April is the month when almost every species of fish that spawns is in skinny water: largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, stripers, shellcrackers and bream. Stripers are shallow in the sense they are running up the river to spawn and in fact, many are caught in the Pack’s and Elliott’s flats areas adjacent to the river.
Largemouth bass are a primary focus for many anglers this month, and fish are literally coming and going in terms of spawning. Some bass typically bed on the March full moon, but April is certainly a prime month for shallow-water fishing. Bass will be moving into the shallows, some will be bedding and others in the postspawn stage will still be in shallow water, just slightly deeper than spawning depths.
Except for the bass on beds, fish will be holding on cover that includes weeds, trees, stumps and logs in the 2- to 5-foot depths. Productive patterns are typically varied, and a wide variety of lures will get the job done. The topwater bite is good, but bottom-bumpers, shallow crankbaits, chatterbaits and spinnerbaits will produce bites. Work the edges of weed lines and small points and pockets along the weeds and grass that drop into slightly deeper water.
April is still a very good time to use live bait, such as big shiners or herring, for trophy largemouth. Free-line the bait or use a float a couple feet above the bait to better track where your bait is swimming. Keep the bait near the same type cover you would fish artificial lures, but work it more slowly and give the live offering a little more time to produce than artificial lures.
Crappie fishing can be a bit more complex during April because some of the fish will spawn during March and will already be in a post-spawn phase but not back to deep water. But plenty of fish will be in the shallows.
According to guide Joe Dennis of Bonneau, plenty of big crappie can still be taken in the shallows.
Dennis (843-245-3762) said his key during April is to work shallow water but focus on areas that drop into slightly deeper water, down to depths of 7 feet or more.
“The fish will often still be shallow around woody cover during low-light times but occasionally will back off during bright days to nearby deeper water,” Dennis said. “I prefer small jigs and like to swim the jig through the water column from shallow to deep until I hit the right depth for that day and time. The depth can and will change during the course of the day at this time of year. Live minnows will also produce excellent catches once you pattern the depth. With the jig, I can quickly work different depths and determine that pattern. This is a great time for slab crappies in the shallows.”
Dennis said postspawn crappie will also begin to migrate toward brush and cover in the 10-foot depth range this month, so thinking a bit deeper as the month progress can be productive.
For many anglers, the long wait for big panfish — shellcrackers and bream — ends in April. After warm winters, shellcrackers will often make an early trip to their beds on the March moon, but April is ideal, with the bonus action of some big bream bedding as well. Bream will bed on the May moon, but April is typically best for finding both species on the beds.
Pro crappie angler Matthew Outlaw of St. Matthews is also a diehard bream and shellcracker angler. He said April is excellent for taking both species in shallow water.
“The shallow areas of both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are prime targets during April,” Outlaw said. “I prefer the upper end of Lake Marion because that’s closer to home, but vast expanses of shallow water are available in both lakes that hold huge shellcracker and bream. I enjoy fishing for these species in the swamps and large cypress and gum tree flats because of the great fishing — and just being able to escape from crowds.
“My fish-finding pattern is to use a 10-foot B’n’M bream pole and flip worms or crickets around trees, logs, stumps and weeds until I catch a big fish,” he said. “I may use worms primarily if I target big shellcrackers, but you’ll catch plenty of bream on worms, too. When I catch a good fish, I work that specific area thoroughly, and when the action slows, I move on and repeat the searching process. Some days, I can find fish quickly; sometimes it takes a bit of probing.
“The entire month is great for catching bream and shellcracker,” Outlaw said. “When bed-fishing, I find the fish more concentrated in certain areas on the full moon. But by working a large area of shallow water, limits can be caught throughout the month; the fish don’t have to be on the beds to enjoy great April fishing.”
The catfish action stays excellent during April, with a lot of big blues still in shallow water. These fish will be taken on cut herring, shad and white perch throughout both lakes.
April is an excellent time to find them in the upper end of Lake Marion according to Andy Pack (803-452-5514) at Pack’s Landing.
“The catfish action is strong in April in the upper end of Lake Marion, and the striper fishing is still great in the river and on the flats,” Pack said. “Early spawning stripers are moving back down the river, and others are just going upriver, so both live-bait and cut-bait fishing can be effective.”
Even with the new, statewide March 20 season-opening for turkeys, April is still a great time to hunt throughout the Santee Cooper area. Public land offers good hunting as well as some outstanding private land hunting if you get landowner permission. As the hens begin to sit their nests, gobblers will often be more likely to respond to calling.
It’s a great time to be in Santee Cooper country.