Originally Published June 1986
Lake Murray Stripers
By; Eric Bumgarner



          LAKE MURRAY is located just north west of Columbia,  S.C., just off interstate highways 20 & 26.  It's approximately 50,000 acres with 550 miles of shore line. It is a very beautiful lake with many islands, underwater humps, points and large creeks adjacent to the main river channel.
          The lake also has an abundance of deep water, which is mainly from the gap area down to the dam. The water depth in the major creeks and river channels of this area is from 90 to 200 feet deep.  The deepest water being from Jim Spence island down to the dam.
          Lake  Murray is probably the most productive striper lake in the Carolina's.
 That is to say it probably has more fish, and more fish are taken out of it, than any other lake in the Carolina's.
         Lake Murray has a very liberal daily creel limit of 10 fish with no size limit  The
lake has no natural reproduction of fish, so it is strictly a put and take lake. The S.C. Game Department have continued to do an excellent job of stocking the lake, some years with as many as 1 to 12 million fry a year  The lake was first stocked in the middle 60's.
          The lake is abundant with 2 to 4 pound fish.  It also has many fish in the 5 to 10 pound class. with an occasional fish in the 20 to 35 pound class. The lake record is 44 pounds with some larger fish being found floating dead. Most of the larger fish are caught either in July and August or January, February. or March.  The best catch of big fish from Lake Murray in a single day was caught by Harold Picklemer of Gastonia, N.C. and Buddy Wright of Chapin. SC. whom are both guides. It was in August of 83. They caught 15 fish that weighed 297 pounds.  That's approximately a 20 pound average
          These fish were caught fishing points and underwater humps on the left hand side of the lake from Jim Spence Island down to the dam  They were fishing in about 50 to 60 foot of water, with the shad down about 35 foot.
          In the summer of 79 we started catching and transporting gizzard shad to fish with. We could not catch any out of the lake so we had to catch them behind dams of other lakes. Sometimes we would have to drive as far as 100 miles one way to get the gizzard shad.
          If you had shad you could catch fish. We caught many limits of fish with them, fishing days and also at night in summer.
          When we first started using gizzard shad, we caught many fish in the 8 to 12 pound range.  The lake didn't have the fishing pressure it has today. The size of the fish have declined to average 2 to 4 pounds where as before they would average 6 to 8 pounds.
          The reason for this being, is due to the introduction of the blue back herring. There are just as many fish as ever, but now due to the heavy fishing pressure and easy availability of the blue back herring the fish don't have time to grow before they are caught
          No one seems to know where they came from.  The S.C. Wildlife Department says they didn't stock them and could not tell us where they came from.  But as before when we used gizzard shad,  many people wouldn't go to the trouble of locating and transporting them. Now with the herring all anyone has to do is go to the towers and catch them  This has caused the fishing pressure to increase dramatically  The primary bait of Lake Murray is now the blue back herring.  In the spring and summer thousands of them congregate at the water intakes at the dam. The intakes are five huge towers at the dam. You can't miss finding them.  You  need  a  6 foot monofilament cast net with about 80 foot of rope added to it to catch the herring. Many times they are 50 to 70 feet deep When the fish are biting,  there will be as many as 50 to 60 boats trying to catch bait. You need to get there early as possible to get a good location close to the towers  Sometimes you can catch bait all day and at other times only in mid morning and late afternoon
          If water is being pulled through the intake towers the herring will not come in at all and also if it happens to be cloudy and overcast you may not be able to catch any bait at all on those days
 To keep the herring alive you need a 30 to 50 gallon bait tank with a good agitator
Also add about a pound of rock salt and 3 to 4 bags of ice.  Ice is used to cool the water
 temperature  down  to  what the  lake temperature is 50 to 70 foot down where the bait is    being caught.
        As far as I know there is no place else in the lake to catch the herring. The nearest   place is behind Lake Russell Dam and Clark Hill Lake about 100 miles away.
          When fished alive the herring should be fished on 8 to 12 pound test line, with light action rods.  Use as small a sinker as possibly needed to hold the bait down, with a 1/O to 3/0 hook depending on the size of the herring, which are usually small.
