In November and December the Santee Cooper lakes seemed to outdo themselves every week, at least on the catfish front, and news of 40-pound fish gave way to news of 50-pound fish which gave way to 80-pound fish. But while January can be one of his favorite times to fish the Santee Cooper lakes, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that this winter bad water conditions are making for some tough fishing right now. Jim reports that even though inflows have stabilized the lakes are still pretty muddy – in fact, recently he has seen some of the muddiest water he has ever seen on the Santee Cooper lakes. While Jim has certainly seen plenty of murky, stained Santee Cooper water in a long career with DNR and then guiding, he does not recall muddiness to this degree. Fortunately, since inflows have slowed and the water seems to be starting to stabilize instead of yo-yoing, the lake should have a chance to settle out. It is expected that improvements in water clarity may bring a better bite.
While the bite is tough catfish can still be caught, and on recent trips Jim has picked up some nice channel catfish (unusual for this season) in the 8-10 pound range. He has also caught some smallish blues in the 10-12 pound range, a size of fish that were rare in the period a couple of months ago when they were catching 20-40 fish per day but most cats were either 2-6 or 20 plus pounds. While Jim likes to at least look shallow even at times when conventional wisdom says to go deep, on recent trips he has been having the best success fishing in deeper water. Drifting cut bait in the 37-42 foot range has been most productive.
Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are both six inches below full pool at 76.3 feet (upper lake) and 75.0 feet (lower lake), with water temperatures in the mid-40s.
Crappie: Tough. Guide Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that with muddy conditions there is not a lot going on right now, and on a guide trip today they switched from crappie to catfish when they were not getting bit. Overall crappie fishing has been very slow in the lakes, although there have been some crappie caught in the Santee River below Lake Marion. This is a typical pattern immediately following releases from the dam.
Largemouth Bass: Limited reports. Guide Linwood Thornhill (843-509-8174) reports that January and February are slow months on the Santee Cooper lakes at the best of times, but with worse than usual conditions he has not been targeting bass on the Santee Cooper lakes this month. Things should look up when water temperatures bottom out and then start to rise.
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