AHQ INSIDER Santee Cooper (SC) Fall 2018 Fishing Report – Updated December 20
The newest Santee Cooper fishing report can be found at: http://www.anglersheadquarters.com/ahq-insider-santee-cooper-sc-spring-2019-fishing-report/
Santee Cooper water levels are at 76.56 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.14 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures range from about 49-52 degrees. Both lakes are muddy.
In some ways bass are in a typical winter pattern in the Santee Cooper lakes, but in important ways B.A.S.S. Tour professional and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that they are not doing what they should be. As expected bass are starting to think mostly about shad, which is typical. However, water levels are much higher than usual and there is so much water coming through that fish are not in the usual spots. Fish should be in small creeks and on steeper creek ledges in 5-8 feet of water, but the shad are not positioned like they should be and the bass are just not there.
The one reliable place that fish can be found is in the current. There is current up the river as well as around the canal, but they have been pulling enough water through the lakes that current can be found in other places, too. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and swimbaits will catch fish, and there is even some sporadic schooling. Outside of areas with current it is pretty hard to find fish right now.
All the water is also affecting the crappie, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the lakes are so muddy that they are only able to fish a few of their brush piles which for one reason or another are in dingy rather than muddy water. The fish just don’t want to be in the muddiest areas. While numbers are down, they have caught some nice fish up to about 2 pounds. Some good bream are also mixed in with the crappie.
Catfish reports indicate that the best action has come in 25-35 feet of water.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 76.20 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.72 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are in the low to lower mid-50s. The upper lake is very muddy, while parts of the lower lake are cleaner.
It’s not what you expect to hear in cold, muddy conditions, but B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that the massive inflow into the lake is creating a ton of current and as result both bass and striped bass are schooling on both ends of the canal. These fish can be caught on crankbaits, swimbaits and lipless crankbaits.
Outside of the canal area, even though fish were starting to get into a deeper pattern before the rain muddy water has pushed them to the banks again and so 2-4 feet is a better range to search. Lake levels have been up-and-down and so fish are a little skittish, but a spinnerbait is a good bet for shallow fish in these dirty conditions.
By his standards they aren’t catching a ton of crappie with Captain Steve English (843-729-4044), but he reports that they have been getting some really nice ones. Yesterday they “only” caught 22 fish, but they ran to almost 3 pounds. This week they have caught multiple fish in the 2 ½ to 3 pound range.
With the lower lake cleaner than the upper his boat has been concentrating on Moultrie, even though mud does not necessarily stop the brush pile bite. They are fishing 14-20 feet down over deeper brush in the 30-35 foot range. Some big bream are mixed in with the crappie.
The common denominator with the catfish seems to be deep, and Captain William Attaway (803-924-0857) reports that he has found fish in the teens on up to the high 20s drifting the lower lake in 40-45 feet of water. Cut gizzard shad have been working well. Expect more big fish to turn on as it gets colder.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that he is also drifting deep, and his observation is that drifting in the 30-37 foot range is the best place to pick up fast numbers of 3-10 pound fish. Cut herring and shad are both working well for these eating-sized fish. For now catfish are roaming more, but as it gets colder they will relate tighter and tighter to bait schools – particularly when the bait starts dying.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.39 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.47 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped all the way into the 60-degree range to the high-50s.
Before the cold snap B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that bass were still on wacky worms and crankbaits around shallow trees, but changing conditions will put the fish deeper and make them want a slower presentation. The good part is the big fish will bite better and better!
The best place to look right now is in the 6-12 foot range with slow-rolled crankbaits and jigs. If the cold really knocks the fish in the head you want to pick up a shakey head in the toughest conditions. In the early to mid-fall fish are more likely to be around gently sloping banks and flats, but as it gets cold they want sharper drops. When temperatures get below 55 they will be relating better to stumps, brushpiles and wood instead of bait.
