Chester, SC Fishing: Freshwater Fishing Haven in a Historic Rural City

Enjoy a relaxing yet productive fishing experience in the rural city of Chester in Chester County, South Carolina.

Chester, SC Fishing: Freshwater Fishing Haven in a Historic Rural City
Chester, SC Fishing: Freshwater Fishing Haven in a Historic Rural City
Team Guidesly

November 24, 2022, 7 min read

Updated on November 17, 2022

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Chester is a quaint rural city and the county seat of Chester County in South Carolina. It sits right at the center of the county, retaining its friendly off-the-beaten path charm while offering instant access to metropolitan conveniences via its neighbor cities, Charlotte, Columbia, and Spartanburg, all of which are a stone’s throw away. 

The city originated as the chosen location for a courthouse in 1795. The place grew its population from thirty to sixty houses in a few years in less than three decades. In 1851, when the Columbia-Chester Railroad line was completed, the city expanded further and became a railroad hub and an agricultural and textile powerhouse. The city continued to thrive even through the two world wars, though it did suffer setbacks after major fires and a tornado ravaged the area in 1884. The downtown area was also negatively affected by the rise of the suburbs and malls shortly after World War II, resulting in its near abandonment and disrepair. Today, the Downtown area of the city has fully recovered and is now a hub for local cultural activities.

Adding to Chester’s small city charm is all the scenic nature surrounding it in the Piedmont region of South Carolina. Its namesake county is dotted with a range of waterbodies and bounded by the Catawba River on the east and the Broad River on the west, making the entire region a worthy spot to include on your fishing tours.

Chester Fishing

child holding a fishing rod, trying to fish from the lake

Fishing in Chester means terrific access to the state’s freshwater fishing. It may not have the same adrenaline rush as tuna fishing in South Carolina, but if you’re looking for a relaxing yet productive fishing experience, Chester is the place to be.

Mountain Lakes are twin lakes situated southwest of Chester. Mountain Lake 1 is bigger at 42 acres, while Mountain Lake 2 is 7 acres. Both have fishing piers that are handicap-accessible. Only Mountain Lake 1 has a boat ramp. Fishing on both lakes requires only rods and reels — no other fishing gear is permitted. Minnows are not allowed to be used as bait. Both lakes are only open for fishing on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Only boats propelled by paddle or electric trolling motors are allowed for use on either waterbody. Largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker or redear sunfish, and channel catfish can be caught in both lakes.

Lake Oliphant is reputed to have some of the best bluegill fishing in the area. It is a 40-acre lake home to largemouth bass, bream, catfish, and shellcracker. Its facilities are handicap-accessible and include a boat ramp and a fishing pier. 

Chester State Park is built around a 160-acre lake which anglers can access via a two-mile nature trail through its forest. It is one of the Piedmont region’s favorite outdoor spots, with facilities for hiking, picnicking, boating, and fishing. It even has camping sites, camper cabins for those who don't want to go tent camping, and disc golf courses.  

One of the park’s highlights for anglers is the 472-foot bridge crossing the lake, where fishing can be enjoyed. The lake in the park is home to largemouth bass, bream, catfish, and crappie. Another convenient fishing facility is the fishing pier and a boathouse over the lake. For anglers that want to combine hiking and fishing, there’s the 1.3-mile Caney Fork Creek Nature Trail, an easy trail that winds along the lake’s shoreline. Boat fishing can be done on the park lake as well. Different boat rentals are available within the premises — anglers can rent Jon boats, kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards. You can likewise use your electric trolling motors on the fishing boats in the park and launch your boat in the hand-launched access area.

Venture out of the city and discover the rest of the county’s easy access to bigger waterbodies. The Catawba River, a largemouth bass haven bounding the county’s east side, has a 30-mile scenic river section where anglers can enjoy outstanding views while fishing and boating. There are several ways to access this part of the river within the county. Downstream from Lake Wylie Dam and the muddy water near Rock Hill are some of the hottest spots for largemouth bass. Other fish you can catch here include common carp, crappie, and gar. For shore fishing access, anglers can go to the Rock Hill Recreation Complex and Landsford Canal State Park. The public boat ramps on Highways 9 and 49 are always suitable for boat fishing.

Fishing Creek Reservoir is an artificial lake built on the banks of the Catawba River to regulate its river flow. It is one of the state’s major reservoirs and is one of its most popular. It is the ideal spot to include on your South Carolina crappie fishing trips. Aside from crappie, the lake is known for its white perch and bluegill. The lake has marked fish attractors to make fishing easy and exciting for beginners.

The Broad River is an excellent smallmouth bass waterbody. Smallmouth bass was initially stocked in the state in the river’s drainage in York County and Cherokee County. Through the years, the species has managed to surpass expectations, thriving in a river that typically reaches the upper 80s in summer even though it historically prefers cold water. To date, anglers commonly catch smallmouth bass in the one- to the two-pound range, though four- to five-pound ones are likewise found in the river. Other fish species caught in the river include largemouth bass and striped bass. Anglers fishing within Chester County can easily access the river’s waters within the Woods Ferry Recreation Area, a lush wooded floodplain filled with pine woods and an endlessly thriving hardwood forest complex. 


Top 10 Fish Species in Chester, SC

The top 10 fish species found in Chester, SC, include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, redear sunfish, bluegill, channel catfish, white perch, striped bass, common carp, and gar.

Seasonal Fishing

Fishing is favorable in South Carolina almost all year round, though some seasons are better than others, especially if you have your eye on a specific catch. Local experts agree that June is the best month to visit and explore if you’re keen to fish in the Catawba River. The river’s water by then is pretty stable. Even when it rains and the river gets flooded, it still opens up great opportunities for fishing.

The Broad River likewise has year-round fishing. But if you’re looking to catch some smallmouth bass in the water, the hotter the weather, the better. However, getting to the fish’s habitat is your biggest challenge, as they like to gather where there are shoals, rocks, and currents. The best way to reach them is with a canoe, wading in, and casting in the channel.

Enjoy the Charms of Chester, SC

Chester has a wide range of sights, sounds, and activities for travelers and visitors. Whether you’re an outdoorsy type, a history nerd, or an organic foodie, Chester has a place for you to enjoy.

1. Book a Fishing Charter or Guide

Find striped bass charters or other experts that know the city and the county inside out. It’s easier, safer, and more convenient to fish in a new place when you book a fishing guide, whether a veritable fishing expert or a newbie.

If you’re looking to widen your exploration on your South Carolina fishing tour, make sure to find a local guide. Hooked Up On Striper Guide Service LLC can take you fishing in Lake Murray for striper and crappie. North Island Fishing Charters can help you find Georgetown's best saltwater fishing spots. Captain Leroy's Striper Charters specializes in fishing for striped bass in Santee Cooper. Saltbreak Charters will give you options from inshore and offshore to fly fishing in Charleston.

2. Eat Fresh Produce with Your Family

Cotton Hills Farm and Market has some of the freshest picks in this part of South Carolina. Aside from picking your own produce (including red and green tomatoes, pumpkins, okra, and more), families can enjoy wagon rides, picnics, and a corn maze.

3. Learn More about the Local History

Strolling through Chester’s historic downtown is a quick and beautiful history lesson. The area features a blend of different architectural styles from various eras. If you want a more in-depth look into the city’s history, visit the Chester Historical Society, housed in a former county jail that dates back to 1914. 

Fish in Chester and beyond.