As water temperatures dip in December, with frequent cold fronts blasting through South Carolina, the fishing on the Santee Cooper lakes, Marion and Moultrie, seem to defy logic and actually improves instead of slowing.
Badin Lake on the Yadkin River chain in North Carolina has long been known as an excellent lake for blue catfish in the winter, but about 20 miles upstream, High Rock Lake seems poised to become the next winter hotspot.
Gone are the days when catfish were delegated to warm weather and water for consistent fishing. With the introduction of blue catfish into many lakes and rivers in the Carolinas, the cold-weather catfishing game has changed significantly.
Cool weather and dropping water temperatures are a very good combination for December crappie on South Carolina’s Lake Marion. Anglers with a good game plan find that crappies begin to congregate into tighter areas around deep-water cover and score outstanding catches.
Veteran guide Dave Hilton from Ridgeville, S.C., has long cherished the opportunity to catch multiple species of fish at Santee Cooper. During November, the striper and catfish action is exceptional on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, so Hilton set out to learn how to double-dip.
Guide Jerry Kotal said that most of the time, Lake Russell bass will orient to a small, specific target on the bottom, and a school of fish is very concentrated in a small area, but that’s not always the case.
The new striper regulations implemented on the Santee Cooper lakes this past June have received rave reviews from fishermen, guides and landing operators around Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. This has created a lot of optimism for the striper fishing season that reopens Oct. 1.
Chad Holbrook, a fisheries biologist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources who oversees the Santee Cooper lakes, said biologists use winter gill-net sampling to assess blue catfish populations and, the data shows increasing catch rates from 2016 through 2018.