36 Great Fishing Trips In South Carolina

36 Great Fishing Trips In South Carolina

If you like to enjoy good fishing for a variety of game fish and would like to fish year 'round, we have some ideas for you. (February 2008).

Terry Madewell

If you're willing to be just a little bit versatile in your fishing efforts over the course of the seasons, you can enjoy fishing as a year-round sport in South Carolina. Whether it's bitter cold or steamy hot, there's always something biting on our freshwater lakes and rivers or along the coast. The diversity of fishing opportunities not only present anglers with some species of fish biting each month of the year, but also usually give anglers an array of choices of species to pursue.

We put together a 12-month angling planner to help you consider the great options available. We make three suggestions for different fishing trips each month of the year -- trips that traditionally provide excellent fishing opportunities. These trips will be ranked as first, second and third. In addition, you can even expand on this monthly planner a bit. If there's a fishing trip that is "excellent" in one month, odds are good it's at least "good" in the previous and past months.

Here's the roundup of potential fishing trips that will provide plenty of fish-catching action throughout 2008.

JANUARY

Lake Wateree

Crappie

Lake Wateree is one of the top crappie lakes in South Carolina any time of the year. While this lake gets even better for crappie during the spring, the cold water and weather of January typically put these fish at fairly predictable places. The crappie will be holding deep, in the 15- to 30-foot range. They will be on or over creek or river channel ledges. Early in the year, live bait, particularly medium-sized minnows, is usually the best offering. Small jigs will work, and one of the top wintertime anglers on Lake Wateree, Bill Garner, will sometimes use small jigs tipped with minnows.

The key is to get the bait to the depth the fish are marked on the graph and move the boat very slowly. Generally, it's more effective to slowly, very slowly, move the boat with the electric motor along the ledges. Crappie can be found throughout the lake at this time of the year, but if there have been heavy rains, the upper end of the lake may become muddy. Singleton, Dutchman's, Beaver and Colonel's creeks are excellent places to fish.

FEBRUARY

Clarks Hill

Stripers

This is live bait time at Clarks Hills for striper and hybrids. During this cold month, the fish begin to get in transition mode from winter (where they orient primarily to the main lake) to an early spring pattern (when they begin moving up the larger tributaries). The exact timing will depend on water temperature changes. Once the water temperature pattern starts an upward trend, the fish will be on the move and can be found at the mouths and up the major tributaries.

Live blueback herring will be the primary bait for these fish. The bait can be fished in a variety of methods with vertical fishing under the boat; freelining out the back and by using planing boats to get the bait away from the boat. In the cold, often clear water conditions, boats will sometime make the stripers and hybrids skittish. Some huge stripers can be caught at this time of the year on Clarks Hill.

MARCH

Lake Moultrie

Largemouths

As always with largemouth bass, weather and water temperature is everything. However, the month of March is typically the prime time for a huge number of hawg largemouths to move to the shallows. That's one reason major bass tournaments are held here during this month. When the conditions are right, there may not be any place, anywhere, better for big largemouth bass in shallow water. Even when it's just "almost" right, it may be the best largemouth fishing you'll enjoy all year long.

A variety of lures will work in the shallow water: Plastic worms and lizards, spinnerbaits, shallow-running crankbaits and even topwater lures all produce excellent results. If a cold front blasts through, you may need to just back off into slightly deeper water or slow your lure presentation down just a bit. The fish will still be there; don't give up on Lake Moultrie during March.

Terry Madewell

APRIL

Lake Murray

Largemouths

It's a tough call to pick any single April largemouth destination over any of several other red-hot lakes in South Carolina, but Lake Murray is certainly a "must-fish" largemouth hotspot. The entire lake is productive and you'll find fish on a variety of different cover and structure types. This is a big-fish and heavy stringer month for this lake.

As noted earlier in the opening, fishing can be good in the months on either side of this suggestion. Bass fishing at Lake Murray can be very good in March and well into May, but April is a prime time to be right here.

The bulk of the action will be in shallow water, but you can back off to slightly deeper water at times and pick up some very large fish. Topwater lures are great, but big single-spin spinnerbaits worked in shallow water around woody cover will produce plenty of hawg largemouths. This is the one time of the year you can "beat the banks" with plastic worms and crankbaits and catch plenty of largemouths. If you don't fish this lake much, this is the one month you need to go.

MAY

Lake Marion

Bream/Shellcrackers

If you're looking for limit stringers of some of the biggest bream and shellcrackers in the state, look no farther than Lake Marion during the month of May.

Often, the month of April will be excellent for bedding fish, but you can be sure that the full moon in May will produce dynamite action of huge bream and outlandish-sized shellcrackers on Lake Marion. The entire lake is productive, but the upper end, above the I-95 bridge, is typically the best. There is simply so much potentially terrific bedding territory you can almost always find some sweet spots all to yourself. Plus, by using crickets for the bream and worms for the shellcrackers, it won't take long to get limits for everyone in the boat when you fish the beds. Even during the non-bedding periods, the month of May will produce coolers of hefty fish. You'll simply need to work the shallows and stay on the move. Instead of limiting from one spot, you may pick up a few bream here, a few on down the way. However, if you keep your cricket wet, you'll catch plenty of huge bream.

JUNE

The Santee River

Catfish

As the weather warms, many angl

ers' thoughts turn to Mr. Whiskers. The Santee River is a prime place to be fishing for catfish for sure. All of the "big three" species, the channel, blue and flathead catfish are found in abundance here. The average size of the fish is phenomenal and the fish are typically in a strong biting mode during June.

