Keowee Crappie

Upstate Outdoors
April 12, 2019 - 9:29 am
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Phillip Gentry

The state of South Carolina is home to a variety of lakes, rivers, and impoundments that hold abundant numbers of crappie. While a debate over the best crappie locations in the state could rage on for hours, there would be a very small number of people who would put Lake Keowee at the top of their list. 

Lake Keowee is located in the upper northeast corner of the state and resides on the border between Pickens and Oconee Counties. The lake is owned and operated by Duke Power Company which uses the water from the lake to cool it’s fission reactors located at the Oconee Nuclear Station. The surrounding lakeshore is a mixture of controlled residential development and natural pine and hardwood landscapes at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. The 18,500 acre lake is deep and clear with average depths in the 50 to 60 foot range. For crappie anglers, none of these statistics are very exciting. But a few crappie fans who live near Keowee have learned to make the best of the situation.

According to local anglers, most of Keowee is too deep and too clear to consistently catch crappie in. It’s also been suggested that Keowee does not sustain the numbers of crappie compared to other lakes like Greenwood or Murray but on average, the crappie in Keowee are bigger than those fish found at other places.

For a big reservoir, Keowee fishes small for crappie. Anglers can cut out over 90% of the lake by concentrating their efforts on several creek arms at the upper extremes of the reservoir.

The water tends to be a lot murkier in the backs of places like Stamp Creek, Cane Creek, Little River and Crowe Creek. Those areas are murkier than anywhere else on the lake, especially after spring rains. Crappie seem to be a lot more comfortable in dingy water as well as generally shallower water.

After honing in on the right water, the next most important factor for finding crappie in the lake is cover. The lake has plenty of rocky cover but woody cover, the kind that crappie prefer, is few and far between. Successful anglers spend a great deal of time and effort creating this wood cover by sinking brush tops, cane bundles, and Christmas trees in the lake.

Another alternative is to look for blowdowns or laydowns if they extend into deep enough water. On occasion you might find a boat dock that has some brush around it but for the most part, the homeowners on the lake prefer to keep the areas around their docks clear for swimming and boating. 

The state does maintain several fish attractor sites around the lake using mostly wood cover and those frequently hold fish but are spaced a fair distance apart.

When crappie fishing at Keowee, a vertical presentation typically works best. As suggested, crappie are most likely to orient around structure such as shallow water brushpiles, creek ledges, or bridge pilings. Position your boat near or over the top of structure. Marking it with a buoy marker will assist in orienting to the structure. Suspend live minnows on light tackle and ease around and over the structure. Many times crappie will suspend above the structure and can be seen on sonar equipment.

Another suggestion is to drop a crappie jig down into brush and slowly reel the bait back to the surface until a target depth is determined. Spring crappie will bite aggressively on artificial lures. Typically once one fish is located, that same spot should be good for several more.

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. The show can be streamed live online at 1063word.radio.com or via podcast anytime. 

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Photo Caption – Often overlooked in favor of other lakes and reservoirs, Lake Keowee has a relatively unknown population of crappie that reside there. Photo by Phillip Gentry.

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