SC’s hottest bream holes

Big bream are in the shallows throughout June on Lake Marion. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

Try these hot holes for fast panfish action

Almost any place that’s wet in South Carolina will produce good bream fishing. But some lakes and rivers simply produce more, or larger, bream on a consistent basis. We’ve narrowed the list of bream targets to some of the best waters for panfish anglers.

But the basic patterns that produce on these waters can be adapted to your home lake or river.

A cage of crickets, or a wad of worms, paired with light tackle will help you catch limits of bream in shallow water.

Here are some top South Carolina bream targets.

Cooper River

The Cooper River below the Pinopolis Dam on Lake Moultrie is a big bream factory that produces outlandish-sized bream in vast numbers.

Wyn Mullins lives in North Charleston and has bream fished the river for a half-century. Mullins said a key to his success is understanding that the river is influenced by tides, so utilizing the rising and falling tides to his advantage is essential.

Mullins said because of the tidal influence, when looking for bedding fish, it’s best to always have at least a foot or more of water in a specific area, even at low tide.

“If the water totally recedes during low tide, it’s not a good bet for bed fishing,” he said.

He keys on pockets with a sand and gravel substrate, that have a couple of feet of water even at the lowest tide level. Areas located near a small ditch or creek are among his favorite targets.

“Bream action is excellent on the Cooper River with bedding activity peaking around the full moon phase each month,” he said. “And big bream are not always shallow.”

He often finds big fish 10 feet deep, or more. Mullins targets deeper water along the main Cooper River channel, primarily around creek intersections.

Huge bream like this are the rule, not the exception, on the Cooper River. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

“The larger fish often congregate near deep water and stay close to nearby aquatic growth that harbors abundant summertime forage,” he said. “By June, the river is full of aquatic growth.”

Mullins said he finds more bream near the mouth of a pocket or creek junction when the tide is low or falling.

“As the water rises, fish move further back into pockets because of sufficient water depth, and areas with sufficient water throughout the tide can be prime bedding areas.”

Mullins said bream are caught on any tide, but he plans his trips around either side of the high tide. Crickets are his bait of choice for bream. He usually fishes them on a slip-float rig. Good shellcracker action also exists, and worms are best for that species.

Lake Wateree

It’s no surprise to local Lake Wateree anglers that bream fishing is great at this lake. The fertile lake has a great diversity of shallow water areas for bream. Anglers catch them in huge numbers, but often in assorted sizes. With reasonable culling, some excellent-sized bream limits are taken.

Chuck Porter of Sumter has bream fished Lake Wateree for decades. He said two keys to June bream success include bottom substrate and cover.

“June is prime time for bedding bream. For bed fishing, it’s mostly about the bottom substrate,” Porter said. “The key is to search the coves and pockets looking for sand and gravel bottoms because that’s ideal spawning habitat. If the water is reasonably clear, you can see the bottom composition near the shoreline. And often, bed sites will have small mussel shells scattered along the shoreline.”

Bream are easy to find this month, making it a great adventure for kids. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

Porter said he’ll use crickets fished below a slip-float rig with a No. 6 wire hook, and he usually fishes about 1 to 3 feet deep. Spincast, light spinning and lightweight 10- to 12-foot fiberglass poles are all perfect tackle to catch shallow water bream at Lake Wateree.

“Beetle Spin type lures are lethal for bream at Lake Wateree,” he said.

“I prefer to cast lures or live bait in front of the boat on about a 45-degree angle, allowing me to target the shallow water when searching for beds,” he said.

Porter said the hard bottom substrate that bream prefer often continues into deeper water. And bream will bed deeper than most anglers think.

“By fishing deeper, in the 4- to 7-foot range, I’ll catch bigger bream. But fewer beds are found deeper, so it’s a trade-off,” he said. “Anglers often don’t search for them because the shallow beds are so plentiful and productive.”

While Porter prefers crickets, Frankie Jacobs is a local Lake Wateree bream expert who employs a different bream-catching technique.

