Skinny water migration

Big bream and shellcrackers bed in skinny water and are a favored shallow-water target. (Picture by Terry Madewell)

Skinny water fishing and the month of April combine to produce fast fish-catching action for multiple species at the Santee Cooper lakes. Like tides that ebb and flow, the fishing action on freshwater lakes ebbs and flows seasonally in terms of depth and fish activity.

A prime reason April is the time to get into skinny water is simply that’s where a lot of fat fish are hanging out. So to catch big fish of several species, shallow water is the key.

Fish are in this skinny water for various reasons, and spawning is the key for largemouth bass, crappie, shellcrackers, and bream. Stripers, too are in spawning mode, and they migrate upstream to spawn. So along the way, anglers can set up on shallow sandbars along the river and catch them. Catfish are a prime example of a species that goes shallow primarily for food during April.

Crappie are biting

Many anglers target crappie during April by long-line trolling, and/or by vertical fishing brush piles. When trolling or vertical fishing, the fish can be quite shallow, but they’re also caught deeper depending on weather patterns. It’s crucial to remember that not all crappie spawn at the same time. So during April, odds are good that plenty of crappie may be shallow at any given time.

Crappies get into the shallows during April to spawn and can be found around weeds, stumps, and shallow logs. Anglers with long poles can work live minnows, or jigs, under a float. This skinny water action is usually best after a short period of reasonably stable weather.

Bass in all stages

Many anglers consider April the best of the year for largemouth bass, and while spawning action begins in March, it’s wide-open in April. Bass as a species are continually moving, literally coming-in and going-out in terms of pre-spawn, spawning, and post-spawn patterns.

Since individual fish spawn at different times, it’s common to find bass on any of these situations, especially in different sectors of the lakes.

The topwater bite is good, especially late-in the month, but bottom bumpers, shallow running crankbaits, chatterbaits, and spinnerbaits all produce. Fish weed edge lines and small points and pockets along the weeds, and grass that drops into slightly deeper water. Cypress and gum trees are prime April targets.

Panfish are hot

Panfish action is among the most anticipated fishing of the spring for many anglers, and shellcrackers typically bed before the bluegill action gets into full swing. But April is a month when you can catch limits of either species, or a combination of the two.

Shellcrackers get into skinny water to spawn and are caught throughout both lakes. Redworms are preferred when targeting shellcrackers, but plenty of big bluegill are also caught on worms. Crickets are lethal on bluegills, but tempt shellcrackers, too.

Most experts suggest having redworms and crickets in the boat when searching for these species on the beds.

And for light tackle anglers, the TTI Blakemore Team Crappie Spin Caller, in 1/16-ounce size, is lethal on skinny water bream or crappie.

Stripers moving

Stripers are traveling in March, and throughout April, with many heading to upper Lake Marion and into the Congaree and Wateree rivers. Along the way they’ll be found on many shallow bars and shoals, as well as in adjacent deeper holes.

Andy Pack (803-452-5514) a striper fishing guide out of Packs Landing, said by April, the early stripers that migrated upriver as early as February, are traveling back down the system. Striper fishermen generally prefer cut bait from river herring when targeting stripers migrating upriver. But for post-spawners, a live herring seems more productive. By mid-April and throughout May, both bait choices can produce excellent action.

Shallow cats

Catfish get into the shallows frequently in April, but they’re not in the shallows to spawn, which occurs later in the year. They’re on the skinny-water flats to eat, because many species (see above) that big catfish like to eat are in the shallows spawning. Add the attraction of the saltwater herring and American shad migrating through the lakes, and catfish have a smorgasbord of options in the shallows for a good meal in a single gulp.

Get in skinny water now to find fat, hungry fish of many species.


Variety month:

Santee Cooper is a great place for numerous species of fish, and April is one month that anglers can target just about anything they want and expect to have a great deal of success.

About Terry Madewell 812 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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