It's time for fishermen to become bird watchers on Thurmond Lake.
If you see flocks of terns, swept-wing little gray birds, swooping and diving over one area of the lake, chances are they're keying on schools of breaking fish - hybrids, stripers and even largemouth bass, or a mixture of all three.
Such has been the case in Shriver Creek, around Horseshoe Island and off the Georgia Flats this week. These birds of late summer precede the huge flocks of sea gulls that will arrive later in the year, generally after air and water temperatures cool.
A quality pair of 7x50 or 10x50 field glasses can save lots of fuel. Just scan the horizon for the diving birds and proceed to that area quickly. Use your boat's electric motor to stay within range of the breaking fish. Thing Poppers, regular-sized Zara Spooks, Zara Puppies and Gunfish - all top-water lures - work well.
If you find fish schooling on the surface in 30 feet of water or less, keep your eyes on the depthfinder screen. Sometimes larger fish can be found near the bottom, feeding on fleeing threadfin shad or blueback herring. Just drop a three-quarter-ounce Berry's Flex-It Spoon to the bottom, sharply raise the rod tip and let the spoon flutter down.
Watch the line where it enters the water. If it stops or jerks, set the hook on a fighting hybrid or striper.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington) (706) 595-5582 - Woody Granger, Mike Kendrick caught 20-plus catfish on shrimp and cut herring in the Raysville area. Clifford Crowe of Snellville, Ga., and Don Ginder of Raysville caught 19 catfish, eight white perch and 16 shellcrackers.
Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed full-time professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers and trophy largemouth bass. 410 Sprouse Road, Clarks Hill, SC 29821 (803) 637-6379 (crockettrocketstriperfishing.com) - The only thing that's consistent about fish these days is that they are inconsistent. One day they're all grouped up and the next they're scattered. One day they'll clobber live bait and the next ignore it and hit only artificials. That hasn't stopped us from having fun running these fish down and my parties have found the different ways to catching these fish to be exciting. There has been some great mid-day surface-breaking fish in front of the dam and on the Georgia Flats. We're hoping these schoolies will increase in size and start staying up longer. If past years are any indication, the latter part of August and all of September should be great for these fish.
Ralph Barbee, professional guide, (706) 860-7373, 957 Windmill Lane, Evans, GA. 30809 - My U.S. Armed Forces-wrapped bass boat and I will be in front of the main post exchange at Fort Gordon today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I'm planning on a fishing seminar on how to catch big stripers in the Savannah River. I'll also show the umbrella rig that's become so popular on Thurmond Lake. I welcome people who want to take pictures of my boat and I'll sign autographs, too.
My August TV show features Enon Hopkins fishing on the Savannah River. He's catching all his stripers on the large Pencil Popper. Daniel Jackson is featured on another part of the show.
Billy Murphy, professional guide, (706) 733-0124 (Web site doubletroublefishingguides.com) with twins Brad and Jim) - Last Saturday, Ray Dowdy of Harlem, Ga., fished with me. We trolled Capt. Mack's umbrella rig with nine bucktails over trees in 85 to 102 feet of water in front of Horseshoe Island. Hew caught all 10 fish, including a 15-pound striped bass. Four of the fish were stripers and the rest hybrids. We also had a pair of 8-pounders.
Craig Johnson, professional guide specializing in largemouth bass, hybrid bass, striped bass. (706) 364-6437 - Bass fishing is slowing down in the afternoon and at night, but the bite is still good during the morning. I fished last Sunday and caught 22 largemouth bass and seven hybrids. Most of the bass and all of the hybrids were caught on a quarter-ounce Buckeye spinnerbait in the firecracker color. I was burning the spinnerbait just under the surface on main lake humps in 20 to 40 feet of water. I did catch a few bass on the 5-inch Berkley Jerk Shad in the watermelon pearl color in the same areas. I fished mostly in the Savannah River arm of the lake from Parksville to the Highway 378 bridge. Check out my Web site: www.professionalangler.com/CraigJohnson.htm.
