J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake

Recreation Areas - Fishing


Fishing is one of the most popular wildlife recreation-related activities in the southeast. and Thurmond Lake's 1200 miles of shoreline and 71,100 acres of water create an excellent experience for bank and boat anglers alike. Fish species include largemouth bass, bream, crappie, catfish, perch, striped bass, white bass, and hybrid bass. Numerous recreation areas, fishing piers, and bank fishing areas provide ample fishing opportunities. Fisheries habitat improvements include the maintenance of fish attractors, planting aquatic vegetation, and felling trees into water along the shoreline.

Fishing tournament organizers are reminded that a Special Events Permit may be needed for tournaments larger than ten boats. A Special Event Permit can be obtained by contacting the Thurmond Dam & Lake Office at 864-333-1100 or toll free at 1-800-533-3478.

Additional information that may be helpful when planning your next fishing trip:

Fishing Docks are located at the following parks: Below Dam South Carolina Day Use Park, Modoc Boat Ramp, Lake Springs Day Use Park, Petersburg Campground, and Amity Day Use Park.


Corps Park Rangers are on duty at Thurmond Lake throughout the year and can answer any additional questions you may have. The Thurmond Lake Project Manager's Office and Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.

The office can be reached at 864-333-1100 or toll free at 1-800-533-3478.

Fishing Licenses

South Carolina and Georgia have a reciprocal license agreement; residents of both states may fish anywhere on Thurmond Lake (from boat or shoreline) or its tailwaters with a license from either state.  Residents of other states must purchase a nonresident license from either South Carolina or Georgia.  Fishermen with resident or nonresident Georgia licenses need a Georgia Trout Stamp if they fish for or have trout in their possession.  Creel limits for Thurmond Lake may vary from those elsewhere within the states.

Where Can You Fish?

Fishing from the bank (shoreline) or from a boat is permitted in most areas of the lake except at boat ramps, courtesy docks, off bridge, off private boat docks (unless you have owner's permission), water intake structures, and any other area marked as restricted or prohibited access.

Fishing Maps

Type of Improvements


Deep Water Fish Attractors

Areas accessible by boat. Include artificial and natural fish attractors marked with buoy in 15-20 feet of water.  

Fishing App Link

Designated with Red and Yellow Diamond Symbol

Lake Fish Attractor Coordinated (PDF 164KB)

Bank Fishing Areas

Areas accessible by foot. Include artificial and natural fish attractors placed 10-20 yards off shoreline.

Fishing App Link

Designated with Square Brown and Red Symbol                               




Fishing Dock

-Docks provided for your convenience within recreation areas. Include artificial and natural fish attractors placed 5-10 yards off sides of dock

Fishing App Link

Designated with Green and Blue Fish Symbol


Special Fishing Area

-Areas accessible only by boat or foot. Includes enhanced fish attractors of vegetation planting, artificial/natural fish attractors, and cut tree in the water along the shoreline.

Fishing App Link

Designated with Purple Star Symbol


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Fish Consumption Advisories

The States of South Carolina and Georgia have issued fish consumption advisories that affect Thurmond Lake. States issue advisories to inform the public when high concentrations of chemical contaminants have been found in local fish.  They also include recommendations to limit or avoid eating certain fish species from specific areas.  Please visit the following sites for more information:

  • South Carolina Fish Consumption Advisories                                        
  • South Carolina DHEC Guidelines
  • Georgia Fish Consumption Advisories
    Georgia EPD Guideline                              
  • U.S. Environmental Agency – Fish Consumption Advisories

Please Remember…

Whether you are fishing from a boat or the bank, please remember:
  • Be courteous.  Keep a safe distance from swimmers, water skiers, boats, and other people on the shoreline.

  • Don’t fish from bridges, boat ramps, courtesy docks, or private docks (unless you have the owners permission).  Do not fish from or within any area marked as restricted or prohibited access.

  • Please keep hold of your trash – it can easily be blown into the water, especially from a moving boat.

  • Please make sure you remove your litter when leaving your fishing area.  The most common litter found in popular fishing spots are drink containers, bait cups, and old fishing lines.  Not only are these items unattractive, but they can also be harmful to fish and other aquatic life.  

  • Before boating, ensure you are familiar with the state boating regulations for the state(s) in which you will be boating.  Don’t leave the shore without all required safety equipment on board.

  • Although you may be in a hurry to catch a fish, watch your wake and keep a proper distance* from docks and other structures, swimmers, and other boats.  It’s the law and is in place for everyone’s safety.

  • Do not tie your boat to buoys, buoy lines, or signs

  • Wear a life jacket whether you know how to swim or not and dress appropriately for the weather.  Most people who drown never intended to be in the water in the first place and drown within 10 – 30 feet of safety; many of them also knew how to swim. 


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Popular Fish Species Found in Thurmond Lake


*Click fish name for picture


Crappie is the most frequently caught species at Thurmond Lake.  They are easier to find and catch than other fish because they stay near protective cover and travel in schools.  The most popular season to fish for crappie is the spring - when they move into shallow waters (2 - 8 feet) to spawn.  Night fishing and fishing around fish attractors may give good results during the summer.  At other times, slow trolling or drifting in the open waters using minnows or jigs has proved productive. 


