There’s one time of the year when most species of gamefish — and most any fish species, in fact — are roaming the shallows of Santee Cooper’s Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. April is “the” month when shallow-water fishing rules the day.
Guide Andy Pack of Pack’s Landing said the shallow-water concept is applicable to the entire system, but the upper end of Lake Marion is a prime place for shallow water action.
"If it's worth catching, it’s probably in or near shallow water during April," Pack said. "The fishing in the upper end of the lake is absolutely fantastic during April; we’re at the peak of the striper run, and they are caught both along shallow bars in the river as well as in the large flats. For striper fishing, we’ll usually anchor along the bends and shallow bars in the river and fish cut and live herring. We’ll have some in the shallow-water edges and some baits in the edge of the deeper water. The stripers tend to move in bunches, so we cover both the shallow water and the edgelines along the drops into the river.
"Typically, there is also good current flow in the flats. and when that’s the case, fishing the flats, along cuts and slightly deeper holes will produce great striper fishing as well," Pack said. "This is the prime place to be for good striper fishing during April. We’ll have stripers moving up the river to spawn, while others are moving back down.
"Typically, post-spawn stripers prefer live herring, and those pre-spawners moving up the river prefer cut bait," Pack said. "So that’s why we’ll fish both baits in April. Plus, anytime you put herring in the water, you may hook a big catfish."
Pack (803-452-5514) said that the largemouth bass fishing peaks in that area of the lake as well, along with crappie.
"The largemouth will be caught around all sorts of wood and weed cover using worms, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater lures," he said. "There’s basically no wrong way to do it, just fish cover and keep moving until you find fish. The crappie will also be in the shallows and working around trees, stumps (and) logs, both in the flats and in the swamp, will produce very well. Also, usually by the end of the month, the shellcracker action will get really good using redworms, and often we’ll have good bedding action during late April. But even before they go on the beds, the shellcrackers, and the bream to some extent, will be caught in shallow water."
In the lower end of Lake Marion, guide Alan Spence of Spence’s Guide Service is geared up with catfish as his primary target.
"This is big catfish in ultra-shallow water time of the year," said Spence (803-478-5029). "Typically, we won't see a lot of striper action until May, so I focus on the big, shallow-water catfish. I use chunks of cut shad, herring, perch or bream around clam and mussel beds areas. Mussels are one of their favored foods so that's where I prefer to fish."
Spence said that shallow water for him means to anchor in two feet of water and then cast to the shoreline.
"Big catfish in this ultra-shallow water provides some of the most exciting catfishing of the year," Spence said. "Windy days are good; when the wind is blowing on the exposed flats, that’s where you want to be. In addition to working these areas by day, I've started fishing at night during April as well. A lot of the shallow-water areas get fished hard during the day. I’ve found that by fishing at night, I can often find the fish in the shallows, even when the wind is not blowing as hard. There’s much less pressure and boat traffic then, and catfish have a natural affinity for the shallow water at night. I’ll use a wide variety of baits — herring will certainly be a prime bait, but perch and bream are also very good during April. We’ll catch both big blues and flatheads in the shallows during April at night."
Kevin Davis of Blacks Camp said the catfish bite is also good on the lower lake in the shallows and on the shallow humps.
"Like most places on both lakes, the fishing in shallow water is excellent for a lot of species of fish," Davis said. "Catfish are good on Lake Moultrie in the shallows, anchoring on shallow water holes, bars and ledges."
Davis (843-753-2231) said the largemouth bass action is booming in the shallow water around the lake as well.
"A lot of fish spawn during March, but they don’t leave the shallows," Davis said. "April can be the best of both worlds, because some fish will spawn in April, but we’ll have a lot of post-spawn fish roaming the shallows as well. Weedbeds, grass, cypress trees, stumps and logs are all prime cover for largemouth during April. Productive lures include worms, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater lures.
"We’ll also have a lot of great shallow water bedding action for shellcrackers in April as well," Davis said. "This is a great time of the year to catch some real big shellcrackers as well as limits of quality fish. In addition, bream fishing begins to pick up late in the month and will get even better during May. Anytime is a great time to fish Santee Cooper, but April certainly ranks near the top of the list if you enjoy shallow water fishing."