One of the fun things about chasing surface schooling fish on Strom Thurmond Lake is being able to tell others where the action is through Channel 68 on a VHF radio system.
It's sometimes referred to as the Hybrid Radio Network (HRN), and its listeners include just everyday folks, this fishing editor and professional guides such as Capt. David Willard.
Willard doesn't mind sharing news of exciting surface action and most of the rest of the anglers owning VHF radios will reciprocate. Such cooperation saves lots of running, an important facet considering the cost of gasoline these days.
Hybrids are to be found almost everywhere on the 70,000-acre lake, which is nearly back to full pool. The best times to spot the fish are from daybreak until around noon and from 6 p.m. until dark.
If you're planning to be on the lake today and over the weekend, check out these hot spots: Keg Creek from its mouth back to its junction with Chigoe Creek, the mouth of Georgia's Little River, the mouth of Bussey Point Cove and back in the cove, the Church Cove, Clark Hill Park; Lake Springs, the Georgia Flats across from Parksville Cove (Catfish Creek), and Shriver Creek around the islands.
Albert Moody, of Augusta, and David Annis, of Trenton, S.C., found quality schooling fish in Shriver Creek late Wednesday.
"They started coming up about 7:30 and schooled 'til dark," Annis said.
Moody caught his fish on a "new" bait, a quarter-ounce Sea Striker Popeye Bucktail with a chartreuse hair tail fished on a three-foot leader behind a weighted popping cork.
"He was getting them on every cast," Annis said.
Otherwise, an angler's "arsenal" needs to include The Thing Popper (either the white or the chartreuse "bug"), a -ounce Berry's Fleck Spoon in pearl white, or a -ounce CC Spoon for use when the fish sound, and 3-inch Gotcha Shad and pearl-white Zoom Super Flukes mounted on r-ounce lead-headed jigs.
Once again, it's important that anglers not run their boats into the schools, but stop within casting range and use electric trolling motors to maneuver. Outboard exhausts drive the bait fish away.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington) (706) 595-5582 - Mike Arrington of Lincolnton, Junior Crowe and Mack Walker caught 25 crappies, 20 catfish, 100 shellcrackers and 10 white perch. Crowe and Arrington caught 100 white perch on another trip. Chad Peters caught a 45-pound flathead catfish. Ralph and Marge Oglesby caught 12 crappies in our fish house.
Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed full-time professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers and trophy largemouth bass. Box 131, Clarks Hill, S.C. 29821 boat phone (803) 637-6379 (crockettrocketstriperfishing.com) - It's that time of year when the game fish take the bait fish to the surface. The surface acts as a wall and then the game fish proceed to kill as many bait fish as they can before the bait fish can escape. Actually, it's a fascinating phenomenon and requires a great deal of cooperation among game fish. They have to work together and herd the bait. You'll sometimes see an acre of fish feeding and it's one of the great sights of the angling world. I had a great time guiding several parties this week to just a happening. It can be hard-stopping action. Jonathan Vick, Greg Dupree and Fred Anello had a great time catching hybrids up to 5 pounds and stripers up to 7 as we got into some really nice schools. Lee Jernigan and Matt Rogers also caught fish breaking the surface, using Thing Poppers, as well as catching fish on live blueback herring fished on downlines. Even though the fish are breaking the surface, a quick look at the depthfinder will show fish as deep as 36 feet. The action should continue for the next several weeks and everybody is looking forward to it.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373, 957 Windmill Lane, Evans, Ga. 30809 - I've been fishing every day and just killing the hybrids. A friend and I caught 30 fish on Monday, all coming on the chartreuse bug with red fingernail polish around the feather on the back. I was using the red Cajun 30-pound-test line as leader since the bug doesn't hang up on the float as much as when lighter lines are used. On Tuesday, we caught just five fish. Joseph Sconyers of West Marine fished with me on Wednesday. He caught three and I caught two hybrids. We had problems with folks running their boats over the schools.
Steve Bayazes, Mike Boatwright and Double Trouble guides Jim and Brad Murphy are featured catching stripers and hybrids on the Savannah River in my current TV show on Knology Channel 6 and Comcast Channel 66. It's played every night at 10:30 p.m., before the news on Channel 6. On Comcast, it's on at 9:30 p.m., Mondays and 7:30 p.m., on Thursdays on Channel 66.
Ron Figueroa, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass, hybrid bass, (706) 832-7230 (firstname.lastname@example.org or his web site at buckeyelures.com/figs) - I fished Tuesday morning, but it was so foggy, I decided to stay in Mims Branch at the Fort Gordon Recreation Area. I caught some hybrids and a bunch of small bass. The hybrids went from 2 to 3 pounds. I fished with Chad Medlin on Wednesday, starting at the mouth of Mims Branch and fished the humps. We caught more small bass before moving to the Mosley Creek area where hybrids were schooling sporadically. There were some good-sized fish among them, but they wouldn't hit anything. Finally, Chad started throwing the one-eighth-ounce Buckeye spinnerbait, burning it back to the boat, and started catching some. We used the blue glimmer and firecracker shades.
Billy Murphy, professional guide, (706) 733-0124) (with twins Brad and Jim) - I fished by myself on Tuesday and caught eight hybrids from schools in Owl Branch (Modoc Shores), the mouth of Bussey Point Cove and the Georgia Flats. On Wednesday, Ricky Cleghorn, Gary Carter and Phil Gilley, all of Sycamore, Ga., fished with me. We wound up with 19 hybrids and found schools just outside the Church Cove, Chigoe Creek and Keg Creek. We caught them on the CC Spoon, The Thing Popper, the Zoom Super Fluke and the Gotcha Shad. Gary made a double rig out of the Gotchas and was catching two at a time. The fish also struck the half-ounce white Roostertail. We also caught 10 crappies in the middle of the day, fishing 10 to 12 feet down over trees in 20 feet of water. Then on Thursday, the same trio fished with me and we wound up with 28 hybrids.
New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam. Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), (706) 793-8053. - They're catching bass and bream in Butler Creek, the bass weighing 2 to 3 pounds apiece. Plenty of mullet are being caught. They're catching and releasing striped bass. Mike Grubbs and Mike Jr., have caught 40-odd mullet so far.
Harrison Sears (706) 722-8263 (www.brickyardponds.com) 722-2980 - Steven Kelly caught three bass weighing 11.2 pounds (a 4.2-pounder the biggest). Scott and Betty Collins won it all in our Friday bass tournament with an 8.4-pound catch and a 4.4-pound big fish. Runners-up were Jody Collins and Ronald Moore with a 5.7-pound catch and a 3.5-pound big fish. Honey Sears caught 10 bream on red worms in the Ditch.
Our bass tournament will take place today. There is a $20 per person entry fee and 75 percent payback. Hours are 6 p.m., until. Call the ponds for more information. Check out our site on the Internet at www.brickyardponds.com.
Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, 1 (843) 838-2530 - No report.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 - Over the years, I've had quite a few reports of "Flying Flounder." You hunters --- don't get out your guns! It's not flounder shooting season yet! You still need live bait to catch these fish. I think flounders stalking their prey in shallow water, a lunge at the bait might cause the fish to become airborne. It's an unbelievable sight to see this flat fish skip across the water like skimming a flat stone over the surface of a pond.