AHQ INSIDER Lake Murray (SC) Spring Fishing Report – Updated May 11
Lake Murray water levels are at 358.02 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures are in the mid-70s over much of the lake. The lake is fairly stained from recent rains.
At times it has been a trying spring for anglers targeting Lake Murray bass, and tournament angler Andy Wicker said that for much of the last month it has looked like the herring spawn might also be a bit of a disappointment for bass fishermen. However, in the DOT tournament yesterday on Lake Murray Andy was pleasantly surprised by the bite that he and his tournament partner found. Practicing “on the water” they caught 17 pounds for third place in the 20-boat event, while the winning team managed a little over 20 pounds.
Yesterday Andy says that he saw some of the biggest groups of herring he has seen in a while, and on several occasions they saw schools of hundreds of herring swimming across shallow points. The best action was on the main lake, and they were able to target the fish with typical topwater lures for this time of year as well as flukes. They couldn’t catch a bass on swimbaits but managed dozens of striper. In an encouraging sign they caught fish right throught the day instead of having the bite die as soon as the sun got up. Andy suspects that the full moon is accounting for a very strong herring spawn.
In addition to catching striped bass shallow around herring points, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that a bunch of striper are starting to set up in the main lake about 40-50 feet down where they can be caught on down-lined herring. These fish could be close to the bottom or at that depth over much deeper water. Early in the morning he is pulling free-lines and planers boards, and there is also some cut bait fishing around main lake humps. The best pattern is to move baits from the shallower to deeper parts of the humps as the sun gets up.
Crappie are biting pretty well, and Brad reports that they are having the best success fishing in main lake pockets 10-12 feet down over brush in 15-20 feet of water.
On the catfish front, Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that it’s a good time to fish for channel catfish on Lake Murray. Right now the best action is around secondary points, humps, and back in coves, with the best depth range 25-35 feet during the day and 1-15 feet at night. In large part because of boat traffic night fishing is usually better. At night fish will be exploring fallen timber and riprap – the same types of places they will spawn very soon.
While you can catch probably catch bigger fish on cut bait, you have to deal with the gar and turtles and so William’s preferred bait right now is dip bait. Sonny’s Super Sticky is his personal favorite.
Lake Murray water levels are at 358.14 (full pool is 360.00), and surface water temperatures have dropped from the low to mid-70s back into the mid-to upper 60s after the recent rains. The lake is also significantly more stained.
There are still Lake Murray bass that are spawning on Lake Murray, particularly out on the main lake, but most bass fishermen are thinking about a different spawning species – blueback herring. In the CATT spring final this Saturday tournament angler Andy Wicker reports that the winners (and his brothers) Daniel and Gary McGlohorn rode a strong herring bite to 22 pounds of fish, with most of their weight coming on topwater lures fished off main lake points. In addition to fish the anglers were also stacked up out there! On windy days like Saturday that bite is a little better and can last longer, but still most of their weight came before 9:00. There are still some other ways to catch fish, such as in pockets or on buzzbaits, but the shallow herring bite is pretty much wide open right now.
On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the bite is relatively unchanged and fish are still super scattered throughout the lake and across a wide range of depths. People are catching fish anchored on humps as shallow as just a few feet, and catching them drifting as deep as 45 feet. Herring and perch are working best but look for stinkbait to get better with the warming. Chris only rates the bite as “fair” right now.
Lake Murray water levels are at 356.95 (full pool is 360.00) and surface water temperatures in the morning range from the low to mid-60s. The lake remains pretty clear.
As on many of the lakes around the state, largemouth bass on Lake Murray remain in full-blown spawning mode. Andy found a lot of fish spawning towards the end of February, and for a little while it looked like the spawn might wind up much earlier than usual. However, the cold weather that followed set things back to a more normal pace and as a result there are still a lot of fish on beds. Andy estimates that about half the fish have spawned, and another half are close to or doing it right now.
As far as catching bass, Andy says that this is still the one time of year on Lake Murray when you can just go down the banks with a worm and catch fish. If he were fishing a tournament he would start out early throwing a floating worm in spawning pockets and then try to find bedding fish once the sun got up. If he just wanted to catch a bunch of bass Andy would throw a floating worm or shakey head around docks and grass all day.
There are no signs that the herring are starting to spawn yet, but it’s not far away. Typically the herring spawn begins around the first of April, and it usually starts in the backs where water temperatures are warmer and progresses out to the main lake. That’s not always the case, though, and Andy says that at times he has found early spawning herring on the main lake. It can also overlap with the bass spawn, and sometimes pre-spawn bass will feast on spawning herring – instead of recovering post-spawn bass eating herring.
Striped bass are pretty scattered, with Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reporting fish caught from as far up the lake as Dreher Island all the way down to the dam. Generally they have been found near the mouths of creeks, and they are also starting to set up off points – likely in anticipation of the coming herring spawn. Pulling free lines and planer boards has been the best pattern, and anglers need to be flexible about what depth they fish as fish have been found from 10 feet out to 50 or more. Keep your eyes open and don’t get locked into one depth. Some schooling activity has been reported this week, and when you find birds right now you will almost always find fish in the area. The cut bait bite does not seem to have started.