Patterns are similar in both lakes, but current can create variations in some areas. Up the river, in the swamp area and around the canal you can see some current moving, but in other parts of the lake it can be hard to detect much effect.
Even with nasty weather Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that this week they have caught some nice bream and crappie when conditions allowed them to take guide parties out. Fish have been around mid-depth brush in the 20-25 foot range, and they are fishing 10-16 feet deep. Some fish are shallower but not many fish have moved onto the very deep stuff yet.
There are a range of depths where catfish can be caught, and to be sure some anglers have been catching fish fairly shallow in 10-15 feet of water. However, most of the bigger fish seem to be in deeper water now and drifting as deep as 40-45 feet has been the best pattern. Cut herring and shad are both working. Overall the bite is good and a lot of fish have been caught.
There is not much going on in the canal where they are pulling water so hard that most people are fishing the lakes.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.98 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.09 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped into the mid to upper-70s and they are pulling a lot of water through the lake.
Bass have gotten into an exciting fall pattern on the Santee Cooper lakes, and B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that there is a lot of schooling activity around balls of shad. So far the fish have not really moved into the creeks, but anywhere on the main lake where you can find current the bass are using that to corral the shad. The upper part of Lake Marion is a good place to look, but you can find a similar pattern down the lake. Moving water is key. 3-8 feet is a good depth range, and both topwaters and crankbaits are working.
The schooling pattern is best early and late, and in the middle of the day fishing soft plastics around grass and trees remains the best pattern.
On the crappie front Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that they have caught some good numbers of fish in the lower lake, and there are also a lot of nice bluegill around brush. Fishing 7-18 feet deep over 14-25 feet has been the best pattern for both species.
The catfish bite has been pretty good, and Steve reports that he has heard of successful fishing in 7-12 feet, but also of strong catches drifting out in 40 feet. Fish are highly scattered. As temperatures get colder more big fish should show up.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.63 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.07 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). While a good bit of water is moving through the system it is not too dingy.
Right before the hurricane bass fishing was already getting better, and B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Guide Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that fish are still moving into a fall pattern. Depending on what end of the lake they are on fish are making a similar but opposite transition into about 2-4 feet of water. On the upper end of the system they are coming out of the woods onto the flats, and on the lower end of the lake they are coming up out of deep water towards shallows. Fish will be setting up around wood and trees in the target depth range, and shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits will both work well. Soft plastics are also still catching fish. In the next week or two as temperatures cool topwater baits should get going.
It’s unclear how the storm has affected the catfish bite, but beforehand Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that he was having good success drifting cut shad in 20-35 feet with the best bite on the deeper end of that range. Fish in the teens and twenties seemed to be around 30 feet, while smaller blues were around 35 feet. There were also a lot of 6-9 pound blues in 25-30.
On the crappie front Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) also has yet to get back on the water, but before the storm fish were biting around brush in 15-20 feet of water.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.49 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.33 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The lake is still fairly clear and around 85-87 degrees.
B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Guide Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that as cooler temperatures approach the bass bite has picked up somewhat, although the patterns are about the same.
On the deeper side people are catching some fish on Carolina rigs or dragging a jig in 8-12 feet of water around stumps and wood. Some fish can also be caught around planted brush piles at the same depth.
Anglers can also find a shallow bite around trees in the main lakes in 2-4 feet of water, but it is mostly an early or late deal. Soft plastics or moving baits will both work in the shallow feeding window. When you can find some grass it’s worth fishing it.
Up the river there is a shallow bite, and fish can be found from dirt shallow to three feet deep. The best bite is early and late, with a slower bite during the day. Jigs and soft plastics like Texas rigs or Senkos are the best option, as the topwater bite has dropped off a little in the past couple of weeks.
Right now the best catfish action is unequivocally at night, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that catching 250-300 pounds of fish in a night is not unusual. Most of the best fishing is taking place in the lakes out in 25-40 feet of water, although when they pull water hard the canal has been okay but not great. There is some shallower action but it has dropped off late in the summer.
Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that he has found a decent daytime bite in 14-32 feet of water drifting cut shad. Although it is slower than it will be in cooler conditions, there still seem to be some quality fish available.
Captain Steve reports that there are bluegill and shell cracker being caught in the canal in 8-12 feet on the bottom, and there are also some bream starting to show up on brush piles. They are not on the brush in huge numbers yet.
A few more crappie are appearing in the upper lake around brush in 15-20 feet of water.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.59 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.27 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are about 84 and conditions are a little dingy.
B.A.S.S. Tour Professional and Guide Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that with the cool spell the bass bite has been a little improved recently, but basically the fish remain in some normal summer patterns. There is a deeper bite, and people are catching some fish on Carolina rigs or dragging a jig in 8-12 feet of water around stumps and wood. Some fish can also be caught around planted brush piles at the same depth.
Up the river there is a shallow bite, and as the summer gets hot these fish seem to go further and further into the woods. They can be found from dirt shallow to three feet deep, and the best bite is early and late with a slower bite during the day. During the day jigs or soft plastics like Texas rigs or Senkos are the best option, but early and late they will take buzzbaits and topwater lures.
Anglers can also find a shallow bite around trees in the main lakes in 2-4 feet of water, but it is mostly an early or late deal. Soft plastics or moving baits will both work in the shallow feeding window.
Catfish action is not as hot as it was a month ago, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the fishing is still pretty good drifting in 10-15 feet of water. Catching a dozen or so fish up to about 30 pounds in a several hour trip is pretty typical right now.
A few bream can still be caught shallow around beds, although this late in the season they aren’t killing them, and the crappie fishing is very slow.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.49 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.49 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are around 85 degrees and clarity is normal.
The Santee Cooper catfish bite continues to be really good, with Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reporting strong catches drifting in 8-15 feet of water. Even in the heat of the day they are biting well in 10 or so feet of water, and the fish will eat most any cut bait.
Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) has found nice eating-sized blues in the 2-10 pound range biting well on cut shad in the 20-30 foot range.
Steve reports that the shallow bream bite has been good, and if you get around an area where fish have been bedding there are always some fish up there. Then there are some days where the shallow bite is wide open.
Crappie are still hard to come by.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.74 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.52 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are around 84 degrees and the water is clear green.
The catfish bite in the diversion canal between the two lakes has been wide open, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that each morning at Canal Lakes Fish Camp you can see the number of fish that have been caught. Fish are being caught about any way, including on cut bait, stink bait, chicken livers, shrimp and more. In the lakes Steve is catching them drifting in 8-14 feet.
Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) has found a similar pattern, and drifting shad in 12-15 feet he has caught lots of small channels as well as blues in a big range from 6-28 pounds on cut shad.
Steve reports that there are a few better bream on beds, while brush piles are covered up in smaller bream. However, on the next full moon in about a week bream should be all over beds again.
Jim has been catching some good bream over 1/2 a pound trolling one inch crankbaits in the morning.
On the crappie front, there is not much good news to report. They should be on deeper brush, but Steve is finding an extremely slow bite. He wonders if with the catfish population up right now the crappie population is a little down.
Tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that bass are very much in a summer pattern, and you can catch some fish shallow early in pads with topwater lures, or fishing crankbaits or soft plastics around trees close to deep water. Once the sun gets up you need to move out to 8-12 feet of water and fish spinnerbaits, crankbaits and plastics on the bottom.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.77 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.04 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures are around 78 degrees and the water is fairly clear with a healthy amount of color.
The bass spawn is very nearly finished on Santee, but tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that right now fish can be caught feeding on spawning bream. They are around grass, lily pads, trees and any other cover that bream use, and they will take topwater lures, spinnerbaits, flukes and worms. Very soon, however, most of the better fish will head deeper into 10-20 feet for the summer. Some smaller fish will stay shallower but the oxygen levels are generally not as good shallow.
