Excellent fishing opportunities abound on the Santee Cooper lakes in August, despite the hot and humid weather. One thing we can't do is keep stripers, so keep that in mind while fishing. Even if you catch them while fishing for other species, you must release them immediately.

Largemouth bass fishing can keep you plenty occupied and is very good this month in shallow water, as well as along the deeper drops and humps, and in both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. While fishing can be good all day, many anglers are fishing primarily mornings and late afternoons to avoid the worst of the heat and to get in on a better shallow and topwater bite.

Several options exist for catching bass, and working heavy cover in fairly shallow water is one productive pattern. Guide Inky Davis of Manning said that working shallow water is often an overlooked tactic on both lakes.

"I prefer fishing the upper end of Lake Marion and stick close to the shallow water and heavy cover," Davis said. "I'll usually fish in four to eight feet of water during August, and I'll primarily use Texas rigged worms, spinnerbaits and small crankbaits. I prefer to use crankbaits and spinnerbaits, but often, the soft plastics are the most productive choice"

Davis (803-478-7289) said fishermen should get out early and fish cypress points, open stump flats, downed logs and vegetation points and pockets near deeper water.

"Once the sun gets up, hunt the shady side of the trees, and keep an eye open for baitfish," he said. "Have a rod rigged for long-distance casting in case largemouth are schooling on shad. I use a Little George ... (it) is usually very productive on summertime schooling fish because I can cast it a long distance. The single or small schools of largemouth breaking on forage fish will continue to improve as we approach the fall."

Catfish can also be caught in good numbers and sizes. The action is typically a highlight during August, although some of the fishing is nocturnal.

According to Alan Spence's of Spence's Guide Service, (803-478-5029) August is a prime month to catch big catfish on both lakes.

"Nighttime is the right time for fishing for big flatheads and blue catfish, especially on Lake Marion," Spence said. "My basic pattern is to anchor and fan-cast up to 12 rods from my pontoon boat. The fishing does need to be in specific places. I use the graph to work along drops, ledges, humps and channels. The drift bite is good in some places on Lake Marion and on most of Lake Moultrie during the day or night hours."

Spence said that fishing near the areas where baitfish is present is another key to success.

"Big blue and flathead catfish are going to be near baitfish, whether you are fishing by day or night," he said. "Best baits can be quite varied but I like chunks of herring, shad, bream or perch. I'll use a variety of different baits until I determine if there is a pattern for that specific day or night. The same holds true for depths; sometimes I'll find the catfish in deep water, but sometimes they'll move quite shallow at night. Going frequently helps me keep up with the current patterns.

Crappie action is actually quite good in August, based on reports from several guides. The fish are locked into a summertime pattern and will be holding around woody cover in the 14- to 22-foot depth range on Lake Marion and in the 18 to 35 feet on Lake Moultrie. Sometimes the cover or brush will be in 20 to 22 feet of water, with the crappie suspended right over the top of the cover, often holding several feet off the bottom, near the top of the cover. That specific depth will depend on the depth of the brush and lake you're fishing. Using an electric motor to ease live minnows up to the spot is one good tactic.

Another method is to anchor off the cover and cast small jigs and countdown the jigs to the brush tops. Some fishermen will anchor over drops and ledges in 20 feet or more of water, use lights and draw the crappie into the lights and make good catches in August. Most of the crappie action is in the main lake in Lake Marion as well as Lake Moultrie.

Bream and shellcracker will be holding in deeper water near woody or weedy cover during August. Bream are often caught off the deep brush intended for crappie and some excellent catches of big bream are made.

It's time to be planning your hunt strategy for the upcoming alligator season. The 2013 season is from Sept. 14 until Oct. 12 From now through early September is prime time to keep a lookout for alligators. If you didn't sign up this year but see lots of alligators, you may want to sign up for 2014. The sign-up period is from May to mid-June next year.

The alligator season is broken into four units, with a total of 1,200 permits. All of Lake Marion is in Unit 3, and Lake Moultrie is in Unit 2. A total of 300 permits are allocated to each area. Thus, the Santee Cooper lakes have the potential to receive half of the statewide allocation. It is an exciting sport, so watch for potential alligator hotspots while in the shallows looking for bream, bass or other fish.