The birds of autumn have arrived at Strom Thurmond Lake.
Flocks of common terns have been dive-bombing schools of striped bass and hybrid bass from Dordon Creek to Modoc Shores this week, making for a bunch of happy fishermen.
If the fish could talk, they'd probably call the terns "stool pigeons" for giving away the fishes' presence to eagle-eyed anglers.
A big flock of the little white birds on Tuesday dived on schooling fish around submerged Price's Island, located in the Savannah River opposite Modoc Shores. This writer marked a wad of fish on his depthfinder screen 40 feet down in 135 feet of water, dropped a Berry's Fleck Spoon into them and took 12 minutes to land a 12-pound striped bass. That's a pound a minute, if you're keeping score.
On Wednesday, the larger school fish gave way to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of 6-to-8-inch hybrids and stripers behind Horseshoe Island in Parksville cove. The little ones were fun and easy to catch on light and ultralight tackle and most were released by the dozen or so anglers present.
The terns are the advance guard of fish-eating birds coming to the lake. In a few weeks, herring gulls and common loons will be present.
The lake is in the process of "turning over," which means the bottom and upper layers have mixed, spreading the dissolved oxygen content into deeper water than it was to be found just a week ago. Live herring used as baitfish are staying alive and well in depths below 25 feet and anglers using jigging spoons are catching fish as deep as 51 feet (check out Billy Murphy's surprising report below).
It's the last chance to earn points and cash when the event starts Saturday and ends Sunday. Payout can be as much as $70,950 and the tournament field could reach 200 anglers.
The top 30 boaters and top 30 co-anglers based on year-end point standings will advance to the Lake Eufaula Regional Oct. 7-11 where they will compete against qualifiers from Louisiana, Mississippi and Music City divisions for a slot in the 2004 All-American Tournament.
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. - Falling lake levels have the fish on the move. I have been chasing 5-to-12-pound stripers all over the lake. Although I have been able to put 20 to 30 good stripers in the boat per trip over the last few weeks, but it has been a lot like work. Having four other guides helping me look for fish has made my job much easier. Most of the fish we're catching have been on the lower end of the lake in 30 to 40 feet of water, all on live bait.
Soap Creek Lodge (Lincolnton Marine), Lincolnton, Ga. (Paul Banks and Jeremy Dawkins, 1-706-359-3124) - Pete Merrow and his wife of Lincolnton have been catching quite a few crappies fishing small minnows six to eight feet deep over deeper brush. Denny Steele and Don Morrison caught 13 largemouth bass. David and Elizabeth Duffy of Augusta continue their lowering of the Soap Creek crappie population. Forrest Spence, Andy Smith and Donnie Smith caught hybrids schooling on a point near our boat ramp.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 1-706-595-5582) - R.C. Meyers caught 25 shellcrackers on hybrid pinks. Ralph Hall of Augusta caught 12 nice crappies in the fish house on minnows. Leon Buffington caught 29 fish including two hybrids and the rest crappies.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373)-I fished on Monday by myself and, after a fruitless (and fishless) trip to Bass Alley and other places, I returned to Lake Springs to find a big school of hybrids. I caught 'em on The Thing Popper, Roostertail and chrome Zara Puppy. I went bass fishing back in the corner of the cove and caught two, one on a Buckeye Firecracker spinnerbait and the other on Ralph's Trick Worm, merthiolate in color. Paschall Owens and I went out on Tuesday and got to Bass Alley too late for hybrids. So we fished the backs of the coves with the floating worm and caught some good bass. We ended up with six bass, biggest weighing 3 pounds. Pete Glabas and I fished today (Thursday) and caught a bass near the Cherokee boat ramp on that worm. Pete put on a 1/8 -ounce white Buckeye buzz bait and caught a 3-pound bass on the riprap. I threw the small Pop-R and caught five bass on the upriver side of the riprap. Each weighed 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Then we went to the flats on the Lincoln County side and Pete caught a 4-pound bass on the Buckeye buzz bait. I caught a 3-pounder on the Pop-R off the barrel point near the mouth of Grays Creek.
