Excellent fishing opportunities abound during the summer on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, and one of the most-productive places to be is the Diversion Canal, the stretch of water linking the two lakes that provides sensational catfishing around the clock.
Catfishing is excellent in the canal for much of the year, but when hot weather sets in and water temperatures surge, the current typically flowing in this stretch of water is highly attractive to baitfish, and that attracts catfish.
Richie Wimmer is a veteran angler who fishes both big lakes but likes the opportunities offered in the Diversion Canal at this time of the year.
“With normal rainfall, current flow is good during July, and the current is a real drawing card for catfish,” Wimmer said. “The presence of bait such as shad, perch, bream and other species offers catfish ample forage diversity. The fishing is typically very good during the daytime, but I think it gets even better at night, especially for big catfish. But make no mistake, at this time of year, you can literally catch fish around the clock.”
Wimmer said that the best areas of the canal will change based on the amount of current flow and the water level. The keys to finding fish are current, the willingness to move, search and fish different bottom contours and locate concentrations of forage and fish.
“Those three things will combine to make a successful formula for July catfish in the Diversion Canal,” he said.
“During hot weather, typically, several types of areas may produce,” he said. “I’ll try some of the deeper stretches in the canal, anchor just above a deeper hole and fish down in the hole. A lot of times, catfish will hold in those deep areas, as well as moving up shallower for brief periods to feed.
“I’ll fan-cast my rigs to target that deep hole, but I’ll certainly have some on the edges of the drop in shallower water,” said Wimmer, who will also fish the mouths of drainages feeding the canal because eddies and changing water currents attract bait and catfish. Also the canal openings into the main lakes are prime areas.
“The canal openings into either Lake Marion or Lake Moultrie can be excellent and are not necessarily small targets,” he said. “During the summer, the productive areas are perhaps larger due in part to typically stable weather and water patterns in terms of the current and water temperature.
Wimmer said anglers will catch a lot of blue catfish during daylight hours, plenty of channel catfish and some flatheads. At night, the opportunities to catch all three species remain high, but typically, the larger specimens of each are on the prowl.
He said the same basic fish-finding formula works at night, and many times, the same spots that produce by day will produce at night.
“I prefer to specialize in big catfish, and since I feel night is better at this time of year, that’s when I fish the most,” he said. “But I’ll often be out during the day looking for combinations of bottom structure, current and forage and enjoy good fishing then.
“When fishing at night, I will make setup changes looking for catfish,” he said. “I temper that with some patience and will give the fish a reasonable amount of time — usually an hour — before moving. I’ve found catfish will often tend to bite well an hour or so after dark, and we’ll have a strong bite for a few hours. The action may stay good all night, but usually, it will fade for a while and perk up just before sun-up. But honestly, you can catch a lot of fish during that time when the action is hot.”
Wimmer said the best baits vary, and he’ll have a variety for summer fishing. His preferences include gizzard and threadfin shad, along with white perch and bream. He said many anglers will use other baits, including minnows, worms and stinkbaits, and all can produce plenty of catfish.
“I usually key on big fish and don’t use minnows, worms and stinkbaits, but they will produce quantities of catfish, especially very good channel catfish and moderate-sized blues,” he said. “I enjoy being a little more patient and looking for larger fish, but you can certainly use both methods and enjoy some of the best of both types of fishing.”
Wimmer said good fishing will be found in the main body of water in both lakes as well, with most of the action in deeper water.
“Excellent action is found on both lakes during July, and drifting and anchor-fishing will both produce, with drift-fishing having the edge, in my opinion,” he said. “But the Diversion Canal is very consistent for catfishing in July and typically right on through August.”
Fishing for largemouth bass will still be good this month, with anglers targeting the heavy cover in shallow water, near slightly deeper water. Some big bass are caught using bottom-bumping lures and shallow, swimming lures worked in and around the gnarly weedbeds that drop into 5 to 7 feet of water.
Bream action is good, with fish still being caught in shallow water around deeper stumps and ditches that cut through shallow flats. In addition, many deep-water brush piles will hold huge numbers of really big bream. Crickets are typically the best bait for bream.
Crappie fishing is consistently good over deep brush piles in both lakes, with plenty of slabs being taken using live minnows and small jigs. Most anglers will tight-line vertically over the brush.
Striper fishing is closed; no fishing is allowed until October.
Many hunters will spend some hot days afield this month getting deer stand ready for the season. With the season opening in some areas in mid-August and others by September, deer season is just around the corner, and it’s time to get ready