• March 2012 - Volume 7, Number 3


    Although there may be a grey cloud or two on the horizon, anglers should finish this coming saltwater season with big smiles on their faces.

    South Carolina is blessed with an abundance of excellent saltwater habitat, even if it doesn’t have as extensive a coastline as some states.

    The state’s fisheries are among the best in the Southeast, in part because the S.C. Department of Natural Resources has shown tremendous forethought in how some species are managed and protected.

    But things aren’t always hunky dory every year, for every fish species. At least one popular bluewater species, the yellowfin tuna, has been missing in action for several years. A couple of popular inshore species, speckled trout and flounder, have seen better times, but for different reasons.

    So when you get ready to head to the coast this year, it’s good to know what species you’ll be better served targeting. Here is an overview of what’s up:

    North Carolina hunters are hoping for another record-breaking spring gobbler season. Here’s where to look for a longbeard.

    Although there’s no way to know what type of turkey season North Carolina hunters will have this spring, anyone who considers recent history probably will come to the conclusion could be looking at another record year. After all, the state’s spring gobbler harvest has been escalating at a steady pace for years.

    Abundant docks, oysters and creeks offer great habitat for winter-loving fish and fishermen.

    March is a notoriously fickle when it comes to weather. Windy days and chilly weather can pose problems for many anglers who try to fish the larger, open waters, but for those who watch the wind, heading across Bogue Sound to reach the protected headwaters of its small feeder creeks is key to consistent fishing success.

    For prespawn Lake Wylie bass, take advice from the ‘coach’ and concentrate on piers and boat docks.

    André Powell, who has coached running backs for the University of North Carolina, Clemson University and now the University of Maryland, spends most of his free time away from the gridiron on the deck of his bass boat.

    The sun was just peaking over the hills on the east side of Lake Wylie as Powell pulled into the parking lot at the Buster Boyd Access Area to launch for a day of bass fishing with his partner, Brian Porter — a regular occurrence for the two.

    Wylie, which was impounded in 1904 and covers 12,455 surface acres, is one of 11 impoundments on Duke Energy’s Catawba-Wateree river system. Wedged between North Carolina and South Carolina southwest of Charlotte, it is among the finest “urban” bass-fishing lakes in the country. Because of the dense population around the lake, piers and docks constitute prime bass habitat, and March is a month when prespawn fishing for hungry largemouths really puts those pieces of structure into the equation.

    Early season Lowcountry gobblers often require special attention from hunters because they’re in the peak of breeding period.

    Getting a 2-week jump-start on turkey season in South Carolina’s Lowcountry is certainly a bonus, but it does come with some issues that hunters must overcome.

    Charles Ruth, the deer and turkey project supervisor for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said in addition to the typical wily ways of these gobblers, his data indicates that the spring mating season is already in full swing when the early season opens.

    When it comes to numbers and size, this expansive lake might just boast North Carolina’s best crappie fishery.

    John H. Kerr Reservoir once had the reputation as a top-drawer lake to catch largemouth bass, striped bass and catfish.

    That’s changed the past several years as Largemouth Bass Virus and gill maggots have taken their toll on bass and stripers, but catfishing has improved steadily. The lake’s reputation wasn’t hurt by last year’s world-record 147-pound blue cat.

    March brings a host of fine opportunities on Lake Marion, especially on the channel side on the lower end of the massive Santee Cooper reservoir.

    Spring and Santee Cooper. If that’s not a peanut butter-and-jelly sort of a combination, what could ever earn such a dubbing? The warming temperatures and lengthening days that come with March prompt fish of several species to move shallower, both to feed and in preparation for the spawn. As the fish begin straying shallow, the fishermen enjoy the bounties.

    Rebounding from a loss of habitat in years past, shellcrackers are on their way to becoming this lake’s top panfish.

    What do striped bass and shellcrackers have in common?
    At first blush, very little, until you hear guide Brad Taylor talk about Lake Murray.

    “If you’ve ever been cut-bait fishing for stripers on Lake Murray, then you already know how to fish for shellcrackers,” said Taylor.

    Let the weather point you in the direction of some great prespawn bass fishing on Lake Wateree.

    The weather this month is tough to predict, but for catching largemouth bass on Lake Wateree, March is a sure thing, according to Ridgeway’s Brett Collins. The fish are definitely willing participants; knowing what to offer them — and where to make those offerings — is the key.

    It may be a long way to the blue water, but offshore fishing out of the Hilton Head/Beaufort area offers an awful lot in March — and nearshore action is plenty good, too.

    The first hints of spring start to show this month, and saltwater fishermen are only too ready to big winter good-bye. Luckily, some of the best nearshore and offshore fishing arrivse at a time when anglers are most eager.

    March is prime time to sample a rebounding crappie fishery on this Catawba River impoundment.

    With the exception of perhaps striped bass, there appears to be a great awakening at Lake Norman, formerly referred to by scores of anglers as North Carolina’s “Great Dead Sea.”

    An excellent fishery for blue catfish has developed over the past half-dozen years. Spotted bass are all over the lake, providing bass fishermen with a second target in addition to largemouths. White perch have shown up from who knows where in great numbers.

    Oh, and for the first time in years, crappie fishermen can actually expect to catch a mess of fish from the 32,500-acre reservoir on the Catawba River north of Charlotte.

    Creel and size limits have made Jordan Lake, one of North Carolina’s best crappie fisheries, even better — at least according to one crappie pro.

    A lot of anglers might think that Kenny Allen of Brown Summit missed out on the heyday of crappie fishing at B. Everett Jordan Lake in the 1990s, a decade after the reservoir opened and was quickly labeled one of the Southeast’s best fisheries for both crappie and largemouth bass.

    Crystal Coast fishermen can take advantage of the spring run of this sought-after bluewater fish.

    The Run Off isn’t the fastest charterboat on the Morehead City waterfront, but Capt. Brian Harrington and mate Marty Hiatt work hard to fill the fish box and usually do it well, even if it means a little earlier departure from port.

    Spring has sprung, and that means great action for red drum and crappie.