Just because it's winter isn't a good reason to stop fishing. Maybe in the North, but not down South. In fact, late fall and winter fishing on Strom Thurmond Lake can be even more productive than that of late summer and early fall.
Yet many anglers take their boats to dealers to have them winterized and then park them in the backyard or beneath the carport until the weather warms next spring.
If it's largemouth bass you're looking for, try casting white or chartreuse Fat Albert plastic grubs threaded onto a half-ounce lead-headed jig into ditch lines or creek channels. Let the lure fall to the bottom and then retrieve it at a slow to medium pace. Remember that surface water temperatures have fallen to the mid-50s and fish - being coldblooded - won't be in a mood to chase a fast-moving lure. The grubs have ribbon tails and they'll give all the action that's necessary.
If it's striped bass or hybrids you're seeking, keep your eye peeled for swarming flocks of sea gulls, of which several thousand are posted around various sections of the lake.
Fish also can be found schooling on flats in the backs of coves during the late afternoon hours. Watch for gulls flying over or diving toward the surface of these areas - that's a guarantee fish are present.
All the fish may not be stripers. The writer had an LDR (long-distance release) of a 4«-pound class largemouth on Wednesday afternoon. He also landed a smaller bass and a 3-pound white bass, which is huge for that species. He caught a hybrid and two striped bass in the 2-to-3-pound class on Tuesday afternoon beneath diving gulls.
He is fishing with the -ounce white Betts Bucktail Worm, a lure that has little action, but which has been good to this angler over the last decade. All you do is cast it out, let it sink to the bottom and then slowly reel it in.
Another effective technique is deep-water jigging with Hopkins, CC or Barry's Fleck Spoons - the -ounce variety. You don't necessarily have to mark fish on your depthfinder, but it helps.
If you see a flock of gulls sitting on the lake surface, check out the area, particularly if the water depth is 50 feet or less. It's possible they've just fed on surfacing baitfish and you can be sure game fish like hybrids, stripers and black bass may be in the vicinity.
Let the spoon free-fall toward the bottom. Its fall may be interrupted by a striking fish, so carefully watch the line where it enters the water. If the line stops before the spoon hits the bottom, engage the spool and strike hard.
However, if the spoon hits the bottom, engage the spool and sharply lift the rod tip to 12 o'clock high, then let the weight of the spoon pull it down again. That way, you'll control the lure and be able to feel the sharp jolt when a fish connects.
Fishing was tough on Alabama's Lake Logan Martin Thursday, with Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., leading the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society's Eastern Invitational pack with five bass weighing just 9 pounds, 1 ounce.
Jordan Dozier of Thomson, Ga., is in 33rd place, but only 3 pounds-plus back with five bass and 5 pounds, 4 ounces. Tommy Holloway of Elberton, Ga., is in 72nd place with three bass and 4 pounds, 2 ounces.
Other Augusta area fishermen competing, but far back in the field, are David White of Jackson, S.C., and Barry Durden of Rocky Ford, Ga.
The tournament continues through Saturday.
Mistletoe State Park now has a usable boat ramp after having to shut all of its ramps down during October because of falling lake levels.
The ramp in the day use areas has been extended and will be usable until the lake level reaches 315 feet - 15 feet below normal. It's at 319.3 at the moment.
Parking for about 75 vehicles is adjacent to the ramp. Visitors must pay a $2 ParkPass per vehicle at the park, which is open year-around.
Using the department helicopter and a specialized lift bucket, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources stocked about 13,000 brown and 3,000 rainbow trout into the lower Saluda River on Nov. 27. The trout came from the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery in Oconee County.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Buddy Edge, full time professional fishing guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, fishing out of Plum Branch Yacht Club, 803-637-3226. - Roy and Brad Ashe from Cleveland, Ga., John Lillard from Martinez and Tom Hastings of Evans fished with me on Wednesday. We caught 18 fish weighing from 4 to 7 pounds, fishing live herring 40 feet down. E.S. Wasdin of Martinez and James Fennell and his son from Grovetown fished with me on Thursday, catching 25 fish and keeping enough to eat. James caught a whopper 10-pound hybrid. Rest of the fish weighed 3 pounds and up.
Mike Patrick, Strom Thurmond Lake, professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, 1-864-333-2513. - I had to cancel all but one trip because of bad weather. David, Mark and William Sigg of Augusta last Saturday caught striped bass from 4 to 12 pounds. We were cut bait fishing in the river channel 40 feet down.
