The Broad River begins way up in western North Carolina and tumbles its way all the way down to the capital city of Columbia, SC, where it joins with the Saluda to form the Congaree. Along its route to Columbia, it is dammed up several times, although never into a big impoundment. These small dams are there more to produce power than to make recreational lake opportunities. At times I despise dams on rivers, but the truth is that if they were not there much of the Broad could be completely silted in and we may not have the fishery we do today. Finding access to the Broad can be difficult, and the numerous shoals make it a challenge for motor boats. This is a good thing if you are a kayak or canoe fisherman.
Even though it is a major river, these fish see little pressure once downstream of the launch points. The river is filled with stretches of pools, shoals and runs. The Broad river is exactly what its name portrays it to be – broad. This usually equates to it being relatively shallow. During the hot low water summer months, an angler can fish the river by just wading, which is always nice. There are certainly deep holes here and there, but much of this river is indeed wide, shallow and scenic, making it a pleasure to fish. Not to mention the birds, including bald eagles, herring and ospreys that you will see along the way. You can also see wild coyotes, numerous river otters, muskrats and loads of deer. The rare and endangered spider lily resides here as well as the state-endangered ginger plant. In 1991 SC designated the stretch from 99 Islands dam downstream 15 miles as wild and scenic. The area is also home to many historical landmarks such as Smith’s Ford and ancient indian fish traps.
Bass Species Present:
Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass (introduced). The river also has some striped and white bass in it below Parr Reservoir but it is not a great run because most of the linesides make their way up the cooler Saluda River instead of the warm Broad.
This fishery consists of two species of black bass, the largemouth and smallmouth. The smallmouth have not always been there either. In the 80′s the South Carolina DNR stocked them into Kings Creek, a Broad River tributary, and they actually swam out of the creek and began thriving in the main river. This is a bit unusual because smallmouth were known to prefer cooler water. The Broad River in the summer reaches temperatures in the high 80′s. Once the DNR realized that the bronzebacks were there to stay they began supplemental stockings in various parts of the river. Today, the DNR would not stock a non-native fish into a river system, but since there is nothing they can do about it, they are happy with the nice smallmouth fishery the Broad has become. As a river fisherman who loves smallmouth, but hates to drive way up north to catch them, this is a dream come true.
Rapids/Obstacles To Be Aware Of:
The only obstacles are the numerous dams, which can be found along the river’s route to Columbia. Each dam can be portaged but they are all not easy portages. As far as rapids go, there are no major rapids (anything over a class II) once you get downstream of the first 20 river miles. The largest rapid you will see on the river anywhere in SC is a low class II. The rapids can always be portaged or tackled on a side of the river that takes the sting out of the drop.
For the upper river try using the Blacksburg, SC gauge when it is below 4.5ft. For the middle river try fishing when the 99 islands gauge is below 27ft or the Carlisle gauge is below 4.5ft. For the lower river fish below the Alston gauge when it is below 5ft. And, as always a good rule of thumb is to fish a river when it is running at its median or below median level.
If you ever get a chance to hit the Broad anywhere from North Carolina down to Columbia, SC, I would do so because it is one unique river. The fact that you can have a shot at a nice smallmouth and a big largemouth in the same float is rare indeed. Even if the fishing isn’t at its best, I think you are starting to get the picture that you will leave the Broad with that “can’t wait to get back” feeling.