Lake Murray’s shellcrackers should be heading to their spawning beds within the week, according to guide Brad Taylor of Taylor Outdoors.
“Most of the fish we are catching are prespawn,” Taylor said, admiring a handful of fat redear sunfish caught last Friday at several spots around the 50,000-acre lake. “They should be spawning on the next full moon (June 2).”
Taylor has been catching shellcrackers staging outside of spawning flats in 3 to 5 feet of water on worms, either fished on the bottom with a split-shot or under a cork, with a split-shot crimped on the line several inches above the bait.
“The weather has been very confusing this spring,” Taylor said. “It got worm, then it got really cold. I think the length of daylight in a day is what triggers everything, but the water temperature has some effect. When the fish get the right balance, they go.
“These fish are in schools on big flats next to channels,” he said. “You don’t really think about panfish doing that, but we’re catching them on both sides of the boat. And between now and the full moon, they’ll all be pulling up in the pockets to spawn.”
From the time that spawn starts, Taylor said, fishermen will be able to catch shellcrackers and bluegills shallow for several months, keying on the monthly spawns around the full moons. Bluegill and shellcrackers will often spawn in the same general areas, with shellcrackers sometimes a little bit deeper.
“If you fish around Memorial Day, I’d go out and look for beds in clear water,” he said. “Then, I’d fish around those beds. They won’t all be in the beds.”