Great Family Fishing Trips In The Palmetto State

Here's a look at some of the best places in the state to take the kids on a vacation that includes some fishing with the family. (June 2007)

Photo by Robert H. Cleveland Jr.

Once school's out and the kids starting running around, most families are looking for something fun to do. Fortunately, South Carolina is chock-full of family fishing and outdoors opportunities. In fact, there's hardly anyplace better to plan a family adventure trip than in South Carolina. Whether you enjoy the coast, Lowcountry, Piedmont or Upstate regions, there are lakes, rivers, ponds, streams and an ocean that offer you a great family adventure.

If you haven't taken the time to plan a family fishing adventure, or you're looking for somewhere new to go, we have some great tips and starting points for you here. Whether you're looking for a day trip, weekend adventure or an entire vacation, there's no reason to leave our great state.

I've learned several things taking kids fishing for the past 30 years and that's to keep things basic and simple. Most of the time, they are not as much into patience and trophy fish as they are into "head count."

For example, a dozen 1- to 3-pound channel catfish are likely to be better for them than one 10-pound catfish. Veteran anglers would likely see it different, but for a fun-filled trip, keep a youngster's energy and attention span in perspective.

We're going to give you a list of opportunities where action and fast-paced fun rules. Season these youngsters with action now and they will likely become a fishing buddy for a lifetime.

Sometimes small water is absolutely ideal for family adventures. Just to the north of Spartanburg (and not too far from Greenville) is the 1,600-acre Lake William C. Bowen. While not a huge lake compared with some waters in the state, this water is certainly large enough to handle family adventures and has an ideal mix of size and opportunity mixed with convenience.

The lake is impounded on the Pacolet River and is operated by the Spartanburg Water Works. You'll drive over it on I-26 north of Spartanburg and public access is excellent through a public boat ramp and fishing pier. There's also room for family picnic faculties at the access site as well. The access point is right off Highway 9, near New Prospect.

The lake is teeming with bream and that's what makes this lake special. My first trip to this lake was for largemouth bass and the lake certainly measures up well in that department, too. But the bream were on the beds on that early June trip, and after the bass fishing, I enjoyed some great bream action. The lake is ideal for fishing shallow water with light tackle or even bream-buster type equipment.

Even when the moon is not full and fish not bedding, June is a prime time to bream fish at Lake Bowen. In fact, in some regards it's even better for family fishing when the bream are not bedding. The bream will be scattered out all along the shallow-water shoreline and are easy "pickins' " for a crew of anxious anglers.

By easing the boat along the shoreline and casting or pitching crickets or redworms along the bank and woody cover, you'll catch scattered fish all along the way. During the bedding periods, you'll need to keep moving, looking for a concentration of hefty male bream. Either way, you can certainly catch plenty of fish to keep the entire family involved in the action.

For anyone in the Upstate area, this is a close, easy, fun and productive adventure just waiting on a family to happen.

The Lake Greenwood State Park is another outstanding family opportunity. Lake Greenwood is a prolific fish producer and there are two species of fish that families can key on during June for great success: bream and channel catfish.

The state park is only 60 miles from Columbia and about 70 from Greenville. Access from I-26 is easy. Take exit 74 to Highway 34 toward Newberry. Stay on Highway 34 for about 25 miles and turn onto Highway 702 for about two miles and the park entrance is on the right. If you are coming from Greenwood, take Highway 72 for about six miles, turn right on Highway 246. Go about five miles and turn left onto Highway 702 and the park will be about seven miles on the left.

One of the great things about Lake Greenwood fishing is you can focus on either the great bream fishing or channel catfishing, or you can do both at the same time.

The best bream fishing during June is had by working the shallow water along the shoreline of the lake. There are steep shorelines where you can fish 3 to 5 feet deep with spinning tackle and stay in excellent bream action most anytime of the day. Or, during the full moon period, you can quietly slip to the back of shallow coves on sand and gravel bottoms and find fish bedding.

There's another technique I particularly like when family fishing, which can be great if you have a roomy boat such as a pontoon. Get the boat in about 8 to 12 feet of water, in the back of a quiet cove, and anchor. Fan-cast worms and crickets around the boat. You'll have good action from both bream and channel catfish this way. If the action slows and you are ready to make a move, it's also a great place to let the family take a break with a quick swim in the water.

If you want to focus specifically on channel catfish, orient the boat to points and use night crawlers or stink baits to keep the action going strong.

Another reason for picking this spot for a family adventure is the opportunity for shoreline fishing. The park is large, encompassing 914 acres, and has camping opportunities available. Also, the park's property includes shoreline access into several different coves. There's plenty of room for family adventures at this state park and lake.

For more specific information, you can contact the Lake Greenwood State Park at 302 State Park Road, Ninety Six, SC 29666, or call (864) 543-3535.

No South Carolina family trip planner would be complete without some saltwater adventures. One outstanding place for such a trip is the Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort.

Access is easy. From I-95, take Highway 21 toward Beaufort. Drive about 42 miles and Highway 21 ends at the park. The park is also only about 85 miles from Charleston, making it well within range for a day or weekend outing from this area as well.

Hunting Island State Park is a 5,000-acre barrier island, with over four miles of beach. On the beach, you can fish for whiting and a variety of other saltwater fish. In the many saltwater creeks aroun

d the park, crabbing is excellent using the chicken-back-and-string method. Crabbing at many places along the coast has always been a fun activity for the entire family. You don't need a boat or any special gear. Just tie a chicken back (or any part of the chicken, backs are usually inexpensive) onto a string, and toss it into the water. Give the crabs a few minutes to locate the meat (it won't take long), and start pulling the string in slowly. When you can see the crabs feasting on the chicken, use a long-handled crab net to dip them up.

