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AHQ INSIDER Santee Cooper (SC) Fall Fishing Report – Updated December 2

  • by Jay

December 4

Santee Cooper water levels are down to 73.7 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.5 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Main lake surface temperatures range from about 60-61 degrees.

The bite for numbers of catfish continues to be good, but Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) suspects that the big fish bite is about to be wide open.  On recent trips Jim’s boat has continued to catch tons of 1-6 pound fish, with the biggest fish recently in the 15-19 pound range.  There have been some trips where barely any fish broke 10 pounds, but anglers still got their line pulled plenty.  However, with the cold weather coming the big fish should turn on soon.  This week last year Jim’s boat caught two 50 plus pound fish, and the 10th they boated an 82-pound catfish.

At times there have been hellacious winds which have made fishing a challenge, while at other times there has been so little wind that drifting without a motor was impossible.  Overall the best action has come either drifting when there is wind or down-rodding when it is calm (dropping baits vertically over fish, without an anchor) in the mid-20s to about 30 feet of water.  Most any fresh cut bait will catch fish.

Crappie fishing has not been wide open according to Captain Steve English (843-729-4044), but they have caught some very nice fish including the 17-incher pictured below.  Brush in about 18-25 feet of water has been the most productive, and they have been fishing about 12-20 feet down over that brush.   Excellent numbers of breamhave been caught over the same depth brush, and on a recent trip they kept 160 bream (and threw back at least that many) fishing 10-15 feet down with crickets.  Some brush has more bream, while some has more crappie.  If both are present the bream are usually more aggressive at getting to baits.

A big 17-inch crappie caught last week on Captain Steve English's boat
A big 17-inch crappie caught last week on Captain Steve English’s boat

 

Linda White of Iowa with some nice crappie caught this morning with Steve
Linda White of Iowa with some nice crappie caught this morning with Steve

There are still a lot of blugill and white perch in the canal, but soon Steve says that they will leave and then the shellcracker will take over.

November 4

Santee Cooper water levels are down to 74.55 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.64 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface temperatures range between about 69 and 71.

For a while now fishing has been good for small catfish, and recent trips have been no exception for Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239).  On successive charters his boat has had good success with smaller, eating sized blues and channels in the 1-6 pound range, and some better fish in the upper teens have also been landed.  Some days the 9-18 foot range has been most productive, while other days the 20-30 foot range has produced better.  The common denominator has been covering water and drifting with cut shad.

October 20

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.27 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.23 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface temperatures have shot back up to around 77 degrees, although they should take a nosedive soon.  Visibility in both lakes is pretty good again at 2+ feet.

In the last CATT bass tournament before the hurricane on October 1 four bags in the 20 plus pound range, up to a big sack of 25 pounds, were caught – while in the most recent, post-storm event on October 15 one 19 pound bag was caught and the results dropped off below that.  While the quality of fish has changed a bit there is no indication that the pattern has changed as fishermen continue to fish very shallow.

Crappie fishing is still pretty good, and today Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that his boat caught 45 or 50 fish.  The crappie have moved shallower, and today they were fishing 10-15 feet deep over 20-25 feet of water.  Recently the upper lake has produced better than the lower lake but that is subject to change after this cold front.

Steve’s boat is also catching some nice breamover the brush even when they are not targeting them, and it is pretty clear that the fish are moving out of the shallows.  Some nice bluegill have also been caught along the edges of the canal where the water drops off from 5-15 feet.

On the catfish front Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that his boat has found a decent bite drifting cut shad and eel in 8-20 feet of water.  Good numbers of 4-8 pound fish have been caught to go along with some better 15-20 pound fish, including the 19-pound fish pictured below.

A nice blue landed this week on Captain Jim Glenn's boat
A nice blue landed this week on Captain Jim Glenn’s boat

October 13

Santee Cooper water levels are up to 75.31 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.24 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface temperatures have dropped almost 10 degrees in the last week or two, from 79 down to 69 in the mornings.  With afternoon sun temperatures reach back up to the low 70s.  After the hurricane the water is dirtier, ranging from dingy in the lower lake to muddy in the upper lake.

