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AHQ INSIDER Lake Murray (SC) Fall Fishing Report – Updated November 30

  • by Jay

Nov. 30

Lake Murray water levels are down to 353.97 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam are ranging between 62 and 63 degrees.  Clarity remains pretty good.

It continues to be a pretty tough fall for bass fishing on Murray, and veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that it’s been hard to establish a consistent pattern for catching fish.  Even when anglers find numbers of fish it has been hard to find good ones – a 4 ½ pounder has been a big bass in most recent tournaments.

For the most part Doug says that the fish that he and his tournament partner have been catching have been fairly shallow, and they haven’t caught much in more than 10 feet of water.  Most of the fish they are catching have been in less than 4 feet, but deeper water has been close by.  Fish are not scattered out in certain depth ranges but instead are holding to certain little spots, and it has been hard to locate them as they move around a lot.  Doug suspects that constantly dropping water levels have forced the fish to constantly reposition.  At times rock has been the best cover, and with water levels low a lot of docks don’t have any decent water.  Most of the fish they are catching are coming on shakey head worms and jigs, and Doug believes that if water levels will stabilize fishing could get more consistent.

A lot of fish seem to still be on bait, and with water temperatures still only in the low 60s some fish were recently schooling.  A crankbait bite has not really turned on yet, but some small fish have been caught on jerkbaits.

Ever since the lake turned over Doug has not found much action in the creeks.  The best fishing seems to have come in the mouths of creeks as well as on the main lake.

Over the next couple of weeks Doug expects more fish to move onto the sides of points and 45 degree banks.  Some good bags are probably already being caught in 8-15 feet of water, although still pretty close to the banks.  Mid-depth offshore stuff doesn’t seem to have turned on.

Bait seems to still be pretty deep, and some random fish are already being caught on jigging spoons.  As the season progresses more bass should move out deep and will be caught on jigging spoons and drop shot rigs.

Rhett Manus and Doug Lown show off a 20+ pound bag caught earlier in November in a Murray CATT
Rhett Manus and Doug Lown show off a 20+ pound bag caught earlier in November in a Murray CATT

The channel and blue catfish bite is still pretty strong, although Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) warns that the recent warm weather has scattered fish out and slowed the bite just a little.  The best action is still coming drifting cut herring across main lake humps and points in 20-40 feet of water, as well as exploring certain feeder creeks which are holding good numbers of fish.  With weather fluctuations anglers need to assess where the fish are holding on a particular day and then cater their game plan accordingly.

Striper and crappie news to follow.

Nov. 2

Lake Murray water levels are down to 354.59 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam are slightly above 70 degrees.  Clarity remains pretty good.

It’s been a difficult few weeks for bass fishing on Murray, as after some promising early fall signs things started to get tough. Then, according to veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown, things went from bad to worse.  In the last CATT tournament the winning bag only weighed 7.80 pounds, which wasn’t far off from tournament weights in the Quest pro event.

USGS data is only available from the dam area, where it is clear that the lake has not turned over yet.  However, Doug believes that above Beards Creek that process is either completed or pretty well underway, and the lower lake is clearly on the verge of flipping.  Combined with unpredictable weather it has made for some very tough fishing conditions.

Clearly no one has a consistent pattern worked out, but there have been some fish located shallow as well as some deep.  Since the lake hasn’t turned over fully there are also some suspended fish, and some sporadic schooling activity can be seen when fish are chasing bait.  Once temperatures decline and the lake finishes turning over bass should get into a more consistent pattern.

Striped bass fishing has been decent, and Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that since the lower lake hasn’t turned over yet there can still be fish caught on down rods fished 40-60 feet deep around the mouths of major, lower lake creeks.  However, these have generally been smaller fish although numbers have been good.  Brad has had better success pulling free lines and planer boards in the mouths of mid-lake creeks over 30-40 feet – much shallower and he has only caught gar fish.  The fish also don’t seem to be well back in the creeks yet, but everything is on the verge of changing.

The crappie bite has been pretty good, and Brad has found a bunch of fish grouped up over 18-20 foot brush at the mouths of creeks.  Some days they have been suspended well over the brush, and at other times they have been closer to the bottom.  When the lake turns Brad believes they will group up better.  The best action has been in the middle part of the lake.

The channel and blue catfish bite continues to improve, and Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) now rates it a solid “good.”  The best action is coming drifting cut herring across main lake humps and points in 20-40 feet of water.  There are also certain feeder creeks holding good numbers of fish, and so drifting in and out of those is a good option.  Overall major creek runs as well as the upper end of the lake are producing best.

