August heat pushes panfish to slabs’ haunts
Don’t think of the dog days of August as a time to take a vacation from fishing. Both Santee lakes and the rivers feeding water in and funneling water out of them all offer great fishing opportunities. Successful anglers have learned to adapt to the heat, humidity and high water temperatures.
This time of year, the relentless sun forces fish into predictable patterns. Adapting to deep water, heavy cover and current flow are keys. And fishing patterns are predictable and productive.
The deep-water angle is nothing new, especially for those thinking crappie fishing. Both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are prime destinations for deep-water crappie action over brush, stumps and other woody debris — natural or man-made. Just don’t forget to carry a cage of crickets. Because not all deepwater brush piles are loaded with crappie. Many are loaded with big bream.
Some bream stay shallow, but many of the largest will retreat to deep brush. Just as with crappie, they hover around and among the sunken limbs and logs.
Most guides carry a cage of crickets to take advantage of this. When searching a spot for crappie, fishermen drop live minnows or a jig-and-minnow combo to see if slabs are home. If not, they’ll drop a No. 6 wire hook with a No. 3 split-shot crimped about 6 inches above on 8-pound test to check for bream. Lower the rig right to the top of the brush or alongside if fish are marked on the graph a bit deeper. It won’t take long for action to begin if bream are lurking.
Double the fun with crappie and bream
Bonneau guide Joe Dennis of Father and Son Outdoors TV works this pattern a lot and said it’s a great strategy on both lakes.
“It simply gives me another option at each setup,” Dennis said. “The limits on bream and crappie are different, so we can catch plenty of both fish. And these summertime bream will let you know quickly if they’re home, with fast, aggressive bites.”
Dennis (843-245-3762) said the rivers downstream from both lakes are loaded with bream. And August is prime time to get in on that action.
“The current in the Santee and Cooper rivers creates a situation where the big bream are in reasonably shallow water, even in August,” he said. “By adapting to the current and fishing small, still pockets and eddies, plenty of huge bream can be caught.”
Dennis said a favored technique is bouncing a bell sinker on the bottom with a dropper hook just above it baited with a cricket. Sometimes in the Cooper River, he’ll fish about 10 to 12 feet deep along weed lines for best results.
Largemouth bass action is good, with most fish relating to heavy cover. While good fishing can be found throughout the day, most anglers work the early and late portions when largemouth are a bit more active. Some fishermen adapt by going more at night in August.
Night fishing can be very productive
Work the same basic patterns as you would by day, but fish will tend to be more along the edges of cover and often feeding aggressively. Topwater baits can be lethal for huge bass. Patience is required, but the bite from a hawg bass can be worth the effort. A few fishermen — very few actually — will be on the water two hours before dawn to take advantage of fishing in the dark and the first couple hours of low-light action. This is prime time to have some hot spots with plenty of elbow room.
Catfish can be great deep in both lakes, but two overlooked areas are the Wateree and Congaree rivers in the upper ends of the lakes. Both rivers offer miles of potentially productive water, both typically providing good current flow. They have excellent catfish in common but come from separate drainages. This creates varying opportunities based on upstream rainfall and water conditions. Adapt to the best water-flow situation for top results.
Basic tactics include anchor-fishing and drifting. Most anglers will anchor around outside bends, along shoals and in deep holes to target blues, channel and flathead catfish. Often a combination of two or all three species will be caught during any given day. Shad, bream, perch are all good. Stinkbait and worms often help target hefty channel catfish.
The main portions of Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie offer good fishing. But adapting to the current in the upper end of Marion and the Santee and Cooper rivers below the dams will enable you to expand fishing opportunities during August.
Adaptability is the key to catching hot-weather fish
August also marks some serious deer-season preparation, with the season opening in many areas around the lakes in mid-month. It’s time to check stands to ensure they’re in safe hunting condition. Rid them of wasps and clear shooting lanes. Also, scout for heavy deer-use patterns and make plans for opener day. One thing that will get fishermen off the lakes this month is the allure of deer hunting.
It’s a hot time, for sure, but the first few days of deer season offer a great opportunity for some big bucks, some still in full velvet. Be sure to scout soybean and peanut fields and watch for early-cut corn fields.
The dog days of summer can create some discomfort. But anglers can dip their hats in the lake or river to cool their heads, dunk a towel and wrap around their neck to cool off — or better yet, take a break and swim.
Stay hydrated, find a way to keep relatively cool and catch fish. The fish are biting; you’ve just got to adapt to the current conditions.