In South Carolina, you don't necessarily have to hit big lakes to find big-time crappie fishing. (April 2008)
Photo by Tom Berg
Crappie fishing is a major sport on all of the major lakes and rivers in the Palmetto State. However, not all the major crappie fishing takes place on the larger bodies of water. Granted, the big-name, large-size waters with great crappie fishing deserve all the credit they get. However, let's take a look at the outstanding crappie fisheries at some smaller lakes and rivers as well.
There are numerous smaller lakes that typically produce outstanding crappie fishing in South Carolina. Crappie anglers often overlook these lakes in favor of the other obvious choices.
We're going to take a look at a few of the smaller lakes with major crappie fishing action.
The first two that come to mind consist of a small lake and an even smaller lake, both on the Catawba River system. Fishing Creek Lake and Rocky Creek Lake are found between the crappie-producing meccas of Wylie and Wateree lakes. But few know about the superb spring crappie fishing at Fishing Creek Lake. Even fewer anglers have even heard of Rocky Creek, also known locally as Stumpy Pond. And yes, it's named Stumpy Pond for a reason.
Both of these are very old Duke Power lakes. Fishing Creek was created in 1916 and is just slightly over 3,000 acres in size with 61 miles of shoreline. Clearly, this is not a huge lake, but still is plenty big enough for big rigs and large outboards. Information from Duke Power indicated the water depth at the dam is about 60 feet deep. It is fed by several small creeks, as well as the main Catawba River channel. The water here is typically slightly cooler than the water in downstream Lake Wateree and local anglers make great use of this by extending the shallow-water fishing well into May in Fishing Creek.
I've fished this lake numerous times and there's actually a little bit of about everything a crappie angler would want in any lake.
First, it is teeming with crappie and many of the fish are in the 1- to 2-pound class. There are some huge slab crappie in this lake as well, but it is a numbers lake with an excellent average size of fish.
The shallow water is littered with stumps and woody cover in many areas. There are creek and river ledge drops, points, deep pockets, and the shoreline is well stocked with woody cover. If this sounds like a good crappie lake, that's because it is.
Almost any technique that works on a large lake will work here. With the abundance of underwater contour changes and plenty of cover, you can troll jigs or minnows in deep or shallow water successfully. Tightlining live bait along the drops is very productive as well. When the fish move to the shallows, which will usually begin in April and often lingers into May, just about any shallow-water technique will produce.
The favored access by most crappie fishermen is the Cane Creek Access area. This is located off Bethel Boat Landing Road and provides good access to the entire lake. The majority of crappie fishermen will fish from this general area, downstream to the dam. However, when the crappie do go into the shallows, you can catch plenty of fish scattered throughout the lake.
While this lake is large enough for big crappie rigs and even bass boats, it is full of stumps and some shallow-water humps. I strongly suggest using extreme care when motoring until you are sure of the deep-water areas. Since it's not a big lake, it still won't take long to get around to anywhere yon want to go.
Rocky Creek Lake or Stumpy Pond is a local favorite because it's somewhat of a secret and also because of the outstanding crappie fishing. The lake is only 847 surface acres in size but has a multitude of crappie-holding structures and is loaded with woody cover. Two good access points are Debutary Creek Access Area and Stumpy Pond Access Area.
Depending on weather and water conditions, the fish will be found from deep water to extreme shallows during April. Heavy rains can have a more pronounced influence on these smaller lakes, so be prepared to cope with different water conditions if we're getting much rain.
For more information on both of the great little crappie holes, visit the Duke Power Web site. There are maps that include the specifics of the lakes regarding access and basic information. Go to www.duke-energy. com/lakes and click on "Lake Facts and Maps" for full details.
The Saluda River, upstream from Lake Murray, is also a prime area for crappie. The popularity and productivity of Lake Murray is known for producing piles of papermouths, but the river upstream from the lake is also highly productive and often by-passed by crappie fishermen.
The main Saluda River, the Little Saluda River and Bush River arms are all highly productive. The good fishing extends about as far as the Bush River confluence in the main river.
This is particularly true during April when the fish move to the mid-depths and shallows. The fish will often load up at the mouths of small creeks and coves and even scatter into flats in some of the creeks.
A long fiberglass pole rigged with a slip-float and minnow or small green or chartreuse jig will produce consistent action on crappie.
Another river that's excellent for crappie is the Santee River. From the Wilson Dam that impounds Lake Marion all the way to the salt water, you can find excellent crappie fishing action. Not only are there plenty of crappie that really don't receive much fishing pressure, they are found in very good sizes as well.
Pitching jigs, using live minnows under a float or tight-lining minnows in deep holes and around logjams are all productive. There's excellent mid-river access at the Highway 52 bridge on the Williamsburg County side of the river.
Another superb crappie fishery is Lake Succession. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) fisheries biologist Wade Bailes notes that this 1,400-acre lake is primarily known for crappie fishing, and that it is a very consistent crappie producer.
"This lake is very fertile and crappie grow very fast there. This is more of a river-run type of lake than the wide-open waters of nearby Lake Thurmond, but it offers fishermen an alternative that should produce good fishing as well," Bailes said.
The fish at Lake Succession are likely to average larger sizes than most of the fish caught at most larger lakes. I
t is not known as a numbers lake, but catching limits of crappie is certainly a reasonable expectation.
Just north of Spartanburg is Lake William C. Bowen, a 1,600-acre Spartanburg Water Works lake. Located on the Pacolet River, this lake is a supercharged crappie producer, according to local anglers. The lake produces some jaw-dropping sized fish as well as limit stringers of fish. Some of the best fishing is on the deep brush just before the spawn, but when the fish move to the shallows, the fish are in reach of anyone who can scull a johnboat.
There is a public boat landing off SC Highway 9, and there is small picnic area and fishing pier located there as well.
Another area we have not yet explored for small-water crappie is the large number of SCDNR-managed lakes throughout the state. While there may be some that produce crappie, according to Ross Self, Chief of Fisheries with the SCDNR, there is only one of the agency lakes that they actually manage for crappie fishing.
"There may be some of our managed lakes that have crappie in them, but they were not placed there by us," Self said. "The fishing at most of those lakes is generally not very good and the fish are likely stunted.
"But in the case of Lake Edgar Brown, there is a good crappie fishery that we're trying to help thrive. In fact, about two years ago, we introduced threadfin shad to the lake to help this crappie fishery thrive and we think that it's working."
Lake Edgar Brown is a 100-acre lake that is literally in downtown Barnwell. The lake is also a very good largemouth bass and bream fishing lake. However, the crappie have been there for a long time and seem to offer an excellent resource for anglers. That's why the agency started trying to manage this fishery to provide even better fishing.
Self said that often in the smaller lakes, as may be the case in some other SCDNR lakes, if crappie are placed in the lake, they could become overpopulated and stunted. Nevertheless, Edgar Brown is producing some quality fishing for the crappie.
Because of the relatively small size of the lake, Edgar Brown cannot withstand heavy pressure, but it is a good fishery resource. Part of the lake does have a 10-horsepower restriction, so be sure you obey the SCDNR rules. This lake does have a fishing pier and handicap access.
These lakes may not replace your old standby crappie haunts, but they do offer quality fishing and a change of pace for crappie anglers.