Santee’s summer patterns

Fishing guide Bobby Winters, out of Blacks Camp, said fishing action can be fast paced during hot weather. (Picture by Terry Madewell)

Summertime fishing trends on the Santee Cooper lakes have a “deep-water” reputation for many anglers. That’s because many anglers believe increasing water temperatures cause fish to go deep and be less active.

But that’s not the case. High water temperature elevates the metabolic rate of fish, and they need to eat. The trick is finding where that is, and it varies with each species.

And yes, sometimes it’s in deep water. But even into the heat of July and August, plenty of shallow water opportunities are available.


By July, catfish are coming off the spawn at Santee Cooper and are on the prowl for something to eat. It’s what they do best. And catfish don’t get locked into specific depths. They’re focused on chow.

Keeping an open mind about where catfish are found during hot weather is the key.

Some forage species that catfish love to eat generally orient to deep water, and catfish are going to be hanging around them. The edge of deep ledges, and even into deep holes in both lakes, are prime choices. In low light conditions, the tops and edges of humps and channels near shallow flats produce excellent action, primarily because during low light conditions, forage species move in.

Drift fishing is usually the best method for working the deeper water, and allows fishermen to cover more area. When you locate a hot stretch of action, re-drift the area repeatedly. Humps can be drift fished, if not too shallow, but anchoring and fan-casting around the boat is an excellent method.

Mid-day anchored fishing in open water, shallow flats, and around mussel beds can produce quality catfish. Mussels are a prime attractant anytime of year, and the summer is certainly a favored time. Big blues move into mussel bed areas and feed heavily. It’s a hit or miss affair, but they’ll work these areas during mid-day.

Don’t linger long if bites are scarce. If catfish are around, it’s likely they’re feeding, so give them a reasonable time to bite, then move.

Another option is night fishing from anchored set-ups. Shallow water flats near deep water, or around mussel beds, are prime targets. In this case, patience is an asset. If you set up where forage congregates, or around mussel beds, the catfish will come to you.


Bream will bed in shallow water throughout both lakes during July, providing an often-overlooked opportunity.

In the upper end of Lake Marion, anglers have excellent opportunities for catching bream on beds, or when scattered. The abundance of shallow water cover enables fishermen to make big bream catches working woody and weedy targets. With a little effort, anglers can make an excellent catch whether bream are bedding or not.

Steve Pack out of Pack’s Landing in upper Lake Marion said the bream may shift prime bedding sites away from shoreline shallows to 3- to 5-foot depths in open water.

“They’re found in the swampy cover we have throughout the upper end of Lake Marion,” he said. “The cypress and gum covered shallow flats offer almost unlimited opportunity to work around this ideal panfish cover, and to locate isolated areas of great bream action.”

Pack said the bottom substrate must be sandy, not mucky, for bream to bed. And anglers with side-scan sonar capability can find beds far from the shoreline.

Pack (803- 452-5514) said fishermen can get back into the trees and simply fish crickets or redworms around trees, stumps, logs, and weeds until they work out the pattern for the day.

“Bream can be caught in big numbers within confined areas in the swamp, even when not bedding,” he said. “But limits of quality bream are taken during the summer. Fishing back in the trees moderates the bright sun and intense heat,” he said.

Crickets or worms work well for bream, but shellcrackers are usually targeted by anglers using redworms or nightcrawlers.

Late evening in both lakes provides fishermen the opportunity to work shallow shorelines that drop into deeper water with live bait for fast bream action. The size of the fish will be mixed, but with some culling, anglers can catch plenty of big bream for the table.

As a reminder, striper fishing is seasonally closed now until October 1.

Does heat equal deep?

In the heat of July, many anglers make the mistake of thinking all fish have moved to deep water to escape the heat. The truth is, plenty of catfish and bream can be caught in shallow water when conditions are right.

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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