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AHQ INSIDER Santee Cooper (SC) Spring 2021 Fishing Report – Updated April 29

  • by Jay

April 29

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.42 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and bouncing around 75.18 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Both lakes are relatively clear and water temperatures are around 69 degrees.   

The Santee Cooper bass are in a little bit of a post-spawn lull right now, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that he expects the fishing to be tough for a week or so and then improve. There are still a few stragglers that will bed in the next week or two, but the vast majority of the fish are post-spawn. 

The next thing that will happen is that a shad spawn bite and then a bream bite will develop, and the topwater action in general will also come on. Shad will spawn shallow along weedy banks, weed beds and at the edges of pad fields, and if you aren’t there at the crack of dawn you will miss it.  A bunch of different lures including spinnerbaits and topwater lures will work. Fish will also be feeding around spawning bream, and topwaters, crankbaits, soft plastics and particularly worms will all work for them. 

During the heat of the day you can also drag a worm around trees or grass in 2-6 feet of water. 

The crappie fishing has improved on Santee, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that he is finding better numbers of crappie around shallower brush, while the bigger fish have been deeper. The range he is fishing goes runs about 8-12 feet down over 14-22 feet of water. 

This slab weighed more than 2 1/2 pounds and was caught this week with Captain Steve English
This slab weighed more than 2 1/2 pounds and was caught this week with Captain Steve English

The bream bite is in an in-between period at the moment, and a lot of the shellcracker seem to have already spawned while there are a few bluegill on brush. In the next few weeks more bluegill should show up in shallow water. 

The best place to look for shellcracker is around grass in 2-3 feet of water, and while you can catch them on other baits red worms are hard to beat.

Bluegill will also take crickets. 

The catfish bite continues to be pretty good, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that during the day his boat has been drifting deeper water in 10-30 feet of water and catching some pretty good fish. At night the shallow bite has been fairly consistent, but during the day it will be good one day and then tough the next. 

Small herring and chicken have both been working well.

April 16

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.72 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and bouncing around 74.9 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The upper lake is clearing but still stained while there is a mud line in the lower lake.  Water temperatures are generally in the upper 60s. 

There is a mix of everything going on with the bass on Santee, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that some fish are pre-spawn, some are spawning and some are post-spawn. By his estimation we are in the dead middle of the period and there are equal numbers of pre-spawn and post-spawners. 

Pretty much all of the fish are shallow right now all over the lake, and some of them are around grass, some are on trees and some are on stumps. Senkos and soft plastics in general are very dependable right now, and there is also a little bit of topwater action starting for post-spawn fish which are protecting fry. 

The crappie fishing is still tough on Santee, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that in this post-spawn phase there are a few males on brush but the majority of the fish still seem to just be swimming around. The fishing should get better once the fish recover from the spawn.

While the crappie bite is a little tough, a strong bream bite is starting to come on.  Captain Steve has found some really nice shellcracker very shallow including some males up to a pound and a half. Some of the females may have already spawned but another wave will also be coming. Working the grass for shellcracker in 2-3 feet of water has been good, and while you can catch them on other baits red worms are hard to beat.

Right now bluegills are stacked up on brush and they will take crickets.  

Some good shellcracker caught this week with Captain Steve English
Some good shellcracker caught this week with Captain Steve English

The catfish bite has really improved, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that they have been catching a lot of better fishing across a range of depths. In the last week or two the fish have really gotten hungry. 

His boat is having the best success drifting in about 25 feet of water, but he has also caught fish drifting as shallow as 15 feet and heard good reports anchoring shallower early and late. River herring are hard to beat right now although he also has bluegill in the boat as a back-up. 

Captain Brett Mitchell has one of those boats fishing shallower, and anchoring in 3-10 feet of water around bars, humps and shallow flats they are finding a good bite. Again he’s pretty much fishing with river herring until they are not available any more. 

April 2

Santee Cooper water levels are up to 76.30 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.66 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The upper part of Lake Marion is blown out with mud and it is coming to the rest of the system. Surface water temperatures were down to about 61 this morning. 

There are already a few post-spawn bass on Santee, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that most of the fish are in the process of getting ready to spawn. Because of water temperatures this wave of fish will spawn in less than 3 feet of water, and since they have seen about every bait pass in front of them at this point the vast majority of fish will be caught on soft plastics fished slowly.  There is a slight topwater bite in some select areas but not much.  Brett is having better luck in the lower lake right now.

