Stripers are still schooling on the Santee Cooper Lakes, and anglers are having no trouble catching their share of them. While many are undersized, they are still a blast to catch, and lately, some bigger, keeper-sized fish are being caught mixed in with the smaller ones.

And when talking about “smaller” rockfish, these aren’t dinks that you don’t realize are on your hook until you reel them in. Anything under 26-inches is too small to legally keep, and plenty of the undersized fish being caught are in the 22- to 25-inch range. 

Following the birds is the easiest way to find these fish, and Capt. Leroy Suggs, one of the top rockfish guides in Santee Cooper Country, is a pro at this. Suggs guides out of Black’s Camp, and has been having most of his success on Lake Moultrie lately. 

Aside from his pair of binoculars that he uses to scan the surface and sky for big gatherings of birds that concentrate around the schooling stripers, Suggs has a network of other catfish and striper guides who will call him whenever they see a big flock of birds, signaling the presence of schooling fish.

“I just go where the birds tell me, back down on the motor once we get close to where the birds are diving, and let my anglers cast into the schools. When you find a school, you’re gonna catch some this way if you cast into it,” said Suggs.

Soft plastic grubs fished on Rockport Rattler jigheads are some of the top-producing lures for these fish. The jigheads have large eyes and a built-in rattle that makes a fish-attracting noise without anglers having to do anything different than they do with any other lure. This built-in rattle gives the lure an added advantage over others. Chartreuse is a great color choice, and white with a chartreuse tail is also getting the job done.

Anglers are also having success casting Rat-L-Traps into the schools of fish. The saltwater versions of these lures are a little more durable – especially the hooks, and are a good choice due to the frequency of bites and the hard-hitting action these fish are providing. It’s not uncommon for anglers to have to change treble hooks on their lures this time of year. And it isn’t because the hooks get dull – it’s because the hooks get straightened out or broken at the bend. 

“These fish don’t give up. They fight hard all the way to the boat, and even once they are in the boat, they are just as lively and ready to fight as they are when they first bite,” said Suggs.

Suggs (910-995-1168) has been pleased lately with the size, as well as numbers of fish, his anglers have been catching.

“Catching numbers has never been a problem, but we’ve had days when we have caught a hundred fish and none of them are keepers, but on one recent trip, we had twelve keepers between six anglers. That’s the most I’ve had in my boat in a very, very long time,” he said.

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