South Carolina's 12-Month Angling Planner

Looking for some great fisheries for year-round action in South Carolina? Here are our picks -- 36 in all. (Feb 2009)

The biggest problem with fishing in South Carolina is the number of choices anglers have to make in terms of what to fish for and where to go. However, since the fishing is excellent year 'round, that's not really a bad problem to have. If fishermen are willing to fish for a variety of species, excellent fishing action can be enjoyed year 'round. In fact, almost every month of the year, good to excellent fishing exists somewhere in the state for multiple game fish species. In this feature, we'll share some of the top fisheries for each month of the year to help you narrow -- or expand -- your "where to go" list.

This 12-month angling planner by no means attempts to list all the excellent fisheries for each month. However, it does highlight some of the most dependable, with both fresh- and saltwater opportunities included. These fishing trips will be ranked in a first, second and third order.

Additionally, in most cases, any highly ranked fishery in a given month in this forecast is likely to provide quality fishing immediately before and after the month we've chosen to highlight.

But that means there are even more choices to make. With great fresh- and saltwater opportunities, we do lead a tough life in terms of fishing here in the Palmetto State. Here's the scoop on where the fishing will be fine in 2009.

JANUARY
Blue Catfish At Wateree
Redfish Near Charleston
Crappie At Clarks Hill

The dramatic increase in the blue catfish population and size distribution at Lake Wateree continues to provide outstanding fishing. Based on the 2008 season, January of 2009 should be one of the best months of the year to catch both quality and quantities of these fish. Guide Rodger Taylor (803/328-9587) ranks this cold-weather month as a prime time to catch these fish.

"My favorite tactic during this time of the year is to drift-fish in about 20 to 38 feet of water," Taylor said. "I use a variety of cut bait, such as perch, shad and bream, and keep the bait just ticking the bottom as I move along. It's not unusual to catch dozens of fish and usually we'll have a few big blue catfish load on during the course of the day. It's a great time to catch a trophy blue, but odds are great you'll get a boatload of fish in the 2- to 10-pound class as well."

The redfish action is also very good in the shallow flats of the inshore waters near Charleston. Look for the fish at low tides working the back of the flats in very shallow water.

The crappie at Clarks Hill will be deep, but slow-trolling small jigs or drifting live minnows will produce good results.

FEBRUARY
Big Stripers At Hartwell
Crappie On Moultrie
Black Bass On Keowee

While good numbers of stripers and hybrids can be caught on Lake Hartwell during the cold winter months, it is really prime big-fish season, according to guide Chip Hamilton (Lake Hartwell Striper Guide Service at 864/304-9011).

Hamilton said that he likes a clear, bright day with no clouds for the big stripers in the 20- to 40-pound class. In addition, he said the ideal temperature would be in the upper 50s to lower 60s. The prime time of the day is from about 9 o'clock in the morning until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

"Really big stripers are very sensitive to boats and external influences," Hamilton said. "But I've found the above set of conditions is ideal for hooking into a real trophy fish. I'll use free-line rigs over a long, sloping point that drops into deep water or over a clean ridge near deep water. Typically, these really big fish will get into these types of areas in 20 to 25 feet of water during midday. Plus, I'll use the larger herring when targeting a big striper. I get the line and herring well away from the boat and work each area thoroughly and patiently. There is no sure-fire setup, but it's the best way I've found to specifically target the really big fish at Lake Hartwell."

The crappie fishing at Lake Moultrie is excellent and using small jigs or live minnows over sunken brush along a drop is the preferred method. Often limits can be caught from a single spot.

The bass fishing for spots on Keowee is very good in the stream of water below the "hot hole" using a variety of lures or live bait.

MARCH
Largemouths At Lake Marion
Bottom-Fishing Offshore
For Black Seabass
Stripers At Clarks Hill

Big largemouth hawg bass will make their way to the shallows during March, and Lake Marion in March may be the best place and time to catch a trophy largemouth in South Carolina. Guide Inky Davis (803/478-7289) suggests using a variety of lures with worms, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater lures.

"The key at any given point of the month will be the water temperature," Davis said. "The precise timing may vary from year to year. But I keep moving, searching and trying different lures in different depth and cover patterns until I hit the pattern for the day. This is a great time to hook some huge largemouth bass."

