The dropping water temperatures at Lake Murray have reached the point where the bulk of the striper population has followed baitfish upriver, typical for this time of year, producing outstanding fishing.

According to guide Chris Heinning, as the water has cooled, the striper fishing has heated up and many limits of quality fish are being taken.

"I'm finding the best striper fishing far up the lake, around the area (of) the rivers' junction and up," Heinning said. "The action right now is awesome, with one very recent trip producing over 60 fish … between four and 10 pounds each – and they were caught on artificial lures.

"The action right now ranks as among the best of the winter and typically we'll enjoy this quality fishing throughout the month of January."

 

While most fish are released, Heinning (803-236-1257) said the limit on Lake Murray this time of the year is five fish per day and a 21-inch size minimum. Most of the fish he and his clients are catching are above the size minimum.

         

"The good news is that there are a variety of ways to catch these fish," he said. "Typically, each day begins with searching for baitfish activity. I watch for gull activity and use what I see on my Lowrance HDS graph as a guide. If there is schooling activity, then we go directly to that action and use 2-inch plastic swim baits, with a 3/8 to ½-ounce jighead to enable us to make long casts if necessary.

         

"However, if topwater action is slow, I'll use the graph to find areas where the stripers have the bait bunched up on identifiable targets such as points, humps or creek mouth junctions," Heinning said. "We'll catch a lot of fish without seeing any, or only occasional, schooling activity."

         

Heinning said another productive method is to use live bait; he suggests using medium sized shad or herring.

         

"Most of the forage I'm seeing is in the 2-inch size class so I recommend smaller live baits," he said. "Free-lining and down rods fished at depths just above where fish are marked are excellent methods. Stripers are also being caught trolling deep-diving lures such as Rebels, and we've had good success as well using the Alabama rig with Buckeye heads and plastic shad swimbaits."

 

Heinning said cloudy days are best for schooling action, but even on bright days there's still excellent fishing by working the underwater structures with artificial lures or live bait.