On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that days without wind and stalled high pressure can be a little tough, but he recommends fishing in areas that usually hold fish at this time of year. Anchoring around trees and stumps in 4-10 feet is a good bet, and drifting in 10-20 feet or deeper is a good option. Fresh cut shad, perch and herring will all work. There are also a lot of fish on the upper end of the system right now in the shallow swampy areas as temperature and oxygen conditions are ideal right now and there is excellent spawning habitat.
Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) adds that some good fish have been caught anchored shallow at night.
Steve’s boat is doing more catfishing than usual because the crappie bite has been slow. However, they have been catching both bluegill and shell cracker fishing around shallow beds as well as around brush 7-10 feet deep in 15-18 feet of water.
Santee Cooper water levels are down to 75.74 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and right at full pool in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The upper lake is a bit dingy but in front of the dam is clear (for Santee), while the lower lake is clear except for a slight stain at the mouth of the canal. Water temperatures are in the mid-70s.
The bass spawn is winding down, and most of the fish are now in a post-spawn pattern. Early in the morning you can find some fish chasing shad if you are lucky, but with fluctuating water levels it has been pretty tough to locate fish for most people. The upper lake is now dropping back to more normal levels after being flooded, but the lower lake is super high.
The best baits for fish chasing shad are spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and topwater lures. A good general depth range is 4-6 feet but it is better if there is deeper water nearby.
On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that things have not changed too much. Drifting cut shad in 10-25 feet of water is still a good pattern for better fish, while in deeper water smaller blues are abundant. It is also worth anchoring early and late in shallow water as long as mornings are mild (and there is not a cold wind.)
There has been a ton of water flow through the canal recently, and if you get in the right spots you can find the fish.
All the water flowing into the lakes has changed the crappie bite, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the bite in the lower lake has slowed down. In the upper lake they are catching more fish, although they are generally smaller. In the lower lake they are catching fish in 7-10 feet, while in the upper lake they are a bit deeper.
Anglers are still catching bream around brush but fish have also started to go shallow. They are very scattered and it’s a matter of location, location, location.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.85 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.74 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Dirty water is making its way down the rivers into the lake. Water temperatures are in the mid-60s.
The bass spawn is starting to wind down, but tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that there is another wave of fish on the beds right now and so fish are still pretty mixed between spawning and post-spawn bass. They are certainly still shallow, and a lot of fish are being caught in the grass on frogs and buzzbaits. If you can find the right areas they are also feeding on spawning shad in the mornings.
The crappie pattern that Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) is fishing continues to hold up, and in the upper lake white crappie in the deep timber along the river channel are still being caught 18 feet deep in 32-34 feet of water. These fish still have eggs. There are also some black crappie being caught on shallow brush piles in 8-15 feet of water, and even though most of these fish are postspawn some still have eggs. It’s unclear what the next step for these fish is.
On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that there is not much change in what is a pretty good bite. Drifting cut shad in 10-25 feet of water has been the best pattern for better fish, and out in 20-35 feet of water smaller blues are abundant. Good blue catfish can also be caught in the shallows.
Channel catfish are also starting to move shallower where they are biting commercial dip baits.
There have been some bream caught shallower but Steve is also still catching them deep around brush.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.21 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.08 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures in the big water are in the low 60s but in the backs you can find mid to upper-60s.
Between the Costa FLW Series event last weekend and then a BFL this weekend, it’s hard not to lead off talking about Santee bass. The Costa event was won with just under 25 pounds per day over three days, and winner Ronnie McCoy of Lamar reported that he caught his fish by targeting a combination of bed fish and bass that were keying on spawning shad.
Two of our regular correspondents, FLW fisherman Dearal Rodgers of Camden and guide and FLW fisherman Bryan New (704-421-5868) both finished well, with Bryan managing a 21stplace finish on the boater side and Dearal managing a top 10 finish on the co-angler side. From their cumulative experiences, as well as that of tournament angler Steve Harmon, it looks like somewhere between half and 75-80% of the fish have already spawned. There was obviously a big wave in late February, another big wave last week, and with warm weather this weekend and heading into the new moon there should be another big wave of spawning fish. It remains to be seen what is left on the final full moon in April.