The offshore fishing for black seabass can be from good to outstanding. Most of the fishing will be over live bottom in less than 100 feet of water. Remember to watch creel and size limits: The fishing can be intense. The striper fishing at Clarks Hill really begins to crank up and using live bait on tight-line rigs, free-line rigs and on planer rigs are all productive.

APRIL
Largemouth Bass At Lake Greenwood
Shellcrackers/Bream In
Lake Marion
Crappie At Lake Wylie

This month presents both numbers and trophy opportunities at Lake Greenwood for largemouth bass. The abundant shallow-water cover, especially in the upper third of the lake, gives largemouth bass plenty of options for shallow-water cover. You can fish the many docks, logs, treetops and stumps with everything from plastic worms, topwater lures, crankbaits and spinnerbaits -- they all make excellent catches. A few anglers also have excellent results fishing some of the shallow humps and flats where there is woody cover as well, even though it may be far removed from the shoreline. The entire lake is productive, but the upper portion is certainly a hotspot for action.

Perhaps the biggest shellcrackers in the most abundant numbers in the state are found in Lake Marion, including the Diversion Canal area. The upper part of the lake teems with big beds of shellcrackers, as well as the "rooster" bream this lake is famous for. Most anglers use redworms if they key on the shellcrackers. If your target is bream, use crickets. But have a box of redworms handy if you do hook a couple of big shellcrackers in succession. Once you get on a big shellcracker bed, you can be the one that becomes hooked on this sensational fishing.

The crappie at Lake Wylie are on the move this month and can be caught by trolling along the shallow breaklines or by tight-lining minnows around woody cov

er.

MAY
Largemouths At Lake Wylie
Crappie At Murray
Bream At Wateree

It's shallow-water largemouth bass fishing time at Lake Wylie. Many of the fish will be in the post-spawn mode during May, although there will be some bedding during this month. But most of the action will be in the shallows around cover, such as logs, brush, docks and on shallow humps and points. May is buzzbait time to begin and end a day of fishing at dawn and dusk, with worms, crankbaits and spinnerbaits all producing well during the midday. Most of the action will be in the major creeks at the beginning of the month. By the end of May, many of the largemouths will also begin to be caught in the main-river portion of the lake.

The crappie fishing at Lake Murray is very good throughout May with slow-trolling small jigs being a great way to locate the schools of crappie. Also, tight-lining minnows over submerged brush will produce big stringers of crappie.

The bream fishing at Lake Wateree in May is awesome in terms of numbers. If you enjoy getting plenty of bites and are willing to cull out numerous small fish, you can catch limits of good-sized bream on this under-rated bream lake.

JUNE
Flounder From Georgetown To Myrtle Beach
Catfish On The Pee Dee River
Dolphin Offshore

June is a prime saltwater fishing month and the highly popular flounder have flooded into inshore waters and provide some of the best fishing of the year. Trolling live bait such as mudminnows or 1/4-ounce jigs (green is a great color) will produce consistent action. Another favored method is to drift live bait, such as mudminnows or shrimp, along the grass lines near junctions of creeks and along shallow oyster bars.

The Pee River has become an awesome catfish factor with both big blues and flatheads being taken in huge numbers and sizes. Look for the deep holes, and then anchor and fish downstream. Both day and night fishing is very productive. Trolling the offshore areas between Georgetown and Charleston, working around mats of floating grass or debris is an ideal way to catch plenty of dolphin this month.

JULY
Sharks At The Coast
Catfish In The Diversion Canal
Largemouth Bass In The Santee River

Sharks love the warm water temperatures associated with July, and the abundance of forage found along the South Carolina coast in July. There are so many species that are available, it's just a matter of picking a species and go fishing. Bonnetheads are a very popular and great-eating species of shark found in the inshore creeks and rivers. Shrimp and crab make the best baits for this species of shark, which can be handled, if you have some skill, on heavy freshwater tackle. Many of these fish will be in the 10- to 20-pound range. If you want to do battle with really big sharks, gear up with heavy tackle -- the big brutes are waiting for you. Check the SCDNR rules and regulations closely for the details on shark fishing, though, as explicit bag and length limits apply to specific species of shark.

The catfish angling is great for blue catfish in the Diversion Canal between lakes Marion and Moultrie. Drifting cut bait with the current is the number one method.

