Crappie fishing is getting better in Thurmond Lake's Soap Creek and Raysville Marina areas, with fishermen using live shiners and red-and-white jigs to make quite a haul.
As water temperatures drop, fish begin moving out of deep water into the shallows, and that's been the case here. Crappies are being found suspended over brush and around trees in 17 to 20 feet of water. It's just a matter of searching.
Meanwhile, schools of largemouth bass -- some with a mixture of tiny hybrids -- continue to surface in Soap Creek and the Savannah River. And fishermen continue to be frustrated over a lack of success in catching these fish, which turn up collective noses at most every lure tossed in their direction.
Most consistent lure has been the Zara Spook in the "Puppy" size and clear plastic. That thing's hard to cast on conventional baitcasting and spinning tackle, but those using closed-faced reels can get better distance.
Just twitching the rod tip and making the lure "walk" back to the boat sometimes results in smashing strikes -- but not always.
Today's Raysville report indicates some schooling bass of quality size in Germany Creek, while other reports are coming from the Big Hart Creek area, too.
That bizarre bass tournament which called for fishermen to ride personal watercraft drew 19 fishermen to Plum Branch Yacht Club near Plum Branch, S.C., last Saturday. David Smith cleaned up. He caught only one bass, but it weighed 4.4 pounds and netted the angler a total of $3,875 in cash and prizes. Gary Macky was second with one bass weighing 1 1/4 pounds and won $500, while Charlie Weaver weighed in a three-quarter-ounce fish and won $250 for third. Sponsor Polaris of Augusta is planning another tournament next spring when, hopefully, fish will bite better.
According to a story written by Robert Pavey, The Augusta Chronicle's environmental writer, hybrid bass and striped bass could become much more prolific in Thurmond Lake under a proposal to increase fish stockings as much as 45 percent.
If approved by state-level supervisors, the increase would be the first such adjustment at the 70,000-acre lake in at least a decade, said Georgia Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Ed Bettross.
Wade Bales, district fisheries biologist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said there are only two lakes bordering South Carolina where anglers can pursue hybrids: Thurmond and Hartwell.
South Carolina officials, he added, support the idea to increase stockings, especially in light of growing pressure from fishermen.
"Georgia stocks the stripers and we jointly stock hybrids," he said. "We'd discussed increasing the stocking rate and we believe our production facility could handle that."
Although fishing pressure has increased steadily with the popularity of the fish, increasing the numbers released hasn't been possible because of ongoing environmental tests at the Russell Dam upstream.
The tests, completed late last year, were ordered as part of a lawsuit challenging the use of Russell Dam's reversible turbines, which pump water from Thurmond Lake back to Lake Russell for reuse in power production.
Currently, hybrids are stocked at a rate of seven per surface acre, or 490,000 per year. The proposal calls for increasing those stockings to 12 per acre, or 840,000 per year.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Soap Creek Lodge, Lincolnton, Ga. (Toye & Sue Hill, 1-706-359-3124) -- Hybrids and stripers are still doing good for live bait fishermen like Buddy Edge. He took out three parties over the weekend and one on Tuesday and each member of his parties has been catching 10-fish limits, or getting close. The fish have moved down the lake toward Parksville, he said. Bruce and Brenda Ross of Brandon, S.C., stayed with us last weekend and caught 35 crappies fishing live minnows seven to eight feet down in 17 to 18 feet. We're getting close to the fall pattern. I think fishing over the next few weeks will be great. Ben and Rhonda Snyder of Ware Shoals, S.C., also caught a nice catch of crappies with 45 fish last Sunday.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 1-706-595-5582) -- Largemouth bass have been schooling in Germany Creek, bashing shad against the banks. The bass appear to be of good size, maybe 2-to-3-pound fish, but the fisherman who spotted them didn't have the right tackle to try for them. Mike Arrington and Mac Walker of Thomson caught 60 crappies in the Raysville area, fishing seven to eight feet deep over deeper brush with small minnows. Arrington and Steve Owens caught 60 crappies on another trip up Big Hart. The fish weighed a half-pound to a pound. Thomas Casteel of Thomson caught 11 crappies on minnows, fishing 20 feet deep, in the Rousseau Creek vicinity. Bill Hawkins of Thomson caught 25 crappies on white and red 1/64th-ounce jigs around Red Bank Island. Buddy Tankersley of Raysville caught 35 pounds of crappies, jigging a white-and-red jig off the Raysville Boat Club dock.
SAVANNAH RIVER New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle and Finley Peel), 1-706-793-8053 -- James Howard caught 30 nice bream and a good catfish, too. Bream, redbellies and catfish are still biting.
Fishermen are reminded striped bass and hybrid bass cannot be lawfully caught and kept from the river's mouth at Savannah to the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. The moratorium is in effect until at least the year 2000.
ATLANTIC OCEAN BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 -- The 27-inch maximum size limit for spottail bass is paying off for sportsman, especially for those who enjoy battling large bass in the surf. Fifteen years ago, a 12-pound fish was a rarity, but today they are common. Last week, I took a couple of friends to the surf and we released seven over the size limit. One 31-incher had been tagged and released two years ago. Another party, fishing from their boat back into the surf, caught and released as 41-incher. That bass was between 15 and 25 years old and would have tipped the scales of more than 30 pounds. These large fish are foraging under schools of mullet which move along the beaches in the breaking waves.
Offshore, a charter party including North Augustan Dan Robinson took their limit of Spanish mackerel while fishing with Capt. Wally Phinney. They also caught several small kings. Large kings have been scarce all summer long.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921. Tybee Pier has been a hot place this week, with whiting, trout and spottail bass being caught on cut shrimp and squid. The Texas Tower off Savannah was crunched one night by a passing freighter, but the area continues to hold fish. A couple trolled ClarkSpoons on No. 1 planers and red/white Rapala CD 11 lures and caught a large king mackerel and several Spanish mackerel in the tower area.
Large red snappers and groupers are being caught in the Savannah Snapper Banks area.
There's great fishing in the Gulf Stream about 55 miles off the Warsaw Sea Buoy, but keep an eye on the weather. It's hurricane season and there's no need to go out if any of those storms are heading that way.