As the month progresses and temperatures heat up the next wave of fish will spawn slightly deeper around stumps and trees. Then post-spawn fish will be found in the weeds when the topwater season starts in earnest. 

Wind and then a cold front made for tough crappie fishing conditions this week, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that when you can get out there the fish are biting. You can cast jigs in shallow water and catch fish right now, or you can target fish that are moving back onto brush. He thinks about half of the fish have already spawned and the rest seem to be in the process of spawning. 

In the upper lake it is still possible to catch pre-spawn fish in deeper water on the edge of the river channel, but these are white crappie who are at a different stage since the water is cooler where they live. 

Ella with a good 2+ caught in shallow water this week with Captain Steve English
Ella with a good 2+ caught in shallow water this week with Captain Steve English

Right now Captain Brett Mitchell reports that the biggest catfish seem to be coming up shallow in 3-5 feet of water anchoring herring or shad. While some fish are always out deep, from what he has seen they are smaller right now. 

Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) agrees that the fish being caught drifting deep water have generally been smaller right now, but he expects that some better ones should start biting once the water warms. Deep water is still pretty cool right now and cold fronts aren’t helping.  This month he expects the canal to start to produce. 

March 19

Santee Cooper water levels are down to 75.30 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and up to 74.62 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Clarity is pretty normal and morning surface water temperatures range from 60-62 in the upper lake to about 58 in the lower lake. The wind has made fishing difficult recently. 

A slight cool snap coincided with the CBC last weekend on Santee, and as a result Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that the shallow bite shut down a little bit and some of the better bags were caught deeper on brush piles in 5-12 feet of water. Spinnerbaits, jigs and big worms worked well for these fish.

While some fish will likely continue to stage with this most recent cold snap, as of Tuesday there were also a lot of buck bass up shallow in 1 ½ to 2 feet of water that could be caught about any way you wanted to catch them. The March 28 full moon should coincide with a really good wave of spawning fish and soon male and female should be caught around most any shallow cover including grass and wood and in spawning pockets. Spinnerbaits, swimbaits, worms and more will all work. 

The wind has made for really tough crappie fishing conditions recently, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that when he has been able to get on the water he has been able to find some males very shallow. They are also catching females that have not spawned around deeper brush, and so he speculates that the majority of the fish are still pre-spawn. 

When water temperatures hit about 62-65 degrees he expects almost all of the fish to be up shallow. 

A good Santee crappie caught with Captain Steve English
A good Santee crappie caught with Captain Steve English

The catfish bite is still off on Santee, and even though some big fish up to 54 pounds were caught in the recent tournament Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that the fishing remains a little slow. The biggest fish right now are being caught early and late anchoring in shallow water, while the best numbers continue to come drifting 20-30 feet of water. 

River herring and American shad remain the best baits. 

March 10

Santee Cooper water levels are down to 75.53 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.29 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The lake is dingy all over and muddy in some places, and morning surface water temperatures have reached the high 50s and even low 60s in some of the ponds. 

This weekend is the Carolinas Bass Challenge on Santee, and so you can forgive tournament anglers if they don’t want to say too much about how the bass are being caught. However, Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that even though a cool snap coincided with last weekend there were still some very large bags caught, and this weekend they expect more of the same. 

After several days in the 70s temperatures have shot up in the ponds, and this weekend there should be a full first wave of fish on beds. There were already some very early spawners last weekend. While there will be fish in other places there is really no reason to look in more than two feet of water and fish will be around grass and wood in spawning pockets. 

This is the time of year where you can throw whatever you want, and it really does not seem to matter what you use. Spinnerbaits, swimbaits, worms and more will all work. 

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) won’t start up his spring crappie guiding until this weekend, but with a Crappie USA event on Santee this weekend veteran

tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt has been chasing the fish around in the swamp. He has found them relatively shallow in about 7-8 feet of water, although they will almost certainly be shallower by this weekend. Steve notes that early and late he will probably be targeting shallow cover with jigs, but then during the day the fish should set up on brush. 

Will Hinson with a couple of good ones caught out of the swamp
Will Hinson with a couple of good ones caught out of the swamp

The catfish bite is still a little slow on Santee, and even though Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) has scouted shallow water during the day he still cannot find fish up there outside of early and late. However, the 6-8 foot range should be picking up very soon.  

The best action continues to come drifting in 20-30 feet of water, although the fish seem to be smaller right now. River herring and American shad are the best bait right now.  

This is a transition period and very soon the bite should be much better. 