The largemouth bass action is excellent in the Santee River below Lake Marion. Look for bass holding on the abundant heavy cover and in the pockets where eddies form. Plastic worms are lethal.

AUGUST
Blue Catfish At Lake Monticello
Stripers At Lake Wateree
Crappie At Lake Marion.

If you can take the heat, there are some huge blue catfish that can be caught in the clear waters of Lake Monticello. Guide Chris Simpson (864/992-2352) specializes in big catfish, and August and September are typically excellent months. Simpson uses cut bait and fishes very deep. Fishing can be good both day and night.

"This is an awesome time to hook some really huge blue catfish, but patience is a key to success," Simpson said. "You can't just plan on going and catching big catfish like crazy. But a lot of 30- to 40-pound fish are in this lake. Plus, there are some much, much larger fish we have the potential to hook."

Despite the heat and humidity of August, there's usually some early and late in the day striper fishing on the lower half of Lake Wateree. Small jigs, topwater lures and Little Fishes are best lures for this surface schooling action.

The deep brushpiles produce plenty of Lake Marion slab crappie. Using medium minnows or small green, chartreuse or blue jigs will produce numerous crappie when you get over the brush.

SEPTEMBER
Speckled Trout Along The Coast
Shrimp Along The Coast
Largemouth Bass At Lake Moultrie

Speckled trout fishing is great all along the coast, but the Georgetown to Charleston area has to rank as a prime spot during this time of the year. Casting jigs along the grass lines near creek junctions and points is very effective. Live bait fished under the "Equalizer" float rig in shallow water is also a lethal method to catch limits of this tasty fish.

Shrimp baiting season opens mid-month and it is one of the most eagerly awaited outdoor events in the state. Make bait balls out of fishmeal and clay, place them near marker poles in saltwater creeks and bays, cast your net and reap the bounty of the sea.

The largemouth bass at Lake Moultrie are getting active and are best caught fishing Carolina worm rigs along the drops and humps scattered throughout the lake.

OCTOBER
Stripers And Hybrids At Lake Hartwell
Largemouths At Lake Russell
Crappie At Clarks Hill

The red-hot action for stripers and hybrids at Lake Hartwell is booming in October with the most dependable action occurring in the mornings, according to guide Chip Hamilton (864/304-9011).

"The action can be good early, midday and late in the evening, but the mornings are typically best in October," Hamilton said. "Often, you can limit in a morning of fishing, so the best bet is to be on the water before dawn. Look for the big pods of baitfish and you can usually find plenty of stripers and hybrids roaming in the area feasting on them. Keep a topwater rig handy, there can be some explosive action here as well."

The largemouth bass at Lake Russell are making a move back to shallower water and are feeding heavy on shad. Crankbaits, topwater lures and spinnerbaits are all productive. The crappie at Clarks Hill can be caught trolling or by fishing at night under the lights on points and humps.

NOVEMBER
Redfish Inshore
Channel Catfish At Greenwood
Largemouth Bass At Lake Murray

The redfish action gets red-hot all along the coast this month. Use gold spoons in the backs of the creeks or shallow bays at low tide. Live bait fished around the grass points and creek junctions at the mid and high tides is also outstanding. Some big redfish can be hooked at this time of the year.

If you're looking for a double-digit-sized channel catfish, now is the time and Lake Greenwood is the place. There is outstanding fishing for channel catfish in the 10-pound-plus class here -- it is

likely the best place in the state for big channel catfish.

The Lake Murray largemouths literally become cranked up off points, mid-lake humps and around shallow cover in the creeks. Key your fishing on areas where shad are found.

DECEMBER
Blue Catfish In Lakes Marion And Moultrie
Stripers At Lake Murray
Crappie At Lake Wateree

The action on blue catfish at both lakes Marion and Moultrie is still sensational during December. The blues are found in plentiful numbers and huge sizes. The action begins to really perk up as the water temperature drops. This fishing will usually stay excellent for several weeks once it gets hot. Use threadfin shad as bait; they can be caught with cast nets when marked on your graph. Fish under the big pods of shad in the open water of these lakes for best results. Some bonus flathead catfish are often caught as well.

The stripers are schooling at Lake Murray and can be found throughout the lake. Topwater fishing, live bait fishing and trolling are all productive.

The crappie at Lake Wateree will be holding along the ledges and around sunken brush in 15 to 25 feet of water.

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