Santee’s upper and lower lakes offer great catfish action year-round, and December is no exception. And for fishing guide Capt. Scott Cole of Captain Scott’s Catfish Guide Service, it’s one of his favorite months.
“December is a great month for big catfish. I catch some of my biggest fish of the year this month,” said Cole (704-472-4450).
Some of the best fishing right now takes place when many anglers decide to sit at home cozied up next to the fireplace.
“We can have some nice weather in December at the Santee Cooper lakes. But some days can also be downright nasty. And those are some of the best days to catch fish, including trophy fish,” he said.
This rang true a few years ago when one of his clients caught the biggest fish ever boarded on Cole’s boat.
“It was one of those cold, windy days, and we actually had to make a run to get out of rough conditions, even though we had boated some 25+ pound catfish,” he said.
But in the calm waters they found, they weren’t catching any fish.
“So we went back to drifting in some rough wind and waves. And then it started raining. Before we knew it, it was raining sideways and we were basically fishing in monsoon conditions,” he said.
Rough and steady
Steady action kept them on the water, and that’s when his client boated a 92.8 pound catfish.
And it was no fluke. Cole has experienced many December days like that one, with numerous quality fish biting in some of the most miserable weather.
“It can be fairly hardcore fishing this month when the weather is right. So you’ve got to really want it on those days. But putting in some time when most other folks prefer to stay home will pay off,” he said.
That 92.8-pound fish bit a chunk of cut mullet, which is a typical bait Cole uses this month. But it’s not always the only bait he uses.
One bait that shows up a lot during December on the lower lake is menhaden, thanks to the lock at Pinopolis Dam. The lock offers easy access to saltwater species, some of which migrate into the lake during different seasons.
“Catfish will bite many different baits in December. You can catch them all over the lake on bream, white perch, shad – just about any baitfish. But in December, when the menhaden show up – and they’ll be concentrated only in certain areas – that’s the bait I want to use,” said Cole.
He catches menhaden with a cast net after finding their large schools on his electronics. And they’re easier to catch at night.
While castnetting for the bait, Cole marks those locations, then comes back to them when he’s ready to fish. He uses a combination of whole and cut menhaden to drift fish.
“I’ll also butterfly-cut the sides of them. This makes them flap as they drift, providing scent as well as a visual appeal,” he said.