Fish are both spawning and staging around trees at different depths, but if you can find spawning shad the most active feeding fish may be around them. While most fish are shallow, they can be a little lethargic in the mornings away from the shad spawn. Spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits, and soft plastics in the Senko style have been the most popular baits recently.
Crappie fishing has been hurt by cool temperatures, but with temperatures finally warming again in the last couple of days fishing has been better. Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that most of the black crappie are in the 8-10 foot range and appear to be post-spawn, but the white crappie that spawn in the deep timber along the river channel in the upper lake are busting full of eggs and just getting started as temperatures finally get right. They are being caught 18 feet deep in the river channel in 32-34 feet of water around standing timber.
On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that in his time on the water recently he has found a good bite. In his most recent two-day trip they caught 70+ blues drifting cut shad in 10-25 feet of water, with the biggest in the 20s. Most of the fish are in the 3-12 pound range. There is also a good bite in the shallows.
A few shellcracker have been caught shallow but most of them are still deeper.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.31 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.11 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are in the upper 50s and reaching the low to mid-60s in the backwater ponds. The lake has a pretty normal color to it.
Up-and-down water temperatures make for some unpredictable conditions on the Santee lakes, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that at least as of yesterday they weren’t finding a ton of crappie shallow. Water temperatures have only jumped up over the last couple of days, and while there will almost certainly be a big wave of fish moving to the banks very soon they aren’t all up there yet. Steve’s boat found some nice, fat pre-spawn crappie up to 3 pounds out in deeper water, but it’s still worth looking shallow because they are headed that way. For now fish are still scattered.
Bream will not be shallow until temperatures get in the 65-70 degree range.
On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that on most days when you can get out the fishing has been good. Lately he has found a fast bite drifting cut shad in the 8-35 foot range. The bigger fish seem to be in the 8-15 foot range, while the 3-8 pound fish are in the 20-35 foot range. Wind and temperature fluctuation has hurt the bite until this week, but warm, stable weather should continue to improve it.
In the most recent bass tournament on Santee weights were down significantly, but with the warming trend this week look for a dramatic improvement as more fish come on the beds. The best pattern is fishing in 2-4 feet with soft plastics.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.17 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.07 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped all the way back into the mid-50s. The upper lake and even part of the lower lake is still stained to dingy.
It’s been a crazy first couple of weeks of March, and with dropping water temperatures catfish have moved back out to deeper water. Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that really windy conditions have limited time on the water for most anglers, but he has observed that fish seem to be scattered. He has found fish in 10-22 feet, while other anglers have found them as deep as 35 plus feet. For now the best bet is prospecting at all depths until a steady warming trend moves fish up and turns on the shallow bite.
In striped bass news, Jim reports that striper are happy to be wherever the shad are, scattered both shallow and deep. Trolling, drifting live bait deep, or free-lining live bait near the surface can produce bites. The striper run may be beginning but is not full on yet.
On the crappie front, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that cold weather has pushed the fish back out. With the exception of the fish that spawned in late February in the extreme warm weather, most of the crappie are still pre-spawn and holding around brush. Fishing 8-10 feet down over brush in about 20 feet of water has been the best pattern. Contingent on warming water, on the next full moon there should be a massive spawn.
Perhaps the hottest bite has been for bream, and Steve reports that bream are loaded up on the same brush as the crappie. Catching 60 or 70 big fish on crickets has not been uncommon.
