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Summer Hotspots for South Carolina Fishing

Summer Hotspots for South Carolina Fishing
Guide Inky Davis hefts a Lake Marion largemouth taken in hot weather from heavy cover. Photo by Terry Madewell.

Scorching temperatures during the mid-summer melt-down don't mean anglers have to abandon hope of catching fish in South Carolina. The hot weather actually sets up some very predictable patterns for fishing for various species of fish at several lakes and inshore saltwater areas. From the upstate to the coast, there are excellent fishing opportunities available for largemouth bass, catfish, stripers and various saltwater species.

Here are several destinations that offer spectacular summertime success.

LAKE MARION LARGEMOUTH


The black bass are back in this lake, both in terms of quantity and quality of fish. Despite the heat, the summertime patterns are consistent and excellent fishing is available now.


One key is the resurgence of native grasses in the lake. These grasses have helped boost the population of largemouth because they have vastly improved bass spawning habitat over the past few years. The grass also provides cover needed for attracting and holding the fish during hot weather.

There are several patterns that will produce at this time of the year and working heavy cover in water depths from 3- to 8-feet deep is a primary pattern.

Most local bass fishermen recommend getting out early to enjoy good shallow-water action. The fish will occasionally engage in surface schooling. Even if the bass are not busting shad on the surface they will often be working shallow flats and points where shad are found. Crank baits, buzz baits and plastic worms will produce well in this situation. Sometimes the fishing will be in relatively open water and you will need to cover as much territory as possible before the sun starts bearing down on the water. Once the sun gets up in the sky, most of the fish retreat to the cover.

The good news is there's a lot of cover and you can systematically work the various forms of cover until you find the lure and depth pattern for the day.




Generally the mid-day action is slower, but steady. When you do find a pocket or stretch of water that holds some decent-sized largemouth, don't hesitate to work back through that same area. Often fish will be there because forage and cover are available and when you re-work an area and you will continue to catch fish.

For more information contact Guide Inky Davis at 803-478-7289 (www.inkydavis.com)

LAKE WATEREE CATFISH AND LARGEMOUTH


Lake Wateree provides an outstanding opportunity for a "two for one" fishing opportunity. During the summer months both the largemouth bass and the catfish offer outstanding fishing. Armed with the right equipment, anglers can successfully fish for both on the same day at Lake Wateree.

The largemouths are locked in to solid pattern of holding off points, open-water ledges and humps during July and August. Typically a very definable thermocline sets up in this lake and the bass will be caught in 12-to-16-feet of water. That's a pattern that holds consistently true throughout the day.

Bass will do some early morning foraging in the shallows, so it can be worth the effort to get out at dawn and work a buzzbait, crankbait or plastic worm in shallow water near the points that drop into deep water. Once the sun gets its bright rays on the water the bass retreat to these deeper sanctuaries. With a graph or map of the lake you can often pre-determine potential hotspots and you can systematically work these areas until you locate the fish.

Best lures are deep-diving crankbaits. These lures enable an angler to cover a lot of territory at the right depth. Also, Carolina rigged worms are ideal for working these offshore targets. In most cases once the sun gets up, forget about the shoreline or you'll likely catch only smaller bass. This lake is loaded with 3- to 5-pound largemouths that hold on these deeper structures.

The catfish are also predictable. Early morning is a great time to anchor and fan cast rods around the boat. As with largemouth fishing, the key structures are points, underwater humps and ledges; prime targets will be in water ranging from very shallow down to 20-feet deep.

Later in the morning, drift fishing is extremely productive in the 10- to 20-foot depth range using the typical catfish drift rig. The good part about this fishery is that you are apt to catch both blue and channel catfish, so you'll have a mixed-bag opportunity. The mid-lake to upper end of the lake is best for drift fishing at this time of the year.

There are some huge blue catfish in this lake, along with scads of fish in the 5- to 15-pound class. Most of the channel catfish will range in the 1 to 4-pound class but offer excitement in good numbers. The best baits for good catfish include cut shad or chunks of perch or bream. Also, chicken breast cut into inch-square chunks soaked in WD-40 is highly productive for both blues and channel catfish on Lake Wateree.

For catfish guide service contact Rodger Taylor at 803-328-9587 (www.catfishon.com)

LAKE HARTWELL STRIPERS

Lake Hartwell offers some of the very best striper fishing of the entire year during the hot weather months. While that seems a bit out of character for striped bass, the combination of striper and hybrids in this lake combine to provide outstanding fishing. Long-time guide on Lake Hartwell, Chip Hamilton, said summertime is "meat time" at Lake Hartwell.

"Every year, some of the heaviest catches of fish I make are during the middle of the heat of summer," he said. "The lake will stratify and the stripers will be found in certain areas and usually holding in big schools. Once you find them, you can catch a lot of quality fish very quickly."

Live bait is productive during this time of the year and herring is usually the preferred bait to catch either striper or hybrids. It usually a mixed bag catch: some areas hold both species and some structures hold one or the other. But on a given day, expect to catch both stripers and hybrids.

Offshore structure is generally the key to success. Most successful anglers orient their fishing effort around the main river sector of the lake and focus on offshore humps, underwater islands and river channel drops. The outside bends of the river channel are prime areas, especially where a high spot or delta-type ridge is formed.

For those who prefer to troll by day, this is often the type area they key their efforts on, along with long, sloping points that drop into the old riverbed.

Since the lake is large and stripers tend to roam a lot you need to keep moving from spot to spot unless you're catching fish. Stripers are very school oriented, so if you do manage to catch a couple of fish, odds are very good there's a lot more in close proximity.