A few of these and you've not only had plenty of fun, but you have some prime eating in store for you. Blue crabs may be smaller than the restaurant variety of king crab we enjoy, but the taste of blue crabs is unbeatable.

If you bring a boat, you're in an even better position to enjoy this area. St. Helena Sound offers great fishing for a variety of fish species, as well as unlimited crabbing opportunities. If you have a big boat, you can fish in the main body of St. Helena Sound. If you have a smaller craft, get back in the Coosaw River or the South Edisto River. There, you have great fishing for flounder, redfish and even speckled trout.

For detailed information about Hunting Island State Park, you can contact park officials at 2555 Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island, SC 29920, or call the park office at (843) 838-2011

Another similar saltwater opportunity for fishing and crabbing exists well to the north, between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown at Huntington Beach State Park. Access is easy via Highway 17. If you are coming from Murrells Inlet, the park entrance is three miles on the left. If approaching from Georgetown, it's 20 miles up Highway 17 on the right.

There's good fishing from the surf as well as from the jetty here at the park. Fishing from the jetty can be a great family adventure. First, it's easy, no boat required. Second, there's room to walk around and the youngsters can enjoy snacks and soft drinks while fishing. Third, a wide selection of saltwater fish will be available. If you fish with medium tackle and use shrimp as bait, you'll have no problem getting plenty of bites from a variety of fish species.

If you bring your boat, there's good access at Oyster Landing, about a mile from the park entrance. There's not as much saltwater territory to fish as there is at Hunting Island, but just to the north is Murrells Inlet, which is quite famous for a variety of inshore saltwater fishing.

Also, to add to the family adventure, there is a 2,500-square-foot Education Center that includes a saltwater touch tank. This will likely be a big hit with the family if you take a break in the fishing action. My wife and I have learned that sidebar adventures such as this are always a good touch when you have inquisitive and energetic kids looking for stuff to do.

For additional information about Huntington Beach State Park, contact the office at 16148 Ocean Highway, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576, or call (843) 237-4440.

Moving back inland, we'll look at an out-of-the-way spot on a lake not many fishermen know about. Fishing Creek Lake is a smallish lake sandwiched between lakes Wateree and Wylie. But the lake offers great bream and catfish action during the month of June and is an ideal location for an out-of-the-way family outing.

The lake consists of a little more than 3,100 surface acres and has plenty of woody cover available, which makes it a prime bream fishing lake. In addition, during June (and really throughout the summer), the fishing for channel catfish is sensational. Not many fishermen take advantage of this catfishery, which is what makes this lake quite special for a family trip.

For bream fishing, the same tactics as described earlier for other waters work great here. Crickets and worms worked around the shoreline and woody cover will produce plenty of bream. The bream are not sensational in size, but they are respectable if you're willing to cull smallish fish. But that's one of the positive aspects for a family trip: There are plenty of bream to catch.

But we'll also focus on the catfish action here for a family trip.

The only species of the "big three" that I've caught from the lake has been the channel catfish. There are blue catfish in Wateree downstream and Wyllie upstream, but for now, focus on channel catfish for the best action. During June, key your catfishing efforts to points and river channels for best action.

You do not have to necessarily be in deep water to be successful. However, having deep water nearby is usually a good rule of thumb. Many times, I'll anchor the boat in 10 to 12 feet of water. I'll fan-cast bait to deeper and shallower water until I figure the combination of depth and structure the fish prefer that day.

My experience on Fishing Creek Lake has been that the successful depth pattern for catfish will likely change as the day progresses. Typically, it will go from an early-morning shallow pattern to a midday deep pattern and then back to a shallow pattern as the afternoon and evening approach.

For fast-paced action, simply stick with the basics: Use traditional baits, such as night crawlers or stink baits. (Doc's Catfish Getter Dip Bait has produced excellent results for me.)

If you're getting plenty of pull downs and action for the family, there's no harm in using some cut bait on a couple of rods to perhaps hook a larger channel catfish in the 5- to 10-pound class. The only way to make a long stringer of 1- to 3-pound catfish better is to anchor it with a brute.

If you're not getting bites frequently, I suggest staying on the move, looking for a hotspot. If you go for 15 minutes without a bite -- and you are keeping fresh bait on the rigs -- then I'd suggest moving. Sometimes I'll fish several places with little success, then finally hit a point or river dropoff where the fish seem to be stacked up. You can sometimes mark the fish with the graph, and that's a pretty good technique as well, when motoring over a point or drop.

At Fishing Creek, I suggest focusing on the lower half of the lake. The water depths are better for June catfishing and there's also plenty of productive shallow water for the bream action.

If you're not familiar with the lake, travel slowly as you learn your way around: You want to fish the woody cover, not ram into it with your boat. It's not a big lake and there's no need to hurry anyway.

You don't need heavy tackle for the catfish at this lake. But because of the woody cover, medium tackle is a good choice. Some of the points that produce fish have many stumps and other woody debris. Occasionally, you'll find a need for some "muscle" in your rod and line, especially if you're trying to hook a slightly larger fish to anchor your catch.

There are two primary access points on the lake. One is Cane Creek access. Get there off Highway 200 between Great Falls and Lancaster, turning onto Bethel Boat Landing Road, which takes you to the

landing. The other is Fishing Creek Access off Highway 21.

Family fishing trips can be among the most enjoyable fishing trips of the year, if you plan them right. These places all have the ingredients for a successful trip. They're easily accessible, have plenty of fish and offer fast-paced action.

Plan your trip now and fish one, several or all of these places this summer.

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