The Santee Cooper lakes have had an up-and-down season in terms of catfish this summer, but the constant flow of water rushing through the Diversion Canal connecting Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie is producing tremendous action.
Kevin Davis from Blacks Camp, along with a host of other guides, has been making outstanding catches throughout this period of high water flow.
"It's the best catfishing in the Canal for the longest period I've seen in years," Davis said. "Often during the summer, the current will slack off, and the catfishing will be much better in the open water of the big lakes. However, this summer the catfish action has been great for weeks, and I think it will continue to be awesome for a while.
“There's still a lot of water headed our way. The Diversion Canal has been THE place to be for consistent and outstanding catfishing. We are catching lots of fish in terms of numbers, and we are catching huge blue catfish as well. It is the best of both quantity and quality catfishing."
Davis (843-312-3080) said most of the fish are big blues and channel catfish, and his favored technique is drifting.
"It's essential to note that the drift fishing technique for the Diversion Canal is different from the standard drift rig," Davis said. "For this fishing, we drift vertical lines, and I use a 2- to 3-ounce sinker, depends on the current flow, to keep the line straight under the boat and just off the bottom. It does require watching the line and moving the bait up or down as the depth changes.
"I use a 3-way swivel rig with a heavy sinker on the bottom attached with a 10-pound test leader," he said. "The hook is a 6/0 circle hook on 40-pound leader. The third part of the swivel attaches to the main line, which is 40- to 50-pound test. When you do snag, only the sinker will be lost. I can re-rig quickly and be back in action."
Davis said the exact location of fish will vary but he will typically find groups of fish and make a series of short drifts once he gets on a hot area.
"Sometimes the fish will be in the middle of the Canal in 27 to 31 feet of water, and at times they will be on the ledge in 20 to 24 feet of water," Davis said. "It will change from day to day."
Davis said the best bait has been small chunks of herring; small baits seem to have worked better in heavier current. Plus, this is the time of year for mussel die-offs and he said keeping the bait about the size of the mussels works well. Big baits are not producing as well.
"Some other baits that have been producing are shrimp, worms, grasshoppers and catalpa worms," he said. "I think the real key is to just get out there and go fishing."