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.