Hybrids, stripers and an occasional largemouth bass are feeding consistently around the West Dam Recreation Area on Strom Thurmond Lake, with artificial baits recording more fish than live blueback herring.
The fish are chasing bait fish into the shallows from 4 p.m., until dark, or once the lake's surface temperature has heated into the low 50s. Diving gulls give the show away to anglers, who are casting pearl-colored, 3-inch-long Gotcha Shad baits into the area.
The soft plastic baits are threaded tail down onto quarter-ounce white Buckeye jig heads, which are tied to a foot-long leader attached to the main line by a strong barrel swivel. Otherwise, the lures will cause the line to twist.
Since last Friday, the writer has caught and released striped bass weighing 16, 15, 12 (two) and 7 (two) pounds and many smaller hybrids and stripers. The lure is being cast into water two feet to 20 feet in depth.
The key is to watch the antics of the gulls. Once they start flying over the area, anglers should keep an eye on the lake surface for signs of feeding fish - generally explosive-type splashes.
Anglers don't see the need for any kind of limitation since they can catch only legal limits of fish no matter how many rods are out.
"We hope that South Carolina anglers contact their state representatives and express their concerns," said Ben Peacock of Augusta, president of the Clark Hill Striper Club.
Brandon, said his mother, Janice, has won three consecutive Youth Angler of the Tournament trophies while fishing the National Striped Bass Association-sanctioned events and hopes to earn Youth Angler of the Year honors.
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 fished hard last week with not much to show for it. The lake had jumped up two feet and the fish were scattered everywhere. The fish we did catch were full of 1 1/2 -inch-long shad. Those fish were caught free-lining bluebacks in the river channel. They were nice ones, just not too many. The lake should settle back down and the fish get back to normal this time of the year.
Soap Creek Lodge (Lincolnton Marine), Lincolnton, Ga. (Paul Banks and Jeremy Dawkins, 1-706-359-3124) - Crappie continue to hit. Pete and Lee Merrow of Lincolnton caught 54 this (Thursday) morning. They're fishing live shiners six to eight down over deeper brush.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 1-706-595-5582) - Jack Owens and Billy Isen caught 37 crappies on jigs fished 10 feet deep over brush. Earl Herman, Richard Gibson and Mervin Cloninger of Dallas, N.C., caught 12 hybrids - largest 7 pounds - and a 2 1/2 -to-3-pound bass in the Big Hart area. Thomas Casteel caught 25 crappies on jigs. Matt Amerson caught 24 crappies on small minnows in our Fish House. Largest crappie weighed 1 1/2 pounds. Owens and Isen caught 42 crappies on another trip. Floyd Bessinger and Claude Rhodes caught seven hybrids trolling crappie jigs.
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) (crockettrocketstriperfishing.com) - Fishing is starting to pick up with warmer temperatures. I've even seen breaking fish. Those fish were in Dordon Creek, but the wind came up and I never saw them again after that. Little River, S.C., has been producing some good stripers, but you have to go during the week. Boat traffic on the weekend put 'em down. The wind has still be affecting us adversely in making it tough to free-line live herring in the shallows. I doubt if the weather will stay this warm, but if it stays nice, I may book some parties.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373): I went fishing this cold (Thursday) morning and caught five bass. They hit the Little Earl RB (Ralph Barbee Special) and each weighed between 2 1/2 and 3 pounds. I'll be at the new Wal-Mart in Evans on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. "until."
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. Show times on Comcast Channel 4 are 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). Last Monday, Ron Weber fished with me in the Church Cove from daybreak until 11 a.m. We caught eight largemouth bass on the Buckeye Lures blue blade bait. Weber caught a 9-pound, 11-ounce bass, while the rest averaged about 2 pounds. I caught one bass on a Zoom Super Fluke. I fished by myself on Tuesday and caught four bass in Cherokee, all on the natural color No. 5 ShadRap. I fished this (Thursday) morning around the Modoc and caught six bass in the 2-to-2 1/2 -pound on a Yoziuri Flash Minnow.
SAVANNAH RIVER New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 - Fishermen continue to catch yellow perch and an occasional buck shad off the fishing platform of the dam. The perch run should continue through March, but start waning in April. Chip Moore has been catching gobs of catfish on cut mullet. Minnie Daught has been catching a few bream and mullet in Butler Creek.
MERRY LAND BRICKYARD PONDS
Harrison Sears, with Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 - Crappies are biting small minnows in the White Elephant Pond. Diallo Cummings caught a 2-pound, 13-ounce crappie on a jig in the Ditch. The larger crappies are coming from the Ditch. Sam Garrett and W.R. Williams caught nine crappies in the White Elephant Pond and Charlie Underwood caught some crappies in the membership pond. John Beetle and Eddie Perryman caught three bass totaling 8 3/4 pounds on a crankbait in the Back Ditch.
ATLANTIC OCEAN BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY Includes Paradise Pier
__Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 - Crabbers trawling just outside of our estuaries are finding substantial numbers of white shrimp in their bycatch. Survival rates of the overwintering roe shrimp should be more than adequate to restock our inshore waters. Sheepshead anglers report good catches of these sly fish. The Fripp Island and Broad River bridge pilings are favorite sheepshead haunts and can be reached by boat from nearby landings. Larger sheepshead inhabit the center pilings of the McTeer Bridge, while smaller ones congregate around the Port Royal Dock pilings. Charter captains are catching between two and seven spottail bass per half-day trip, using live mud minnows and plastic Electric Chicken grubs.