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) - Fishing has been good although quite nippy on the water. Turnover - a process that started in November - is now complete, with the good water evenly distributed from top to bottom. I've seen bait and fish as deep as 120 feet this week. Bert "Cold Front" Sappenfield and his son, Clay, from Savannah, caught a cooler full of stripers in the 6«- to 10«-pound class last weekend. Every time Bert comes up, a cold front hits, but he is not deterred. I'm just glad they kept me busy so I wouldn't realize how cold I was. My other parties weren't as crazy and decided to wait for warmer days. We should still have some good fishing on up to Christmastime with some really nice stripers being caught.
New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 - James Howell and I went last Friday and caught 34 bream and redbreasts. They are big this time of year. We fished crickets and wax worms. Donnell Ivey and Mervin Sheppard caught 34 nice bream on worms. Brad Harris and I went on Wednesday and caught 30 nice bream and one of the biggest yellow perch I've ever seen. It hit a small shiner. It weighed close to 2 pounds. I also caught a 3-pound blue catfish. Mike Dearman caught some nice bream down river on worms and crickets, also 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.
MERRY BROTHERS BRICKYARD PONDS
Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 - Robert Gregalunas caught 25 bass, seven jacks and three crappies, fishing a spinnerbait really slow in the shallows over structure, between the Gray and Tank ponds. Loye Johnson caught a mess of crappies in the Tank Pond. David Scott caught some nice crappies out of the Cornell Pond. Mark Jenkins and myself are continuing to catch crappies out on the island of the Front Ditch. Ed Ables and I went Wednesday afternoon - he caught 17 crappies in the Tank Pond and I got skunked.
Check out our Web site: www.merrybrothers.com.
Harrison and Honey Sears, (706) 722-8263 - Jim Jewell caught 14 crappies on minnows. Billy Matlow caught six catfish on worms and 12 crappies on minnows, Albert Prescott caught 10 catfish a pound or better on shrimp and nine crappies on minnows. Fay Stringfellow caught 18 crappies using minnows. Tammy Marino caught seven crappies on minnows and two catfish on shrimp. Honey Sears caught 13 crappies on minnows and six catfish on liver. Erma Bauserman caught 12 catfish two pounds or better on liver. Teresa Bauserman caught three catfish on shrimp.
ATLANTIC OCEANBEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY
Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 - Despite water temperatures falling into the upper 50s, speckled trout fishing remains excellent. Especially good catches are being made at the creek mouths of the Coosa River near Brickyard Point and along the entire length of Chowan Creek. Live shrimp and mud minnows and, of course, the Electric Chicken-colored grubs have proven effective. Many anglers who prefer trolling the creek shores are using the Mighty Mite lure. With water clarity nearly perfect flounder gigging also is productive.
Offshore bottom fishing remains rewarding, particularly at the eastern edge of the North Hole. A few king mackerel are being taken there and also by trolling at the Betsy Ross reef complex. Sheepshead fishing at near-shore wrecks and artificial reefs peaks in December through January and catches are building.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921 or www.missjudycharters.com. - It's time to declare that this inshore season has already been a successful one. The trout bite has been on in the creeks, rivers and sounds for most of the season. Live bait has been the No. 1 choice of anglers, but with the shrimp population diminishing as creek temperatures drop, the bite pattern should change. That means trolling plastic grubs.
The striped bass season is in full swing. Give the Ogeechee and Savannah rivers a try, but remember, the fish must be released in the Savannah system. Surface plugs like the Zara Super Spook and sinkers like Zoom's Super Fluke on a half-ounce lead-head jig will work.
Offshore, the bottom fishing is always great this time of year. Artificial reefs located just off the Georgia and South Carolina coasts are attracting a bunch of fish, including black sea bass, grouper and snapper. I have been catching lots of the latter on the reefs located in 40 to 65 feet of water.
Best bait remains cut squid, fished on the two-hook bottom rig (2/0 circle hooks), which will catch the black sea bass. Bigger fish require bigger hooks like 10/0 to 12/0 circle hooks.
Take 100-pound test monofilament and tie on a swivel. Thread the leader through an eight-ounce egg sinker and secure the sinker about five inches from the swivel, leaving about five feet of leader past the sinker. Now tie on your circle hook - that's how I tie my famous grouper-snapper shallow water bottom rig.
When using circle hooks, always hook your bait fish through the eyes or lips. Don't set the hook when the fish takes the bait - let it start running. However, if you're using a standard, long-shanked hook, set it immediately on the strike.
King mackerel are still hanging out at the J-Buoy and Gray's Reef. However, I think the bulk of the migrating school of kings has already made a move to more southern reefs.
The Savannah Snapper Banks remain a great place to fish this time of year, with red snapper hanging out in 100 feet of water. Use the same rig as described above, but make your leader about 15 feet long instead of five.
Weather conditions have not been good enough to make the trip to the Gulf Stream.