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Santee Cooper (Lake Marion & Lake Moultrie) Fishing Report

Please see below for the most recent reports.

About Santee Cooper

Known together as the Santee Cooper lakes (formally the Santee Cooper Hydroelectric and Navigation Project), Lakes Marion and Moultrie are located in the outer coastal plain to the southeast of South Carolina between the cities of Columbia and Charleston.  The lakes are joined by the 6 ½ mile long Diversion Canal to form a system with 160,000 acres of water and 450 miles of shoreline spanning parts of 5 South Carolina counties – Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Orangeburg and Sumter.  From 1939 to 1942 the lakes were created in a hydroelectric project by the South Carolina Public Service Authority, commonly known as “Santee Cooper.”  The lakes vary from shallow swamps at the upper end of both lakes (but most famously Lake Marion) to the vastness of Lake Moultrie –14 miles across at its widest point and appearing to be a great, open bowl.  Under the surface there is the reality of varying contour in both lakes.

Popular species targeted by Santee Cooper anglers include largemouth bass, a recovering population of striped bass, white and black crappie, bream (most notably shellcracker and bluegill), and several species of catfish.  While open to debate, the case can easily be made that the Santee Cooper lakes are the premier freshwater fishery in South Carolina.  In most major species categories the lakes have produced state or even-world record class fish.  The co-state record largemouth bass was caught out of Lake Marion (16-2 caught in 1949), until 1993 the world record freshwater striped bass came from Santee Cooper (55 pounds), the state record white crappie came from Lake Moultrie (5-0 caught in 1957), and the state record shellcracker (5-7.5 caught in 1998) came from the Diversion Canal.  Among catfish the current world record channel catfish was caught in Lake Moultrie (58 pounds caught in 1964) and the current state record flathead was caught in the Diversion Canal (79-4 caught in 2001).  The current state record blue catfish (109-4 caught in 1991) was caught in the Tailrace Canal below Santee Cooper and held the world record until 1996.

As would be expected to support so many trophy-caliber fisheries, the Santee Cooper lakes have an extensive forage base.  The five major bait species in the lakes are gizzard shad, threadfin shad, American shad, blueback herring, and menhaden, which immigrate and emigrate from the lakes based on seasonal patterns.  Mullet are also present at times.

September 18

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.68 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 74.70 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures have dropped to 80 or 81. It’s been extremely windy and there is a lot of rainwater coming into the system, but the lakes are starting out pretty clear and so the lower lake will probably stay relatively clean while the upper end of Marion may get dirty. 

It was a brutal Carolinas Bass Challenge event last Saturday, and although it did appear that the patterns were not too far off from what was expected (offshore) weights were even lower than predicted.  Gary Michaud and Dustin Compton took the win with 21.89 pounds, but Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) points

September 10

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.42 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.27 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are down to around 83 degrees and clarity is very high in the lower lake. The upper lake is a bit dingier.  

With many of the state’s best bass fishermen headed to Santee Cooper for the Carolinas Bass Challenge event this weekend, for this week’s report we decided to check in with a Santee bass expert who will not be fishing on Saturday and doesn’t mind giving his frank appraisal. Captain Steve English (843-729-4044) acknowledges

August 26

Santee Cooper water levels are up to 76.09 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.55 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are have dropped to about 80-85, and so far clarity is still good even as dirty water moves towards the system. 

It’s August on the Santee Cooper lakes, and Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports

July 29

Santee Cooper water levels are at 75.60 in Lake Marion (full pool is 76.8) and 75.47 in Lake Moultrie (full pool is 75.5). Water temperatures are in the upper 80s to lower 90s, and overall clarity is good. 

Even though bass fishing is seasonally tough on the Santee Cooper lakes, Captain Brett Mitchell (803-379-7029) reports

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