South Carolina Fishing: Hot Summer Spots!
August 19, 2011
If you're looking for great fishing you can find plenty within the borders of South Carolina during the summer. But to ensure success, you need to be selective in your targeted species and destination. We've listed a number of fisheries that are historically excellent during this time of the year. Sort though the opportunities and enjoy one or all of them this summer.
CATFISH AT LAKE MOULTRIE
Marlin Ormseth, a professional guide at Lake Moultrie, is a big catfish specialist who does most of his hunting for big catfish at night, especially during the summer months.
Ormseth has been a catfish guide for the past few years (843-825-4713; www.santeecoopercatfishhunter.com) but has fished for the catfish diligently for the past nine years.
A trip with Ormseth demonstrated that the nighttime fishing is definitely a good plan during the summertime heat. While some good catfish can be, caught by day, Ormseth notes that when the sun goes down, the fishing action perks up.
"I average fishing about 150 trips a year and have found that a lot of the best fishing during much of the year is at night," Ormseth said. "While daytime fishing is good and I've got some places that produce well during the day, the nighttime seems to be best for both numbers of fish as well as big fish. That's especially true during the mid-summer heat."
According to Ormseth, during July and August, the best catfish bite on Lake Moultrie is in fairly deep water along the drops and ledges. In fact, that's a pretty good technique for much of the year whether you're fishing by day or night.
"I prefer to drift fish because I like to be active in terms of looking for catfish," he said. "There are times when anchoring on a specific place will really produce well, but that's kind of like watching paint dry as far as I'm concerned. I want to stay on the move and hunt for the big catfish."
In addition, Ormseth has special method for deploying his drift lines, one that is unique. But as we found out the night we fished, it is highly effective.
"One of the issues at night, especially when there is some wind, is having your lines tangled as the boat drifts," he said. "I like to stay right on the edge lines of the drops and humps when I can, especially when I've got fish located in specific areas. So I'll need to make course corrections at times using my electric motor. By using a series of homemade buoys and planer boards, I can get good separation between my lines. Plus, I have visible marker where I can see my lines at all times."
At night Ormseth uses glow sticks in his buoys and planer boards to show the exact location of his lines. It is quite a sight, looking behind the boat at the eerie glow of the glow sticks. But when one of them suddenly disappears, you know you're in the catfish-catching business.
Ormseth likes to drift 0.7 to 0.8 miles per hour and will fish a variety of depths from 15 feet down to 40 feet. He will use a variety of cut bait, from herring and shad to white perch to bluegill. He experiments each trip to ensure he gives the catfish exactly what they want on any given night.
LARGEMOUTH BASS AT LAKE WATEREE
One key to catching largemouth at Lake Wateree at this time of the year is to focus on the myriad of offshore humps, ridges and ledges scattered throughout the lake. In much of the lake, a distinct thermocline sets up and the largemouth bass will be holding right that level or just above that depth most of the time. That depth may vary a bit annually, but generally around 16-feet deep is the magic number. Except for early and late in the day when some fish move to the shallows for feeding, look for the bass to be on offshore structure that rise to within 12-to-16-feet of the surface.
The good news, and the bad news, is that this lake is loaded with such offshore structures. The sheer number of possibilities can make it hard to figure out which ones the bass like best. But if you work though enough of them, you are very likely going to find largemouth that will bite. Also, this is where the majority of the 4- to 6-pound fish reside at this time of the year. So when you do get on some fish on these offshore structures, you can often catch several hefty fish in short order.
Most experienced Lake Wateree largemouth fishermen will use deep-diving crankbaits that dig down to the 12-foot-and-deeper range to work these areas. In addition, both the Carolina and Texas rigged worms are good choices. Patience is a must; you may fish several areas with little action. But when you hit a hotspot, you may catch several good fish in rapid succession.
Another excellent pattern is to fish the shallow water cover in the very upper end of the lake. Because of demands for power production, there is often good water flown in the upper section of the lake, from Taylors Creek to Wateree Creek, and the water doesn't typically stratify. Fishing woody cover, docks and even the steep rock banks in the portion of the lake can yield some excellent largemouth. Worms, spinnerbaits and medium-depth crankbaits are very effective.
CATFISH ON LAKE MURRAY
A lot of fishermen are missing an outstanding fishery on Lake Murray by not fishing for catfish. The lake is loaded with channel, blue, flathead and white cattish and all species are caught in excellent numbers and sizes. During the summer months, some of the best fishing is at night, especially in the lower end of the lake.
In the upper portion of the lake both night and day will produce good fishing for a variety of catfish species.