For more information contact Chip Hamilton at Hamilton's Guide Service at 864-304-9011.

REDFISH AT THE COAST

The Georgetown to Charleston area is the perfect destination for redfish at this time of the year. With Winyah Bay, the Charleston Harbor and the Intercoastal waterway, along with adjacent sounds and creeks, there is a wide diversity of habitat for this species.

Coordinating your fishing technique to the tide movement is the key to success for this fish. Redfish are caught at all stages of the tide but successful anglers use the right technique for the proper tide.

During a period on either side of the low tide, redfish are often roaming the shallows looking for an easy meal. During the summer, it's easy to use a cast net to catch their favored forage, which can be finger mullet, menhaden or mud minnows. A minnow trap will enable you to catch mudminnows, or you can be purchase them commercially. Rig the live bait under a cork and work the shallow flats.

On a rising tide when the water is back in the grass, redfishy often patrol the edgelines of the grass looking for a meal. Again, live bait is an excellent choice, but you can also catch them using artificial lures in this phase of the tide.

Getting back into the grass in the shallow flats, you can spot redfish 'tailing' and fish for specific fish by sight. Stealth mode is essential to success here. Live fiddler crabs are great, along with artificial grubs. Flyfishing is preferred by many in this shallow-water environment. The presence of redfish in the grass is very tide dependant, so make sure you have an exit strategy before the tide drops or you'll literally be caught high and dry for a while.

For more information contact Allure Charters at 843-277-4477 (capt.crawford@yahoo.com)

CATFISH AT LAKE MURRAY

The catfish population at Lake Murray is outstanding and even during the summer months some excellent fishing exists. The lake actually has quality fishing for four distinct species of catfish, including the ever reliable channel catfish, the flathead, blue and white catfish varieties.

The summertime patterns are such that the best fishing is typically in the upper end of the lake during the day. At night, you can catch catfish anywhere in the lake, including the lower end, where the water is deeper and usually clearer.

Of all the catfish, the blues will be coming on the strongest with several excellent year classes of fish providing outstanding fishing. The flatheads are the least numerous but provide a heavyweight trophy opportunity for fishermen. The channel catfish are caught in good numbers and an excellent range of sizes; many are in the 6- to 10-pound class. The White catfish action is also good; the state record for this species came from Lake Murray and anglers can expect a lot of quality white catfish in the 2- to 4-pound class.

The basic method is to drift fish by day along the humps, ridges and channels in the upper end of the lake. Another productive technique is to fish at night and while anchored, focusing on long, sloping points that drop into deep water.

A variety of bait will produce, with shad, herring when available, and cut bream and perch all making good bait. Nightcrawlers and stink baits will work on the channel catfish as well. Live bait, or fresh cut bait, works best on the big flatheads.

For more information contact guide Chris Simpson at 864-992-2353 (www.fightindablues.com)

SHEEPSHEAD IN/AROUND THE CHARLESTON HARBOR

The Charleston Harbor and surrounding area offers prime habitat for summertime sheepshead action. On this part of the coast a diversity of sheepshead cover exists and can be fished at any level or direction of tide movement.

The beauty of the sheepshead lies in the predictability of where these fish will be found. The difficulty is actually setting the hook into them. While they are strong, scrappy fighting fish, their bite is so delicate you're more likely to feel a fly land on the end of your rod than feel a sheepshead bite. Sheepshead anglers say you have to learn to set the hook just before the fish bites.

Actually, it's not quite that hard, but you must pay attention to the rod tip for any tell-tale signs of movement. Most anglers use fiddler crabs as bait for sheepshead during the summer. You can usually easily catch them yourself at a low tide. They will be scurrying about on the flats and you can scoop them up by the handfuls. They are also sold commercially if you don't have the time to gather them yourself or you happen to hit the tide wrong.

Sheepshead will hold to cover and they love to orient next to sunken posts, pilings, bridge abutments or most any physical object. Another prime area is the rock jetties at the entrance to the Charleston Harbor

Hook a fiddler crab, or a small piece of shrimp on a small circle hook and drop it down adjacent to your target. At the slightest indication of a bite, set the hook.

These fish can be caught on any tide, but obviously you'll have to change areas at times if the water gets too low where you're fishing.

As is always the case, check the latest rules and regulations for limits and equipment on this and any species, especially saltwater species if you don't' fish a lot.

The sheepshead is an ideal fish for fast-paced action without a lot of fish-finding difficulty. Plus they make great table fare.

CLARKS HILL LARGEMOUTH

There are all kinds of good fishing at Clarks Hill Lake summertime largemouth bass.

First there is a great diversity of cover and structure combinations on this huge lake. A lot of the fish will be orienting to the main lake areas, especially points, drops and ledges. However many hefty largemouth will be caught in the larger creeks, especially if there have been some recent rains to crate even slight turbidity in the water. Water clarity will impact how deep the fish hold, but a big rain will often color the upper ends of creeks and you can find some excellent shallow-water action for a while.

Primarily, though, the most productive patterns will involve fishing in or near deep water. The fish may not be holding deep all the time, but will be found near the deep water.

The Carolina worm rig as well as deep-diving crankbaits such as the DB-22 will produce good results. Some anglers will troll deep-diving lures around and over the points and humps with good success. An occasional bonus striped bass will be taken in this manner as well.

Another tactic is to fish at night, especially when working the clear water portions of the lake. Nocturnal fishing is actually productive throughout Clarks Hill, even in the upper portion of the lake.

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