Capt. William Sasser, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass. (706) 589-5468 - While it was a slow bite this week, there are some big crappies out there that want live minnows. Willie Hampton, of Augusta, William Reynolds, of North Augusta and Robert Rhodes, of Evans, landed 33 crappies and some white perch during their trip. Later in the week, I fished with Bill Schaller, Larry Brown, Jim Quinby of Wisconsin, Jeff Paulick of Oshkosh, Wis., and Ricky Basey of Aiken. We had a slow day, but it was still fun with a boatload of experienced fishermen who knew how to fish and relax at the same time. We caught about 25 fish on small, live shiners fished 25 feet down in 45 feet of water. My VHF radio handle is Crappie Master and I can be reached on the lake on Channel 68.
Capt. Tommy Dudley, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional guide specializing in stripers and hybrids. (706) 833-4807 - Fishing has been good this week despite the weather pattern and poor water quality. Overcast conditions have sometimes made the bite and surface activity last late in the mornings. I have been fishing from Shriver Creek to Horseshoe Island. My best success has been finding surface activity or diving birds and slow-pulling live herring 16 to 20 feet down. When the fish pull out, I move to the edge of the river channel and fish 30 to 40 feet down. Horseshoe Island has been good for schooling fish on calm days. My Web site is www.fishlakethurmond.com.
New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle), (706) 793-8053 - Mike Grover and a friend caught 45 bream and one bass on red worms. Jack Mimmie caught a mess of bream down river. Charles Martin and a friend caught 45 bream and redbreasts on crickets and wax worms down river.
Harrison Sears (706) 722-8263 (www.brickyardponds.com) - Ryan Crouch a 6-pound, 8-ounce bass in the Garden Pond on a topwater plug. Mike Smith caught a 6.5-pound bass in the Garden Pond on a buzz bait. Jeff and Cindy Livingston caught 18 bream in the Connell Pond on red worms. Mike Curry caught six catfish on chicken liver and six crappies on minnows in the White Elephant Pond. Gene Simpkins caught 14 bream in the Ditch on red worms. Mike and Greg Leaptrotte won last week's tournament with 13 .87 pounds and Jonathon and Larry Watkins were second with 4.62 pounds. Ricky and Chris Worman won big fish with a 4.54-pounder. Thirty-one fishermen competed. Our weekly bass tournament continues today and runs from 6 p.m., until 10 p.m. Cost is $20 per person.
BEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITY
Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530, and Doug Gertis, professional guide, (843) 524-5250) - Goodison: Offshore fishing has been on the tough side with storm-spawned high winds and waves. Flounder, whiting and redfish have been active, while the trout bite has been fair. Spanish mackerel are schooling around near-shore wrecks. The 16th annual Fripp Island Kingfish Tournament will be held out of the Fripp Island Marina on Sept. 2. A captain's meeting and dinner will be held the night before. Fishing starts at 6 a.m. Saturday and weigh-in is 3 to 5 p.m. Prizes will be given for the largest and second largest king and the top three aggregate catch weights. The top two Spanish mackerel also will be awarded. More information: (843) 838-1517. Gertis: Fishing has been excellent inshore for everything except tarpon. A very good redfish and trout bite is taking place, with live shrimp and finger mullet the top baits. The sheer amount of shrimp in the creeks is amazing and trout have been getting bigger each week. Near-shore wrecks are producing some good catches of sheepshead and black drum, with some good-sized flounder also being caught. We had a number of days last week when all the redfish were too big to keep. We're also dodging thunderstorms, but needed the rain badly.
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 learned that docks in tidal creeks often can reward you with a good catch. Here are a few key points to help you check out the right kinds of docks. Those located near the mouth of a creek or river are great places to start your trip. Those with boat lifts are even better, because moving a boat in and out causes ledges and holes to form from propwash. Live white shrimp and finger mullet worked beneath popping corks and smaller floats worked well. Caution: Wash your hands to get rid of any sun screen before handling the shrimp. Otherwise, your touch will have a fatal effect. Try not to penetrate any of the shrimp's vitals. Just push the hook through its "horn" and it will stay alive a long time.