One favorite technique is to anchor long sloping points that drop into the main river channel and fan cast baits all around the boat in different depths. A set up like this works well in the late evening and on into the night because of the typically clear water in Lake Murray at this time of the year. The first bites typically come from the deeper water with the fish progressively moving shallower as darkness sets it. The nocturnal fishing is also more comfortable for anglers during the hottest part of the year and, of course, there is far less boat traffic on the lake at night.
During the day on the upper portion of the lake, most anglers will anchor or drift fish. They'll orient to the main river channel ledge or to channels in larger creeks and at creek and river junctions.
Best baits include the gamut of catfish baits with cut herring and shad high on the list. However, nightcrawlers, stink baits such as Doc's Catfish Getter Dip Bait, as well as live bait including large minnows and shiners will also produce consistent action.
That consistency includes channel catfish in the 8- to 12-pound class, which is extraordinary. Also blues in the 15- to 20-pound class are frequently caught and flatheads the same size and larger. The top end potential for both blues and flatheads is huge. The lake currently holds the state record for white catfish and white catfish in the 3- to 5-pound class are common.
FLOUNDER ON THE SOUTH CAROLINA COAST
Flounder fishing is really at a peak during mid-summer and this fish rates high on the list of sought after fish by inshore fishermen. Plus, its outstanding table fare. According to one expert, a lot of time fishermen just simply over think the process. Keeping it simple will usually add more fish to the creel.
"Some fishermen get really high tech on some of the inshore species, but it's really not necessary," said Mike Cox of Awendaw. "I've found that the basic strategies, modified as needed to meet tidal, weather and forage situations, will usually produce excellent results on flounder. I've found this especially true during the summer when they are abundant in the inshore area."
Cox generally prefers to use live bait at this time of the year — finger mullet and mud minnows both are very productive.
"I keep the basic rigging simple," he said. "One e method is to drift fish, letting the current move the boat along. I use the basic Carolina rig with a 3/4 to 1-ounce sinker and live bait hook, usually a 1/0 size. The Eagle Claw style 84 is one good hook to use. I'll use line in the 12- to 15-pound class and I always use a wire leader because of the flounder's sharp teeth."
Cox said that flounder are caught on all tide stages, but flounder chasers will have to change places to keep up with the movement of the forage, which usually dictates where the most flounder will be found.
"I've found through the years that a mixed sand and shell bank generally produces best at this time of the year," Cox said. "Plus the mud and shell banks will also produce well. But on any given day, you may find fish on a sand bank or a primarily shell bank, so don't get locked into a single set pattern in terms of mind frame. But those are good starting points."
Cox does have one artificial lure tactic that works well on flounder, but it's really designed as a multi-functional technique.
"I occasionally use jigs and grubs, or a DOA trailer for flounder and I have found it to be very effective during the summer months," he said. "I'll work points on shell and sand banks where there's a very pronounced point and the water flowing over it creates an eddy situation.
"I prefer casting the jig and grub combination. Hopping it along the bottom, or swimming it just off the bottom, will often result in good flounder action," he said.
BLACK BASS AT LAKE RUSSELL
Lake Russell is a Savannah River lake that has enough current flow to ensure good fishing during the summer month. Plus, the lake is one of a few in the state that has a combination of both largemouth and spotted bass populations. This gives hot weather anglers two distinct type of fishing possibilities to be successful.
For largemouth, the key will be cover and depth. Often you'll find largemouth in fairly shallow water early and late in the day, actively feeding. But most of the day you'll need to back off to submerged timber, or other woody cover in the eight-to twelve-foot depth range. There are some quality largemouths on this lake and you can anchor a good string of fish with a couple of hefty largemouth bass.
According to Lake Russell guide Wendell Wilson, (706-283-3336; www.wilsonsguideservice.com) the spotted bass comprise the majority of the black bass population in the lake, probably 60 to 70 percent, in his estimation. Thus, focusing on these fish is a big plus in terms of enjoying consistent black bass fishing. The spotted bass will be orienting to the main river portion of the lake and usually found schooled up off main river points and on humps and ledges. Much of the best fishing will be in the lower end of the lake.
Wilson noted for big largemouth a key will be fishing along the inundated creek channels that wind through the timbered flats along the river and in the major creeks. These areas are effectively fished with bottom-bumping rigs as well as deep-diving crankbaits.
Wilson noted that during the summer you can target both species of black bass off long, sloping points; however, the spotted bass will usually be found deeper than the largemouth.
Wilson also said that one of the advantages of fishing for spotted bass during the summer is that he frequently encounters schools of fish.
"It's not unusual to catch several good-sized spotted bass from a single place, which can be quite exciting," he said.
He also noted that not all points or humps are created equal in terms of holding black bass, so work a place effectively, but don't linger if you're not getting bites, and experiment with different lures. Overcast days can be a big plus as well.