The Best Fishing in South Carolina: Our Top 8 Lakes
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Where Can I Find the Best Fishing in South Carolina?
For one of the most popular coastal vacation destinations in The United States, this is a tricky question.
For many anglers — our own editors included — South Carolina is a prime destination for coastal fishing.
Editor’s Note: If you are in the Hilton Head area and looking for some saltwater fishing, we recommend linking up with Captain Joe of Bonnie Rae Charters.
Since this is a freshwater fishing website, however, we are going to focus on lake fishing in the Palmetto State.
When compared to states with thousands of lakes — dozens of which are highly trafficked each year — the fact that South Carolina has far fewer major freshwater fisheries certainly narrows the potential pool of candidates.
Among those qualifiers, however, are a couple lakes that many experienced and well-traveled anglers consider quite highly.
How We Decided Where to Find the Best Fishing in South Carolina
Despite limited options, any list is subject to interpretation. While compiling our list of the top fishing lakes in South Carolina, we considered the following:
History of Success: For each lake featured below, we took into consideration how many quality fish anglers have caught on those waters both historically and in recent years. If a lake has been hot recently, that played a larger factor in our rankings.
Available Species: We also looked at data provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to determine the diversity of each body of water. Some lakes may be extremely notable for producing only one or two species, but lack the variety of other locations.
Accessibility: South Carolina is a modest-sized state, but some lakes will require a considerable drive depending on your location within the state. We also take into account accessibility for anglers in bordering states. Also, it is worth noting that no private ponds, rivers, or coastal saltwater fishing locations appear in our list.
Social Signals: What’s a good list without a human element? We examined data from online reviews, forums, and social media to round out of rankings.
Honorable Mentions: Some Great South Carolina Fishing Spots
Functioning as a “best of the rest,” our Honorable Mentions list includes some of the top fishing lakes in South Carolina that just missed out on the cut. These include:
Lake Robinson: Located in Greenville County near the town of Greer, Lake Robinson spans 800 acres. It is a popular destination of all types of water-related recreation, including rafting, kayaking, swimming, canoeing, and low-speed boating. With a horsepower limited of 10 HP enforced, this is the type of lake where anglers can enjoy a fairly relaxed environment without competing against heavy recreational traffic. A creel limit of ten (10) largemouth bass is also in effect.
Lake Bowen: Sometimes called Lake William C. Bowen, This lake is owned and operated by the Spartansburg Water System — currently one of three lakes carrying that distinction. It covers a considerable 1,534 acres. Anglers can expect to find decent largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish on these waters. It is located toward the top of the state, about a ten minute drive from the North Carolina state border.
Lake Hartwell: Covering nearly 56,000 acres, Hartwell is one of the largest and most popular lakes in South Carolina. It has an average depth of 45 feet with a maximum depth of 185 feet. The lake borders Georgia and is located on the Seneca, Tugaloo, and Savannah Rivers. The lake offers popular recreation opportunities like camping, biking trails, and boating. Popular species on Lake Hartwell include smallmouth bass, catfish, bream, largemouth bass, and walleye.
Lake Greenwood: Greenwood came incredibly close to making it into the Top 8 spots. Lake Greenwood covers a respectable 11,400 acres with 212 miles of shoreline. It spans 26 miles and has an average depth of approximately 22 feet. The maximum depth on Lake Greenwood is 69 feet.
Located across Laurens, Newberry, and Greenwood counties, Lake Greenwood is a popular fishing destination for numerous species, including crappie, bream, pickerel, largemouth, white, and striped bass, and white perch.
As of this writing, Lake Greenwood does not have any current South Carolina state fishing records to its credit despite being one of the most popular freshwater fisheries in the state.
For those looking for an extended stay, camping and other recreational amenities are available at Lake Greenwood State Park.