March 5

Santee Cooper water levels are down to 76.03 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.59 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The lakes have cleared and water temperatures range from about 53 degrees on up. 

There have been some monster bags of bass caught recently on Santee, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that with temperatures warming over the last week to ten days the fishing is busting wide open on the lakes. Temperatures in some of the ponds have hit 60 degrees, and the fish are headed into them. While Brett does not expect fish to be on the beds until next weekend, they are already getting into the areas where they will be spawning. The most catchable fish are in two feet of water or less, and they can be found around grass and wood in spawning pockets. 

This is the time of year where you can throw whatever you want, and it really does not seem to matter what you use. Spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and worms are all working, and the Showdown last Sunday was won with a jerkbait. 

Just another 25-pound bag caught this week on Santee
Just another 25-pound bag caught this week on Santee

As expected the crappie are moving shallower on Santee, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that long-line trolling starting at the mouth of creeks and working your way back along ridges and other contours looking for suspended fish is probably the best pattern.  Some fish are also related to brush in the creeks. Jigs are a good choice right now but you can also tip your jigs with minnows.  It won’t be long until some fish are caught on the banks.  

Steve also notes that a lot of people are catching them in the Santee River right now. 

The catfish bite is still a little slow on Santee but Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that the biggest change is that there is starting to be a better shallow bite in the early morning or late evening in 6-8 feet of water. Fish are very active at those times. 

The are also some fish being caught drifting in 20-30 feet of water. River herring and American shad are the best bait right now.  

Captain Brett Mitchell concurs that the shallow action is improving and should only get better. 

February 26

Santee Cooper water levels are just below full at 76.57 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.86 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The lakes are muddy, with water flying through, and water temperatures range from the mid-40s to low-50s.

They call it fishing for a reason, and on Sunday in the CATT tournament David Matts and Garret Brown managed five that went over 30 pounds and there were several more big bags caught as well as a bunch of fish over 5 pounds. But on Sunday conditions had apparently completely changed, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that in the Sunday Showdown Series event there just wasn’t much to brag about. Typical for the time of year the fishing is still day-to-day. 

With the water high, muddy and ripping through the lake there is every reason for the fish to be up shallow, and this is especially true given seasonal factors. Brett believes the most catchable fish are still chasing bait in 2-4 feet of water and with the water conditions a spinnerbait is hard to beat. Soon fish should get into a pre-spawn mode but water temperatures will need to move a few more degrees before that happens. 

David Matts & Garret Brown with their big bag in the CATT Saturday
David Matts & Garret Brown with their big bag in the CATT Saturday

It’s getting to be the right time for crappie, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that fish are about to make a transition. Because the water is still cold he will still start out fishing deeper on brush, but he will also be working his way shallow searching for fish.  As the fish move up long-line trolling is the best way to target them, and you can start at the mouth of creeks and work your way back along ridges and other contours looking for suspended fish. Some will also be related to brush in the creeks. Jigs are a good choice right now but you can also tip your jigs with minnows. In the dirty water chartreuse or something else very bright is a good color.

The unfortunate consensus is that the catfish bite is tough on Santee right now, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that for now drifting in about 25-30 feet of water still seems to be the best pattern. The best action is coming with shad and herring.  However, nothing is working very well at the moment and it may not be until temperatures warm up a few more degrees that the pattern really changes.  

Captain Brett Mitchell points out that once the fish get accustomed to all the new water and things stabilize the fishing could improve, but really he also doesn’t expect much change from the current pattern until about the same time that the bass start to get into pre-spawn mode. 

February 18

Santee Cooper water levels are up to 74.40 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.54 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). The lakes are muddy and the power company is pulling the water hard, with water temperatures are about 50 degrees. 

It’s been some another week of nasty weather on Santee, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that while he has not been out much high, muddy water is putting even more pressure on the fish to go shallow.  Fish are still focused on shad and the most catchable fish should still be chasing bait in 2-4 feet of water. They could be around any type of cover but having deep water nearby is always better at this time of year. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and swimbaits are all good choices.

The catfish bite is still pretty slow but steady, although Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that soon he is expecting the fish to start to move shallower. However, for now drifting in about 25-30 feet of water seems to be the best pattern. He still advises looking for bait stacked up in deep water, and he will be targeting ledges unless he finds a lot of bait on a particular flat.

The best action is coming with shad and herring. 

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) will be back on the crappie and bream once there is some better weather next week.

