Cooler air temperatures have caused Strom Thurmond Lake's surface temperature to drop a good 10 degrees, turning on both fish and fishermen.
The lake's surface temperature was 73 degrees early Tuesday and moved into the high 70s by mid-afternoon, a far cry from the high 80s and low 90s of a few weeks ago. The surface temperature was 74 on Wednesday morning and again didn't move too much higher during the day.
A result of this cooling phase has been a sudden outburst of schooling hybrids, stripers and largemouth bass. One of the best areas to locate these early morning schoolers was Little River, Ga., two coves downstream from the Fort Gordon Recreation Area (No. 1 on the Fishing Hotspots Map). The fish also schooled out in the middle of the same area later in the morning.
Fish also have been schooling in the Savannah River a few hundred yards south of the mouth of Soap Creek (No. 2 on the map) and across from the mouth of South Carolina's Little River. Main action ended between 9 and 9:30 a.m., but sporadic schooling in Soap Creek and Little River took place during the rest of the day.
David and Bonnie Annis of Trenton, S.C., caught their limits in that Savannah River setting, most of the fish coming on the clear plastic Zara Puppy. Clear Japanese-made Sammies and The Thing Popper also caught many of the fish, with lead-head-weighed Zoom Super Flukes and "Gotcha" Shad also working, along with white Roostertails.
Unless another cold front moves into the area, look for schooling fish to become more commonplace.
Thurmond Lake's level keeps falling because of little rainfall north of the dam. What is needed is a deluge lasting several days, but that's not a likely scenario.
Many fishermen want the Corps of Engineers to consider adding minimum 10-foot extensions to courtesy docks at Lake Springs, Cherokee and Parksville public launching areas.
Unless boats are equipped with 4-wheel-drive (ever see one?), the docks' ends are in water (or mud) much too shallow to be used.
The Fort Gordon Sportsman's Club will celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day on Saturday, Sept. 30, with a Kids' Fishing Derby at Claypits Nos. 2 and 3. The event is open to those 3 to 15 years of age and is free. Each entrant must bring his own fishing rod or pole (limit one per person) and live bait will be supplied.
Registration runs from 7:30 a.m., to 8 a.m., and the derby runs from 8 through 11:30 a.m. Free hot dogs and sodas will be served only to participants during the 11:30-noon weigh-ins, with awards to be made at noon.
More information is available from Fred Perry at 833-2834 (cell phone) or 791-5078.
Just a reminder about the Just Angling seminar on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Coastal Carolina University.
The school is located between Myrtle Beach and Conway, S.C.
Rigging for live bait, fishing spot locations, tides and tackle will be covered in detail by the seminar instructors of Jim Godfrey, outdoor writer for the Myrtle Beach Sun News; Dr. Don Millus, author of Fishing the Southeast Coast, and Capt. Jim Berry, founder of Maps Unique.
Pier, surf and inlet fishing also are included in the seminar, which runs from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m. Cost is $30 for adults. Class size is limited, reservations are required and can be made by calling 1 (843) 248-2845.
The "magic" depth for white perch in Strom Thurmond Lake is 32 to 34 feet. Use your depthfinder to locate brush or schools of baitfish at that depth. Drop a CC Spoon or Barry's Fleck Spoon to the bottom, raise the rod tip sharply and let the spoon flutter to the bottom. A "tap" on the line is the signal to strike. Then reel in the fish.
Georgia crappie fishermen have a couple of opportunities to qualify for the 2001 Fishing in America Crappie Classic. Fishing in America has scheduled a tournament on Thurmond Lake for Oct. 7 and on Lake Oconee Nov. 11 out of Sugar Creek Marina.
Entry fee is $100 per team per event and the top three regular teams, top male/female team and top adult/youth team will qualify for the season-ending Classic on Lake Ross Barnett near Jackson, Miss., on March 17.
Teams weigh in seven crappies caught between 6:30 a.m., and 3 p.m., with the total weight determining the winners.
White Columns Inn in Thomson, Ga., is headquarters for the Thurmond Lake event. More information: 1 (256) 355-5344.
Capt. David Willard is the latest fishing guide to take up the profession on a full-time basis. He also guides for trophy largemouth bass, using live blueback herring for bait. Another is Buddy Edge of Edgefield, S.C., who became a full-time guide some weeks ago.
Check out Outdoor Editor Rob Pavey's story on Thurmond Lake largemouths on Sunday's outdoor page. Georgia DNR biologists have found the lake loaded with largemouth, but comparatively few 12 inches long or better.
Fishermen also are concerned about the health of larger bass in the lake. Some have been caught weighing 5 pounds or better, but their bodies don't match the size of their heads. A 5-pound, 9-ounce fish caught during a tournament should have weighed more than 7 pounds, one fisherman said.
