Shellcracker bite is heating up in Carolina waters


Lakes and rivers are prime waters for spring shellcracker

Many anglers talk about waiting for the full moon of May to start fishing for shellcrackers. But those anglers are missing out on a pile of fish. These fish are biting right now.

It’s probably true that shellcrackers will be easier to find as the weather warms up a bit more. But with a little searching right now, many anglers in lakes all across the Carolinas are currently limiting out quickly, at least on some days.

The trick, according to Stacy Atkinson, of Low Country Wildlife TV, is looking for the most protected areas of the waters you’re fishing.

“If you’re fishing a lake with flooded timber, look for the most protected flooded timber. So, if you find a clump of a dozen or so flooded trees, go to the tree that’s in the middle — or whatever tree offers the most protection. That’s where the highest concentration of shellcrackers will be,” said Atkinson.

Likewise, if you’re fishing water with lots of surface vegetation, you’ll find shellcrackers bedding under the most protective areas. Sometimes the cover is so thick that it’s hard to say what areas are more protected than the rest. That’s when you have to look around, hit a few spots, and keep moving until you find them.

Slip corks and nightcrawlers

A good pair of polarized shades can help you actually see the beds, especially in clear, shallow water. You might find some bluegill beds while looking, and that’s a bonus.

Because shellcrackers can be bedding in a variety of depths, Atkinson prefers to use slip bobbers, which allow quick depth adjustments. And he said anglers shouldn’t be afraid to fish right on the bottom when searching for a shellcracker bite.

“They usually bed a bit deeper than bluegills, and they take baits off the bottom much more readily than other panfish will, especially on some days. I prefer a slip cork, even if I’m fishing just an inch above the bottom. But on some days, it seems laying your bait right on the bottom is what gets them biting,” he said.

And his top bait for shellcracker fishing? Nightcrawlers. And he said one mistake many anglers make is their too stingy with the bait.

“A lot of guys will break off just a little segment of a worm. But these fish are attracted to the wiggling around of a whole nightcrawler just as much as they are the smell or taste of one. It’s not natural for them to see a tiny section of worm. So they don’t bite that as well as they’ll take a whole worm,” he said. “You can try a tiny section with no luck, then put on a whole worm and they’ll bite it right away.”

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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