February 5

Santee Cooper water levels are up to 74.54 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.38 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures range from 49-53 and the lake is stained but not muddy. 

It’s been some nasty weather this week on Santee, but when it’s worth getting out on the water the bass seem to be biting decently. Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that in this week’s Sunday Showdown Series tournament there were a few bigger ones caught as well as a bunch of two-pounders.  Fish are still focused on shad and the most catchable fish are still chasing bait in 2-4 feet of water. They could be around any type of cover but having deep water nearby is always better at this time of year. The fish also seem to be on wood a little better this week.   

Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and swimbaits are all working pretty well. 

Check out the newSantee Cooper Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brett.

The winning fish - including a 7.62 - in this week's Sunday Showdown Series
The winning fish - including a 7.62 - in this week's Sunday Showdown Series

The catfish bite is still pretty slow but steady, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that there is not much anchoring going on and drifting in about 30 feet of water seems to be the best pattern. He still advises looking for bait stacked up in deep water, and he will be targeting ledges unless he finds a lot of bait on a particular flat.

The best action is coming with shad and herring. 

While he hasn’t been after them much recently, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) believes that crappie are likely still 20 plus feet down over deep brush in 35 plus feet of water. There have also been some reports of anglers starting to troll for them and pick up a few but the action is certainly not hot. 

Bream are very deep and biting only sporadically.

January 22

Santee Cooper water levels are back down to 73.84 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) but up to 73.09 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface water temperatures are around 48-51 degrees and the lake is pretty dingy.   

The bass fishing is a little better this week on Santee, as judged by the results of the Sunday Showdown Series where a 7-pounder and a 5-pounder took the win, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that overall the patterns have not changed much. While there will be changes due to water conditions, temperature, and the like over the next month and a half, the overall pattern that fish are focused on shad won’t change until they get into staging for the pre-spawn period.  

There is probably a deeper bite if you look very hard, or get lucky and stumble on it, but the bait is pelagic and so the offshore fish are tough to locate. Additionally, between water levels rising and pushing fish to the banks in the lower lake – and the fact that the most fishable bass on Santee are almost always in less than 10 feet – Brett is still focusing on 2-4 feet of water. They could be around any type of cover but having deep water nearby is always better at this time of year. 

Crankbaits and little swimbaits have generally been the best option, but you can also fish a worm slowly when nothing else is working. 

Check out the new Santee Cooper Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brett.

Some of the better fish from last week's Sunday Showdown Series
Some of the better fish from last week's Sunday Showdown Series

The catfish are still feeding pretty well, and Brett reports that overall the bite remains good. Drifting cut bait in 20-30 feet of water is catching lots of 3-5 pound fish, and the occasional 15-30 pounder is also mixed in. The fishing should stay good on a similar pattern for the rest of the month. 

Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) also reports that he has found the best bite in about 30 feet of water. He still advises looking for bait stacked up in deep water, and he will be targeting ledges unless he finds a lot of bait on a particular flat. 

While he hasn’t been after them for a week or two, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) believes that crappie are likely still on deep brush in 20 plus feet of water over 35 plus feet of water.  Bream are also likely to be very deep. 

January 13

Santee Cooper water levels are up to 74.63 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 71.92 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface water temperatures are around 48-51 degrees and the lake is dingy but fast becoming muddy. 

Very low water levels were affecting the bass fishing on Santee Cooper last week, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that even as water levels have started to rise recently the fishing is getting tougher. In particular the incoming mud is making it harder to get bites. 

Still, with water levels remaining relatively low – particularly in the lower lake – finding fishable cover is still an issue, and trees are still basically eliminated along with some other cover. Fish remain basically on whatever they can get on, and there might be two or three fish on a single stump.  Right now 2-4 feet of water is the target depth range.

Fish are still on a shad bite, and so crankbaits and little swimbaits have generally been the best option. When the fishing gets slow worms are the best bet.

With cold, muddy conditions only likely to get worse it may be a little while before the bass fishing improves.  

Check out the new Santee Cooper Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brett.

The catfish are happier than the bass right now, and Brett reports that overall the bite remains good. Drifting cut bait in 20-30 feet of water is catching lots of 3-5 pound fish, and the occasional 15-30 pounder is also mixed in. The fishing should stay good on a similar pattern for the rest of the month. 

The fishing is a little slower deeper, but Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that drifting in 28-42 feet there is the occasional very big fish being caught, and a surprising 30-pound flathead was even landed out there recently. Right now Stevie says that anglers should be looking for bait stacked up in deep water, and he will be targeting ledges unless he finds a lot of bait on a particular flat. 