The 8 Best Fishing Locations in South Carolina
Editor’s Note: The lakes below are not necessarily ranked in any order. If any lake is particularly noteworthy, there will
The home lake of professional bass angler Bryan New, Lake Wylie covers an impressive 13,400 acres with 325 miles of shoreline. It spans across York County in South Carolina and both Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties in North Carolina.
Created by the Catawba Power Company in 1904, the fishery was originally known as Lake Catawba. It did not obtain its current name until 1960 when it was renamed for W. Gil Wylie, a founder of the Catawba Power Company (which is now known as Duke Energy).
Often considered one of the top bass fishing lakes in the region, Lake Wylie is also home to quality fishing for numerous other species. Anglers can expect to find decent perch, crappie, catfish and white bass fishing here.
As of this writing, the current South Carolina state record white perch (tie) was caught on Lake Wylie. It was caught in 2007 by Rodger W. Taylor and weighed 1 pound, 15.2 ounces.
Lake Wylie Bass Fishing Video
Owned and operated by Duke Energy, Lake Wateree was formed in 1919 with the damming of the Wateree River. It covers 21 square miles, 13,864 acres, and has 181 miles of shoreline. Lake Wateree State Park, a popular recreational destination for residents on the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina, is located adjacent to the lake.
With numerous access points located across the lake, Wateree is also home to numerous popular freshwater fishing species. Anglers can expect to find quality fishing for numerous species, including largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, white crappie, striped bass, and chain pickerel. Numerous sunfish, including bluegill, redbreast, pumpkinseed, warmouth, and redear are also found on those waters.
Despite the diversity of species and popularity of the fishery, Lake Wateree has no current state record fish to its credit at the time of the posting.
Located across Oconee and Pickens Counties in northwest South Carolina, Lake Keowee is another major lake that has historical ties to Duke Energy. At 26 miles long and 3 miles wide (at its max), Lake Keowee covers 18,500 acres and has 387 miles of shoreline. Its average depth is 53 feet with a max depth of 297 feet.
For those looking for recreational opportunities, the north end of the lake houses the 1,000 acre Keowee-Toxaway State Park. Broken into three smaller parks (South Cove Park, Hill Falls Park, and Mile Creek Park), visitors can find camping and many other recreational amenities.
For those looking exclusively for fishing, however, Lake Keowee is home to numerous species. Bass anglers will find largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth on these waters. Other popular species on Lake Keowee include catfish, brown trout, rainbow trout, yellow perch, bluegill and crappie.
The South Carolina state record yellow perch was caught on Lake Keowee in 1979 by Danny Scarborough. His record catch weighed in at 3 pounds, 4 ounces.
Lake Strom Thurmond
Also known as J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir, Lake Thurmond, or Clarks Hills Lake (until its congressional renaming for the longest-serving U.S. Senator in history), this is one of the most popular fishing lakes in South Carolina.
Created between 1951 and 1952, Lake Thurmond covers a staggering 71,000 acres with 800 miles of shoreline. It is located across McCormick County in South Carolina and several counties in northern Georgia.
As one of the top fishing lakes in South Carolina, Strom Thurmond is known to have excellent striped bass and largemouth bass fishing. This fishery is also known to produce quality channel catfish, white crappie, black crappie, rainbow trout, brown trout, bluegill, white perch, white bass, yellow perch, and hybrid striped bass.
South Carolina’s state record sauger was caught on Lake Thurmond by Broadus Moody in 1985. The record catch weighed 4 pounds, 7 ounces.
Located across Lexington, Newberry, Saluda and Richland Counties in South Carolina, Lake Murray is one of the largest freshwater fisheries in the state. Spanning approximately 50,000 acres, it is 41 miles long and 14 miles wide at its max. The lake has roughly 500 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 189 feet.
Given its size, Lake Murray is a popular fishery for numerous freshwater species. Anglers can expect to find quality largemouth bass and striped bass fishing on these waters, as well as white crappie, black crappie, flathead and channel catfish, bluegill, warmouth, redear sunfish, yellow perch, white perch, and chain pickerel.
