Veteran Lake Murray tournament bass angler Captain Doug Lown says that unseasonably warm water temperatures have kept fish shallower than usual so far this December, and temperatures last weekend were in the 58-59 degree range. With several warm days surface temperatures are now pushing 61 degrees, and bottom temperatures are around 60 degrees. As a result of all this warm weather most of the better fish that he has been catching have been found in less than 10 feet of water. Some fish are also holding in 10-14 feet of water, and certainly some are deeper, but relative to the shallow fish these deeper ones seem to be inactive. The most active fish have generally been scattered out in 3-6 feet. Most days when there is some wind the best pattern has been fishing the sides of cleaner, rocky points. Bass seem to be making a moving into the backs somewhat, and even though it is very late in the season it seems as if they are transitioning into short bays and similar spots. However, in some of the lower lake creeks on the north side of the lake thick, gunky grass on the bottom makes fishing difficult and so Doug is avoiding those areas. Fish aren’t really moving onto vertical structure yet but when they do they are still usually in less than 6 feet of water.
In the Columbia Strong flood relief tournament last weekend anglers had to deal with a changing bite, and after a windy week on Saturday the water was slick calm. Doug says that for them the bite off rocky points died, and on those types of days you need to look for some cover that will concentrate fish – particularly if there is very little cloud cover. His team finished third with 15 pounds, and there were also a couple of good 19 pound sacks caught. Neil and Tim Huffstetler had the big bag at 19.28 pounds, and Jonny Meyer and Scott Roton were close behind. Instead of the usual pattern of catching most of their weight first thing, on Saturday Doug and his partner didn’t have a bite by 8:30, and then fish seemed to pull up throughout the day. Between 12:00 and 3:00 they caught about 25 fish.
With water temperatures so warm most of the fish Doug has been catching have come on jigs and shakey heads, and a crankbait bite hasn’t really started for him yet. For detailed information about Captain Doug Lown’s preferred baits in the early winter on Lake Murray visit here. Doug says he is not sure how long the current pattern will last, but it mostly depends on water temperature.
My thanks to the flood relief tournament director Gettys Brannon for his assistance with this report and providing photos. Congratulations on earning more than $1,700.00 for flood relief with about 20 boats fishing!
Overall, Lake Murray is at 355.87 with water levels fairly stable.
White Perch: Very good. Lake World (803-957-6548) reports that white perch are still “king of the hill” on Lake Murray, and in 20-50 feet of water it’s hard not to find white perch. The greatest concentration of bait is in 30-35 feet of water, frequently suspended off the bottom, and so this is an ideal depth to look for perch. Worms and minnows are working well when fish are on the bottom, and jigging spoons are doing best for suspended fish.
Striped bass: Good. Lake World reports that warm water temperatures are making for an unusual early winter striper bite on Lake Murray. Naturally fish are acting more like they do at warmer times of year than how they typically behave when it is cold, and so are fishermen! Pleasant air temperatures mean lots of boats are out chasing striper. Fish can be found at all levels of the water column from the mid-lake on up, and instead of just being up the rivers they are also in the creeks. With the flooding and its aftermath fish followed the current, and that means they headed up virtually all of the creeks as well as the rivers. With fish covering such a wide range it makes sense that they are being caught in a variety of different ways, and virtually every method of targeting them is working. Free-lines and planer boards, down-lines down to about 30 feet, shallow trolling, and even fishing cut bait on points is catching fish. Schooling activity is not what anglers would like yet but it should improve, and more and more birds should move down and provide clues to finding the fish – because of warm temperatures not a lot of birds have arrived yet. Lake World also advises anglers that fish should move further up the lake as the winter progresses.
Catfish: Fair to good. Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that unseasonably warm water temperatures have most definitely affected the catfish, and unlike a typical pattern at this time of year fish are not really relating to the river channel. Most fish are in 30-40 feet of water around main lake humps and points, and the catch has been mainly channel catfish. It just hasn’t gotten cold enough for the big blue catfish bite to turn on yet, although they are catching the occasional big blue on trips. Chris is mainly drifting right now, and day-in-day-out he finds that this is currently the best way to catch fish. However, some fishermen are catching catfish anchor fishing on ledges in 10-30 feet of water. Cut herring and white perch have been the best baits.
Crappie: Fair but improving. Lake World reports that crazy water conditions made for a tough crappie bite, but now that things are stabilizing the bite is improving significantly. Fish are around brush in 5-15 feet of water and should get shallower as things cool down – before moving deeper again.
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