Some large channel catfish caught on Lake Murray with Captain Chris Simpson
Some large channel catfish caught on Lake Murray with Captain Chris Simpson

October 19

Lake Murray water levels are down to 354.97 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam range between 73 and 74 degrees.  Clarity remains pretty good.

This past Sunday was qualifying for the pro-am Quest (MLF/ Megabucks-style) bassfishing tournament on Lake Murray, set to begin this Friday.  Regular AHQ correspondent Andy Wicker of Pomaria earned one of two “amateur” spots to fish against the pros this weekend, and he reported a very tough bite on the lake.  The top bags were in the 12 – 12.5 pound range and Andy says that simply catching fish was a struggle.  He believes the lake is starting to turn over and that is part of the reason for the tough conditions.

Veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown concurs that the fishing has gotten worse, and in addition to the tough conditions Quest qualifiers found there was a recent club tournament with 32 boats where not a single limit was caught.  Four fish for 9 pounds was the winning bag.

There are a few fish still being caught schooling, while the deeper bite has fallen off to basically nothing.  Meanwhile the buzzbait bite has also essentially died.  A quick view of the USGS data for the lower lake shows a dissolved oxygen level basically at zero on the bottom, which indicates that part of the lake hasn’t turned over yet, but that’s not to say that in the river and creek backs the lake is not starting to turn over.

Overall Doug thinks the tough bite is the result of fish being stuck somewhere between a summer and a fall pattern.  The water has not gotten cool enough for fish to get into a fall pattern, and Doug believes that things will continue to be slow until temperatures get into the 60s.  It will probably take some hard cooling to set that in motion.

While bass fishing is pretty slow on Murray, Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striped bassfishing has been fairly good.  Striper are also in a transition period, and some fish have already made their way up the lake.  However, these are mostly smaller fish and the better fish are still from Dreher Island down.  The best fishing has been at the mouths of major creeks like Bear Creek and Beards, and fish have been caught on free lines, planer boards as well as down-lines in the 30-40 foot range.  There has also been some random schooling activity in the Ballentine and Sandy Beach areas.

Brad reports that crappiefishing has also been pretty good, and recently his boat has found a lot of fish suspended 7-10 feet down over brush in 15-20 feet of water.  Fish have been out on the main lake from the mid-lake on up to the upper lake, and most of the fish have come on minnows with a few on jigs.

An impressive haul of crappie this week on Captain Brad Taylor's boat
An impressive haul of crappie this week on Captain Brad Taylor’s boat

On the catfish front Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the catfish bite has improved in the last week.   A mix of channel catfish and blue catfish are being caught drifting the flats and creek runs in 20-25 feet of water with cut herring.

October 13

Lake Murray water levels are down to 355.12 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam are down to the low 70s, rising into the mid-70s on warmer days.  Clarity remains pretty good.

A lot of big bass were caught in the Oakely bass tournament two and a half weeks ago, but then again a lot of people were fishing.  Tournament angler Andy Wicker of Pomaria, who weighed four big fish in the Big Bass event, got out on the water a few days ago and found what he believes was an improved bite.  Andy says that water temperatures had dropped 7-9 degrees in that period, and Andy says that usually makes for an improved bite for suspended fish on Lake Murray (before the lake turns over).  This fall seems to be no exception.

In addition to the suspended bite buzzbaits also continue to catch fish.

On the catfish front Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the catfish bite is still not quite as good as it will get later in the season, but the fishing is definitely improving.  Channel catfish are being caught drifting the flats and creek runs in 20-25 feet of water with cut herring.

New striped bass report to follow.

September 28

Lake Murray water levels are down to 355.34 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam remain in the low 80s.  Clarity remains very good.

In bass fishing news the Oakley Big Bass Tournament was held this past weekend on Lake Murray, and some pretty good fish up to just under 7 pounds were caught.  A number of five plus pound fish were brought to the scales, and most hours it took at least a 5 plus pound fish for the win.  Of course, with around 600 anglers fishing both days this weekend you would expect some big fish to be caught!

Veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that in the last week a good number of fish moved shallow into five feet or less of water, and a high percentage of the good fish were caught shallow on something like a buzzbait.  There are still some suspended fish out there, as well as some fish schooling around shoals, but more fish have moved towards the banks.  A weekend angler can go out and fish a worm or jig around docks and other shoreline cover, but there some areas that are producing – and others that are not.  Until it gets cooler and water temperatures drop some more the fishing should continue to be spotty

It’s no surprise that one of the anglers who cashed a bunch of checks for big bass this weekend – four in fact – was Andy Wicker of Pomaria.  Andy agrees with Doug that most of the fish weighed were caught in shallow water on something like a buzzbait, but as he has been doing for some time he was fishing offshore for suspended fish.  Two of the bass he weighed he called up with a topwater lure, while two of them were schooling.  Andy said they would stay up so briefly that is was essential to get a bait in front of them within a second or two to get bit.

