A few weeks ago Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reported that bass fishing on Lake Russell was very good, but based on historical trends he expected it to soon get even better. Fish were grouped up in 20-40 feet of water in the middle to backs of the creeks, but as temperatures dropped he expected them to move into 60-80 feet of water at the mouths of creeks and to stack up on deep flats. When the fish group up very deep that is Jerry’s favorite time of the year to catch them, and utilizing drop shots and jigging spoons he expects to catch 100 or more fish in a day.
Instead of a gradual or even dramatic drop in water temperatures, however, throughout December they actually rose. Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) says that yesterday was actually the first cold day on Lake Russell in a long time, and around the New Year water temperatures were up to about 63 degrees. The cold front has dropped them to 59 or so degrees, but that is still way above normal. At the same time that air and in turn water temperatures are way above normal, rainfall has been way above normal. The end result of South Carolina’s monsoon season is that Lake Russell is now an incredible 4 ½ feet above full pool at 479.52, and Jerry says that walkways to the few docks on the lake are mostly covered up and inaccessible. Wendell says the lake is dingy in places he’s never seen it, and even the channel is muddy about halfway down the lake. The upper end is completely trashed. After this latest round of rain a few bass have been caught on crankbaits, but they are up shallow and Jerry can’t catch them the way he wants to do it at this time of year.
It’s anyone’s guess what the next few weeks will bring with plenty of rain and at least some balmy weather in the extended forecast, and Jerry is concerned that the fish may not head deep again this winter. A few years ago in a similar period they suspended and then moved shallow, and that could happen this year. The shad already appear to be moving up, and what the future holds will all depend on the weather.
While there are other fish biting, to add insult to injury Lake Russell’s other marquee species – striped bass – have been similarly affected by the rains. Both Jerry and Wendell concur that no one is having much luck finding the striper right now in a traditionally strong time of year, and guides are having to turn away anglers who want to target them.
Fortunately Lake Russell does have those other species, and even when other fish have been absent perch have been available. On the Tuesday after Christmas Wendell had his best day ever on yellow perch, catching 71 big fish. His boat sat in one spot for three hours, but upon returning to that spot after the latest big rain the fish wouldn’t bite. He then headed to the extreme lower end where the water quality is a bit better and found a clean flat in about 50 feet of water between some trees that was loaded up with white perch. They were hungry for minnows on a drop shot rig. In addition to lots of white perch they caught a bonus 5-pound spotted bass on a herring fished just off the bottom, proving that some bass are still biting.
This report will be updated again in a couple of weeks when guides should be able to see which way things are headed.
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