Even though it will pick up again in February the Santee Cooper crappie bite is winding down for the season, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that on their last trip out he was able to catch a couple of very nice fish over 2 pounds even though they really had to work for them. They are on some of the deepest brush he fishes, in 20 plus feet of water over 35 plus feet of water.

While Steve won’t pretend that he’s putting in much over to catch them, the bream fishing has really slowed over brush and he has only gotten the occasional nibble on crickets.   

Linda Lou with a nice pair of fish caught with Captain Steve English
Linda Lou with a nice pair of fish caught with Captain Steve English

January 5

Santee Cooper water levels are at 73.51 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 71.01 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Surface water temperatures are around 50 degrees and the lake is dingy but not yet muddy. 

Very low water levels are affecting the bass fishing, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that some really big fish have been caught recently – including some 9- and 10-pound hawgs! Brett has also been catching good numbers, with 12-15 bass on one recent trip and 9-10 on another. 

While the fishing has been good, getting around has been the problem.   Finding fishable cover is also an issue, and with no water under most of the trees they have been eliminated as has most of the other usual stuff. Fish are basically on whatever they can get on, and there might be two or three fish on a single stump.  Right now 2-4 feet of water is the target depth range.

Fish are still on a shad bite, and so crankbaits and little swimbaits have generally been the best option. When the fishing gets slow worms are the best bet. 

Check out the new Santee Cooper Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brett.

When Brett isn’t targeting bass he has been guiding for catfish, and overall that bite has also been good. They are getting 10-20 fish per day averaging 4-15 pounds, with the occasional 25-30 pound fish thrown in. 

Most of the action has come drifting live or cut herring, or gizzard shad, in 20-30 feet of water. The lower lake has been more consistent and the upper lake has either been “on” or “off”.

Captain Brett Mitchell put a happy customer on this big one on a recent warm day
Captain Brett Mitchell put a happy customer on this big one on a recent warm day

While he has not been out for a few days Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) has also heard reports of a good drift bite in a similar 25-35 foot range. There is also the chance for a monster, like the 86-pound fish recently caught drifting with Captain Mark Lawson! 

While bass and catfish have been cooperative, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that bream have slowed way down. They have picked up a couple on deep brush, but they are not feeding much. And with the water racing through the canal you can’t really anchor a boat to target shellcracker in their favorite winter haunts.

The crappie are more cooperative, and Steve’s boat picked up about 17 on his last trip with minnows. They have now moved onto deep brush and they are sitting 18-20 plus feet down over brush in 30-35 plus feet of water. 

December 17

Santee Cooper water levels are down to 73.90 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 72.56 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures are in the low to mid-50s and the canal is dingy but not muddy. 

The bass are in a cool weather pattern on the lakes, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that overall fish are on a shad bite right now. They are on current breaks and edges in the 5-6 foot range, particularly in areas where there is access to deep water nearby.  These areas in the backs of the creeks have been producing. 

While there has not been a really good bite in shallow or deep water, the fishing has also been good around brush and trees in 4-8 feet of water. The swamp has a lot of good trees in 6-8 feet and so it is fishing well. Crankbaits and Rattle Traps have both been working.

When there is strong current it usually hurts the bass bite but can help the action for catfish and striper. 

Speaking of cats, Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that the action has not been fast and furious but he has been catching some good fish recently. The best catches for his boat have come on bream and white perch, and even though the fish are not very aggressive drifting humps in 15-25 feet of water has been working. He has not had much luck shallow and the canal was ripping very hard recently and it may still be unfishable. 

The bream and crappie bite is still in a decent late fall pattern, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that even as it has gotten colder fish have still been hanging on the mid-depth brush in 22-24 feet of water.  Today they are catching them about 12 feet down and they aren’t marking anything on the deeper stuff.   Typically when it gets a bit colder fishing 18-20 feet down over brush in 30-35 feet of water should be the best bet until the bite really slows.

Santee bream caught in the cold yesterday with Steve English
Santee bream caught in the cold yesterday with Steve English

November 24

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.91 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.89 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures are around 64 and the lakes are dirty.

At last report Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) speculated that there were probably some bass that could be caught mixed in with striper chasing shad, and today on the water he has proven at least half of that. As of about 9:30 Brett’s boat had caught 30 or 40 striper that were schooled up in the strong current, and even though most were under the limit there were a few over 26 inches. These fish are in the main channel where the current is strongest and they can be found from the top to bottom of the water column. In the right areas you can catch one on every cast. 