        There are also many fish. caught on cut herring in the spring and summer.  In May, June and July of 84, there were hundreds of fish caught fishing around Wessinger Bombing Range, Jim Spence Islands and the many humps and points in these areas. When using cut bait fished on the bottom, you can catch fish in water as shallow as 3 foot to as deep as 60 foot
  Putnam's Landing is the best place to stay for spring and summer fishing.
Putnam's Landing is located off Highway 76 in Chapin,  SC  just off interstate 26. They have cabins and guides available. Sometimes they also have live blue back herring being delivered each morning for the guides and fisherman The stripers are located from the landing down to the dam in spring and summer   They are around Wessinger  Island, Bombing Range or Lunch Island. Jim Spence Island and many of the long points or humps that jut out into the main river channel on both sides of the lake.  All you need to do is ride over these areas with a graph and you will find fish.
          Do not exclude deep water in these areas.  Many times in the middle to late summer the fish will suspend 50 to 70 feet deep over the 100 to 180 feet of water.
          In late summer and early fall,  the fish will start breaking in early morning and late afternoon,  When the fish are breaking,  a trolling motor is extremey handy.  The trolling motor is used to approach the fish, so they will not be spooked and go down.
The fish will be in some areas as they are in the summer months.  The best baits to use now are top water plugs such as the Creek Chubs Striper Strike ~2400 series in white, Cordell 's Near  nuin clear or white and Atom's Striper Swiper in /2 ounce to Ys ounce sizes.
          The fish will do this till late September or early October. The fish will then disappear until around the middle of November when they show up again around the gap area, Big Hollow Creek and Macedonia Church Area.
          This time of year many fish can be caught on white and yellow bucktails in 3/8 ounce to 1/2 ounce size, shimmy shads, sassy shads, little Cleo spoon in the 3/8 ounce size and baracuda spoons in #1 size with white feathers.
          Fish can be caught on live shad or shinners now either fished down 18 to 24 feet or free lined in breaking fish.
          The most popular way to fish through the winter months is with what we call a double rig. The rig consist of a 3/8 ounce to 1/2 ounce white bucktail with a 3/8 ounce little cleo spoon or a #1 banacuda spoon on a 1/O to 3/0 3 way swivel. It's not uncommon to catch doubles with this rig when fish are breaking. The double rig must be fished very slow. When you feel the lightest tap set the hook hard and fast. The reason for fishing it slow is because the cold water has the shad moving slowly.  You have to imitate the size and speed of the bait fish to get any strikes.
There are many sea gulls on the lake through out the winter months. You just watch for the gulls diving and squawking to find the fish. The gulls are feeding on the small shad the stripers are killing.
          The stripers keep moving up the lake towards the river by late December. They can be found in Buffalo Creek, Rocky Creek,  Harvley Creek the main river channel and most any of the small covers in these areas of the lake.
          The ideal place to fish from now is Hollands Marina just outside of Prosperity, S.C. which is also just off Interstate 26. Hollands' also has guides, cabins and a restaurant for the fisherman.
          If the winter is mild,  many years you can catch fish up until or through March fishing the breaking fish. The fish will usually quit breaking when the water temperature cools below 45 degrees to 48. The late winter months are also a good time to catch a fish weighing 20 to 35 pounds. The reason for this being the fish are gorging themselves with shad and also are developing eggs and milt for their spring spawning run.
          From mid-February through April there will be some fish above the Black's Bridge area up to and behind Lake Greenwood dam. This is the Big Saluda River. This time of year, when river fish, your best bait is cut gizzard shad. With the guts of the shad the best bait. The best method of fishing cut bait is to use an egg sinker from 1 to 2 ounces depending on river current, a #1 to 3 barrel swivel with 18 inch leader and a l/0 style 42 Eagle Claw Wide Bend Hook. The best time to fish the river is when the river is flowing, which means the power company is generating water at the Lake Greenwood Dam.
          When fishing the river the best place to fish are in the bends of the river with the least water flow, around bush or fallen trees or around the bends on sand bars. This type of fishing will not usually produce many fish,  but it will produce some large female fish in the 20 to 40 pounds class.
So as you can see there are many different methods to catch Lake Murray stripers, and the fishing is year round if you are willing to change styles and methods.

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