A week and a half ago in the October 1 CATT bass tournament on Santee there were some nice bags weighed, with the winners bringing 25+ pounds to the scale and several more bags in the 20 plus pound range.  Most people caught fish.

Overall the predominant pattern has been fishing shallow with topwater lures.  Water levels are higher than usual, and as a result fish are staying shallow around vegetation all day long.  Frogs fished around grass have been working well, and buzzbaits have also been catching bass.

Despite changes in water temperature and clarity the crappie are still in basically the same spots as before the storm, and Steve’s boat has found a decent bite in the lower lake 20-25 feet deep over brush in 35-40 feet of water.  While they have caught a few nice bream over the usual brushpiles mostly the fish have not showed up yet.

Some healthy crappie caught yesterday on Captain Steve English's boat by Doug, Cory and Bryan Platt
Some healthy crappie caught yesterday on Captain Steve English’s boat by Doug, Cory and Bryan Platt

New catfish report to follow.

September 29

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.88 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.81 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface temperatures are around 80 degrees, with the lower lake pretty clear and the upper lake dingy.

It’s a pretty good time to fish for catfish on the Santee Cooper lakes, and Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that there are still lots of 2-4 pound blue catfish biting in various depths.  They will take various baits but cut shad are working really well.  Jim expects that the big fish bite will improve as temperatures drop, and there are already some nice blues being caught at night in 4-10 feet of water both drifting and anchoring.  Bank fishing in the Rediversion Canal continues to produce lots of small blues and channels on worms and stink baits.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) has also been spending some time going after the catfish, and he concurs that there are lots of small catfish in the lake.  He managed to catch a big fish today (pictured below) but in general he agrees that the best time to catch big fish seems to be at night.

While crappie in the upper lake continue to be caught in the same shallower depth range as last week, in the lower lake Steve has been finding the fish deeper.  They are fishing 20-25 feet deep over brush in 35-40 feet of water.  Some days the fishing is good, and some days it is not so good.  The bream bite continues to be pretty good, but sizes still aren’t great.  As with everything some cooler water is needed to really kickstart the bream fishing.

No new bass report.

A 35-plus pound fish caught this morning by Bobby Jones of Pinnacle, NC on Steve English's boat
A 35-plus pound fish caught this morning by Bobby Jones of Pinnacle, NC on Steve English’s boat

September 20

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.99 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.04 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface temperatures are around 81 degrees and clarity is good.

Tournament angler Steve Harmon acknowledges that outdoorsman have so much to choose from at this time of year that it can be hard to decide what to do, but he says that bassanglers who venture to Santee Cooper in the fall may discover some of the best fishing of the year.  It’s a repeat of the spring season as fish move up shallow, but instead of moving into the shallows to spawn they are moving up to feed!  Complicating things this year is that normally in the fall lake levels are dropping, but this year with recent rains they are high.  This spreads the fish out and gives them a lot more cover to hold around, but the payoff can still be very high when anglers locate the right spots.

As water temperaturs drop into the 70s fish are transitioning from their summer haunts in 8-12 feet of water, and Steve suggests concentrating on shallow cover in 3-5 feet of water including cypress trees, grass, stumps, etc.  With frogs one source of food for bass right now lures that imitate them are a good option, and with bass also feeding on bait spinnerbaits or plastic worms fished around structure are also a good option.

While schooling action may be better in the spring, it’s worth keeping a look out for schooling fish in the lakes.  If you can find the baitfish there should be some bass chasing them since a lot of fish are coming up shallow.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that crappiefishing has gotten a lot better since the late summer lull, and in the upper lake today his boat caught around 35 very nice fish.  They weren’t very deep and the majority of the fish were caught 7-14 feet deep over 14-22 feet of water, with both minnows and jigs responsible for the catch.  A lot more bluegills are also starting to stack up on the brush and as the weather gets cooler that bite will just get better and better.

Ken Perry with a nice catch today on Captain Steve English's boat
Ken Perry with a nice catch today on Captain Steve English’s boat

Reports indicate that the bite for catfish has been a little slow, not unusual for September.  The full moon has also just passed, which can have a negative effect on the catfish bite.  More information to follow.

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