November is big fish time at Santee Cooper

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Guide Bobby Winters hunts catfish in multiple depths during November. (Picture by Terry Madewell)

As the weather cools and water temperatures fall, big fish of various species get into predictable patterns. One vastly overlooked resource for November is the incredible big catfish action in multiple depths of water. Crappie action perks up on deep-water brush and it’s time to set the table with slabs.

Trophy Cats

After a summer of feasting, the fat cats of both lakes Marion and Moultrie get on an excellent bite pattern during November. Typically, some of the largest catfish of the year are taken this month. And the water depths can vary from deep to skinny water.

The most popular method during November is drift-fishing with the Santee Rig. And fishermen generally target areas where forage is abundant.

Bobby Winters, a full-time catfish and striper guide out of Blacks Camp, focuses on big catfish in November.

Winters (843-751-3080) said catfish are fat from feasting on forage all fall because the lakes are loaded with multiple types of chow. With the water temperatures now falling, the forage begins to pack up into well-defined pods.

“The idea is to find concentrations of these pods of forage along underwater topographic changes,” Winters said. “I’ll use my graph and search these targets to find areas where big fish are congregated. And that’s where I focus my fishing effort.”

Winters said most of the catfish he targets are taken by drift fishing. He recommends a drift rate of around .5 miles per hour. This enables him to cover ample water to put the bait in front of multiple good catfish on a given day.

“Don’t get locked in to a specific depth,” he said. “As the forage moves, so do the catfish. And the depth range can vary between 20 to 50 feet deep, depending on the specific area fished. Catfish can get on a similar depth and bait pattern for a few consecutive days in November, but that can change quickly.”

Big fish are in store for November

Winters said his experience has shown deeper water generally produces more consistent big fish action in November.

“But don’t overlook shallower water,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll drift over humps or ledges that are quite shallow and hook big catfish. I don’t get locked into a single line of thinking in November. I keep my options open for best results.”

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Dave Hilton and clients show off a big stringer of slabs from lake Mairon.

Best baits include white perch, gizzard shad and chunks of blueback herring, he said. He’ll experiment daily to find the best catfish bait on a given day.

Winters said he’ll use six to eight rods on a drift. And it’s not unusual to have multiple hookups.

“I like to fish underwater drops, ledges and high spots,” he said. “We’ll typically catch fish at a steady pace. But when we drift over a big school of shad, it’s common to have multiple hookups.”

Slab Crappie

From late October through mid-December, crappie anglers can enjoy the best opportunities to take slab crappies since the spring pre-spawn and spawn fishing. The key is underwater woody cover from the mid-depths to deep water.

Crappie guide Dave Hilton said most of the slabs will orient to woody cover along the drops and ledges. Hilton keeps scores of brush piles activated in both lakes Marion and Moultrie. And those are his prime targets during November.

“Weather is a determining factor regarding which lake I fish,” he said. “Wind is the major factor because I need to tight line vertically over specific targets for best results. So boat control is key to my success. Most days I’ll fish Lake Marion, often out of Bells Marina and I have lots of crappie targets in that area. But if the wind direction is wrong and blowing strong, I’ll move to Lake Moultrie.”

Hilton (843-870-4734) seeks woody cover in 15 to 35 feet of water and fishes brush, logs and stumps with live bait or jigs.

“Specific depth varies with the water temperature. Usually the crappie will be shallower early in November and gradually move deeper as the water cools,” he said. “But the depth on a given day can be crucial. I experiment until I find that depth, then focus on that depth.”

Hilton typically fishes minnows over the top and along the edges of sunken brush. If he doesn’t catch fish quickly, he’ll move to another target.

“The November crappie bite is strong. It’s just a matter of finding cover in the right depth on a given day,” he said.


Fine fishing:

With many sportsmen spending more time hunting this month, anglers have fewer boats to compete against. Pleasure boaters have mainly winterized their boats, and PWC riders and water skiers are gone until at least late spring. It’s a fine time to be on the Santee Cooper lakes where the fishing is great and the weather is (usually) still not too cold to comfortably enjoy being on the water.

About Terry Madewell 755 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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