Wednesday's and Thursday's rains came in the nick of time for Strom Thurmond Lake, as well as the numerous farm ponds through Georgia and South Carolina.
The lake level was beginning to move upward late Thursday, but it will take several days for the rain's impact to be seen. Predictions of the lake level improving by 1 1/2 to 2 feet may be optimistic, but with more precipitation in the forecast for Sunday, it could happen.
If waters in the backs of creeks and coves turn muddy, brightly colored lures in white, yellow, orange, fire tiger or "parrot" shades ought to do the trick.
Also keep an eye peeled for schooling largemouths and hybrids, particularly as the water begins to warm from its high 40s, low 50s surface temperature level.
Schooling fish have been reported in the "church cove" a mile or so above the dam on the South Carolina side. The "hot corner" of the lake near the dam on the South Carolina side also should start heating up with schooling fish.
Congratulations to Rob Pavey, The Chronicle's Outdoors Editor, who has co-authored a book about the James Heddon & Sons Fishing Lure Manufacturing Company of Dowagiac, Mich.
A sneak preview will be held on Thursday, Feb. 14, from 5 to 10 p.m., and features Hank Parker from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Showtime on Friday and Saturday runs from 9:30 a.m., to 8 p.m., and on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's all free. More information: 1 (678) 847-5500.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Capt. Mike Patrick, Strom Thurmond Lake, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids, 1-864-333-2513. - I guess that Lake Hartwell was the place to be last week, because of a new state record striper of 59 pounds was caught there. I had a couple of good days last week, Friday being the best, with 15 fish weighing 7 to 15 pounds each. They were caught free-lining. On Saturday, one of my clients fought a good fish for several minutes before losing it at the boat. The high northeast winds made it tough to stay on the fish and free-lining was out of the question. The fish are on the move right now and I am finding bigger fish in the main river channels. Hybrids and largemouths are stacked up on shallow points that have been windblown for a couple of days. Lake temperature was in the mid-50s, but the cold rain may cool it off a bit.
Soap Creek Lodge (Lincolnton Marine), Lincolnton, Ga. (Paul Banks and Jeremy Dawkins, 1-706-359-3124) - Pete Merrow of Lincolnton has been fishing both jigs and shiners and catching crappies in six to eight feet of water. Harry Embry of Augusta caught about 35 off his dock this week. Hybrids and stripers are still active in the creek, with most being caught on live herring fished 30 to 35 feet deep.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 1-706-595-5582) - Dr. Hadden and son from Thomson caught limits of stripers and hybrids on a Little Cleo in the Raysville area. Leon Buffington caught 15 nice white perch and three hybrids jigging the quarter-ounce Kastmaster spoon. Trolling jigs beneath floats is picking up some nice crappies.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373): I fished Monday and caught three bass on the Buckeye pumpkinseed Jig and Pig. Biggest weighed 4 1/2 pounds. I caught 'em in the ditch that runs into the "Augusta College Cove" off Grays. On Thursday, I caught a 5-pounder on a fire tiger Little Earl in Grays Creek, which is a bit stained from the rain. I caught five more bass off the rocky point on the right going into the "Augusta College Cove," all on the fire tiger Little Earl. Water temperature was 46 degrees on the surface, so you had to use a stop-and-go retrieve. When the lure stopped, they were there. I caught a 4-pounder in a ditch back in Cherokee Creek.
A new segment of "Fishing with Ralph Barbee" features fishing with Jeremy Altman of Buckeye Lures for channel bass with gold spoons in Beaufort County waters. It starts Saturday at 8 p.m. on Comcast Channel 4. Show time on Tuesdays at 10 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Ron Figueroa, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass, hybrid bass, (706) 832-7230 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Steve and Don Harris of Hephzibah fished with me on Sunday, fishing from 10:30 a.m., until 4 p.m. We caught nine largemouths - biggest 3 1/2 pounds on a Buckeye pumpkinseed pig and Jig. The rest were caught on a white Super Fluke in four to five feet. Mr. Turman of Lithonia, Ga., and I fished on Monday and were blown all over the lake and were skunked. I fished on Tuesday and caught four bass on a No. 5 ShadRap - two about 2 pounds and two about 3 1/2 pounds - casting rocky point. I caught seven hybrids that schooled off the Georgia flats about 10 a.m., on the white Super Fluke on a Buckeye quarter-ounce lead-head in 10 to 15 feet.
SAVANNAH RIVER New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 - Yellow perch continue to bite small shiners and an occasional American buck shad is being caught off the dam. A burst of warm weather will increase chances of more shad being caught, with the best yet to come.
The Mayor's Fishing Hole is closed and will reopen on March 23 for Kids' Day and then to the public thereafter.
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 July 1, 2006.
MERRY BROTHERS BRICKYARD PONDS
Harrison Sears, with Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 - Benjamin Marshall caught two crappies and a 3 1/2 -pound bass on a Fat Free Shad in the White Elephant Pond. Bryan Matthewson caught a 1 1/4 -pound crappie on a jig in the King Pond. Harold Wilkerson caught five bass totaling 11 3/4 pounds, with the largest 4 1/4 pounds, on a spinnerbait in the Middle Ditch. Diallo Cummings caught a 2-pound, 13-ounce crappie in the Ditch on an artificial lure. James West caught a 2-pound crappie in the Tank Pond on a Louisiana pink worm.
Our fishing contest continues throughout the year.
ATLANTIC OCEAN BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY Includes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 - Last week's near-record warm spell brought inshore temperatures into the upper 50s, which all but guarantees a high survival rate of over-wintering white roe shrimp. White shrimp spawn during May and June and brown shrimp spawn offshore in the fall and move into our estuaries in June.
Charter captains report nice catches of schooling spottail bass, with mud minnows the preferred bait. Sheepshead landings are strong at the Gen. Gordon wreck, located at GPS coordinates 3210.124/08033.225. Best results come by fishing as close to the wreck as possible.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) - Plenty of sight-casting for spottail bass is taking place on the tidal flats in our area. The bass are doing what they do best - herding schools of finger mullet and mud minnows into the shallows. This time last year, bait fish were scarce because of cold weather, and the bass were hard-put to find any. In fact, a baby marsh hen was found inside the stomach of one bass.
The artificial reefs are a great place to fish at this time of year. February is what I consider "Hump Month." It could be cold or not, but once we get past its 28 days, we'll be over the "hump" and headed toward spring. Black sea bass, flounder, sheepshead, bluefish, pig fish and ocean perch are out there, waiting for your cut squid bait (except fiddler crabs for the sheepshead).
The Savannah Snapper Banks continue to be the best place to catch big snapper or grouper and the larger hard bottoms are holding lots of other bottom fish.