes Marion and Moultrie produces very good fishing during the summer, especially when ample rain keeps a good current flow through the Canal. Most anglers will drift fish with vertical lines by day, using the current to cover more water. At night (for safety as one reason), the preferred method is to anchor along the edges of the canal and fish flat lines away from the boat. The advantage here is that during the nocturnal hours catfish move shallower to feed and boats anchored along the edge of the 7-mile-long canal are in prime position.
Typically as the summer progresses, with ample current flow, the fishing in the Diversion Canal stays good throughout the summer months into early fall.
Lake Monticello is a deep, clear lake many catfish anglers overlook during summer. But the lake produces excellent summer catfish action. Because of the very clear water summertime patterns are fairly simple — fish deep water by day and mid-depths at night.
Lake Monticello is renowned for producing huge blue catfish, but it's also an excellent fishery for lots of modest-sized blue catfish in the 1- to 10-pound class in addition to a good population of channel catfish. By targeting these smaller fish anglers can load the cooler with numbers of fish and still have the opportunity to catch large fish.
The best chance for hooking a big blue, however, is to specifically target them and that typically means fishing different areas than you would to catch large numbers of smaller fish.
To target a big summertime blue catfish at Monticello you can fish either day or night, but generally you need to work specific targets such as long points that drop into deep water and mid-lake humps.
Long-time Lake Monticello catfish guide William Attaway says both anchor fishing and drift fishing will produce.
"The lake is a pumpback reservoir, so water is pumped in and out of the lake," he said. "This water movement when pumping improves catfishing on the lower end of the lake. There's a clearly marked line of buoys marking a restricted "no boat zone" near the dam, so avoid that."
Attaway (803-924-0857) said fishing for big blues is best on the deep-water areas and during the day big blues are also found in 'saddles' or low spots between humps positioned close together. It's not uncommon to find catfish in 50 feet of water and often somewhat deeper. At night the fish typically move shallower, but that's a relative statement. He said big blues can be found from 30 to 70 feet deep even at night.
"I use my electronics to mark fish before setting up for a drift or anchoring and I'm looking for forage as well," he said. "Patience is certainly an asset when targeting big cats during the summer but the lake produces some huge fish."
He recommends large baits for the big fish. Perch, bream and gizzard shad are all prime offerings for big blues.
For numbers of catfish Attawy says two techniques work well.
One is anchoring on points near the shoreline in 10 to 15 feet of water, but with deep water close by. Cast multiple rigs in various depths of water using small chunks of cut bait, stink baits, worms and minnows to target smaller catfish. Line size, hooks and all terminal tackle are reduced. Point hopping is common because when you find the right place, you will usually quickly catch multiple fish. He advised to not linger more than 20 mintues on a spot without some action.
The other technique is to drift fish for suspended catfish.
"I like the night for this in the lower end of the lake because of the forage available," he said. "We do catch a few bigger fish doing this but it's primarily for targeting numbers of fish, both blue and channel catfish. I drift over deep water, often 60-feet or deeper, but target fish (suspended around) 15 to 25 feet deep that are feeding on suspended forage. I'll drift with baits on freelines with no weight or occasionally with a small splitshot to check different depths in the water column."
CLARKS HILL LAKE
Clarks Hill Lake produces quality catfish action for blue, flathead and channel catfish throughout the summer months.
One case in point occurred on a summertime trip last summer targeting stripers with live bait. While stripers were caught, the recurring pattern for the day on several humps and ledges in the middle portion of the lake was the consistent action from blue and channel catfish. On several places where fish were graphed we dropped live baits for stripers and quickly loaded-up on catfish, with some of the channel catfish approaching double-digit size and some blues even larger.
This lake is loaded with big blues and flatheads and catfish guide Chris Simpson has relocated his fishing/guiding headquarters to this lake for this very reason. Simpson has guided successfully at lakes Murray, Monticello and Greenwood and he says his choice to focus on Clarks Hill was made because of the great catfishing opportunities.
Simpson (864-992-2352) says the Savannah River Lake consistently produces both quality and quantity of all of the big three catfish species, blues, channels and flatheads.
"This lake does produce great catfishing and huge top end potential for blue catfish, a favorite target for year-round fishing," he said.
Anglers can target any of the three species both day and night. The key is to target specific spots including long points dropping into deep water, humps and ridges near the main Savannah River channel.
With all three major catfish species available, catfishermen often set up and fish a variety of baits. Using cut bait such as gizzard or threadfin shad, as well as stink baits such as Doc's Catfish bait, anglers can target blues and channels at the same time. Big live baits will certainly tempt a big blue catfish as well as flatheads. When drift fishing it's important to keep the rigs where forage is marked.