Catastrophic rains and recurrent flooding often made for a rough fall and early winter for Lake Murray fishermen, but probably nobody had it worse than crappie anglers. The first round of flooding in October eventually caused SCE&G to open the floodgates, and this caused the current to suck away much of the brush they had planted over the years. We were told it was a thousand year rain and so many anglers faithfully replanted their brush, only to have the second round of flooding also suck it down the lake.
But spring always follows winter, and all signs are that this is shaping up to be a good spring for crappie fishermen. Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that for right now fish have not really started to come in yet, but they are feeding up. He anticipates that in the next week or two the biggest fish will come shallow and spawn. This usually happens in the second or third week of March, and right now water temperatures are on the verge of getting where they need to be.
For now fish are being caught on a variety of techniques, with the greatest number of crappie being caught tight-lining or trolling up the rivers in 10-12 feet of water. Jigs and jigs tipped with minnows are both working, and anglers are catching fish in the main channel as well as at the mouths of creeks. In the stage the fish are at the key is to start in the bigger channels and work your way back into the creeks.
Some fish are also being caught off of deeper docks, and a handful of fish are still around brush. There are not a lot of fish on brush and so the key is to cover a lot of water until you find the right cover.
Everything is on the verge of getting started, but Brad reminds anglers that not all the fish will come up at once. Fish will come up in waves and so even as some fish come shallow others will still be found deep.
Overall, Lake Murray water levels are at 357.57 and water temperatures are in the mid-50s, with great variance in different parts of the lake and at different times of day.
Striped bass: Good. Lake World (803-957-6548) reports striper fishing is already strong and getting better every day, and in the recent open striped bass tournament they hosted two 30-pound fish as well as a 20-pound range striper were weighed. It’s not every day that a 30-pounder gets beat out for big fish! While more and more fish are moving down the lake all the time, there are still fish scattered out across the whole body of water, with striper in a general range from the bank down to 30 feet. They may be in 30 feet of water over 100, but they are still in that top section of the water column.
Lake World says that the best way to locate fish is still to follow the birds, and a combination of techniques are catching fish. Live herring pulled behind the boat on free-lines, planer boards, and under corks are all catching fish, and fish are in the backs of creeks as well as off points. Down-lines down to 30 feet are also working, and there is a suspicion that some of the monsters caught recently may have been taken on cut bait. Schooling activity has been reported all over the lake and should get better and better.
Catfish: Slow to fair. Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that water conditions still have the Murray catfish bite off, although he suspects significant improvement in the next week or so. For now drifting will still work, but anchoring on humps and points that top out at the level where catfish and bait are holding and waiting for them to move through is more effective. Cut herring and white perch are both good bait options.