An aggressive Santee Cooper striper caught this morning with Captain Brett Mitchell
An aggressive Santee Cooper striper caught this morning with Captain Brett Mitchell

Overall this is a transition period for largemouth, and there are still some fish on trees and brush in the shallows. Topwater lures are just starting to fade out but they can still work, and soft plastics are also effective. At the same time, fish are starting to move towards shad schools in 6-12 feet of water that are migrating into the creeks. Swimbaits, crankbaits and bladed baits will all catch these fish. 

Of course, when the water is ripping like right now the current adds another factor that can set the bait and fish up. 

The action for both bream and crappie is getting better as temperatures cool, and Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that Sunday they caught more than 200 big bream on crickets. Today they have been targeting crappie with minnows and had considerable success. As temperatures drop both species get in much tighter groups, and so while not every brush piles will have fish when you do find them the numbers are excellent.

For right now fishing about 12 feet down over brush in 22 or more feet of water has been working the best, but as temperatures continue to drop the fish will move deeper. Fishing 18-20 feet down over brush in 30-35 feet of water should soon be the best bet. 

As water temperatures cool Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that the catfish are starting to “act right”, and even though he isn’t catching spectacular numbers the sizes are getting bigger and pretty much everything he has caught has been in the 10-30 plus pound range. He is having the best luck drifting flats on the lower lake in 15-25 feet of water, and white perch, herring and bluegill are all working.

November 10

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.56 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 73.90 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures are in the upper 60s and while the lakes have some color they are not dirty.

There are probably some bass offshore out deep chasing shad along with the striper, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that the most catchable fish right now that he is targeting are extremely shallow around grass and wood. He is fishing in 1 ½ to 2 feet of water in both lakes, and the best action has come on topwater lures including buzzbaits, frogs and Spooks. Right now the action is not on fire but they are catching some fish, and the bass seem to be in an opportunistic mood where they are feeding on whatever is around including crawfish, bream, shad and more.   

Brett Mitchell with a nice one caught shallow this week
Brett Mitchell with a nice one caught shallow this week

It’s most than likely a function of water temperatures, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the crappie are still very scattered which means they are catching about half as many fish as at this time last year. Fish are around shallower and deeper brush, but the best action has come 8-12 feet down over brush piles in 17-24 feet of water. Because it has relatively less cover Steve finds that the fish are grouped up a little better in the lower lake right now, and minnows are working the best. 

Almost certainly as a result of the mild water temperatures, the bream fishing is actually slower than a month ago when dropping temperatures were grouping the better fish up on brush.  To be sure you can catch a ton of bream on brush, and on one recent trip Captain Steve’s boat caught about 300 bluegill. However, many of them are small right now and there are even some better fish back in the shallows again.  If temperatures drop the action should really improve fishing crickets over brush at about the same depth where they are catching the crappie. 

The wide open fall catfish bite has not really kicked in yet, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that some of the best action has actually come getting up very early and starting to fish an hour or two before daylight – more like a summer pattern. During the day he has found better fish drifting in 17-19 feet of water, while there are numbers but smaller fish out in 30-35 feet. There are people anchoring in the canal but the fishing doesn’t seem to be very good. 

Herring, cut shad and bream are all working a little bit better than chicken.

October 23

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.93 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.24 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures have slightly warmed to about 72-73 degrees, and while there has been a ton of water moving through the lakes they remain fairly clear. 

Over the last few weeks water temperatures have if anything risen, and as a result  Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the crappie really have not ganged up very well. They are still scattered between shallow and deep water, and the best action he has found has been fishing minnows around brush 8-12 feet down over 17-24 feet of water. There are also some fish to be found in deeper brush, but the numbers are a little thinner. Cooler temperatures in the weeks ahead should concentrate the fish. 

A nice crappie caught this week on Santee Cooper
A nice crappie caught this week on Santee Cooper

The fall bream fishing continues to be pretty good, but perhaps because of the warmer temperatures the fishing is not quite as reliable as it was when temperatures were dropping. Some days Steve says they will find big fish ganged up on the brush, while other days the bream are small with only the occasional better fish mixed in. 

The best action has come fishing for bluegill with crickets about 8-10 feet down over brush in 15-18 feet of water. 

