May is diversity month for Santee Cooper, and it brings out some of the very best fishing for a wide variety of species around Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie.

One of the most notable is the excellent fishing for bream and shellcracker enjoyed in both lakes. This action begins in April, but it reaches a fever pitch during May, and limits of huge bream and shellcrackers are the rule.

Steve Pack at Pack's Landing said May is his favorite month for taking big bream and shellcrackers from the upper end of Lake Marion.

"I don't know what's happened to the shellcrackers, but the population up here has exploded, and the average size is awesome," Pack said. "The productive fishing often starts in late April, but during May, the fishing, along with the weather, is usually much more consistent. We see lots of limits of huge shellcrackers, some weighing three pounds and more. The bream fishing - for bluegill specifically - is great. The shellcrackers prefer worms, and the bream prefer crickets if you are targeting a specific species, but both are caught on either bait."

Pack (803-452-5514) said that May still offers red-hot fishing for stripers as they are making their way back down the river in post-spawn mode.

"The fishing at this time of year is more of a live-bait technique and herring is usually the best bait," he said. "Also, anytime you are fishing for stripers up in this section of the lake this month, you're prone to catch a big catfish as well. Plus, the largemouth bass fishing is very good around all the visible cover in the upper end of the lake using worms, spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Literally, some species of fish is biting for just about everyone to enjoy and catch during May."

Capt. Alan Spence said that the striper and catfish fishing in May is excellent in the lower end of Lake Marion and throughout Lake Moultrie.

"During May, many of the fish have completed their spring spawning run up the rivers and have returned back to the main body of the lakes," Spence said. "This is a prime month for catching stripers, and live herring is generally the bait of choice. In Lake Marion, we'll look for fish using our graph and usually find them along the drops and ledges and we'll set up and fish live bait."

Spence will focus on catfish heavily and will take a lot of trips beginning late in the afternoon and lasting until about midnight.

"This time pattern allows me to fish the good evening fishing and the after-dark fishing that is often great for big flatheads," said Spence (803-478-5029). "We'll catch a lot of blue catfish, of course, but May is one of my favorite months for really big flatheads, especially after dark. The catfish can still be caught shallow in May, especially after dark, but I'll also fish some areas a bit deeper. I've found some areas that are absolutely awesome for big catfish during May."

Lake Marion guide Buster Rush said fishing for crappie becomes more consistent in deeper water.

"Some fish may still be caught in shallow water, but the deeper brush and woody cover begins to become very consistent for crappies," said Rush (803-432-5010). "Many fish will be in the 10- to 18-foot range, and we'll usually catch them by tight-lining minnows or small jigs around the woody cover. Sometimes we'll have to fish a few different places to get on a good concentration of fish, but May is a good time to catch a limit of slab crappie from Lake Marion.

According to Kevin Davis of Blacks Camp, the crappie fishing is also very good on Lake Moultrie around brush piles in deeper water. Davis said the panfish and largemouth bass fishing are also excellent.

"For largemouth bass, we're usually past the spawning periods, by May, but the shallow-water fishing is still very good," Davis said. "The fish still relate to shallow cover but are a couple feet deeper than during March and April.

"We'll see a lot of big fish caught in water less than six feet deep during May. I like to begin the early morning fishing with topwater lures, then switch to lures I can work heavy cover with, in slightly deeper water, usually four to six feet of water being ideal."

"For the best crappie action we'll be tight-lining minnows in water from 12 to 24 feet of water along the ledges and humps in Lake Moultrie."

Davis (843-753-2231) said May is also prime bedding month for bream and shellcracker in Lake Moultrie as well, and a lot of big shellcrackers are caught in limit numbers.

"Some good shellcracker action is also found in the small pockets off of the Diversion Canal at times during May," Davis added, "but the best and most-consistent fishing is in the shallow water around the edge of the lake, and that's for both bream and shellcrackers. This is the peak for the shallow water action for both species of bream and shellcracker."

The catfishing is also great in May, according to guide Darryl Smith. "Sometimes we have to hunt the fish a bit during May in Lake Moultrie as they transition from shallow water," Captain Smith said. "But May will still produce plenty of big catfish for me and the weather is absolutely ideal."