It’s a good time for crappie fishing, and Captain Brad says that right now you can find fish in a lot of different depths and places – but they don’t seem to be super-concentrated anywhere. There are fish pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn, which likely accounts for their dispersal. Fish can still be caught trolling jigs and minnows, but these seem to be getting smaller. There are fish around pretty much any shallow cover, and there are also some fish around mid-depth docks and brush. Pre-spawn and post-spawn crappie can be found in some of the same areas.
On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that fish are super scattered. People are catching fish anchored on humps as shallow as just a few feet, and catching them drifting as deep as 45 feet. Herring and perch are working best but look for stinkbait to get better with the warming.
Lake Murray water levels are at 356.83 (full pool is 360.00) and “core” surface water temperatures – morning temperatures – still range from about 57 at the dam to 58 or 59 up the lake. The lake remains atypically clear.
Striped bass are grouped up in the middle part of the lake according to Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354), who reports that the best fish are being caught pulling free lines and planer boards off the channels over 15-30 feet of water. Brad suggests that anglers zig-zag to find the right depth. Fish have been on the main lake but they are starting to move into the main creeks including Bear Creek, Beards Creek and Crystal Lake. They are setting up near areas where they know the herring will be spawning before too long.
Warm weather has decreased schooling activity, but there are starting to be a good number of fish caught down-lining with herring. 40-60 feet of water has been a good depth, and fish have been found at the mouth of Bear Creek and out from Putnam’s Landing. Generally down-line fish have been smaller.
The cold front over the weekend backed a lot of the crappie off, and for now Brad says that the fish have been in deeper water than one would think. They were shallow, but right now he is finding them in 20-30 feet. It has been so windy that a lot of the time he has been back trolling with the big motor. Fish were deep and very close to the bottom this past weekend, but he expects them to move up again pretty quickly with this warmer weather. Within 10 days the spawn should be on.
On the catfish front, Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that anchoring is a little more consistent than drifting, but there have also been some good days for drifting. The best depth for drifting has been 20-45 feet. Anchoring around humps that top out around 15-20 feet of water is still a strong pattern. Cut herring is hard to beat and will pick up striper, too.
Lake Murray water levels are at 356.89 (full pool is 360.00) and “core” surface water temperatures – morning temperatures – range from about 57 at the dam to 58 or 59 up the lake. On warm afternoons seeing surface temps in the low and even mid-60s is not unusual. The lake is atypically clear right now.
In the February 25 Lake Murray CATT event veteran tournament bass angler Captain Doug Lown and tournament partner Rhett Manus ran away with first place with a 21.18 pound bag, highlighted by a 6.11 pound big fish. Second place angler (and fellow AHQ contributor) Andy Wicker had 15.65 pounds.
Shockingly for February, in the tournament Saturday Doug says that basically all of their fish were caught off the bed! They had earlier spotted the big female hanging near a male that was clearing a bed, and it came on a buzzbait. The next four fish in their bag were actually caught “looking at them.”
Doug says water temperatures are right for the spawn, and in fact it has been for several weeks. Day lengths are just now getting long enough for bass to be willing to bed. Usually when core surface temperatures hit 55 or 56 degrees there will be some fish found spawning, although usually that is some time in March. In 1989 or 1990 Doug remembers seeing some fish on the bed in February, but this is the earliest spawn he can remember. Doug notes that in areas with clearer water fish will spawn at a lower temperature (because of better light penetration) than in murkier water – even though stained water heats up faster. Even up the river there is currently a good 3 feet of visibility.
Certainly fish are not spawning everywhere in the lake, but there are particular areas where they are. Doug believes that once we get through the current cooler snap the spawn is likely to get very hard over the next few weeks. Most of the fish are in shallow water right now, and that means 3-4 feet (although the cold may temporarily push some deeper). They also want to be on a cleaner bottom. Especially later in the day Doug has found a lot of fish laying around in little pockets that have warmed up.
Usually at this time of year with the spawn so close Doug finds that bass get finicky about what baits they will eat, and this year is no exception. Power fishing with crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs is a tough pattern to run, and soft plastics with light or no weight is the better bet. Weightless Senkos, floating worms, very light shakey head or light-Texas rigged worms are working well.
Doug points out that there probably are still a group of bass out deep on bait, and these fish may not move up shallower until core temperatures hit 63-65 degrees and the herring spawn arrives. This has been a strange winter because of the absence of a mid-depth or shallow “bait bite” in the morning, and Doug says this winter Lake Murray has fished more like it did before the introduction of herring several decades ago. Live wells have been full of crayfish parts, not herring. This is probably because the bait seemed to hold so deep this winter that it was less of a factor for the largemouth. As to why that was, it’s anybody’s guess!
Striper, crappie and catfish reports to follow later this weekend.