Several current South Carolina fishing state records have come out of Lake Murray, including:
- White Bass: Caught by David P. Jeffries, Jr. in 2006 (5 pounds, 4.8 Ounces)
- White Crappie: Caught by Mrs. H.P. Owens in 1949 (5 Pounds, 1 Ounce)
- White Catfish: Caught by Charles Earp in 2014 (12 Pounds, 2.9 Ounces)
A 58 pound carp was also caught using the bowfishing method on Lake Murray in 2000 by Kenneth Shealy.
As one of two South Carolina lakes that make up the Santee Cooper Lake System, Lake Moultrie was recently voted one of our best crappie fishing lakes in America. It shares that designation with Lake Marion (more on that soon).
Another large lake — the third largest in South Carolina — Lake Moultrie covers an impressive 60,000 acres. It has an average depth of 18.7 feet with a maximum depth of 75.46 feet. It is located in Berkley County in the southeastern part of the state.
Known for having a diversity of fishing environments, Moultrie is also home to many popular game fish. Largemouth bass, sunfish, and chain pickerel can be caught here. As noted, crappie fishing tends to be world-class on these waters. The Lake Moultrie has also established itself as home to some of South Carolina’s largest catfish, including the current world record channel catfish.
As of this writing, three current South Carolina state records have come from Lake Moultrie, including:
- Black Crappie: Caught by P.E. Foust in 1957 (5 Pounds)
- Blue Catfish: Caught by Paula Haney in 2017 (113.8 Pounds)
- Channel Catfish: Caught by W.H. Whaley in 1964 (58 Pounds — which is also the world record)
A 28 pound, 8 ounce longnose gar was also caught via bowfishing on Lake Moultrie, which is the state record for that method.
Created in 1973 in partnership with — you guess it — Duke Energy, Lake Jocassee is situated within Devils Point State Park. It is located within Oconee and Pickens Counties in the northwest part of the state.
Covering only 7,500 acres — a respectable area, but minor when compared to some of the other lakes on this list — Lake Jocassee certainly overachieves when it comes to quality fishing in South Carolina. It stands as one of the best bass fisheries in the state with three different species’ state records caught in 2001.
Lake Jocassee has also established itself as one of the top destinations for trout fishing in the region. Anglers call also expect to find decent catfish, crappie, and bream fishing on the lake.
Currently, Lake Jocassee holds an impressive five South Carolina state fishing records. These include:
- Spotted Bass: Caught by David Preston in 2001 (8 Pounds, 5 Ounces)
- Smallmouth Bass: Caught in 2001 by Terry Dodson (9 Pounds, 7 Ounces)
- Redeye Bass: Caught by Randy Dickinson in 2001 (5 Pounds, 2.5 Ounces)
- Brown Trout: Caught by Larry Edwards in 1987 (17 Pounds, 9.5 Ounces)
- Rainbow Trout: Caught by Scott Coggins in 1993 (11 Pounds, 5 Ounces)
The other half of the Santee Cooper Lake System, Lake Marion is also considered one of our top crappie fishing lakes in the country. It is, by a comfortable margin, the largest lake in South Carolina, covering an impressive 110,000 acres. It has 315 miles of shoreline, an average depth of 13 feet, and a maximum depth of 76.77 feet. Lake Marion spans five counties, including Clarendon, Berkeley, Orangeburg, Calhoun, and Sumter.
As we mentioned, anglers can expect to find some of the best crappie fishing in the nation on Lake Marion. It is also home to some excellent multi-species fishing, including largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish, and perch.
Currently, two South Carolina fishing state records — including a tie for the state record largemouth bass — come out of Lake Marion:
- White Perch (tie): Caught by Frank Drose, Sr. in 2016 (1 Pound, 15.84 ounces)
- Largemouth Bass (tie): Caught by P.H. Flanagan in 1949 (16 Pounds, 2 Ounces)