Bass fishing on the Santee Cooper lakes has been something of a mystery, and some of the very best anglers that traditionally dominate in the spring have been struggling. In the most recent Carolinas Bass Challenge tournament on Saturday the top anglers Patrick and Mark Williams weighed in a very impressive 33.05 pounds, and there was one more bag over 30 pounds. However, third place dropped down to the mid-20s and the bottom of the top 10 was in the teens. Certainly impressive weights, but everyone is not catching 30 plus pounds. Two-thirds of the field (many of the best anglers in the Carolinas) had ten pounds or less, and about half of the field zeroed or chose not to weigh in. Fish are not jumping in the boat.
Overall it seems that dropping water temperatures have really hurt the bite, and while some fish have already spawned the majority of the fish that are pre-spawn have pulled back out. Water temperatures in the ponds have dropped about 15 degrees, and most of the fish are being found deeper around trees or in the canal. Look for another warming trend to improve the bite soon.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.96 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.77 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). After some cooler weather surface temperatures have dropped back down into the low 60s. The lower lake is fairly clear while the upper lake is dingy.
Catfish continue to be caught both shallow and deep, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that with shallow water warmer than deep water the best fishing for big fish has been in the shallows. Anchoring in 3-6 feet of water has been the best big fish pattern in both lakes, including for fish like the 50-pounder pictured below. Fish can also be caught drifting in 20-25 feet but these fish are generally smaller.
On the crappie front, Steve’s boat continues to mainly fish shallow water in 3-5 feet. Some of the fish have certainly already spawned, but they are still catching some very nice, fat pre-spawn fish. The best pattern for catching these shallow fish has been casting jigs and bringing them back with a slow retrieve.
There are also some fish staging over brush in 10-13 feet of water, and spider-rigging 4-12 feet is still producing.
Some phenomenal bass catches continue to be weighed out of the Santee lakes, and in the CATT tournament Saturday it took 36.48 pounds for the win! Second place was a mere 29.53, and there were a total of ten bags over 20 pounds. 19.28 pounds was not good enough for a check. More than half the field had 15 plus pounds.
Reports indicate that the best sacks are being caught sight-fishing, and a good percentage of the fish are already on beds. A variety of other shallow water techniques also continue to catch fish.
Bream are all over the bank.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.98 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.64 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). With a string of 80 degree days water temperatures have shot up to 64-65 degrees in the morning, and 67-68 in the afternoons. The lower lake is clear with 3+ feet of visibility, while the upper reaches of Lake Marion are dirty.
With skyrocking water temperatures tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that there are already tons of bass on the beds in the Santee lakes, although for now these are mainly smaller fish. With two full moons in March there should be a wave of fish that continue to move up over the next couple of weeks, but at this point Steve still expects the biggest spawn to be on the second March moon.
For bed fish it does not really matter what you throw – Steve says the key is a bait that you can see well to determine how the fish are reacting to it. Anything you put in front of them they will usually eat if you aggravate them enough and keep it in the sweet spot that they are trying to protect.
For shallow pre-spawn fish you can throw basically whatever you prefer, including frogs, swimbaits, and spinnerbaits. Soft plastics will also work but are slower. For deeper fish staging in ditches waiting to transition shallower plastics, spinnerbaits and swimbaits will work.
On the crappie front, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that this is the earliest he has seen temperatures this far along, and with water temperatures this high all the species are just waiting for the moon to get right now.
Crappie continue to be caught casting at the banks, and there are minnows up shallow everywhere now. Around Angel’s Landing people are also catching fish spider-rigging in 4-12 feet of water.
While Steve has not been fishing it very much, he is still marking a lot of fish deep around brush in 15-20 feet – species uncertain.
The catfish bite has picked up this week, and Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that deep drifting and shallow anchoring have both been producing. There are a mix of sizes in all depths but more 3-10 pound fish deep.
Everyone reports seeing bluegill and shellcracker up very shallow, and bank fishermen are already having a ball with both species.
No new striped bass reports.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.24 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.14 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are as warm as 56 degrees; the lower lake is clear, the upper lake is dingy, and way up Marion is muddy.