The problem can't be a lack of natural food, what with blueback herring and threadfin shad in abundance, along with bream, white perch, yellow perch and miscellaneous minnows.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Mike Patrick, Strom Thurmond Lake, professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, 1-864-333-2513. -- Kevin Johnson, Orson Whitfield, Noe Ponce, all of Atlanta, and Dicky Hunt of Augusta fished with me last Friday. We kept 18 fish 4 to 6 pounds each, fishing live herring on a hump 25 feet down. Cliff Jefferson and Ronnie Cole of Anderson, S.C., kept 16 fish on our trip last Saturday. Biggest weighed 9 pounds. I went out scouting on Thursday morning and spotted schooling fish everywhere -- Little River (Ga.), Bass Alley and Parksville. Looks like it might be a great weekend if storms hold off.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 1-706-595-5582) -- Ralph Hall of Hephzibah caught 10 crappies on small minnows in our fish house.
Capt. David Willard, Little River Marina, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed full-time professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers and trophy largemouth bass. (1 (803) 637-6379) -- I've had a fun week on the water despite a hurricane one day and early morning fog that kept us from getting up the river until late morning on Tuesday. I've had ladies on the boat every day and it's always a blast watching them hang into these fish. As the lake continues to drop, the fish have fewer places to hide. Owen Henderson of Augusta, son Mike and Mike's girlfriend, Mia Dang from Atlanta, fished in 30 mph winds on Monday. Despite a lot of misses because of rough water, they caught 14 hybrids and stripers. It was Mia's first fishing trip ever, but she had so much fun, I'm sure she'll be back. Tommy and Patsy Williams of Augusta and daughter Gail Davenport caught a cooler full of hybrids and stripers up to 7 pounds. Gail loves to hunt, but has only recently taken up striper fishing. Her first linesides was a 5-pounder that almost pulled her in. Patsy gave everyone a fishing lesson, catching the most and largest fish of the trip. Ricky Powell and his wife Gail, a third grade teacher at Belvedere Elementary, may not be grading any papers for a few days as she had her wrist nearly sprung on some 8'-pound stripers. They caught and released a limit of fish on Wednesday, keeping only a few for supper.
New Savannah Bluff
Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 -- James Howell and his friend caught 57 nice bream last Friday on crickets, wax worms and big red wigglers. Brad Harris and Bob caught 40 on the same stuff as the river was falling last Tuesday. Celeste and Robert Piazzi have been catching some nice bream, too. When the water is low, you have to move your boat away from the bank to catch the better fish. Mack Peeler of Wrens, Ga., and a friend caught a cooler full of mullet last Friday.
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 2001.
(706) 722-8263 -- The ponds were restocked with channel catfish on Wednesday. Chris Meachen caught 30 channel catfish 2 pounds or better on shrimp and liver. Billy Pruitt caught an 11'-pound blue catfish on blueback herring, 26 channel catfish 1' pounds or better on liver and shrimp and 16 bream on red worms. Willie Williams caught 21 bluegills on red worms. Matt Davis caught 16 bream on red worms. Billy Matlow caught 10'-pound and 9-pound blue catfish and 16 channel catfish 2 pounds or better on herring. Johnnie Mack caught 18 bream on red worms and 12 channel catfish 1' pounds or better on liver. Bob Best caught 16 channel catfish 2 pounds or better on liver. Mickey Burley caught 13 channel catfish 2 pounds or better on herring. Tim Cox caught a 17'-pound blue catfish on herring. Jerome Sessions caught a 19-pound blue catfish on herring. Roy Byce caught four channel catfish totaling 12 pounds on liver. James Beasley caught a 5-pound blue catfish on liver.
BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY
Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 -- Castnetters have experienced a poor start to the shrimp baiting season. The shrimp are smaller compared to this time last season and therefore require many more casts to achieve the 48-quart limit.
Charter captains reported nice catches of speckled trout over last weekend. Spottail bass action slowed earlier this week.
Jack crevalle seem to be everywhere. Although we've had another great year creek and flat fishing for spottails, surf catches remain sub-par. A possible explanation is the scarcity of small snapper blues, which typically attack mullet from the rear, chomping a hunk off the tail, allowing the remains sink to the bottom where spottails are gathered beneath the schools. A spottail does not have sharp teeth and their mouths are located well under their noses. They are bottom feeders and except in shallow water would have to turn upside to gulp in a mullet. If blues are around, bass fishing is usually good.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921. -- Many spottail bass in our area have finally reached the legal length of 14 inches, it's time to relax. Lots of fishermen have been practicing catch-and-release methods, but now it's time to think about catching and keeping. The flounder season is in full swing and are great rod-benders, getting quite large for this time of year. Live shrimp work, but a live pollywog (mud minnow) will really get their attention.
Our sea trout season is in its first stages, with fine catches being reported. Your best bet to find these fish is to troll plastic grubs. You can cover a large area and once you get a hookup, you can anchor your boat and fish live shrimp beneath a popping cork and clean up.
Weather and water conditions haven't been the best lately for those of you who like to move offshore. We had a full moon, fast currents and cloudy water, not to mention threats of storms.
Artificial reefs located in 40 feet of water are still holding Spanish mackerel, a few kings and some picky barracuda.
We've seen flocks of yellow butterflies over the past few weeks and schools of king mackerel shouldn't be far behind. The winter run of the kings and the passing of butterflies just happen to take place at the same time.