With water temperatures stable bass patterns have not changed a lot on Santee Cooper, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that the most catchable fish remain shallow in 2-4 feet of water. There is a little bit of schooling activity, but for the most part it is just junk fishing with topwater lures, crankbaits and soft plastics around grass, trees and any other type of cover. Since the shad are generally still suspended out deep most of the fish that have moved up are feeding on bream and crawfish. 

In general the fall catfish bite on Santee kicks off when water temperatures drop consistently, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that without relatively stable cooling the fishing has been a little up-and-down. Sometimes it has been tough. The best action has been found drifting in 20-35 feet of water, and the top baits have been cut herring and chicken.

With a ton of water coming through the system the canal has been too blown out to fish.

October 9

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.14 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.97 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Surface water temperatures are around 70-74 degrees.

There are more than a few big name bass fishermen targeting Santee Cooper this week, and luckily Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that water conditions have stabilized enough that cooling temperatures could kick in a decent fall bite for the Elite anglers. By and large the fish have moved shallow and so the best fishing is generally in 2-4 feet of water. There is a little bit of schooling activity, but for the most part it is just junk fishing with topwater lures, crankbaits and soft plastics around grass, trees and any other type of cover. Since the shad are generally still suspended out deep most of the fish that have moved up are feeding on bream and crawfish. 

The crappie bite has been pretty good this week, but right now Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that there is a clear difference in how the two lakes are fishing. The numbers are lower but the fish have been bigger in the lower lake, while in the upper lake the numbers are better but the fish are smaller. Steve’s boat is fishing minnows around brush 8-12 feet down over 17-24 feet of water, but there are reports of fish around shallow laydowns in only 5 feet being caught up in the swamp.

As promised, the fall bream fishing has finally gotten good. Steve reports that the better fish have now moved out to brush, and they are setting up 8-10 feet down over brush in 15-18 feet of water. They are catching mostly bluegill and so crickets have been the bait of choice. While Steve is mainly fishing the lower lake, the pattern is about the same in both lakes. 

Captain Steve English offers proof that it's finally that time to catch big numbers of bream off brush
Captain Steve English offers proof that it's finally that time to catch big numbers of bream off brush

There are a couple of different patterns for catching catfish, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that at night he has been drifting in very deep water 45 plus feet. This is not a pattern for numbers, but he has been catching some big ones this way. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are willing to wait for just a few big bites setting up in the shallows at night can also produce.  

During the day he has been catching better numbers, and generally they are targeting 15-25 feet. 

Perch and herring have been the best baits. 

September 25

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.32 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.33 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped all the way to 73 or 74 degrees. There is a ton of water being pulled through the lakes creating some swift current. 

We got the seasonal cooling that anglers knew was needed to move the bass out of a deep suspended pattern, but  Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports that there has been so much current running through the lakes that it has made fishing extremely difficult. The lower lake was pulled so much that it was tough to target bass, and the current was so swift in the canal and the upper lake that it made fishing there almost impossible. For now the best bet is to perhaps head up the river and look for areas with some sort of current break, be it a log, brush or tree. 

Once water levels stabilize the fishing should get really good, and fish will finally move both shallower in the water column as well as shallower towards the banks and set up nicely. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures should all work.  

The crappie bite has dropped off a little this week, particularly in the lower lake, but Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that they are still catching fish on minnows and jigs 8-12 feet down over brush in 18-25 feet.  Even though numbers are down they have managed some nice ones. 

Joe Campbell with a nice crappie caught this week with Captain Steve English
Joe Campbell with a nice crappie caught this week with Captain Steve English

The better bream remain tough to target, but very soon when water conditions stabilize they should pull out to the brush piles and group up.

There’s may still be a pretty good catfish bite out deep, but Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that the best action he has heard of this week has come drifting shallower in about 10 feet of water.  

Herring and cut perch are still the best baits.

September 18

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.68 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.70 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped to 80 or 81. It’s been extremely windy and there is a lot of rainwater coming into the system, but the lakes are starting out pretty clear and so the lower lake will probably stay relatively clean while the upper end of Marion may get dirty. 

It was a brutal Carolinas Bass Challenge event last Saturday, and although it did appear that the patterns were not too far off from what was expected (offshore) weights were even lower than predicted.  Gary Michaud and Dustin Compton took the win with 21.89 pounds, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) points out that any time only a couple of teams in an elite 165-boat field break 20 pounds, less than two dozen break 14 pounds, and around half the field does not weigh in a fish – on the big bass factory that is Santee Cooper – things are extremely tough! 

