Fall forage shift is key to your best catches of Santee Cooper stripers

Guide Leroy Suggs primarily uses blueback herring for Santee Cooper stripers until menhaden move into Lake Moultrie.

Guide Leroy Suggs said fishing around forage is always the key to striper fishing, but he also looks for a seasonal change in forage types to impact fishing, usually in a positive manner.

“I really like November and into December to catch big stripers,” Suggs said.

Suggs said depending on water temperature at this time of year an interesting twist in the forage, and thus the fishing, usually occurs.

“From mid-November and into December, fishing patterns can be a bit different on Lake Moultrie because huge schools of menhaden are usually found near the Pinopolis Dam,” he said. “Stripers will forage heavily on menhaden, and this forage can also be caught and used as bait.

“I prefer menhaden about the size of a small bream, about three fingers wide,” Suggs said. “Menhaden are excellent striper bait and also tempt huge catfish to load on, a nice bonus for fishermen.”

Suggs said when the menhaden get into the lake, he’ll focus his fishing on Lake Moultrie. Menhaden — or blueback herring if you can’t get menhaden — are both excellent baits; he said to fish the humps and ridges in Lake Moultrie in 10 to 50 feet of water. The fishing is best close to the deep water near the Pinopolis Dam. The productive depth will be influenced by time of day, cloud cover and wind and the reduced light times usually means a shallower bite.

“The key is the forage,” he said. “If you find the either menhaden or shad, stripers are likely close by.”

About Terry Madewell 809 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.

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