The fall months provide spectacular fishing at the Santee Cooper lakes, but October seems to be the special month for most local fishermen. The weather has cooled, baitfish are bunched and the fish are basically on a full-time feeding frenzy - plus, the striper season opens on Oct. 1 after a 4-month summer closure.

Kevin Davis owns and guides out of Blacks Camp on the Diversion Canal/Lake Moultrie; he is super-excited about this fall's striper fishing.

"The lake is absolutely full of stripers, and I think we've got more stripers - and good-sized stripers - than we've had in a long, long time," said Davis (843-753-2231). "I know last winter and in the spring of 2012 a lot of keeper-sized fish were caught, and they've had the summer to feast on forage and fatten up. I think we're going to have a great fall on stripers. I am totally confident we'll catch a bunch of fish and, I think, more keepers than in recent years."

Davis feels like the largemouth fishing will be outstanding as the baitfish and bass return to the heavy cover in the shallows. He said there's plenty of cover and natural habitat in the lakes, and that most lures that worked in the spring will work again. He likes Senkos, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and bottom-bumping plastics.

Davis said there is usually much less fishing pressure as well for largemouth.

"Another form of fishing that's gaining some popularity, but is really underutilized, is live-bait fishing with shiners for big bass in the fall," he said. "I like to find holes of water that are slightly deeper than the surrounding area, usually water 3 to 5 feet deep surrounded by 2 feet of water, to fish the shiners. It's a very effective method for fall fishing, especially for big largemouth bass."

Catfish action is an around-the-clock affair in October, according to several guides. A lot of catfishermen will drift by day or anchor and fan-cast around their boats.

Alan Spence of Spence's Guide Service, who fishes primarily on Lake Marion, said October is traditionally an outstanding month for catching lots of quality-sized catfish and very big catfish as well. Spence said he will also be striper fishing and agrees that fishing will be excellent.

"October is a favorite time of the year for many fishermen, and the excellent catfishing and striper fishing are certainly two reason why that's true," said Spence (803-478-5029).

After dark, guide Marlon Ormseth has a special plan of attack for Lake Moultrie catfish, and he favors catfishing this month for a couple of reasons.

"The weather in October is ideal for fish and fishermen," said Ormseth (843-825-4713). "Drift-fishing for blue catfish is excellent both day and night, but to me, the bonus fishing in October is that at night, we often catch huge catfish in shallow water."

Ormseth said the shallow-water fishing is primarily for blue catfish, and the nocturnal action will often occur in water in the 5- to 10-foot depth range.

"I'll use cut herring, shad or perch as bait, just as I will during the day at this time of year," he said. "At night, I'll get the bait into as shallow water as possible using planer boards. Planer boards enable me to get the bait further from the boat and into the shallow water.

"It's essential to not spook the fish, so getting the bait away from the boat is important. Sometimes I'll fish shallow flats out in the open lake, but occasionally I'll be right up on the shoreline. We'll catch a lot of chunky catfish in the 10- to 15-pound class, but plenty of 25- to 35-pound cats. When a really big fish hits in water that shallow, it is very exciting, especially at night."

Crappie fishermen in both lakes make excellent catches in 15 to 25 feet of water, with the fish sometimes being a bit shallower in Lake Marion. Use live minnows over brush piles for some of the most consistent fishing of the year. Fishing under lights, anchored over or near brush, is also productive.

Great fishing is only part of the news around the Santee Cooper lakes. With so much great deer habitat near and around the lakes, the deer hunting is sensational in October. The bucks are in a strong pre-rut phase and moving extremely well early in the month. Toward the end of the month, many bucks will be in full rut.

If there's a problem during October, it's just so much great fishing and hunting. Sometimes you just have to pick a plan and do it, knowing you're missing out on something else that's equally awesome. You could dedicate October to fishing and hunting in the Santee Cooper area and do something different nearly every day. The options are that good.