This week the straw hat paid off for Andy Wicker in the Oakley Big Bass Tournament
This week the straw hat paid off for Andy Wicker in the Oakley Big Bass Tournament

On the crappie front Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) hasn’t received any fresh reports, and overall the striped bassfishing is pretty similar to a week ago with fish being caught on down-lines over deep water.  However, there has also been a little bit of schooling as the top layer of water begins to cool a bit.  It has been random and all over the lake.

In catfish news Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports no change from last week.

September 21

Lake Murray water levels have dropped further to 355.44 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures at the dam are down to the low 80s.  Clarity remains very good.

It was a good weekend of bass fishing for the Wicker family, and particularly for Steve Wicker of Pomaria.  In the CATT tournament on Saturday Andy and Steve Wicker took second place, and in the ABA Ram American Fishing Tour event Sunday Steve took first place with a 14.90 pound bag including a big fish weighing 4.70 pounds.

Overall Andy Wicker reports that the fishing is pretty tough, and it is very easy to zero right now.  Out of 32 boats on Sunday only 1 limit was brought to the scales in the individual event.  In the Saturday tournament they caught all of their fish on topwater lures over deeper water, and while some days it is possible to call them up Saturday the only fish they caught were actually schooling.  There are only a few particular spots where they have found fish, all in the mid-lake area, and it was necessary to hang around an area and wait for them up to come up.  Some of the fish were mixed in with striped bass.

Veteran Lake Murray tournament angler Doug Lown, who himself finished third in the CATT tournament with partner Rhett Manus, concurs that the fishing isn’t easy.  They had to fight to put together a limit, and after a couple of good fish on topwaters early the suspended bite was sporadic at best.  Hopefully seasonal improvement is just around the corner.

Steve Wicker of Pomaria with a couple of good ones caught Sunday (photo courtesy of ABA)
Steve Wicker of Pomaria with a couple of good ones caught Sunday (photo courtesy of ABA)

On the crappie front Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports no change, but he reports that the striped bassfishing has dramatically improved and fish have moved up in the water column.  The bite is very good 30-40 feet down over the river channel, with the fish from the bombing range down to the dam over water as deep as 140-150 feet.  Down-lined herring have been the ticket.

Small fish are just starting to school, and Brad says that they should all start schooling soon.  The cool weather could trigger it and anglers should certainly have their eyes open (and a rod ready) for fish on top.

In catfish news Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the drift bite is starting to pick up for channel catfish.  Fish are staging on main lake flats in 15-30 feet of water, and drifting in those areas with cut herring is starting to produce some fish.  In the next few weeks the fishing should get really good.

September 8

Lake Murray water levels are down to 355.70 (full pool is 360.00) and water temperatures have dropped from the high 80s and 90s into the mid 80s.  Clarity is very good.

Veteran tournament angler Stan Gunter reports that in the recent charity benefit bass tournament he ran on Lake Murray the top anglers did pretty well considering the time of year.  It took 16.70 pounds for the win – not bad for the end of August.  The top couple of boats both concentrated on suspended fish that were hanging out off of deep points where they catch them every year at this time.  The fish weren’t schooling on the surface, but the winning team fished topwater lures all day long to call them up.  The fish are concentrating on herring and so a bait that imitates a herring is the key.  A secondary pattern is fishing up the river with a buzzbait in the morning and then flipping wood laydowns with a jig as the sun gets up.

Striped bassfishing has slowed down late in the summer, and with water conditions tough for the species Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that fishing has not been too good.  Most of the action has been along the dam area and Brad has caught the fish he has caught on free-lined live herring.  6 or 8 fish in a morning is a good day.  The oxygen level is just not good enough for fish to bite well in deep water.

A decent morning with Captain Brad Taylor
A decent morning with Captain Brad Taylor

The crappie fishing has only been fair, and Brad says that he has caught some fish up the river along the main channel fishing toughies around brush 10-12 feet down over brush in 15-20 feet of water.  The catch has mostly been on the smaller side.

Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) again reports little change with the catfish, although seasonal improvements should take place soon.  Anchoring and fan-casting in 10-25 feet of water around humps and points is the best bet, with cut herring, dip baits, shrimp and more all catching fish.

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