“I prefer to fish a 1/32-ounce jig and tiny plastic grub,” Jacobs said. “The jig pairs perfectly with ultralight tackle and four-pound test line. This rig enables me to cast the jig a long distance and allows the lure to fall at just the right speed.”

Jacobs said he’s found it helpful to use a bright colored line so he can see when the line twitches or starts moving to the side.

Porter said another tactic works well in June, and throughout the summer. That tactic involves fishing steep, rocky bluffs down to 10 feet deep.

“The steep drops hold a lot of big bream that are not bedding,” he said. “A relatively untapped resource of big shellcrackers thrive in Lake Wateree too. So fishing worms instead of crickets can improve the odds of hooking big shellcrackers.”

Crickets and corks are a perfect combo for catching bream. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

Lake Marion

Lake Marion simply has the look of a bream fishing paradise. And the good news for panfish anglers is it produces as well as it looks. The huge lake offers a wide diversity of bream habitat, and huge bream and giant shellcrackers are caught in almost ridiculous numbers.

Kevin Davis is a long-time local angler, and former bream-fishing guide. He said June is prime time.

“I love fishing the cypress flats, and I’ll hunt for areas with a hard bottom. That’s ideal habitat for bedding fish,” he said.

Davis said one way to find bream in this habitat is to employ the side-scan technology and literally mark the beds.

“Stay on the move, scanning as you go.” he said. “When you mark a bream bed, fish it, and then look for other beds nearby in the same general depth of water.”

Davis said bream and shellcrackers often get into shallow water to bed. An abundance of weeds, logs and trees will be in the area. He said working around shallow water cover in a small boat armed with a long pole is often the best tactic in these areas.

“Plus, you can really get away from the crowds, and that’s important when you find that big bed,” he said.

Davis said it’s crucial to accurately place your bait near the target, even when fishing in beds.

Davis doesn’t linger in any given spot unless he is catching fish. His searching technique for locating beds consistently produces scattered bream action until he locates that bed of bream or shellcrackers.

Targeting bream in the right places can lead to big stringers in June. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

Lake Secession

Lake Secession is a small body of water located in Abbeville County on the Rocky River upstream from Lake Richard B. Russell. The lake covers 1,460 surface-acres and is operated by the City of Abbeville. Public access is through a public boat ramp near SC Hwy. 184.

Many anglers at this lake simply work the shoreline searching for bedding bream. But this same searching pattern produces, even when fish are not bedding, in more of a scattered few good fish in small clusters, around the shoreline.

Bedding can occur any time of the month. But sometimes the fish-catching action with non-bedding bream is excellent when fishing tight to cover near slightly deeper water. Spinning tackle, as well as long poles, are highly effective at this lake.

When targeting beds, look for small coves and pockets with gravel and sandy bottoms. Otherwise, fish along slightly steeper shorelines and cast small spinners or live bait around woody cover.

SCDNR-managed lakes in Upstate SC

Several excellent but smaller SCDNR managed lakes are available in the upstate that provide quality bream fishing. Three of these lakes are fertilized and managed to promote excellent fishing and while relatively small, they do produce excellent bream fishing opportunities.

Lake Edwin Johnson is a 40-acre fertilized lake providing excellent fishing with bluegill and shellcrackers being featured species. The lake is located at the end of State Road 359 off SC 295 between Spartanburg and Pacolet. The lake is open 1/2 hour before official sunrise to 1/2 after official sunset, 7 days a week.

Lake John D. Long is an 80-acre fertilized lake providing good bluegill and shellcracker fishing. A boat ramp is available as well as a fishing pier and is handicapped accessible. It is located off Hwy. 9 and Black Bottom Road in Union County. The lake is open 1/2 hour before official sunrise to 1/2 after official sunset, 7 days a week.

Star Fort Pond in Greenwood County located near Ninety-Six, is a 22-acre fertilized lake that provides bluegill and shellcracker. This lake has a fishing pier for anglers to use.

All three of these state-managed lakes have specific guidelines. Always refer to the SCDNR Rules and Regulations before fishing any of the managed ponds to ensure you have the latest information.

About Terry Madewell 812 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.

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