Lowcountry Kayak Fishing | Chris Tweedy | May 2021
One of my favorite Spring fishing adventures is to pond hop with my kayak around the various freshwater launches.
These often-secluded spots offer kayakers peace and quiet from the myriad unqualified boaters running around the saltwater closer to town.
With the warmth of springtime growing by the day, large public waterways will start to be crammed with boats and wakes, the solitude of winter kayak fishing becomes an evermore distant memory.
One of my favorite Spring fishing adventures is to pond hop with my kayak around the various freshwater launches in and around the vast Francis Marion National Forest just north of Charleston/Mount Pleasant.
These often-secluded spots offer kayakers peace and quiet from the myriad unqualified boaters running around the saltwater closer to town as well as an opportunity to immerse one’s self in the natural beauty that surrounds our cities.
Alligators, snakes, bobcat, deer, turkey, feral hogs, owls, birds of prey, coyotes, foxes, and many more amazing creatures possibly lay around every bend and turn.
Not to mention the fishing, but as you can imagine resident species do not see a ton of pressure from other anglers. Let’s break down what a kayak outing like this looks like for planning:
Where to Go
These seepage’s, spring ponds, and creeks/rivers all offer a variety of fish and experiences depending on what it is you’re looking for. Some are tucked well back in the woods adjacent to dirt roads with deep ruts, marvelous fauna, and plenty of fishing action.
Angler can expect to encounter largemouth bass, bowfin, all variety of bream, garfish, pickerel, and catfish of all sizes!
The US Forest Service website and a mapping program like OnX Hunt, Google Earth, or the website for Berkeley County BlueWays, are all you need to plan a short outing or a day jumping from launch to launch exploring.
Included here also a list of some public freshwater access points that have been successful for me over the years, feel free to them a try yourself or find some of your own using the resources indicated above!
FRESHWATER SPOTS IN/AROUND FRANCIS MARION NATIONAL FOREST
• Bluebird Pond
• Dawhoo Lake
• Wadboo Creek
• Guilliard Lake
• Wisdom Corner Pond
• Santee River (Hwy 41 above Jamestown)
• Wee Tee Wildlife Management Area
What to Use
My goal on these trips, even if I plan to be out most of the day, is to take as little as possible. 1 or 2 rods rigged up with your favorite bass/bream lure or maybe a bait rod for catfish is about all you need.
I tend to use a short rod (6ft) to keep it out of the wasp nest overhead and medium-light action is sufficient, paired up with a 1000-2500 size spinning reel with about 10-15lb test and a 10lb mono leader. My typical selection of what to tie on is a simple selection of about 3-4 tried and true swamp favorites.
I will carry 2-3 spinnerbaits usually of different sizes/colors, some soft plastic lizards with an EWG hook to fish weightless over the top of the submerged grass/structure, a chatterbait, and a few jig bodies and some Eye Strike Finesse Texas Eye jigheads.
I’ll usually skip bait unless I’m targeting catfish, in which case I’ll bring some worms along to either catch some live bait or to make chasing bream easier.
How to Fish
Now that you know where to go and what to use, it’s relatively easy to find some fish at these spots. How to fish is determined by the body of water you picked.
For a seepage or spring pond, your target is likely to be bass and bream with some smaller (eating size) catfish also possible. Once on the water, I’ll usually paddle a round and explore the water a little before deciding how to fish.
Most of these spring ponds will only be about 6ft deep at most, so I tend to hold my kayak in the middle of the pond and cast at the banks as I work the water. Most success has been on weightless lizards drifted slowly across the tops of submerged vegetation.
I also find bass and bream holding to vegetation or submerged structure (pipes, Christmas trees, fallen logs). Mid-day the fish will sometimes move to the deepest parts of the pond. In that case, I’ll switch to a finesse jig setup like a ned rig or a texas eye and work it along the bottom low and slow.
Oxbow lakes and bigger waterways will offer the angler more areas to fish as well as finding the fish more spread out.
Most of the gamefish will be holding close to the trees along banks, especially if it’s a cypress swamp. My typical approach with jigs, spinnerbaits, or chatterbaits is to cast at the base of bigger cypress trees and fish the nooks below the surface that hold fish safely away from gators and predators.
I also like to cast around the mouth of spots where the main water will creep into the swamp, catching a good deal of bass and bream on these edges waiting for an easy meal or staying safe.
If the bite isn’t what you’re expecting, bring along some good ole worms and some split-shot for dropping some bait down into the trees if the fish are closed-lipped.
In addition, you’ll find some catfish and bowfin in the middle, especially in deeper holes or on a wide bend, so be sure to toss your bait to the middle on ocassion to up your chances of success for them!
If you’d like to check out some kayak swamp fishing, I encourage you to give it a shot! The views and experience are amazing and the fishing can be incredible as well.
Topwater Kayak Charters also offers swamp fishing experiences as a spring and summer outing, so if you’re interested in checking it out, give us a call at 843-906-7112 or check us out on Facebook or at carolinatopwater.com.
Thanks for reading and tight lines,
Chris Tweedy, Owner/Operator
Topwater Kayak Charters
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