As Thurmond Lake's level drops because of the drought, many courtesy docks are out of the water and several boat ramps have been closed.
I asked Billy Birdwell, the Corps of Engineers spokesman at the Savannah District office, about his agency's plans.
"The corps closes ramps when there is less than 2.5 feet in water depth at the ends. We are in the process of repairing several ramps this winter, but not to extend the ramps.
"Most courtesy docks are designed to be usable at normal summer pool conditions (330 feet) within a couple of feet of lake level fluctuation. Several boards on the Keg Creek courtesy dock will be replaced."
What the corps doesn't seem to understand is that boating and fishing activities continue long after Labor Day, a time when most such activities used to end. That's no longer the case and it would be nice if courtesy docks could be extended into the water at ramps such as Keg Creek and Scott's Ferry that are still usable. The Keg Creek dock is nearly 5 feet out of the water. The Scott's Ferry dock's ramp is so steep that it's dangerous.
- More fishermen are needed to volunteer boats and gas to "Take a Soldier Fishing" on Nov. 18 at Wildwood Park. Lots of soldiers from Fort Gordon have signed up for the event and there aren't enough boats to take them out. Contact the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (706) 447-7677 if you're interested. "It's not so much a tournament as it is a way to say thank you to folks who are in the military and being here at Fort Gordon," said Pat Vanhooser, a volunteer assisting with the event.
- Friends of Jewell Jessie of the Fort Gordon Sportsman's Club will be sorry to hear he is in the hospital. Jewell has been a volunteer with the club for many years in putting on the kids' fishing rodeos.
David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed full-time professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers and trophy largemouth bass. 410 Sprouse Road, Clarks Hill, SC 29821, (803) 637-6379 (crockettrocketstriperfishing.com) -- Fishing has been super this week. Water temperature is in the high 60s and the fish have jumped into high gear. Andy and Rich St. Pierre and Jason Cowart, who work together at SRS, decided they wanted to check out the fishing. They had a great trip, catching their limits in just a few hours. We had a strong easterly wind. We anchored down and never left that one spot in Chigoe Creek. Judy Thompson brought her two boys, Eric, 13, and Aaron, 11, on their first striper trip. They had a great time and caught their limits in just a few hours. Judy's husband couldn't make the trip since he is serving our country in Iraq, but I'm sure he enjoyed the pictures and I hope he'll be on the next trip. Look for the fishing to continue really strong for the next few weeks. The only problem is finding a boat.
Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide, (706) 860-7373 -- I fished by myself on Thursday and caught six largemouth bass around the Fort Gordon Recreation Area. I caught my bass on the 5/8-ounce River2Sea Crystal Spin spinnerbait in bluegill color around points and humps. Biggest bass weighed 6 pounds.
My new show features Capt. Dan Utley, a former Augustan now residing in Bluffton, S.C., and guiding out of Hilton Head Island. With his expertise, I caught big redfish up to 46 pounds. Utley, a former Augustan, showed me how to use live and cut mullet for those bull reds. Fishing with Ralph Barbee airs Saturdays at 11 a.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Stations are Comcast Ch. 21, Knology Ch. 7, G-Force, Ch. 7 (Aiken), Northland Ch. 9 (Statesboro-Swainsboro) and Ft. Gordon Ch. 9. You must have a special box from Comcast to view my show. The box is free.
Billy Murphy, professional guide, (706) 733-0124 ( doubletroublefishingguides.com) with twins Brad and Jim -- Doug Holland of Augusta, Larry Freeman of Evans and I fished Monday in Keg Creek. We marked fish from 20-40 feet in 65 feet of water and caught 14 all on live herring fished on downlines 30 to 35 feet down. Biggest hybrid was 4 pounds. Larry went back with me on Wednesday. We didn't mark anything in Keg but found fish in next-door Chigoe. They were suspended 20-35 feet in 38-44 feet down. We tried downlines and they wouldn't hit. So I tried power reeling, lowering the bait to the bottom, then winding it up at a steady speed. They'd nail it. We limited out.
Capt. William Sasser, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass. (706) 589-5468 -- Cherokee Concrete Pumping treated Baker Concrete to a morning of striper fishing followed by a cookout. Andrew Lundergan and Keith Jones of Ohio, Rick Madden of Kentucky and Steve Roberts of Kentucky fished with Donna and me. After fighting strong winds for most of last Friday morning, we finally settled down to fish in Little River, dropping live herring into creek channels. Our clients caught limits and joined anglers from five other boats in the cookout. Ronnie Bridges, Michael Thigpen and Jerry Dunaway, all of Thomson, along with Alex Lowe of Norwood, Ga., enjoyed one of those mornings when we couldn't do anything wrong. Alex went for quality instead of quantity and caught the biggest fish, a striper of about 12 pounds. My VHF radio handle is Crappie Master and I can be reached on the lake on Channel 68. Check out my Web site at www.williamsasserfishing.com.
