As is expected in late March, a number of species are biting well in the Santee Cooper system. And while a lot of popular species are “on the move,” particularly between deep and shallow water, probably no game species is traveling as far as striped bass. Relying on his own fishing as well as information from Pack’s Landing, Captain Jim Glenn (843-825-4239) reports that striper are moving in both directions in the system right now. Some fish are making a spawning run up the lakes and into the rivers, while others have already completed their spawn in the rivers and are now returning to the lakes. As with most if not all species, not all striped bass spawn at the same time (as Jim points out, a species that all spawned at once would be very vulnerable indeed).
Some good fish including an 18- and a 21-pound striper have been caught recently out of Pack’s Landing, and both of these fish had already spawned out. Jim believes that for a while longer fish should be moving both directions, and then the main movement will become back into the lakes.
As far as targeting striper, 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.
Overall, water levels in the upper lake are 1.7 feet below full pool at 75.1 feet, while in the lower lake they are .7 feet below full pool at 74.8. Water temperatures were in the high 60s before the cool snap over the weekend, but guides now report temperatures in the mid-60s.
Catfish: Fair to good. In his last report Captain Jim Glenn pointed out that there is no time of the year when fish can not sometimes be found in the shallows, but when the end of February and March arrive catfish seem to stay shallow longer. Despite this, on recent trips Jim has continued to find the best bite drifting in 20-30 feet of water, and the shallow bite continues to be a little better at night than during the day. Drifting in 20 plus feet Jim’s boat continues to catch lots of smaller 2-6 pound fish, as well as some bonus big fish. On his last trip a 43-pound blue (pictured below) was landed, on the same drop where a number of other big fish have been landed recently. Cut shad continue to work well.
Crappie: Good. Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) reports that the crappie spawn is definitely going on, but between dropping water levels and dropping temperatures some fish have pulled back out of the shallows. They have moved back into pockets and creek channels, and the best way to target these fish is spider rigging/ long-line trolling in 6-12 feet of water. To target the fish that have stayed shallow spawning anglers can certainly still cast at the banks with minnows under a float or jigs. Another group of fish has completed the spawning cycle and moved back out onto deeper brush, and more and more fish are in this range each day.
Captain Jim Glenn concurs and adds that in his estimation the spawn seems to have already peaked, but of course not all the crappie spawn at once. Some females as well as lots of males will still be found near beds, at the base of trees, and around very shallow docks. As females prepare to make their move back to deeper brush they will be found in depth in the teens and in the creeks.
Finally, Captain Steve English notes that bream are starting to move shallower and stage at the last dropoff before the shallows, where they will move up to begin the spawn next month.