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Santee Cooper (SC) Fishing News and Report

  • by Jay

It’s been a wet (fall and) winter in South Carolina, and all that water has to go somewhere.  With many of our lakes drawn down to normal seasonal levels and below, that somewhere has been the Santee Cooper lakes.  The latest reading has Lake Moultrie a couple of inches above full pool at 75.7, while Lake Marion is about 6 inches below full pool at 76.2.  As a result the lakes are high and muddy, and with water temperatures about 47 or 48 degrees conditions are not favorable.  Surely enough the bite for most species is off, and one local guide says “it’s a good time to work on your equipment.”

That’s not to say that some bass have not been caught, and Guide Linwood Thornhill (843-509-8174) reports that in recent tournaments a couple of anglers have hit some big bags and several limits have been weighed.  However, “it ain’t as good as it’s gonna get in March or April” when the Santee Cooper lakes will come alive.  Right now Linwood says the fishing is at best hit-or-miss, and the best bet is to fish slowly with a crankbait, Rattle Trap, or a jig.  Fish probably won’t be found super shallow and Linwood suggests looking in 6-18 feet of water, as well as checking out some brush piles at the deeper end of that depth range.

Linwood Thornhill, winner of the 2014 FLW Series event, knows a thing or two about March bass fishing on Santee Cooper
And Linwood Thornhill, winner of the 2014 FLW Series event, knows a thing or two about March bass fishing on Santee Cooper

If bass fishing is slow to fair then the crappie bite can only be rated as non-existent, particularly as temperatures have dropped.  Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that a week or two ago when there were some very warm days a few crappie were caught shallow, but over the last few days as temperatures have plummeted the fishing has been very, very tough.  The saving grace for the crappie and bream fishing had been the old Santee River, but now that they have started letting some water out again that has really slowed down, too.  Essentially Steve says crappie fishermen are now waiting for spring.  With some 70-plus degree days in the long range forecast that should be enough to turn the bite on, and Steve points out that even on a cool day thermal energy from the sun can heat up the water just like it does the inside of a car.  A few warm days will certainly push some fish shallow.

Catfish: Slow.  Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that overall he would have to rate the bite as very slow, despite catching a 33-pound fish on a recent scouting trip.  Bites have been very few and far between, and with lake wind advisories much of the past week it’s frankly been very hard to fish.  Jim has heard of 6-8 hour trips with no bites.

Linwood Thornhill guides for catfish as well as bass, and he reports that the bite is at best off-and-on.  Typically at this time of year at least a few hungry fish can be found on most decent weather days, but this year that hasn’t been the case.  Out of three recent trips Linwood has only had one that was productive, and the combination of unsettled weather and massive inflows seem to be responsible for keeping the bite well below normal.  The fish that have been caught are in 40-55 feet of water.

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