Varieties of bream in Thurmond Lake include bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, green sunfish, and pumpkinseed.  The most popular baits are crickets, worms, and mealworms, although some bream will strike small artificial lures such as spinners, flies, and popping bugs.  Generally, small to medium-size bream can be located along the shoreline while larger fish will be in slightly deeper water.  A good time to fish for bream is during the summer when a full moon is present because bream tend to spawn at that time.

 Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are caught most easily in the spring. As water temperatures approach 70°F, the fish move into shallower areas with cover in order to spawn. At this time, a variety of top- water and shallow- running lures are effective.  Although bass moves to deeper water in the summer, they can still be found near the shoreline in the early morning or late afternoon.  During the rest of the day, bass can be found at the thermocline depths because they prefer temperatures ranging from 65 to 75°F. In the winter, bass (huge ones) go as deep as 40 - 60 feet.  At these times, fishing with large jigs, plastic worms, and jigging spoons at underwater islands, steep drop-offs, and old creek channels can be productive.

Hybrid Bass                       

Hybrid Bass are a popular sport fish because they bite readily and are excellent fighters.  The offspring of white bass males, striped bass females, and hybrid bass are produced in state hatcheries and stocked by the South Carolina and Georgia Departments of Natural Resources.  Although they are not known to reproduce naturally, they still make spawning runs up tributaries in the spring.  At this time, they can also be found in the open water near the dam and riprap.  Surface fishing - using fish bait and trolling or retrieving jigs, spoons, or shad-like lures - has proved an effective method of catching hybrids.  During the summer, these fish can be found in large, flat, shallow areas or between islands early and late in the day.  When not in these areas, they will be pretty deep; hybrids have been caught with some regularity behind the dam at depths of 60 feet.  During other times of the year, hybrid schools can be found by trolling or using depth finders.

Striped Bass 

Striped Bass have created quite a stir at Thurmond in recent years and are a very popular sport fish.   

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Fishing Tips

Understanding seasonal lake changes and the habits and distribution of fish may help you be more successful in finding and catching fish (sorry, no guarantees!)…
Understanding seasonal lake changes and the habits and distribution of fish may help you be more successful in finding and catching fish (sorry, no guarantees!)…

The Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources have placed fish attractors in Thurmond Lake.  These fish attractor sites, made of trees, bamboo, plastics,  attract large schools of fish, especially crappie.  The locations of the deep water fish attractors are marked with buoys.  Fish attractor maps are available from the J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake Office and are typically shown on navigational charts.  Boaters and fishermen are reminded not to tie up to fish attractor buoys or any other navigation buoys or signs on the lake.


From late spring to early fall, Thurmond Lake, like all large lakes in the southeast, becomes stratified in layers based on water temperature.  Each of these layers behaves relatively independently and has different water qualities.  These qualities affect the distribution of fish and, therefore, fishing success.  There are three distinct layers or zones:

The epilimnion is the top layer.  Although this zone has plenty of dissolved oxygen because it frequently contacts air, fish are generally not found here because the temperatures are too warm.  Fish may briefly move into this zone in the early morning or late afternoon to feed when light is decreased, and food is abundant. Still, most of the time, fish will be in deeper, cooler waters.

The hypolimnion, or bottom zone, is the coolest layer.  However, because this layer does not come into contact with air, the dissolved oxygen is used up by natural processes and soon depleted.  Fish therefore cannot survive in this zone and fishing at these depths holds little chance of success.

The thermocline, or middle zone, is the most important zone for fisherman.  It offers a wide range of temperatures, including those preferred by many fish.  During summer, the thermocline will often produce good fishing, but remember that factors such as cover and available food also influence it.

At Thurmond Lake, thermal stratification begins near the dam (the area of greatest depth) in late April and early May of each year.  The thermocline is established at a depth of approximately 30 feet and stays at this depth through early August.  At that time, it moves to a depth of about 40 feet and then to about 50 feet in mid-September.  In late October or early November, the thermocline moves to a depth of about 70 feet, and shortly after that, the water becomes mixed.

Shallower main-channel locations of the lake exhibit stratification at depths from 20 to 30 feet from late April through early September.  The water in these locations becomes mixed in September, about 1 to 1½ months earlier than the waters behind the dam.

Night fishing is also popular at Thurmond Lake.  For light, fishermen usually use a boat-mounted lantern.  These lights attract insects, food organisms, and threadfin shad, which in turn attract game species such as crappie, hybrids, and white bass.  Minnows are the primary bait, but jigs and small plugs may also be effective.  When fishing with lights, many fishermen have been successful under the various bridges that cross the lake (some bridges have "boat tie-ups" available) and at the fish attractor sites.  These places are worth trying when fish are hard to locate during the summer.

Tailrace fishing (fishing in the area below the dam) is another popular pastime for many anglers.

The Corps of Engineers urges you to use extreme caution when fishing the tailrace section.  First, the rocks may be slippery, loose, or dangerous.  If you do wade, make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear with good traction.  Second, the water is subject to rapid rise and violent turbulence during power generation.  A horn is sounded for one minute before generation begins, but it is only heard within a mile of the dam.  Upon hearing the horn, immediately move back to the shoreline.  Warning signs are posted at popular access points along the river, and the Corps urges you to read and obey them.  In addition, the Corps provides daily generation schedules.  This information can be obtained by calling the Thurmond Dam and Lake Office toll-free at 1-800-533-3478 or 864-333-1100.

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Fishing Related Links