Lake Murray water levels are at 357.59, and water temperatures are in the low to mid-60s in the main lake and the creeks.
It’s been a very strange spring so far on Lake Murray, and instead of air and in turn water temperatures gradually getting warmer – or even getting warmer in fits and starts – temperatures have essentially moved backwards since around the middle of March. They peaked in the upper 60s around March 20, but since then temperatures have fought to stay in the 60s. A series of cold fronts have cooled things off, and temperatures have never gotten and stayed in the 80s again like they did for almost two weeks from early to mid-March.
As a result of all this veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown says that Lake Murray bass are virtually in a holding pattern, and fish at all three stages of the spawn (pre-, post-, and actively spawning) can be found. Some fish did bed 2-3 weeks ago, but Doug estimates that more than half of the fish are still pre-spawn. While cool temperatures this weekend won’t speed things up, he predicts that on the April full moon (the 22nd) in a couple of weeks a massive wave of fish will move up and spawn. It’s all about having some warm nights as day length is now where it needs to be.
A couple of weeks ago most of the fish were hanging around points, and there was a significant “bait bite.” The bait wasn’t actually spawning, but it was in similar places to where it will spawn – albeit on steeper areas close to deep water. Now the bait has pulled out somewhat and with it the number of fish clinging to points has dropped. The bait bite that still exists is pretty much confined to the first couple of hours of the day.
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.
The herring spawn is still a couple of weeks away, again dependent on weather.
Striped bass: Good to very good. Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that right now striper can be found in “every inch” of the lake, from the creeks to the open water. Fish can be found in 25-30 feet of water, but they are also as shallow as 2-3 feet right up against the banks. Free lines and planer boards are both very effective. While the herring are not spawning they are relatively shallow and lining up proximate to the areas where they will eventually spawn, and a lot of striper have followed them just a little out from points in the creeks. There is also good schooling activity down the lake, and a lot of fish are being caught casting into schools. In the market for a good bait tank? Brad is now a dealer for Xtreme Bait Systems, available in 30, 50, 70 and 100 gallon tanks. Contact him for more information.
Lake World (803-957-6548) concurs that striper fishing is wide open right now, and they agree with Brad that the general depth range is from 3 or 4 feet of water out to about 30. Every year at this time when striper make their way down the lake they move shallow and scatter out in the backs of creeks and coves, and this year is no exception. 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. Additionally, besides casting to schooling fish blind casting topwaters such as pencil poppers off of points has been good. The best surface action has been in the mornings.
Crappie: Fair to good. Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) has been spending more time striper fishing with such a hot bite for linesides, but the crappie that he has been catching have been around the banks on the upper end of the lake. While probably two-thirds of the fish have already spawned, the catch has been a mix of pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn fish. Fish at all three stages are hanging around shallow brush by the shoreline in 3 feet of water or less since the water hasn’t gotten hot due to the cool nights we have been having. Casting jigs and minnows under a cork has been the dominant pattern.
Catfish: Fair to good. Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that fish are moving shallower, but when water temperatures move up a few more degrees the fishing should get really good. Fishing around humps and points that top out as shallow as 3-5 feet of water is productive, and the backs of creeks and coves are a good place to look. The best creeks are “secondary” creeks and coves that come off of major creeks or the main river run. The majority of the fish caught will be channel catfish, but there are also some blues in shallow water since it hasn’t gotten hot yet. Cut herring and white perch will both catch fish, and especially with the herring expect to pick up some striper as a by-catch.