There are times when almost anything worth catching is biting, and May is one of those months at Santee Cooper. From bedding bream, bass in the shallows, good striper fishing throughout both lakes and huge catfish and crappie being caught, there’s something for just about everyone.
Guide Chris Orvin of Moncks Corner loves this time of year, despite the many diverse directions he’s pulled with different species and places to fish.
“There’s so much happening it is hard to choose, but on the other hand, it’s hard to make a bad choice,” Orvin said. “I’ll be fishing for a lot of different species, but certainly May is prime month for catching catfish, big catfish, in both lakes. I also guide in both the rivers, and this is the month I really get active fishing in the rivers as well as the lakes.”
Orvin (843-509-2306) said bass and bream will both be in the shallows around heavy cover this month.
“Much of the largemouth spawning will be over, and they’ll be in a post-spawn mode, but they will still be in the shallows, just slightly deeper around ditches, holes and in heavy cover in three to six feet of water,” he said. “For me, it’s a favorite time of the year to use topwater baits, and a couple of my favorites for this time of year are the Pop-R and frog-type baits worked in the cover. I think making a lot of noise to attract the fish is a key, because they are moving and looking for something to eat. Early and late is best for topwater, and later in the day, I back off to trees, thick cover around potholes with worms and creature baits and bottom-bumpers. I will use some spinnerbaits and crankbaits as the month progresses and water temperature continues to rise.”
Orvin said May is a big month for bedding bream, and that’s where he’ll be looking for them around the full moon phase.
“Bream can be caught all month, and some shellcracker action will be occurring as well,” he said. “Around the full moon, I’ll find them on the beds, but by fishing crickets for bream and worms for shellcrackers, fishermen can catch a good bunch of panfish working cover in the shallows when they’re not bedding.
“Just keep moving, and you’ll catch a few here, a few there and before long, you’ll count up a limit. April is usually better for bedding shellcrackers but there’s still some good shellcracker action in May that a lot of fishermen miss.”
Orvin said crappie fishing is also good in May, but the really shallow-water action is usually over.
“During May, the crappie action can be excellent, but I’ll usually find them backed out of the shallows and usually holding on deeper cover,” he said. “There will still be some moving (out of) the shallows and found at various depths around cover, but usually I’ll have very consistent action on brush and woody cover in the 14-foot range. Both jigs and live minnows will produce; the key is moving until you find the right depth and cover pattern for the day.”
While Orvin fishes the Santee and Cooper rivers for catfish, as well as Lake Moultrie, guide Alan Spence will be working mostly Lake Marion and for blues and flatheads, as well as stripers.
“May is a favorite month for me, because the flathead bite is usually getting good and the blue catfish bite is very consistent,” Spence said. “I enjoy the best of both at this time of the year. I will often have to key on one or the other depending on weather and water conditions, but sometimes I’ll find both in the same place.
‘“It’s surprising to some, but some big fish can still be caught relatively shallow during May when the weather is right. Plus, the early and very late time periods of low light are conducive to fish moving to the shallows. With the warming water, the catfish are more active and may require moving and looking, but you can also score rally well when you get on them.”
Spence (803-478-5029) said many stripers will also be back down the lake and actually scattered throughout the lakes.
“In lower Lake Marion, we’ll set up with live bait along the drops and ledges and catch them, but they also catch them in the lower lake as well as the Diversion Canal,” he said. “One key is staying on top of their movement patterns and adjusting your fishing as their patterns change.”
In the upper end of Lake Marion, Steve Pack at Pack’s Landing (803-452-5514) said striper-fishing is good but winding down.
“Most of the striper action in May will be using live herring, because the stripers are typically moving back down the river, and in post-spawn,they prefer live bait,” he said. “We’ll still have a lot of good catches of stripers up here. In addition, we’ll have some really good catfish action in the river and on the flats, especially if we have some current — which we should with all the water we had this winter. Plus, the bream, shellcracker and bass will be biting. It’s a great time to be fishing shallow cover for bream and bass. The bream will bed in May, and the bass will be post-spawn and feeding actively. Topwater lures early and late and bottom-bumpers during the middle of the day are the prime meal tickets for largemouth.”
May typically brings some of the best weather and best fishing of the year for Santee Cooper. Gear up and go now.