The exciting development of crappie moving into shallow water shows no signs of going away, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that particularly early and late you can find fish as shallow as 4-6 feet of water – or less – in both lakes. During the day they head out to staging areas with relatively shallow/ mid-depth brush, and his boat is catching slabs like the fish pictured below 10-12 feet deep in 18-19 feet of water.
Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) is also finding crappie in shallow water, and he is still catching some fish in the backwater ponds in only a few feet.
Bass are also in a transition period and moving shallower, and tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that fish are starting to move up as temperatures warm. With the track we are on Steve expects a group of fish to spawn on the full moon around the first of March.
For right now the largest group of fish is in ditches in 4-8 feet of water from which they will transition onto spawning flats. They can be caught on plastics, spinnerbaits and swimbaits.
There is also another group of fish that will move into the back water ponds, which heat up a few degrees faster than the main lake, on days when water temperatures approach 60 degrees. These fish will take soft plastics, but they are usually a little more aggressive and so you can cover more water with faster moving baits like frogs, swimbaits and spinnerbaits.
On the catfish front, Captain Jim reports that they are also in a transition period and a migration is beginning. While there are certainly still cats to be found in very deep water, it’s getting harder to mark them and riding around the lake it is very apparent how much activity there is in shallow water.
Early and late you can catch catfish anchoring in shallow water, and there are also some fish that have moved into the backwaters in 4-6 feet of water. They are not everywhere and so you have to prospect for them. Fish can also be caught drifting shallower in the teens, and there are still fish in 20+ feet. Remember that as a survival tool not all the fish do the same thing at once.
In striped bass news, Jim reports that the deep striper pattern is still on, and there is also some schooling activity in the lower lake. However, keepers can be very hard to come by. One angler fishing herring and spoons reported catching 80 fish but only one was over the 26-inch limit.
Santee Cooper water levels are up to 74.74 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.97 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures range from as cold as 47 on the main lake to 54 in some of the backwater areas, and there is muddy water coming down the lake.
The most exciting news on the Santee Cooper lakes this week is that crappie are starting to move shallower, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) says that they are catching some fish shallow. He even talked to one bass angler who caught three crappie very shallow on jerkbaits. Steve says there are still some crappie on deeper brush, but not like it was.
Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) has had a similar experience, and he reports that with some 60 and even 70-degree days some of the backwater ponds have gotten into the mid-50s. When that happens some of the crappie move up. After looking on open lake, deep brush to catch a few for dinner – and finding nothing – he decided to head shallow where he caught several nice crappie 1 foot deep in 2 ½ feet of water swimming a small jig. They aren’t everywhere in the shallows, but in some places they have clearly moved up.
On the catfish front, Steve and Jim both report that there continue to be some really nice catches in deep water in both lakes. One angler couldn’t keep more than two rods baited earlier this week in 54 feet of water. There are also tons of small blue cats in 35-48 feet. In striped bass news, Jim reports that striper are still suspended in deep water in both lakes. Trolling, jigging spoons, or fishing live bait will work. On warm days fish can run up as shallow as a few feet of water following bait.
In bass news, tournament angler Steve Harmon says that most of the bigger fish are still deeper in 8-12 feet of water, but on warm afternoons they will come shallow – including into the backwater areas. Crankbaits, chatterbaits, swimbaits, worms and jigs will all catch fish.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.27 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.08 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are around 45 or 46 degrees, and the upper lake is pretty stained and getting muddier.
It’s time to start thinking about bass on the Santee Cooper lakes again, and tournament angler Steve Harmon says that when water temperatures warm a degree or two in the late afternoon sun some fish will come up a little shallower. Most of the bigger fish are still deeper in 8-12 feet of water, but as water temperatures warm up they will continue to move shallower. Over the next month they will be transitioning from their winter hiding places and coming shallower to start to feed in the pre-spawn period. Crankbaits, chatterbaits, swimbaits, worms and jigs will all catch fish.
On the catfish front, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that there is not much change and the bite continues to be pretty good. In addition to the deeper bite in both lakes, with rising water levels some good fish will also be caught shallow at anchor.
