The shellcracker fishing in the upper end of Lake Marion is red hot, producing some of the best action in years, according to several experts, among them Hilton Fulmer from Summerton, who has been targeting shellcrackers on upper Lake Marion for 35 years.

“The fishing the past few weeks has been awesome,” Fulmer said. “The action has been so good the shellcrackers actually bedded on the last new moon, they’re going to bed on this full moon in May, and I think another wave will possibly bed on the coming new moon in a couple more weeks. I think the great fishing will continue for a while.”

Fulmer is fishing from the Jack’s Creek to Pack’s Flats area, but he said fishing is good lake-wide, based on reports.

“Shellcracker fishing is great when they are on the beds and they get real shallow and you can fish around pads, weeds, cypress trees and brush very shallow and catch huge fish lake crazy,’ he said. “We’re catching lots of fish well over a pound, and last week, I caught one that weighted 2 ½ pounds. But the key is even when they are not bedding, we catch them in staging areas. A good staging area is shallow water, 2 or 3 feet deep, but not far from deeper water. That way, if the water conditions change or a front blows through, they can retreat to deeper water. But right now, conditions are ideal and they are caught in staging and bedding areas.

“When fishing for staging shellcrackers, most of the time we’ll catch several from one spot, then move to another couple of areas and repeat the process,” he said. “They’re not all piled into a small area like when they’re bedding, but you can still catch a limit of big fish in a fairly short period of time. They key is to move and flip your bait around likely cover until you catch a fish or two, and then work that area. Do that when they’re on the beds, and you’ll likely catch a limit from that one spot. When they’re staging, you move around a bit more.”

Fulmer said in ideal situation shellcrackers bed on a full moon, but that’s not always the case.

“Propagation of the species is most important to them,” he said. “After fishing for and studying them for 35 years, I’ve found that some years, they will bed on the new moon as well as the full moon if conditions are right after the water has been messed up. Muddy water or colder temperatures will sometimes force them to change habits, and that’s the case this year. But fish for them whether bedding or staging, and you can catch plenty of huge shellcrackers.”

Fulton uses a 10-foot rod with a fly reel loaded with 6-pound line. He uses a small float and BB splitshot and No. 6 long-shank hook.

“I also hook my red wiggler worm once through the head and let it dangle straight,” he said. “I don’t gob the worms on the hook, I think this makes a big difference, Plus, I think big red wigglers outproduce nightcrawlers. The time to catch some of the biggest shellcrackers of the year is right now, and upper Lake Marion is my favorite place.”