Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.5 in Lake Marion (1.3 feet below full pool) and 75.2 feet in Lake Moultrie (.3 feet below full pool). Water temperatures are in the low to mid-60s and for the most part clarity is back to normal.
In the April 9 CATT tournament on Santee Cooper Steve Harmon and Bryan Cook brought another big bag to the scales and won the event, just as they had the last CATT tournament on Santee Cooper on March 26 – and just as they had the March CBC before that. Saturday they weighed in a 26.15 pound sack, which was anchored by a monster 8.37 pound big fish. Steve says they have “gotten fortunate” with finding the fish because they have had to do something different each tournament, and this week was no exception. With three good wins it’s a safe bet that they are making their own good fortune!
Starting on the March full moon around the Costa tournament on Santee Cooper a lot of fish moved up shallow with beds on their minds in the string of 80 degree days. While in high, muddy conditions anglers reported difficulty actually finding beds, the abundance of fry in the shallows makes clear that a lot of fish did already spawn. While that means there are a lot of post-spawn fish, there is no doubt that there are also a lot of pre-spawn fish right now that will be moving up on the next full moon. The April 22 moon is almost certain to bring a new wave of fish shallow and onto beds. Steve looks for some big weights over the next three weekends in the BFL, the Clarendon County tournament and then the CATT.
When they are up Steve says that pre-spawn and spawning fish are relatively easy to locate, and they will be making beds and bedding around cypress trees, in shallower coves and around grass and lily pads. Chiefly these fish will be in 2-3 feet of water. They can be caught on topwater lures in the morning and worms when the sun gets up in the middle of the day. If it stays windy then spinnerbaits and chatterbaits are a good bet.
Many of the bigger fish that were in the first wave to move up have already done their business and pulled out to rest and recover, and these post-spawn fish (as well as a few staging fish) can be found out in grass. A couple of weeks ago and Steve and Bryan won the CATT by fishing a frog around grass for post-spawn fish in some miserable, rainy conditions. Pitching jigs can also work in the right conditions. They can also be found around other intermediate depth cover before they actually pull out to deep water.
Catfish: Fair to good. Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that catfish are in something of a strange pattern for this time of year, particularly since it has not changed in weeks even as the middle of April arrives. Typically there would be a good number of fish being caught shallow right now, and Jim looks on each trip, but with water temperatures still cool (and often dropping) a lot of blue catfish just have not moved up. Channels can be caught drifting the shallows with cut bait, but they can also be caught drifting depths in the mid- to high-20s with cut bait. The norm continues to be catching lots of smaller 2-6 pound fish (20-40 per day) as well as one or two big fish each trip. There have been some big blues caught at the top of Lake Marion in the shallows.
Striped bass: Fair to good. Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that striper are still moving in both directions in the system right now, with some fish making a spawning run up the lakes and into the rivers and a growing percentage already having completed their spawn in the rivers and now returning to the lakes. Some good fish in the teens and 20s continue to be caught out of Pack’s Landing. On the upper end of Lake Marion casting artificials is always a good bet – but it can be hard to beat herring. Fish returning to the lakes may be more apt to eat live herring fished under a balloon or float, and cut herring are always a good option. Live herring are available at Pack’s Landing. Cut bait can be fished anywhere that striper might be running, and early in the day before the water warms that can mean shallow alongside the bank. Later in the day (and later in the season) fishing a little deeper can be the better option, although there are always exceptions to these general rules.
Crappie: Good. Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that with water temperatures warmer three weeks ago than today weird things are going on, and while most fish have completed the spawn not all of them have. Fish can still be caught in the shallows on minnows and jigs under a float. However, Steve’s boat is spending more time fishing for post-spawn fish around brushpiles that top out 12 feet deep in 19-20 feet of water. Fishing minnows in the top of the brush has been the best bet.
Bream: Fair to good. Captain Steve English reports that bream are starting to stage in the lower lake all over brush piles, and they are only waiting on the April full moon to move up into the shallows and begin their first wave of spawning. Brush in the 15-25 foot range has been the best. A few shellcracker can already be found in shallow water.