In striped bass news, Jim reports that striper are suspended in deep water around schools of bait in 30-55 feet of water on the lower lake. On the upper lake they will be anywhere on the river channel in flooded timber in 25-30 feet or in major creeks like Wyboo and Taw Caw. Around these deeper fish trolling, jigging spoons, or fishing live bait will work. When the water warms a little fish can run up as shallow as a few feet of water following bait.
Crappie fishing is fair right now, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that on warm days a few fish have been caught as shallow as 8-12 feet of water. However, with temperatures generally pretty cold a lot of the fish are still out in 30-35 feet.
Bream are pretty lethargic in the cold water.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 73.23 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.29 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures range from the low-40s to 44 or 45 degrees. The upper lake is a bit dingy with the lower lake more clear.
It’s no secret that blue catfish don’t mind the cold, and Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that there is a typical cold water bite in or near schools of bait in deep water. Both suspended fish and fish on the bottom will take cut bait fished vertically at anchor or on a very slow drift.
In Lake Marion there is a good bite in timber tied off or anchored – look in the 20-30 foot range. The open water between timber and the Lake Marion dam is holding bait and catfish with frequent catches of 20+ pound blues.
With water levels falling the bite in the swamp has not been good, but with increased flow and rising water fish should move back into areas like Elliot’s, Pack’s, etc.
In crappie and bream news, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that with temperatures the coldest they have been in three to four years he has had to cancel trips. When water temperatures are in the low 40s the shad are stunned and easy prey, so it’s just hard to get a bite from sated fish. In the last spell where temperatures warmed for three or four days crappie moved shallower into 8-12 feet to feed, and with a sustained warm spell coming this is likely to happen again.
No new bass report.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.21 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.33 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are up slightly and range between about 50-54 degrees. Clarity is pretty good for the Santee Cooper lakes.
The catfish bite seems to be a little off on the Santee Cooper lakes right now, which Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) says could be the result of a variety of things – or a combination of factors. For now he is finding some fish in 25-30 feet as well as some showing up in 35-40 feet, but he believes that the next cold front should likely put better numbers in 35-40 feet and improve the bite.
In crappie and bream news, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the bite is about the same. However, with temperatures a little warmer they seem to be a bit more scattered out and at some shallower depths than a week ago. Right now his boat is finding fish 12-20 feet deep over brush in 20-35 feet of water, with the lower lake producing much better than the upper.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.29 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.36 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped to about 50 degrees.
It’s gotten cold on the Santee Cooper lakes, and accordingly Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the crappie and bream bites have really slowed down. The fish are also moving deeper, and they are now hanging out on brush in the 25-35 foot range. Steve’s boat is fishing about 18-20 feet down.
On the catfish front, Steve reports that there have been some good fish caught recently. The bait is pretty deep, and the best bite recently has been drifting in 35-45 feet of water.
Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.38 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.32 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped all the way into the mid-50s.
With dropping water temperatures the catfish bite on the Santee Cooper lakes is starting to change. Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that with cooler water it’s the time of year when all sizes of catfish can be at any depth, and so from day to day you have to find the most productive range (which can vary in different areas of these large lakes.)
Generally, Jim has found that smaller blues in the 2-6 pound range are biting well for anglers drifting in 24-28 feet. Some bigger blues can be found scattered at various depths, particularly the 12-25 foot range, but the small fish still dominate the creel. Any fresh cut bait including shad, perch, menhaden and mullet will work.
In crappie and bream news Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that in the lower lake the bite has been very good for crappie, and the fish are starting to group in 12-14 feet of water. Both bluegill and crappie are being caught around natural structure of various sorts as well as brush. Both species are ganging up in big schools as temperatures drop.
In the upper lake both crappie and bluegill are starting to move towards the river channel. On warmer days they will be found in 12-15 feet of water, and at other times they are holding on the edge of the channel in about 18 feet.