On Lake Marion, Capt. Steve English (843-729-4044) said bluegill can be caught in brushpiles around 12 to 15 feet deep, and also shallow around grass, trees and docks. Crickets and worms are great bait choices, but don't overlook artificial lures like Beetle Spins and Mepps spinners.
Fiberglass bream poles are great for dangling the live bait, and ultralight rods and reels make fishing with small spinners both challenging and fun. They can also be used with slip corks to cast the crickets and worms to areas that are too far for bream poles to reach.
Anglers are also having a lot of success catching shellcrackers in the shallows. While these fish are often caught along with bluegills, some anglers prefer to target shellcrackers specifically. This is easy to do, according to avid angler Ken Nutter, who usually fishes out of Pack's Landing or Elliot's Landing.
"When I target shellcrackers, I do two things differently than when I'm bluegill fishing," said Nutter, who is from Sumter. "I use nightcrawlers instead of crickets, and I forego the cork and fish on the bottom."
One of Nutter's favorite shellcracker hotspots is the area around Hamburger and Hot Dog Islands. "These aren't really islands - just tight clusters of flooded cypress trees –and they hold oodles of shellcrackers in the spring. I fish both islands, but if the fish aren't doing much in the trees, I fish that little area of water between the islands. When the lake level is down a little bit like it is now, they'll stack up in that stretch. They'll be bedding all around there by the May full moon."
Nutter also likes to fish in the cypress trees in the section of water than runs between Pack's and Elliot's landings.
"If you leave Pack's Landing and cut under the railroad trestle, you'll see flooded cypress trees immediately toward the left bank. Those areas are full of shellcrackers and bluegill," Nutter said.
But don't get stuck concentrating all your efforts on the cypress trees. There are lily pads, alligator grass, and small open areas between them all. Anglers should target the edges of those weeds, which are great spots to probe with crickets and worms, and reeling an ultralight spinner parallel to those edges can be as exciting as bass fishing.
Alcolu's Brooke Knotts spends a lot of time fishing these areas too, and she agrees with Nutter that shellcrackers and bluegill fishing is hot but about to get better.
"Every year, the full moon in May really gets the bream biting like mad," she said, "so around May 5 this year, you'll find me on Lake Marion with a cane pole in one hand and an ultralight rod-and-reel in the other!"