The core problem is that right now the fish are on an offshore suspended bite around schools of shad, and that makes them very difficult to target. They aren’t related well to brush, ledges, mussel beds or any other offshore target that can hold them, which makes these roaming fish extremely hard to locate and present a bait to. Crankbaits and swimbaits are probably the best choices. Brett notes that you can still catch fish on soft plastics around trees, but the bites aren’t easy to come by and the 1-2 pound fish that are there don’t do much good in a tournament.

Temperatures were still hot as of last weekend, but as the water cools fish will move both shallower in the water column as well as shallower towards the banks. The baits will stay the same but fish will be easier to locate and they will bite better.  Topwater baits should also come on. 

While the bass are playing hard-to-get, Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the crappie bite is still pretty reliable. Catches aren’t outstanding but they are approaching 20 fish most trips fishing minnows and jigs 8-12 feet down over brush in 18-25 feet. He’s been in the lower lake more but both lakes are fishing about the same.

Amos from Rochester, NY with a nice Santee crappie caught with Captain Steve English
Amos from Rochester, NY with a nice Santee crappie caught with Captain Steve English

The better bream remain tough to target, although if you want to catch small bream you can catch them over brush to your heart’s content. They are creating quite a nuisance for crappie fishermen pulling the tails off of jigs. As the temperatures drop the better bream should pull out to the brush piles and group up – which should be starting right now.

The best catfish bite seems to be in a little deeper water this week, and Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) reports that he is finding the best drifts in 30-35 feet of water in areas that have tree stumps. He has caught a few fish as deep as 40 feet, and he has heard of fish as shallow as 20. With a major catfish tournament taking place this weekend it will be interesting to see what other patterns emerge. With cooler weather the bite has been improving at the right time for some exciting catches. 

Herring and cut perch are the best baits right now. 

September 10

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.42 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.27 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are down to around 83 degrees and clarity is very high in the lower lake. The upper lake is a bit dingier.  

With many of the state’s best bass fishermen headed to Santee Cooper for the Carolinas Bass Challenge event this weekend, for this week’s report we decided to check in with a Santee bass expert who will not be fishing on Saturday and doesn’t mind giving his frank appraisal. Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) acknowledges that the fall is different on Santee, and while there will certainly be some fish caught shallow as well as around trees he expects the tournament to be won in the 6-14 foot range. At that depth fish will be around brush and stumps, and in the lower lake some of the fish will be over humps that have cover on them. Pulling soft plastics through the brush or crankbaits over the top of it will be the dominant patterns, but a big spinnerbait could also play.  Guiding for other species he has seen some very large bass come out of brush piles recently to try to eat a panfish. 

In the fall fish are focused on shad more than at other times of the year when anglers more typically chase them on Santee, and there could be some schooling activity. This is particularly true in the creeks up the lake. However, these fish generally run smaller. 

Overall Steve predicts that it will take around 26 pounds for the win. 

While the bass guys are plugging away at the fish on Saturday Steve will be guiding for crappie, and overall he reports that the bite has slowed down a little. He is marking plenty of fish but catching 15-18 has been a pretty good day recently. He is catching them on minnows and jigs 8-12 feet down over brush in 18-25 feet, and Steve finds that both lakes are fishing about the same.

A couple of good ones caught recently with Captain Steve English
A couple of good ones caught recently with Captain Steve English

The bream remain tough to target, although if you want to catch small bream you can catch them over brush to your heart’s content. They are creating quite a nuisance for crappie fishermen pulling the tails off of jigs. As the temperatures drop the better bream should pull out to the brush piles and group up.

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the catfish bite, and really the only valid conclusion seems to be that the Santee Cooper lakes are full of catfish. Captain Bill Plumley reports that early and late he has been having the best luck drifting in 10-12 feet of water, and this morning he doubled up with a 34-pounder and a 19-pounder at the same time and also caught a bunch of smaller fish. He believes they are coming up shallower to feed on mussel beds in low light periods, but then during the day they head out deeper. Drifting in 30 feet he has caught more small fish.

At the same time, Captain Stevie English (843-709-8138) has found a good drift bite in 26-40 feet of water at night, with the best action when he is in the 30-35 foot sweet spot. During the day he is finding the best action a little shallower in 25-30 feet. 

Cut bream, white perch and blueback herring are all working, and if you want to catch smaller channels until you are tired of it worms are hard to beat. 

 

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