Ron Figueroa, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass, hybrid bass, (706) 832-7230 (email@example.com or his web site at buckeyelures.com/figs). I fished every day and caught quite a few fish but all were hybrids 2 to 4 pounds at the mouth of Bass Alley. We threw a spinnerbait in the flooded grass and caught six more, all small. I fished by myself on Monday and used the natural shad No. 5 ShadRap and Zoom's new "Baitfish" color floating worm. All the bass I've been catching have been on the small size. I caught my on a Buckeye chartreuse spinnerbait with double willow blades in 3/8 ounce size. I had one fish that went over 3 pounds.
I'll be at Ultimate Outdoors today from 1 to 3 p.m., to do a Shimano reel-cleaning seminar. I'll show folks how to take reels apart and properly clean.
Billy Murphy, professional guide, (706-733-0124) (with twins Brad and Jim). Glenn Gray, former Tutt baseball and football coach, fished with me on Wednesday. We caught and released 32 6-to-8-inch stripers and hybrids schooling under birds behind Horseshoe Island. We left when the birds left and saw some other birds hitting the water. We saw breaking fish, but by the time we got to the area, they'd stopped coming up. We spotted some on the depthfinder and, dropping CC Spoons to the bottom in 51 feet, I caught a 9 1/4 -pounder and Glenn landed an 8 3/4 -pounder. I also caught a 2-pound shellcracker. That's probably the deepest I've ever caught a bream and on a spoon at that.
Brad: I fished Saturday and wound up with seven bass in the backs of creeks. They hit floating worms and spinnerbaits. I took my sons, Nicholas and Johnathan, on Sunday and fished the floating worm and spinnerbait. We caught 11 bass, 2 or 3 pounds the largest, and released them all.
SAVANNAH RIVER New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), 1-706-793-8053 - James Howell and I caught some nice bream and shellcrackers down river. Rodney Goodrich and his mother, Myra, caught one big jack (chain pickerel) on a red worm. Mark Hall and Russ Flanders limited out on redbreasts on crickets down river. Judy and Ed Ables caught 24 bream and three catfish on crickets and worms down river. Ginny and Gary Hutton of Martinez limited out on bream, redbreasts and perch six miles down the river. Lots of mullet are being caught on little red worms and chumming with sinking catfish food. The Mayor's Pond fishing is a bit slow right now.
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 July 1, 2006.
MERRY BROS. BRICKYARD PONDS
Harrison Sears 1 (706) 722-8263 - Becki Ruhle caught two bass weighing 2 1/4 and 3 1/4 on a plastic worm in The Ditch. Ray Wilson caught six bass on the Rapala in the Warren Pond. They totaled 13 pounds, 4 ounces. Freddie Parry caught a 4-pound, 12-ounce bass and Stephen Parry caught a 4-pounder, both coming on the Tiny Torpedo in the Tank Pond.
ATLANTIC OCEAN BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY Includes Paradise Pier
__Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 - From Charleston south, shrimpers cast-netting over bait continue to score limit catches of mixed bag shrimp. Although bait recipes vary, most shrimpers use equal parts of ground fish meal mixed with clay or marsh mud, adding just enough water to form stiff-hamburger-shaped patties. Shops carry convenient 10-pound plastic bags of dry pre-mix bait, which only requires the addition of water. Some cast-netters add just a few cups of menhaden oil to the mixture as an additional shrimp attracter.
Although creek landings of spottail bass remain good, barrier island surf action remains hot. Last Saturday,m a party of 19 caught 19 black drum fishing incoming tides over mud and shell using shrimp. All weighed between 3 and 6 pounds. Smaller ones were released. They also landed six spottails and released a 37-incher. Two other parties caught spottail limits using mullet and fishing sloughs paralleling the beach. Black drum rarely strike mullet so surf anglers prefer shrimp, which attract spottails and drum during the fall shrimp season.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) - It's the same old same old, but in our case, it's good. Spottail bass and speckled trout continue in their biting mood, with live shrimp fished below the traditional float rig one way to go. Don't overlook trolling or casting plastic grubs in the creeks to locate the fish.
The black sea bass probably have moved around the artificial reefs, with cut squid still the No. 1 bait. I went out to the Savannah Snapper Banks after Hurricane Isabel got past and found fishing a bit slow. The fish weren't holding much of a bite pattern and I had to move around a lot. I later talked to a sport diver who reported the bottom was murky, probably because of that storm. Things ought to get back to normal soon, but if you're planning to come down, give me a call ahead of time.