Lakes, backwaters productive if you can stand the cold
Fish continue to hit fairly well in the Piedmont lakes and coastal backwaters of the Carolinas for anglers willing to tough out cold weather conditions.
There are especially good reports this week from Lake Norman, Badin Lake, Lake Wateree and even Fontana Lake in the Great Smoky Mountains.
A mix of flounder, red drum and speckled trout are being caught inshore from the Outer Banks to the Beaufort/Hilton Head area.
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Lake Norman : Good for hybrids – with some stripers mixed in the schools – in the creeks on live baits and jigging spoons. Fair to good for largemouth and spotted bass on jigs worked around docks. Crappie 20 feet deep on minnows fished around brush and bridge pilings. Catfish on garlic-treated pieces of chicken and traditional baits such as crawlers in warm waters near the Plant Marshall hot hole.
Lake Wylie: Continuing fair to good for crappie 15-25 feet deep around bridge pilings, boathouses, brush and docks. Continuing fair for largemouth bass in the backs of creeks.
Mountain Island Lake : Fair for crappie around deep brush.
Cane Creek Park Lake: Good for crappie in cover 15-20 feet down.
Yadkin-Pee Dee River Lakes: Good for largemouth to 4 pounds from surface-feeding schools at Badin Lake on smelt-colored Gulp! lures. Fair for crappie, generally 20 feet deep throughout the chain, including High Rock, Tuckertown, Badin, Tillery and Blewett Falls.
Lakes James, Rhodhiss, Hickory : The smallmouth bass bite continues good at James, where the fish are taking live baits either trolled or drift-fished around the points. Fair for crappie at all three reservoirs.
Fontana Lake : Surprisingly excellent for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass along the points and rocky banks on jerk baits and spinnerbaits with a red crawfish skirt. Limit catches reported.
Lake Wateree : Good for striped bass during the morning on live shiners in and near June and Colonel creeks. Fair for largemouth on crankbaits and spinnerbaits from Beaver Creek to the dam. Crappie 16-18 feet deep in the creeks on minnows.
Lake Thurmond: Continuing very good for stripers and hybrids, suspended 40-60 feet deep over 100-120 feet of water, on live herring.
Lake Murray: Shellcrackers just off the shoreline on crawlers, crickets and earthworms. Striped bass in surface schools from the Gap to the dam.
Santee Cooper Lakes : Limits of crappie on minnows fished around cover 20 feet deep.
Lake Hartwell : Continuing good for stripers and hybrids 45-55 feet deep on live baits. Good for channel catfish 15-40 feet deep lakewide on crawlers, cut bait and dip bait.
Lake Keowee: Good for largemouth and spotted bass on topwater lures when schooling, then on drop-shot rigs fished 25-35 feet down.
Lake Jocassee : Fair for trout on Apex spoons and live baits worked 80-100 feet deep.
Outer Banks : Nags Head area: Good for red drum in the surf; Oregon Inlet: Good to very good offshore for bigeye, blackfin and yellowfin tuna, along with king mackerel and wahoo, when sea conditions are favorable. Striped bass in the sound; Hatteras Island: Excellent offshore for limits of large king mackerel when sea conditions are good. Big red drum from the pier at Rodanthe and in the surf at Cape Point near Buxton. Good for whiting in the surf at Ramp 44 and at Avon Beach. Blues to 5 pounds and flounder to 20 inches in the surf near Hatteras Village; Ocracoke Island: Blues, puppy drum and whiting in the surf; Morehead City area: Good for gray and speckled trout along the beach and just beyond. False albacore to 20 pounds. King mackerel offshore at Northwest Places when seas are fishable. Black drum to 70 pounds at piers, along with excellent whiting.
Southeast Coast : Good to excellent in the backwaters and at Greens Channel, Masonboro Sound and the Little River jetties for speckled trout. They’re hitting bucktails tipped with soft plastic lures. King mackerel 20-30 miles offshore when sea conditions are good. Speckled trout and whiting at piers.
S.C. Coast: Little River area: Blues and whiting; Grand Strand area: Good for flounder in the backwaters, with some anglers reporting 8-12 of keeper-size per trip. Good for reds in the creeks and larger red drum at the Georgetown and Murrells Inlet jetties. Whiting at the piers; Charleston area: Very good for sheepshead around bridge pilings and other structure. Flounder in the creeks and inlets near oyster beds. Reds on the flats during low tide on chunks of mullet; Beaufort/Hilton Head area: Reds in the creeks around oyster beds on cut mullet, Gulp! lures and gold spoons. Larger reds in Port Royal Sound.