South Carolina's Best Bream Fishing

South Carolina's Best Bream Fishing

Bream are bedding and it's time to get out to the best spots in the state for some of the fastest fun you can have in fishing. (May 2009)

Bream tournaments are not a mainstream event as fishing tournaments go. But we typically have a "family and friends" bream tournament every year, which jump-starts our family's bream fishing season into high gear. We have this tournament on the full moon in May.

There's a reason we usually try to have the event at that specific time. Bream tend to bed on the full moons throughout the summer, and May is the prime month for great bream fishing throughout the state of South Carolina.

In reality, just about anywhere that holds water for 12 months would probably be a great place to host such an event. The bream fishing is just awesome throughout the Palmetto State, and right now is prime time.

We're going to take a look at some of the best bream fishing hotspots in the state. By best, I'm referring to size, numbers or a combination of both.

We'll first look at a few of the larger lakes in the state.

Both lakes Marion and Moultrie provide sensational fishing for huge bream. With water levels down because of the drought, the bream fishermen did suffer for a while. But now water levels have replenished and bream are again working the shallow cover.

In Lake Moultrie, most of the bream fishing is confined to the shallow water around the huge open-water lake. The mid-lake, wide-open body of water will hold bream during the hot summer months. But during the spring, you'll need to fish the shallow-water areas for consistent action. The good news is there is a super-abundance of these areas.

Most fishermen will use small johnboats to get back into these shallow, cypress tree-studded flats. However, a few knowledgeable bream fishermen will get in there, abandon the boats and wade-fish the areas. This does offer advantage in terms of getting your bait or lure back into tight cover and under the cypress trees. One type of hotspot is to find old pond sites that were flooded. These areas will usually only be slightly deeper than the surrounding water, but are ideal places for bream to gang up. Whether the fish are bedding or not, you can do really well in these places.

Lake Marion, too, is a prime lake for spring. The major creeks, such as Wyboo, Potato, Eutaw and others, will produce great fishing. But the entire upper end of the lake from Jacks Creek up through Packs Flats will produce excellent bream action.

In addition to the numbers and average size of the bream in this lake, anglers have the chance to encounter an abundance of two of the most sought-after species of bream: bluegills and shellcrackers. While several different species are often found in any given lake when talking about "bream," these two distinct species apparently have ideal conditions in this part of Lake Marion.

These fish generally bed in different areas; however, they are certainly sometimes found in proximity to one another. The key, according to many anglers, is that if you want to focus on the bluegills, then stick with crickets as your primary bait. If you want to hunt the huge shellcrackers, then use redworms.

The bream will bed among the cypress trees on sandy or gravel bottoms as well as in the backs of coves and creeks and even in small bays where there is ample shallow water and sandy bottom. Typically, they avoid a mucky bottom.

Standard gear includes everything from long cane poles to small, sleek fiberglass or graphite poles. I like the graphite because of their light weight and ease of maneuverability within the tight confines of numerous cypress trees. I like to get tight to the cover and work well back into the trees, if there's even just a foot or two of water. Sometimes the shellcrackers will bed in extremely shallow water.

By seeking out these places, you can work in and around the trees and pull the bream out of areas other anglers typically pass by. While plenty of fish can be caught around the edges, there are always some untouched hotspots a bit deeper in the cover. Most of the fish will be taken in very shallow water, from a few inches deep, down to 3 to 6 feet deep. Generally, there's little need to fish much deeper than that during this time of the year.

Most Lake Marion anglers go with 8- to 10-pound-test line when bream fishing. While that's a bit larger than most bream fishermen would prefer, there are so many snags, trees, cypress knees and other debris for the fish to wrap around, the big bream sometimes require some muscle to get them into the boat. Eight-pound-test line can be used successfully in some areas, but that's about as light as I would go at this lake.

Farther upstate, around Columbia, Lake Murray is certainly a prime target. Now that there have been a few years since the last drawdown, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) biologists point out the cover that regenerated when the lake level was down has provided ideal sunfish spawning cover. The panfish population has increased significantly because of this cover. Lake Murray is truly a bream bonanza looking for someone to enjoy it.

The entire lake is productive, not just the upper end. While the upper end has great bream cover and diversity, the lower end of the lake has benefited just as much from the regrowth during the drawdown.

Wateree Lake is an outstanding lake for bream fishing. While the average size of the bream is not as huge as the bream caught at lakes Marion and Moultrie, if you are willing to catch and cull, you can limit with some hefty bream in the cooler. Plus, the numbers of fish are simply amazing. You will be hard-pressed to find a better lake in the state to introduce a youngster to the sport of bream fishing. The fish are ample size to put up a great battle on light tackle and are found in awesome abundance.

Lake Wateree is also excellent for the fly rod and popping bug combination early and late in the day from May through September.

Lake Greenwood is a great bream lake with an incredible amount of shallow-water cover for bream. The bedding action in May is sensational, but you can catch limits of bream from this lake whether bream are bedding or not.

The bedding fish certainly average very good size, but sometimes a bit of culling is required to get a limit of quality fish. But when bream fishing, catching lots of fish is one of the major attractions for most of us anyway.

As with Wateree, Greenwood is the type of lake that can really get a kid hooked on fishing. Fishing the numerous shallow coves, most of whic

h have lots of shallow-water cover in the form of brush, stumps, logs and other debris, you can find plenty of places where bream will congregate.

Lake Greenwood is also ideal fly rod and popping bug water. Some locals prefer using a green sponge spider imitation that slowly sinks as it loads up with water. This lure is lethal on the bigger bream.

All of the Savannah River lakes are productive for bream fishing, but Lake Richard B. Russell does seem to have an affinity for producing plenty of bream. The abundance of woody cover is certainly one factor.