From the Wilson dam that impounds Lake Marion all the way to the salt water, the catfish are abundant. Some portions of the upper and midsection of the river have shallow bars and riffle areas where local knowledge is needed to safely run your boat. However, if you get through these areas, you can access some isolated hotspots. But there's really no need to go far from where you launch the boat.

Stink baits produce good catches of 1- to 8-pound blues and channels. Cut bait, such as shad and bream, will produce the bigger blues and flatheads with plenty of fish in the 20- to 35-pound class. While flatheads prefer live bait, such as whole bream, fresh cut bream will work great for flatheads as well.

Terry Madewell

JULY

Inshore Coastal Waters

Flounder

Flounder fishing is excellent throughout the summer months all along the coast of South Carolina. Certainly, July is a prime time and there are different ways to fish for these flatfish. The basic method if you aren't able to go often is to slow-troll using mudminnows for bait.

There are commercially prepared flounder fishing rigs you can purchase that make things easy in terms of rigging. Work the major rivers, or along the Intercoastal Waterway, where smaller creeks and inlets enter. The junctions of these areas are ideal places to find flounder in good numbers. Also, work along the combination shell-mud banks where there are numerous points and pockets.

Flounder are ambush feeders, so fish areas that offer the

potential for a predator fish to hide and feed. Another effective method is to use live bait under a float. Anchor near a junction of two creeks, cast the rig and let it work along with the tidal current. By doing this, you'll also have the opportunity to hook redfish and trout on occasion, making for an even better summertime adventure.

AUGUST

Lake Hartwell

Stripers And Hybrids

If you don't think August is a prime month for sensational striper and hybrid fishing, just go fishing with guide Chip Hamilton at Lake Hartwell (864/304-9011). Hamilton is a year-round guide on the lake and will quickly tell you that some of his best catches of the entire year will occur during the sweltering hot month of August.

The stripers are deep and live blueback herring is the number one offering. Look for the fish stacked up over points, drops and humps using your electronics. Typically, the fish may be found from 40 to 100 feet deep. Once fish are located, drop your bait to the depth they're holding or just slightly above. Stripers will readily move up for a bait but much less likely to go deeper. When the action turns on, you'll usually not be able to handle more than one rod at a time -- the action can be that intense. Stripers in the 10- to 20-pound class are common and hybrids in the 6- to 10-pound class are typically caught. The fishing is usually best early and late in the day.

SEPTEMBER

Coastal Inshore Waters

Shrimp

Shrimp-baiting season is one of the most eagerly awaited "openers" in the state on an annual basis. While the shrimp action stays excellent throughout October, the first couple of weeks (beginning when the season opens in mid-September) are usually terrific for numbers of shrimp. A shrimp-baiting license is needed ($25 for residents) and you simply put out up to 10 poles to mark your bait location and throw a cast net over the bait. If you're in a good place, it won't take long to get a limit of 48 quarts (heads on).

If you're not picking up many shrimp, move to another location. The major inlets are prime areas for larger shrimp. The smaller creeks may produce good numbers, but early in the season, the average size is small. Go to the larger bodies of water for bigger shrimp early in the season.

Terry Madewell

OCTOBER

Charleston Area

Speckled Trout

Trout action reaches a fall peak during October all along the coast, but the Charleston to McClellanville area is red-hot.

The tides rule the fishing with the last portion of the dropping and first half of the rising the best, according to most trout fishermen. With the water out of the grass, the trout hold along the creeks and river edges. Junctions of small creeks that drain the flats with larger navigable creeks and rivers are prime places to find the fish.

Some anglers prefer live bait; others will use plastic lures on jigheads. The DOA shrimp lure is an outstanding artificial lure, but 3-inch curly-tail grubs on a 1/4-ounce jighead will be effective as well. The key is to work the lure just off the bottom along the creek edge. Keep moving until you find an area with plenty of fish. When you find a good area, you will likely catch several fish. As the water gets to low tide, the trout will often bunch up in holes near the middle of the creek.

NOVEMBER

Lake Marion

Largemouth Bass

When you have numerous schooling largemouths in the 2- to 3-pound class for numbers and plenty of hefty hawg largemouths in the 5- to 8-pound class holding tight to the bountiful cover, you have a recipe for outstanding largemouth fishing. Lake Marion is prime territory for both quality and quantity largemouths during the fall.

Most local experts recommend a crankbait for consistent success on numbers and big fish. However, bottom bumpers worked around the trees, logs, stumps and grassbeds will produce some huge largemouths. Topwater lures, such as buzzbaits and injured minnow lures, work great as well. Big, live shiners will produce an occasional hawg largemouth, too.

The lake actually receives fairly light pressure during this month from largemouth fishermen. The entire lake is productive, but the best schooling action seems to be on the upper end of the lake in and around the big stands of cypress trees.

DECEMBER

Georgetown Area

Redfish

The redfish is one of the most popular saltwater species of fish and can be caught year 'round. However, redfish provide dynamite-like explosive action in the shallow flats during December.

Work the shallow flats on the low tide phases, either the end of the dropping tide or first half of the rising. The redfish will be cruising the big flats looking for a meal. Often you'll see th

em by their telltale "V" wake as they cruise in ultra-shallow water. Cast a gold spoon or live-bait offering in front of the ravenous pack of reds and hold on. If you don't spook the school, you may catch several from a single place. If the tide is high or still in the grass, use live bait on a float about 18 inches deep. Fish along the grassbeds near creek junctions.

* * *

These 36 trips offer you year-round potential for great fishing. Of course, there are many other fisheries that will provide sensation fishing in addition to these. But these will certainly give you a good starting point from any location in the state. This year, plan some trips well in advance to better take advantage of the incredible fishing opportunities we have in the Palmetto State.

Find more about South Carolina fishing and hunting at:

SCgameandFish.com

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