Bass, catfish and deer at Santee Cooper

September is an excellent month to catch catfish in the Santee Cooper system. (Picture by Terry Madewell)

If you can take the heat, excellent fishing exists on lakes Marion and Moultrie and the rivers feeding water into the Santee Cooper system. Plus, it’s time to get your deer-gear on.

Schooling bass at Santee

Largemouth bass action is literally explosive during September. Veteran guide and professional angler Brett Mitchell said the topwater fishing, and bass schooling action, can be excellent throughout lakes Marion and Moultrie.

Mitchell said food and habitat are the prime focal points when selecting where to fish this month. Largemouth bass get into serious schooling mode in September and the lakes are generally full of the current crop of threadfin shad.

“Shad can be found almost anywhere. But the creeks, coves, large flats and pockets are generally prime targets,” he said. “Availability of cover is a key. Early, late and cloudy low-light conditions are prime for topwater action. When fish are not active on the surface, I’m fishing areas where plenty of forage exists. And I’m always looking and listening for schooling fish.”

Good topwater choices include topwater poppers and walk-the-dog type lures. Crankbaits and swimming minnow lures are productive. Soft plastics are great when the schooling action stops but fish are still in the area. Wacky rigged worms are often a good choice.

Mitchell (803-379-7029) said a quick reaction and getting a lure to surface-schooling bass is a key to hooking hawgs. Otherwise much of the success, or lack of same, relates to casting ability.

“At this time of the year, bass are often holding tight to cover,” he said. “They can be patterned, but often accurate casts to tiny targets is the difference between culling a limit or simply scratching out a few fish. I’ve fished many days at this time of the year where a mere few inches of accuracy made the difference between not knowing a bass was present, to hooking several big fish. Between schooling action and pinpointing targets, September produces excellent action.”

River Cats

Catfishing can be excellent in the deep waters of both lakes. But two often overlooked areas are the Wateree and Congaree rivers in the upper end of Lake Marion. Both rivers offer miles of potentially productive water where anglers can locate and fish hidden honey-holes.

Fed from separate drainage systems, the commonality between the two rivers is the excellent catfishing. Localized opportunities vary year to year based on upstream rainfall and water conditions. Neither river is ‘better’ than the other on a long-term basis.

Both rivers are prime targets for big blue, flathead and scads of channel catfish.

Basic tactics include anchor fishing and drifting. However under most conditions, anchoring is the most productive choice. Anglers familiar with these rivers will anchor around the outside of river bends, along shallow shoals near drops and in deep holes.

Best baits include cut shad, bream and white perch for blues or flatheads. Nightcrawlers and stink baits produce channel catfish.

Rainfall, particularly heavy rain from tropical systems in September, can raise the water level of the rivers and impact the current flow. When flooding occurs and excess water is released from Lake Wateree’s tailwater area – and for several miles downstream – produces amazing catfish action.

Access to the confluence of the two rivers is good from Packs Landing and Low Falls on upper Lake Marion. An access ramp sits at the US Hwy. 601 Bridge on the Congaree River near Eastover and US 1/601 bridge in Kershaw County and at US 378/76 bridge where it crosses the Wateree River near Sumter.

It’s Deer Season

Deer season has already cranked up in Santee Cooper Country.

Outdoor adventures are not limited to fishing during September around Santee Cooper. If you live or hunt in this area, you’re likely hunting in Game Zone 3 or 4 depending on the specific area around the lakes. In Game Zone 3, both archery and gun season opened on Aug. 15, while in Game Zone 4 it’s archery only on Aug. 15, but gun season opens this month on Sept.1.

The first few days of deer season offer a great opportunity for big bucks and plenty are in full velvet. Soybean and peanut fields are prime targets for late-evening hunting, as are fresh-cut corn fields. When rifle hunting, preparing for possible long-range shooting opportunities will enhance your odds of taking a big buck.

Early-season bowhunting is effective, but heat and humidity requires enhanced scent control measures.

Hunt as late as you can possibly see to identify your target because the big-racked bucks are usually the last to step into open areas to feed.

Deer season is here:

South Carolina’s Game Zones 3 & 4 offer hunters a great chance to kill a buck in full velvet, but the hot weather makes for some tough hunting. Go very early and very late for a break from the weather. This is also when the big bucks will be most active.

About Terry Madewell 802 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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