Craig Johnson, professional guide specializing in largemouth, hybrids and striped bass. (706) 364-6437 -- The bass fishing is staying about the same for me. I'm still averaging 20-plus bass daily and it should get even better with the weather changes. Covering lots of water appears to be the key and I'm catching my fish on the quarter-ounce Buckeye Firecracker spinnerbait, as well as small crank baits fished around grass. Wind also is a key. On windless days, I slow down and fish rocky areas with the half-ounce Buckeye Brown Mop Jig. The fish are staying shallow with bigger bass coming after noon.
Capt. Tommy Dudley, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, (706) 833-4807 -- The fish are finally moving into the creeks. We are starting to catch them on planer boards, but most of them are hitting downlines 30-40 feet deep in deeper water. We've had to fight the gars. For some reason, my bait fish have been dying and I've had to cut some of my trips short. C.C. Ward of Waynesboro, Ga., Michael Guillion of Florida and Leon Glaze of Indiana battled high winds and bad bait but still caught 18 nice fish. Dave Turner of Homossassa, Fla., and Lee Frazier of Hendersonville, N.C., struggled with the bait and caught 16 nice stripers and hybrids on planer boards. My VHF radio handle is Boat Racer and I can be reached on Channel 68. My Web site is www.fishlakethurmond.com.
Albert Moody, Clark Hill Herring Hut, Clarks Hill, S.C., (864) 333-2000 -- David (Choo Choo) Youngblood has been catching hybrids and stripers in Chigoe Creek. Pat Moody and Ben Jackson went with me on Sunday down the river. We caught large perch and bream. Tropical Bob Hockman, Pat Robertson, Bea and Bill Baab and I fished for perch on Wednesday afternoon and learned the cold front had put the brakes on the bite. We kept 15 of the larger yellow perch and bream.
New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), (706) 793-8053 -- Yellow perch continue to bite small minnows off the dam. Here's a tip for fishermen in boats: Buy some 1/16-ounce doll flies in white or chartreuse. Tip the hook with a small shiner or toughie minnow and pitch it into deep holes along the river. If there are any perch in those holes, they'll hit it with a tap-tap-tap. Use light or ultralight tackle and 6- to 8-pound-test line.
MERRY LAND BRICKYARD PONDS
Harrison Sears, (706) 722-8263 (www.brickyardponds.com) -- Jimmy Wong won our annual Big Fish of the Year Award with a 9.67-pound bass. He won an annual permit and gets to fish a year for free. Paul Micek leads the November Big Fish of the Month with a 5.28-pound bass caught in the King Pond on a black plastic worm. Clifford Kirkland caught 14 catfish on red worms, four crappies on minnows, on the White Elephant Pond. Honey Sears, my bride of 52 years, caught nine catfish on liver, two bream and one crappie on minnows, in the Ditch. Bill Hearn caught 12 catfish on red worms and liver in the White Elephant Pond. The King Pond has also been producing some good catfish. As a reminder, a fishing license is not required to fish in our ponds.
BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY
Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 -- Goodison: Sonny Ellis and Stuart Mitchell weighed in the largest channel bass and speckled trout to win the annual Owen Perry Memorial Inshore Fishing Tournament last Saturday out of Fripp Island Marina. The event is named after the late Owen Perry of Augusta. Next tournament on Fripp is the Thanksgiving Kids' Tournament next Friday, Nov. 23. There is no entry fee, but youngsters must bring their own tackle plus an adult sponsor. More information: (843) 838-1518. Fishing has been great for redfish and speckled trout. Redfish are being caught in the Pritchard's Island surf. Gray trout fishing is excellent. Bluefish of decent size are schooling offshore and fun to catch. Mind their teeth! Flounder fishing has picked up, but most offshore boats are staying inshore because of high winds and rough water.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, GA 31410-0771 -- Anyone who has fished tidal creeks with live shrimp for trout or channel bass has experienced the bait stealers. These are tiny fish that peck, peck, peck away at the bait until there's nothing left, killing the bait before it can attract the attention of the game fish. Alan Collins of my Miss Judy Charters has a few suggestions: Since it's easy to tell by the cork movement whether what's biting is big or small, one thing to do is to snatch the bait away. Erratic bouncing of the float is one clue it's a bait stealer. After snatching the cork and the bait away from the thieves, wait for a few seconds. If a larger fish is in the area, you may have attracted its attention and, if so, the float will disappear quickly.