Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.6 in Lake Marion (1.2 feet below full pool) and 75.3 feet in Lake Moultrie (.2 feet below full pool). Water temperatures are in the upper 70s and the lake is clear again after the recent rains.
In the May 14 CATT on Santee Cooper Lex Costas fishing alone caught a big 25-1 bag for the win, and a total of 7 anglers weighed more than 20 pounds. About half the field had 15+ pounds, and 10 days later the bite is still pretty good. If anything water temperatures have fallen in the past week and a half, even though with warmer weather they should start to climb again.
Tournament angler Steve Harmon reports that there are basically two major patterns right now, with one group of anglers fishing relatively shallow and another concentrating on deeper water. There are still fish being caught shallow in about 1-5 feet of water, and these fish are feeding on bedding bream and similar forage. The best shallow bite is in the morning when the fish will eat topwater lures and particularly frogs, and the key is to look around vegetation – lily pads, alligator grass, etc. There are also some fish around cypress trees but overall the shallow fish are a bit smaller.
Generally the larger fish are starting to make their way out to 8-10 feet of water where they will be found off points and around ditches. The presence of brush is a magnet for fish. If conditions are calm then fishing a worm on the bottom is the best bet, whereas in windier conditions moving baits such as spinnerbaits, swimbaits and crankbaits are working.
In the warmer months Steve says it’s it’s always important to have a topwater lure such as a Spook or Sammy tied on as bass are out there feeding around herring and threadfin shad schools. Even though the herring have completed the spawn sometimes bass will come up schooling and chasing bait around deeper points and they will eat a topwater.
Both the shallow and deep patterns apply to both lakes, although recently reports have been a little better from the lower lake.
Catfish: Fair to good. Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that there has not been a whole lot of change in the catfish bite, and most significantly a ton of small blue catfish continue to be caught. Some big fish continue to be picked up sporadically, but the big fish bite is likely to drop off as the summer progresses. Not as many big blue cats are usually caught in the summer as in the winter/ spring. Generally, fish are moving in and out of shallow water, and there are times when they will bite well in 10-12 feet of water – and then times when they are holding in the 20s and 30s. In addition to cut bait a lot of fish will be caught this summer on prepared baits.
Traditionally the summer is a good time for fishing in the Diversion Canal, particularly when water being pulled by the St. Stephens Dam creates some current. Some monsters have been caught in the Diversion Canal recently. There are also currently a lot of fish being caught in the Rediversion Canal, particularly by bank fishermen in areas that cannot be accessed by boat. In addition to a ton of little fish coming on worms, prepared baits and cut bait some monsters have been caught. Fishing is best when the current is not so swift. Finally, when water levels are rising warm-weather fishing can be very good in the swamp around Sparkleberry and Pack’s Landing.
Bream: Fair to good. Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the May full moon was a little bit underwhelming, and not as many fish were caught as expected. Fish should continue to spawn in shallow water on the new moon and full moons throughout the summer, and they will be found around most any shallow cover. 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.
Crappie: Fair. Captain Steve English reports that crappie fishing is a little down in the upper lake because when the gates were open for a couple of months a lot of fish went down the Santee River, and so the population took a hit. Fish can still be caught in Marion but the bite is better in Lake Moultrie. Decent numbers of fish are being caught fishing 8-14 feet deep over brush in 15-30 feet of water.