Striper season officially shuts down on the Santee Cooper lakes from June through September, so anglers will focus on other fish for the next four months. Striper fishermen had a strong spring, and prospects for a good return fall and winter are excellent.
There’s no shortage of excellent fishing to enjoy this month and throughout the summer, and topping that list for many is largemouth bass.
According to Andy Pack at Packs Landing, the prime shallow-water, big-fish surge around the spawn is over, but there’s still plenty of bass in relatively shallow water.
“While the prime season for big fish in very skinny water has ended, the largemouth fishing remains very good for both quantity and quality fish,” Pack said. “But it’s important to stick to shallow-water cover for bass; just fish slightly deeper than when the fish were spawning.
“The fish won’t be shallow water as they were during the spawn,” Pack said. “However, they will still be orienting to fairly shallow water and can be caught on topwater lures, crankbaits fished around woody cover and soft plastics worked around weeds and trees. The largemouth will be holding in or over some of the weedy cover in the lake as well as around woody cover.”
Pack (803-452-5514) searches for depressions that are slightly deeper, as they will hold some hefty bass. Most of the fish will still orient to the cover, even during the summer.
“Early morning and late in the evening, fish will usually be more aggressive, and if cloudy, the action may stay good longer,” he said. “However, work the edges and into heavy cover for good results throughout the day. June is very good for topwater lures, with buzzbaits and floating worms being among the top choices. June is still a good month for lots of bass as well as some big fish, but most fishermen are out early and done by mid-day, or they go out late in the evening.”
Also at the top of most anglers’ lists for hot-weather fishing is catfish. Both blues and flatheads will bite great during June and will be caught at night and during the day.
Guide Alan Spence (803-478-5029) will typically report some excellent catches during June, and he will often target the big flatheads, as the warmer weather seems to cause them to spike in activity.
“Live bait, specifically perch and bream, are my favorites for the flatheads, and cut bait of most any kind will work well for blues,” Spence said. “I’ll typically anchor in 20 to 30 feet of water during June, but occasionally, when the wind allows, I’ll catch big catfish in rather shallow water as well, especially when I am fishing at night.”
Catfish action is good on both lakes, from the upper end of Lake Marion where drifting the flats is a very predictable June fishery all the way through Lake Moultrie near Pinopolis Dam.
On the upper end of the lake, catfish action really heats up when the freshwater mussels start floating, and that typically occurs in June. That pattern creates good fishing throughout both lakes and in the Diversion Canal.
Drift-fishing in Lake Moultrie is also excellent in June, and Spence and other guides will have success in 20 to 35 feet of water. Cut fish, particularly shad, bream and perch, will be prime baits for the big blues, a favored target at this time of the year on the lower lake.
Bream and shellcracker will still be biting, even though bedding action will not usually be as strong for shellcrackers as in the previous two months. They can still be caught in limit numbers working shallow cover. The bream fishing is often excellent as well, and there’s typically some good bedding action this month. Best baits for shellcrackers will be red worms or night crawlers. Bream will be targeted with crickets, but both baits work on either species.
Crappie fishing also begins to perk up on both lakes, especially in the deeper areas over brush and woody cover. Fishermen will be paying attention to brush along drops and ledges. In Lake Marion, the favored depth range will be 12 to 25 feet; in Lake Moultrie, the best fishing is usually a little deeper, 15 to 30 feet. Both jigs and minnows will produce good results; some guides will pair the two for best results, especially when working over the top of deep brush. Some anglers will anchor and cast to the targets, while most will choose to rig multiple rods at depths just above the top of the brush and use the electric motor to work over and around the sunken cover.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources, along with Santee Cooper Country and Santee Cooper PSA, are teaming to rework a number of their fish attractors with debris and brush. Latitudes and longitudes for these sites can be found at www.dnr.sc.gov/fish/fishattract/fishattr.html. They provide some great deep-water fishing.
It’s time to apply for this fall’s alligator season if you plan to hunt around the Santee Cooper lakes. Check out the application process on the SCDNR website. Hunters are typically notified in July of selection status, but you need to apply soon to get drawn in 2015.