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AHQ INSIDER Santee Cooper (SC) Summer Fishing Report – Updated August 4

  • by Jay

Santee Cooper water levels are at 74.6 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.4 feet in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Water temperatures are in the mid to upper 80s, and even hotter in some places.

While there is still bass tournament activity, the bags that it’s taking to win are a lot lighter than the winning sacks from earlier this summer.  In the most recent CATT event on July 23 Chad Crosby and Keith Britt won with 15.07 pounds, down significantly from the 28-plus pound bag that won at the end of June.

Tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that the pattern hasn’t changed much – the fishing has just gotten slower.  There is an early topwater bite, and as the day progresses fish will move to mid-depths where spinnerbaits will catch fish on windy days with worms working on calmer days.  Fish can also be found out in brush and ditches.

The biggest surprise in the last week or two is that, perhaps because of the rain, a decent number of fish seem to be moving shallow.  Some pretty good numbers of nice 4- and 5-pound fish are being caught shallow in grass.

Chad Crosby & Keith Britt display their first place checks for the winning bag of 15-07
Chad Crosby & Keith Britt display their first place checks for the winning bag of 15-07

In catfish news, weather has made for some pretty difficult conditions.  As if the heat weren’t enough to contend with there have been some pretty horrendous storms and wind, and Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that when it isn’t too hot to fish some trips have had to be cancelled because of storms or wind that was too rough to launch a boat.

As is typical for this time of year fish can be caught both deep and shallow, and there is one pattern of drifting in 35-40 feet of water.  On the complete opposite end of the spectrum there can also be a good bite in 5-10 feet of water where fish are up shallow feeding on Asiatic clams.  This is generally an early and late bite, and fish can be caught drifting as well as anchoring around the clam beds.  Often these shallow fish will have some good quality to them.

As has been the norm for some time there are still areas with good numbers of smaller fish, and 25-30 feet of water may be a good range to find these pockets of smaller blues.  These fish aren’t quite as aggressive as they were when water temperatures were cooler and the hook-up ratio has been lower.

On the channel catfish front Jim has found some good fish drifting in the upper 20-foot range (27, 28 feet) with cut perch. Anglers can also prospect for these fish with dip baits anchoring in relatively shallow water.

Finally, with the recent rain and rising water levels in the swamp the bite up there should improve, and if there is power generation there should be some good current and fishing in the diversion canal.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that crappiefishing is a bit slow, and even though they have been able to pick up 10-15 fish on the last few trips it’s only been a couple of fish here, a couple of fish there with hard work to find them.  Fish – or at least aggressive fish – don’t seem to be stacked up at any depth, and at seems that the heat just has them fairly inactive.  By mid-September the fishing should pick up again.

The bream fishing is also a little slow, and Steve says that a great bream spawn just never materialized this year.  There are plenty of small fish around but big ones have been hard to find.

July 3

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.00 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.98 feet in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5).  Water temperatures are in the mid to upper 80s.

Water temperatures are hot on the Santee Cooper lakes, but big stringers of basscan still be caught by guys that know what they’re doing.  In the most recent CATT on June 25 Mike Watson and Craig McFadden weighed in a 28-pound 11-ounce bag.  It was anchored by a big 6-6 fish, meaning that the other four fish still averaged more than 5 ½ pounds!

Tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that the pattern is relatively stable right now, and early in the morning fish can be caught shallow on topwater lures and particularly frogs.  While these fish are shallow they will be proximate to deep water, and there aren’t concentrations of fish back in the ponds or other remote areas.

After the sun gets up then fish can be caught in 8-12 feet of water around structure and cover.  Depth changes that have some brush or logs on them are good.  When conditions are calm soft plastics have been the best bet, but when some wind kicks up then spinnerbaits have been working well.

The lower lake has been fishing a bit better, perhaps because of the abundance of deeper cover.

Craig McFadden & Mike Watson with a nearly 30-pound bag caught earlier in June
Craig McFadden & Mike Watson with a nearly 30-pound bag caught earlier in June

On the catfish front Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that a bunch of small blue catfish continue to be caught, but the biggest change has been an improvement in the number of 20-40 blue catfish caught drifting in Lake Moultrie.  Drifting both day and night has been productive, and depths vary based upon the areas fished.  The Rediversion Canal above and below St. Stephens has still been good for catching small catfish on dip baits.

Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the crappie bite continues to be pretty good, even though the population of fish is still down pretty significantly (particularly in the upper lake) due to all the flooding last fall when the gates were opened and fish were washed down the Santee River.  Fish have not gone super deep and they can be caught about 7 feet down over brush in 12-14 feet of water on minnows.

Despite this being the peak time of year, the bream bite continues to underwhelm on the Santee Cooper lakes.  Some bluegill have been caught recently in the Hatchery area, and a few shellcracker have also been caught in shallow water when they are spawning.   Bluegill show a preference for crickets while shellcrackers prefer worms.  In between spawns fish will pull back out a little bit towards the closest deep water, and they will often hang out on the ridge between shallow and deep.  There are a bunch of bream on brush piles but they are generally smaller. It’s unclear why the fishing is below par.