Lake Murray water levels are at 357.67, and water temperatures are in the low-60s – and overnight at the dam surface temperatures are dropping into the 50s. Captain Brad Taylor says that water temperatures won’t rise with all this wind, and today on the water even with sun and decent air temperatures anglers needed a toboggan just to stay warm. Water clarity is pretty normal with a slight green stain.
In the most recent CATT tournament this past Saturday on Lake Murray Les Westberry and Joel Watts took first place on a tough day of bass fishing. While they managed a good 20.25 pound sack, no other team managed to break the 17-pound mark and a lot of very strong anglers were grouped up in the 12-16 pound range. Veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown, who is second in the CATT spring points with partner Rhett Manus, said that with lots of wind the bite was really tough. With low temperatures and lots of wind forecast for this week it will be a little while before it gets better.
Overall it continues to be a strange spring on Lake Murray, and water temperatures are still basically moving backwards over the last month. Next week highs in the 80s and very mild nights are predicted, and so water temperatures should finally start to get into the 63-65 degree range where Doug says they need to get and hold for the herring spawn to really take off. Bass at all three stages of the spawn (pre-, post-, and actively spawning) can be found, and while some fish did bed 2-3 weeks ago, Doug still estimates that more than half of the fish are still pre-spawn. He expects to see a big wave of fish move up next week between the warm temperatures and the full moon on April 22, and hopefully the fishing will start to get more consistent.
The bait continues to be pulled out deeper, and over the last few days it has probably moved even deeper – as striper fishermen report. Some bass can still be found on the sides of secondary points all day, but the greatest number of fish are scattered out in the shallows and waiting to bed. Some fish are hanging around pockets and the water willow grass is holding some fish. Smaller soft plastics including light shakey head worms are as good as anything right now, and some anglers are getting bites on buzzbaits and frogs fished around the bank.
Striped bass: Good to very good. Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that striper are still scattered out from creeks to the open water. The range has gotten wider, and while last week they could be found from the banks out to 20-30 feet of water with cool temperatures that range has now gotten as wide as 30-50 feet. Striper are hanging deep off the same points where herring are located. Planer boards, free lines and down lines are all catching fish, and the depth where fish are holding varies from day to day. There is also good schooling activity down the lake, and a lot of fish are being caught casting into schools.
Lake World (803-957-6548) reports that the biggest change from last week is that there is a little more morning schooling activity, but they expect to see more and more once the water warms and herring get shallow off of points. Look for blind casting topwaters such as pencil poppers to get better and better. In the last week they have seen a lot of fish in the 15-pound range as well as a big 20. In addition to the techniques Brad is fishing they also point out that fishing cut bait in the backs of coves in 30 feet or less is catching fish.
Crappie: Fair to good. Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that the cool weather is prolonging the spawn and so there are still a few pre-spawn fish hanging shallow around the banks. Additionally, post-spawn fish are starting to pull back out and show up around deeper docks and bridges. There are also some large groups of presumably post-spawn crappie hanging around brush in 20 feet of water, and these fish are in recovery mode. Once they regain some energy some of them will actually move back into shallower water to start feeding again.
Catfish: Fair to good. Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that fish should be moving shallower, but recent cold nights have actually backed them out into 10-15 or even 20 feet of water. Drifting or anchoring with cut herring and white perch will both catch fish. When temperatures rise a few degrees look for fish to move back towards humps and points that top out as shallow as 3-5 feet of water, and the backs of creeks and coves will again be a good place to look. The best creeks will be “secondary” creeks and coves that come off of major creeks or the main river run. While the majority of the fish caught will be channel catfish, there are certainly still some blues in shallow water since it hasn’t gotten hot yet.