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AHQ INSIDER Santee Cooper (SC) Spring 2019 Fishing Report – Updated January 2

  • by Jay

The newest Santee Cooper fishing report can be found at: http://www.anglersheadquarters.com/ahq-insider-santee-cooper-sc-spring-2019-fishing-report/

January 2

Santee Cooper water levels are at 76.40 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.10 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Water temperatures have risen to about 55 degrees. With a tremendous amount of inflow the lakes range from dingy to muddy.

As the lake temperatures have risen Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that crappiehave moved up shallower.  Some fish have come about 10 feet down in 18 feet of water, while other crappie have come about 25 feet deep over 30 feet of water.   Atypically, not all the fish are in the very deepest brush when winter should be approaching its coldest.

It is worth noting that they are still trying to target the least muddy water, and there are some areas in the lower lake which are just dirty and not actually muddy – so they are fishing these.

While numbers have not been excellent, they have caught 25 fish up to about 2 pounds on some recent trips. There are also some good breammixed in with the crappie.

Vern with a good 2-pound crappie caught Monday
Vern with a good 2-pound crappie caught Monday

On the catfishfront, Steve reports that they have marked a lot of fish and bait in 15-25 feet of water, but they continue to have better luck in about the 30-foot range.  Drifting fresh cut bait is the best pattern.

Bass continue to be current-oriented but fishing is tough right now.

December 20

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 bassare 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 breamare also mixed in with the crappie.

Catfish reports indicate that the best action has come in 25-35 feet of water.

November 30

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 bassare 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 breamare mixed in with the crappie.

Cheryl from Iowa with a 2 pound, 13 ounce crappie caught yesterday with Captain Steve English
Cheryl from Iowa with a 2 pound, 13 ounce crappie caught yesterday with Captain Steve English

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.

November 15

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 basswere 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.

Just another amazing day with Captain Steve English
Just another amazing day with Captain Steve English

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.

October 19

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.

Basshave 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.

A nice kayak fish caught this week on Santee by Brett Mitchell
A nice kayak fish caught this week on Santee by Brett Mitchell

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.

September 21

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.

Fishing should be normalizing again on the Santee Cooper (SC) lakes after Florence
Donnie Mac from Spartanburg with a pair of nice ones caught with Captain Steve English

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