Lake Murray water levels are at 357.55 and surface temperatures are in the low to mid-70s (down significantly from a couple of weeks ago). The water is clearing, and Bear Creek and below are fairly clear now.
Recent tournament results on Lake Murray have been a mixed bag, and in the Carolinas Bass Challenge tournament on Lake Murray May 14 there were three big stringers over 20 pounds, including the 23.00 pound bag caught by Chris Epting and Johnny Mayer which was good for the win. Below that nobody else had 18 pounds, though, and 13.19 was good enough for a check.
In the CATT Spring Final on Lake Murray this past Saturday the winners Neil and Tim Huffstetler had a nice 22.13 pound bag, and there were two more bags over 20 pounds. Below that weights again dropped into the 18-pound range, and 13 or 14 pounds was again respectable. Fish are feeding in some particular spots, but overall the bite is not easy.
Overall it is a transition period on Lake Murray. Veteran tournament angler Captain Doug Lown reports that even though the bait bite is waning, through this past weekend there were still a few spots where the bait was up early. Whether the last of the blueback herring were actually spawning or not, they were behaving like spawning herring. By now the herring spawn is almost certainly over, however, although there will continue to be some fish caught up shallow the first couple of hours of the morning as bait will continue to move shallower overnight. This bite is primarily found close to the channel or other deep water.
As the summer progresses and temperatures hold around 80 degrees fish will move out deeper and start to suspend, but for the next couple of weeks until that happens Doug says that rocky points and rock piles will hold fish. Some rocky ledges located near deep water will be productive, and key depths will range between 5/6 and 10/12 feet. So far this spring light Carolina rigs have been working a bit better than shakey heads.
While it is a less reliable pattern there are also some fish that will stay shallow in the summer, particularly resident creek fish that never go to the main lake. These fish can be caught on frogs, buzzbaits, and other shallow topwater lures. Fishing around bream beds is one productive pattern to try, and some resident creek fish will also hang around docks.
No matter what pattern you are fishing it can be tough to catch Murray fish after about 11:00, and as the summer progresses more and more fish will be feeding primarily at night.
Crappie: Excellent. Captain Brad Taylor (803-331-1354) reports that his boat has found a red-hot crappie bite, and they have been fishing about 10 feet down over brush in 15-20 feet of water. Crappie are moving from the creeks towards the main lake, and the best bite has been close to or on main lake cover. Brad is primarily fishing from Dreher Island up, but that is not to say that crappie can’t be caught below that. The minnow bite has been a little better than the jig bite but they are still catching some fish on jigs.
Striped bass: Good. Captain Brad Taylor reports that early in the morning striper are being caught on free lines and planer boards, but the biggest numbers of fish are being caught on down-lines fished about 40 feet deep. While some fish moved back up the lake with the recent rains, the general progression is moving down the lake towards the dam. Fish are basically scattered out from Dreher Island to the dam, from the mouths of major creeks to the main lake. Occasional schooling activity has been reported.
Catfish: Good. Captain Chris Simpson (864-992-2352) reports that the channel catfish bite has been pretty consistent, with fish being caught in 5-30 feet of water around humps. Fish can be caught anywhere in the lake in that depth range, from the main lake to the creeks, and the key is positioning the boat where lines can be fan-cast out from 5 feet to 20-30 feet. While dip baits are catching fish, cut herring has actually been a bite more successful. Fishing cut herring will also put some striper in the boat and increases the chances of catching a bonus blue cat.