Anglers catching catfish and crappie at Santee with these tips

Crappie make up one part of Capt. David Hilton's one-two punch on Santee in the summer.

Local guide shares his tips on the one-two punch for catfish and crappie

While some folks think the summer heat has given the fish lockjaw at Santee, the opposite is actually the case. It’s tough to find a species that isn’t biting on either the upper or lower lake right now, but it certainly helps to go at the right time, to fish in the right places, and to use the proper baits.

Capt. David Hilton of Santee Cooper Fishing Guide Service has a good recipe for anglers looking to beat the heat and catch plenty of fish. His one-two punch includes fishing for catfish at night, then putting the smack down on crappie once the sun comes up. By noon, Hilton and his clients are eating lunch at Black’s Camp.

Hilton (843-870-4734) said finding deeper holes in the main channel is the key to finding the catfish. Keeping a close look on your radar will help you locate these holes, and once you find them, anchoring down and fan casting a number of rods out is a good bet, but Hilton said drifting over deep holes is another favorite technique of his.

“I use a 7/0 circle hook, 100-pound Spiderwire braided line, and cut herring. I like to butterfly the herring so that it has some fluttering action in the water,” said Hilton.

When anchored down, anglers must rely on the fish to come to them, so they have to pick their spots carefully. When drifting, however, anglers can expect to cross paths with a number of quality fish whether the fish are moving or sitting stationary.

Hilton stressed that when drifting, conditions will dictate a number of factors.

“If it’s very windy, you’ll need to use one, two, maybe even three drift socks to slow you down and keep you on track. On nights with no wind, you might have to use your outboard in very low gear to keep the boat moving,” he said.

As long as you cover plenty of ground, Hilton said you should have no trouble getting your fill of catfish.

Once day begins to break, Hilton switches gears and fishes for crappie.

“A lot of people think crappie fishing is only good in spring and fall, but you can catch them all summer. Deep brush piles are the place to find them, and you aren’t going to catch them all day, but you’ll catch them in the early morning before the day gets hot,” said Hilton.

“Find those deep piles of brush, and use live minnows on No. 1 Aberdeen hooks. And get them while the getting is good. They’ll bite strong for a short period of time, then they’ll shut down,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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