March is a month when a lot of big things are happening on the Santee Cooper lakes. Some huge largemouth will be caught as they move to the shallows, the stripers begin their annual run up the lake and into the river, and crappie fishing gets into high gear. Of course, the catfish will bite, and some shellcrackers are usually taken late in the month.
Probably the biggest news for many will be the great largemouth fishing in the shallow waters of both lakes.
Steve Packs at Packs Landing said that bass are usually biting very well throughout the upper end of Lake Marion. He said with ample water — we’ve had plenty of rain this winter — Packs and Elliots flats, as well as into the swamps, should provide good bass fishing and ideal habitat.
“Some big bass will be caught using live bait such as big shiners around the cover and on the flats,” said Pack (803-452-5514). “In addition, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and bottom-bumping lures will work well.
“This can be the time of year when the water conditions change quickly, so my best advice is to be ready to make changes in terms of where and how you fish. We’ll often have water dingier than the lower end of the lake, but that can work to a fisherman’s advantage for bass fishing.”
Further downlake, guide Inky Davis said this will be a great month to catch huge bass in shallow water from Jacks Creek and all the way to the Wilson Dam.
“Last year, we caught some really big fish during March,” Davis said. “Typically, the largemouth will be moving into the shallows in a prespawn stage, and some will actually spawn if we get enough warm weather to get the water temperature up. Often, the largest of the bass will spawn early, so fishermen need to be on the lake during March.”
Davis (803-478-7289) said a variety of baits, including bottom-bumping creature baits, worms, spinnerbaits and crankbaits will all produce in shallow water down to eight feet deep.
Stripers are another important part of March fishing, and Pack said plenty of stripers should be moving up the river.
“We’ll catch stripers on herring, both cut and live herring, as they move up the river,” he said. “During early March, when the stripers are first moving up the river, the best bait will typically be cut herring. We fish it along the edges of the river as well as around drops or holes in the flats off the river.
“The fish often tend to move in schools, so fishermen may have some quick bursts of action followed by slower periods, then another flurry of activity. But if I’m not getting bites, I’ll move up or down the river, or into the flats, to find good striper action.
“Although the cut bait works best early in the season and live bait later as they move back down the river, I’ll generally use some live bait now as well, because sometimes a big striper will prefer that,” he said. “We also catch some monster catfish while fishing for stripers. If I were fishing for catfish during March, I do the same thing I do for stripers, so it’s a bonus to hook into those big cats.
“We’re looking for a good season in 2014. There are a lot of stripers in the lake, and quite a few legal-sized, 26-inch fish, were caught during the fall and winter down the lake and in Lake Moultrie. That gives us hope for some big fish this spring.”
Guide Kevin Davis said the Diversion Canal is usually site of some striper action in early March; the current there is one of the big attractions.
“Not all of the stripers move up the lake early in March,” said Davis. “We’ll catch some good stripers in the canal using cut herring as well as casting bucktails around the rock when we have ample current.
“In addition we’ll have big bass in the shallows in Lake Moultrie, and there will be a lot of hawg largemouth caught around shallow cover such as weeds, trees and stumps. Also, a good number of quality crappie are typically caught as well, with a lot of these fish gradually moving towards the shallow water. The exact depths crappies will be caught will change during the month as the water temperature rises and the fish move shallower.
“This is certainly a month I’d refer to as a ‘moving’ month, because a lot of species are beginning to make the migration toward shallow water. If the water warms up quick enough we’ll also see some action on those huge shellcrackers.”
Davis (843-312-3080) added that the catfish action should be good on the lower end of Lake Marion and in Lake Moultrie at a variety of depths. He said anchoring and fan-casting around the boat near a deeper hole in shallow water or near a windblown shoreline as well as drift-fishing the deeper water will produce good results. Herring is usually the choice bait, but cut perch is also excellent.
“Often, the big blues will begin to get into shallow water in March, where the action can be sensational,” he said.