Sparkleberry Swamp is part of the upper reaches of the Santee Cooper lakes. The boat landing there is a little on the rough side (and the dirt road to get there isn’t so great either), but the fishing in the swamp is excellent.
Some of the best crappie and bream fishing takes place in the early spring and lasts well into the summer. During April, it’s much less crowded, at least by anglers. But it’s plenty crowded with hungry fish. Ken Nutter of Sumter loves fishing here this time of year.
“You don’t have to fight the crowds but the fishing is already great. And you can catch fish in a lot of different ways here,” said Nutter.
He puts in at the boat landing and makes his way to Riser’s Lake, also known locally as Dead River. Once there, he targets the base of flooded cypress trees. Crappie and bream love to hang out around these bases, picking off baitfish as they move in and out of the gnarled twisted wood.
Another type of bait, crawdads, can often be found this time of year as well.
“Those small crawdads will climb all over the bases of these cypress trees. The bream especially love to eat them. Crappie are mainly keying on minnows, but they’ll slip up and eat a crawdad here and there,” said Nutter.
The fishing is pretty simple. Nutter uses a fly rod, but doesn’t fly fish with it. He uses it more like a bream buster, but likes the option to lengthen his line up whenever he chooses. He puts a live minnow on his hook which is under a slip cork, then drops it along the side of the tree bases.
“You might drop it around several tree bases and get nothing. Then all of a sudden, you’ll find the tree that they’re on. You can limit out quickly then. But I like to catch a few on a tree, then go looking for another one that’s loaded with them,” he said.
Nutter switches to crickets and goes a little deeper for the bream, but they’ll eat the minnows too sometimes.
“You can make a whole day of it fishing here. It’s a great place to spend a spring day,” he said.