The striper fishing on both Santee Cooper lakes, closed for four months, opens on Oct. 1, and many Santee Cooper fishermen celebrate it as many would any dove or deer opener.
One guide who has been fishing Lake Marion and Lake Murray for decades is Truman Lyon. Last year, Lyon opened the striper season with a terrific catch of 70 on the first day, all on jigging spoons.
“When the striper season opens, I find no reason to use live bait, although live bait will certainly catch stripers in October,” Lyon said. “But the fish are in such a pattern that they are very aggressive and will readily take spoons. Last fall season, we caught a lot of stripers that we just short of the 26-inch size minimum. This past May, when fishing was so good just before the season closed, we were beginning to catch more legal-sized fish.
“I am certainly hoping that the size continued to improve over the summer with the forage available to them and (that) the good fishing for larger fish carries over into the fall season. I prefer 1-ounce Hopkins Shorty spoons and 1-ounce Flex spoons in white. The technique is simple; just lift the spoon up and let it fall back and be ready for the striper to bite.”
Lyon (843-899-4325) said that fishermen can use live blueblack herring and drop them to a depth just above where stripers are marked on the graph and enjoy fast action. But he said they’ll bite the spoons just as quickly throughout October and usually into early November.
Joe Dennis fishes with Lyon as one of his charter captains, and he said the key will be to look for stripers suspended around baitfish.
“But regardless, the opportunities to catch stripers — lots of stripers — will be outstanding,” Dennis said. “I’ll be fishing the humps and holes and using my graph to look for stripers suspended around baitfish for best results, and I’ll primarily be fishing in Lake Moultrie. That’s near my home, and I don’t need to go any further, but striper fishing will be excellent on both lakes.”
Dennis said fishing for largemouth bass fishing will also be good this month both on lakes as well as in the Santee River.
“Regardless of how good the striper fishing is, some fishermen prefer largemouth, and October is prime month,” he said. “One of the biggest factors is making the decision of where to go. The fishing is good in both lakes, with topwater schooling occurring early and late in the day — all day if it’s cloudy. Plus, the fishing on the Santee River continues to be excellent. It has been staying very good all summer, but with the fall weather, the river fishing actually begins to peak again.
Dennis said the largemouths will be shallow along the edge lines around cover, as well as schooling on baitfish in the shallow open flats.
“A variety of lures will be effective; crankbaits, worms and swimbaits will all produce,” he said. “As is typically the case, find the forage when looking for largemouth. On the river, just kind of drift along and work cover with topwaters and bottom bumpers, and fish the holes and open spots back in the cover. The level of the river will determine exactly where you fish. If the water is a bit low, the deeper holes will be better for example.”
Steve English, who guides for crappie on both lakes out of Black’s Camp (843-753-2231), said October is a favorite time, because fish are concentrated on deep cover.
“Look for the crappie to be stacked up on deep brush on both lakes, with the depths varying,” English said. “However, the fish seem to be a bit deeper on Lake Moultrie, but the average size of the fish may be a bit better there as well. But the numbers of fish are great in lower Lake Marion. I fish both and usually base it on the wind and how I’ve been doing recently. When you get on a strong pattern this time of year, it can last for several days.”
English said both minnows and jigs will produce, and he’ll typically use what his clients are most adept at fishing.
October also brings out some of the best catfishing of the year. Guide Linwood Thornhill said it’s a great time to find catfish stacked in specific areas.
“Catfish will be following baitfish, for sure, and there are some places I’ve found where the big blues will be on a pretty reliable bite at this time of the year,” Thornhill said. “Typically, October is a good weather month; wind is not often a factor, but when it does blow hard, it can be a factor, so that’s the primary issue. But a lot of days, I actually find that I am wishing we had more wind to move the boat on a drift.
Thornhill (843-753-2231) uses cut bait with small white perch being among his favorite for big blue catfish.
“We’ll catch the occasional big flathead as well on Lake Moultrie, where I do much of my fishing,” he said. “But the majority of the cats we catch will be blues. As the month progresses, the catfish often move to different depths. Early, we typically still have warmer weather with cool nights, but by late in the month, that’s changing. The weather change actually impacts the forage the quickest and that in turns impacts the catfish.”
Elsewhere the deer hunting is excellent around the lake during October and there are some WMAs in the area as well as great hunting on private lands.