During May, look for most of the bream on Lake Russell to be up the creeks or in coves and pockets. Later on, the prime places will migrate toward the larger creeks and the main river channel.

There's an abundance of good-looking bream water, with lots of wood cover in the shallows. One key to success is to keep moving until you hit a bed of bream. You can anchor and catch some fish, but moving and searching will be your best bet here.

Often overlooked because of the clear water, Lake Jocassee is also a prime bream lake. This clearwater lake doesn't produce the numbers of bream that some lakes boast, but the size of the fish is great. The fish are usually found somewhat deeper than on most lakes, but they'll be spawning in May and in reasonably shallow water. If you use light tackle, make long casts and stay quiet, you can enjoy sensational bream bed fishing on Lake Jocassee.

There are some excellent bream fisheries in some smaller, but still substantial, lakes as well.

Lake Warren is a 300-acre SCDNR-managed lake in Hampton County. While there is good crappie and bass fishing in this lake, it is an excellent bream lake, and May is a prime time to work the bream beds here. Lake Warren does have a boat ramp, fishing pier and is handicap accessible. Outboard motors up to 10 horsepower are allowed. The lake is located on County Road 41, between S.C. Highway 363 and U.S. Highway 601, southeast of Hampton.

In fact, most of the SCDNR managed lakes offer good bream fishing. If one is located near you, give it a try.

Another smallish bream-producing water is Lake Bowen, located just to the north of Spartanburg. It's easy to locate: The lake is split by the I-26 bridge that crosses it. Located on the Pacolet River, this lake offers outstanding bream fishing, with May the prime month to target bream beds. The lake will accommodate a large boat but is small enough that you can easily get around in a small boat.

There are use fees for boats on this lake, and anglers interested in fishing here should call the Lake Bowen warden's office at (864) 592-2240.

There's excellent cover throughout this lake, so all you really have to do is get the boat in the water and start fishing. This lake is also an excellent place to use fly rods and popping bugs for late-afternoon fishing.

Lake Edgar Brown located in downtown Barnwell, is another small lake hotspot. About 100 acres in size, Lake Edgar Brown may be small in size in comparison to some of the big reservoirs in the state, but that's not really essential when it comes to prime bream fishing. This lake is managed by the SCDNR.

I've seen anglers walking all along the shoreline of this lake catching bream. The real secret to success here is to simply just get out and work around the lake until you locate the areas where the fish are bedding or holding. This is true whether you are fishing from the shoreline or from a small boat.

Plenty of big bream catches are made in this lake with anglers using nothing but cane poles and live bait fishing from the shoreline. Also, beware the difference between beds and "nests" as I refer to them. Sometimes you will get into a bunch of smallish fish, and if you do, you need to move a respectable distance down the shoreline to get away from the smaller fish. There are plenty of big fish to be caught from this lake if you stay on the move.

There are several rivers in the state that are awesome in terms of producing great bream action as well.

One of my favorites is the Santee River, below the Wilson Dam that impounds Lake Marion.

I'd rate the Santee River as one of the premier bream fishing rivers in the state for a couple of reasons. One, the bream are big and plentiful. Two, there are places in this river that require a little bit of effort to access and they don't get fished as often. It is in these areas, where other anglers seldom beat the banks, that you can enjoy some almost untapped fishing for bream. May is certainly a prime month for fishing this river.

Based on what I've seen in terms of size and numbers of fish, this river would have to be ranked as competitive with practically any bream-fishing spot in the state. Both good quality and quantity of bream are taken from the Santee River.

The river is productive all the way from the Wilson Dam to the salt water. Some fishermen will focus their efforts on the stretch from Highway 52 up toward the Wilson Dam. Others will fish the stretch of water from the Highway 52 bridge just south of Greeleyville, down to Highway 41, just north of Jamestown. There are launching areas located at each of these bridges.

The Lynches River is another excellent bream fishery and one that can be enjoyed by fishing along the bank near bridge crossings. It's most effectively fished by working the river in a small boat. There are numerous bridge crossings where you can put in or take out a small boat and you can make a half-day or an all-day trip down this scenic and very productive river. The long, winding river flows through a large expanse of territory and winds up flowing into the Pee Dee River, another place that's known for good bream fishing.

A productive but basic method to fish this river is to drift along with the current, using the electric motor to keep the boat in position. Most local anglers employ long, lightweight fiberglass poles and swing either the live bait alongside the treetops and other woody debris along the rivers edge. When you find a hotspot, use the motor to hold the boat in position or tie the boat to an overhanging limb or adjacent log. Then you can likely catch several fish from a specific spot.

There's exceptionally good bream fishing throughout the state, so the key is to single out the best places close to you. Moreover, you can find this excellent bream fishing in about every shape and size of water, including big lakes, small lakes, rivers and ponds.

In fact, among my favorite places for bream fishing are the small privately owned ponds located throughout the state. Most fishermen know someone with a farm pond. Often all you need do is seek permission to fish and it will be given. These small-water honeyholes can produce some of the biggest bream caught in the state. Some of these ponds may only comprise a couple of acres, while others may be 10 to 20 acres in size. But the fact is many hold huge popula

tions of platter-sized bream. Don't overlook the pond bream fishing.

Regardless of where you choose to fish, the key to success in bream fishing in South Carolina is to get out on one of these places and go fishing. The bream are ready and willing. If they're not bedding, they'll be scattered around the shallows in the coves and pockets throughout May.

Right now is the prime time of the entire year for everyone in the boat to catch limits of these spirited and tasty fish. The tackle and techniques are simple but numerous, so something will appeal to almost everyone. And now you know where to go and what you need to be successful. But you'd better hurry, because

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