October gets a lot of love in the Santee Cooper area, and not all of it has to do with fishing. Deer season is open, and deer are being harvested, but the pre-rut and rut phases are about to rocket into overdrive and put bucks on the move. It’s a strong temptation for many to be in the woods with cooler weather and increased buck activity.
But it’s tough to pass up the opportunity to get in on opening day of striper season after a four-month closure. Biologists and fishermen finally agree that the striper population has bounced back after a successful seven-year project targeting restoration of the striper fishery. The weather has baitfish bunched in open water, and stripers are basically on a full-time feeding frenzy in October.
Guide Kevin Davis (843-753-2231) said he’s expecting this to be the best October in years based on the size of the stripers in the system.
“The last few years, we’ve caught a lot of stripers in October, but not as many keepers as we’d like,” Davis said. “The striper size limit is 26 inches, and I think this fall we’ll see many more keepers caught.”
“One great thing about fall fishing is that we catch a lot of stripers on artificial lures,’ Davis said. “We’ll use spoons for vertical jigging at times, and as bucktails for casting into schools of fish, as well as along ledges. It’s not unusual to catch a large number of fish during October and November. On cloudy or rainy days, the fishing can be good all day.”
In case you haven’t heard the latest on the striper size-limit discussions, the proposed change for the striper regulations on the Santee Cooper lakes stalled in the Stakeholders Committee this summer. No recommendations were passed on to the legislature for consideration for the 2015-2016 license year.
Davis is a member of the Stakeholders Committee, and he said the committee has a proposal it plans to submit for consideration.
“Although it took some debate with the Shareholders Committee, everyone now seems to agree that a slot limit of 24 to 26 inches will be good for the fishery and fishermen,” Davis said. “We plan to submit this to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, but new legislation will not be considered until after the legislature goes back into session in 2016.”
The current size limit and the three-fish daily creel limit remain in place until the state legislature acts after receiving the stakeholders’ proposal and input from SCDNR.
Guide Inky Davis said fishing for largemouth bass will be outstanding on both lakes in October as the forage and predators return to the shallows around heavy cover. He said plenty of cover and natural habitat has returned to both lakes, and many of the lures that worked in the spring will again produce, including Senkos, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and bottom-bumping soft plastics.
Davis (803-478-7289) said the fall fishing pressure is much smaller than during the spring.
“With hunting and football seasons under way, many outdoorsmen are doing other things,” he said. “I rate October and November near the top in terms of quality and quantity of fish caught. The schooling action is perhaps the best of the year, and it’s also a great time to catch some big fish. And after the long, hot summer we’ve had this year, October is a great time to fish all day. By switching from shallow schooling action early and late to fishing edges of cover in mid-day, good fishing occurs all day. My clients can bring a radio to listen to the games when they’re not busy catching bass.
“Find the forage when looking for October largemouth,” he said. “I focus my fishing around to flats with cover, weedy points and pockets and areas that may be shallow but close to deeper water, especially for big fish. October will produce quality fish, but also plenty of numbers. The typical fall weather and fishing action makes October among my favorite times of the year. ”
October is prime time for both big blue and flathead catfish, and fishing is an around-the-clock affair. Many fishermen will drift fish by day on either Lake Moultrie or Lake Marion, and others will anchor and fan-cast around their boats in the dead-tree area of lower Lake Marion. At night, fishermen will anchor on the ledges and even off shallow points on Marion, while drift fishing remains the most-popular tactic on Moultrie.
Herring, shad and perch work as cut bait for the big blues, and at night on Lake Moultrie, some fishermen will get the bait into as shallow water as possible — some drift fishermen even use planer boards to do so. Planer boards enable anglers to get the bait further from the boat and to target specific areas such as shallow water flats close to deep water. It’s essential to not spook the fish, so getting the bait away from the boat is important for big cats in skinny water.
Crappie fishermen in both lakes make excellent catches with the 12- to 25-foot depths being best in Lake Marion and slightly deeper water preferred by Lake Moultrie anglers. Use live minnows over brush piles for some of the most-consistent crappie fishing of the year. Also, casting jigs or vertically working jigs will produce extremely well. Live bait under lights while anchored over or near brush is also productive.
A side benefit of the crappie fishing is that some of the deep brush piles will harbor big schools of huge bream, and many anglers carry a cage or two of crickets just for that purpose.
Many local outdoorsmen believe October may be the best all- around month for a combination of fishing and hunting.