Everyone knows that the Santee Cooper system has a history of producing big fish, whether largemouth bass (co-state record), catfish (3 state records and one world record), crappie (state record black crappie), bream (state record shellcracker), or striped bass– among other species. However, a 3-pound crappie is a big crappie anywhere, and catching more than one of them in a trip is always a great trip. And that’s exactly what happened on Guide Steve English’s (843-729-4044) boat yesterday. Steve’s boat landed a mess of crappie highlighted by four over 2 pounds 10 ounces, including a big fish of 3 pounds 7 ounces!
Because of water conditions Steve has been concentrating on the lower lake, and the crappie recently have been caught 8-12 feet deep around brush in 15-20 feet of water. A few fish are also shallower but he has not found any super deep. While nice keepers are coming out of the lower lake, Steve says that catching crappie in the upper lake has been tough. The dam is open and water is being released down the Santee River, and so much water is being pulled that the current is making it hard to fish. Muddy conditions aren’t helping, either. Some fish can be caught in the creeks, but the main lake is pretty much a washout.
Overall, Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are both within a few inches of full pool at 76.4 (upper lake) and 75.1 (lower lake), and the water is very stained with mud coming down.
Largemouth Bass: Good to very good. Guide Linwood Thornhill (843-509-8174) reports that despite the inflows bass fishing has gotten even better on Santee Cooper, and his boat has routinely been catching 20-40 fish per trip. There are a lot of 1 – 3.5 pound fish being caught, but some better ones are also mixed in. Some of the fish have been around isolated trees, and others have been out in the open around depressions in 3-5 or 6 feet of water. 3-8 feet of water has been the key depth, and most of the fish have been out on the main water. Linwood has had good luck with Zoom Trick Worms in green pumpkin as well as Zoom Dead Ringers in the same color, and Rattle Traps and crankbaits have also been working. Finally, Linwood reports that he has been seeing a decent amount of schooling activity on the surface.
Catfish: Fair to good. Guide Linwood Thornhill reports that catfish have been biting pretty well, although he expects the bite to get better as temperatures drop. Fish have been very scattered in 15-55 feet of water, and accordingly Linwood is doing most of his fishing drifting Santee-style. Cooler temperatures should bunch the fish up better and create more of an anchored bite. Cut mullet and herring are both working well, and anglers continue to report a very large number of small fish under 3 or 4 pounds – hopefully a sign of recent, successful spawns and a positive sign for the future.
Bream: Fair to good. Guide Steve English reports that they are catching some bream mixed in with the crappie, and sizes are improving. With such a good crappie bite they are fishing for them more, but crickets will target bream.
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DHEC fish advisories: Largemouth bass and bowfin (mudfish) should only be eaten once per week.