Santee fishing report — panfish galore

Capt. Brandon Freeman shows off a nice shellcracker caught in a swampy section of Santee.

Shellcracker bite still strong, bluegill bite picking up

The shellcracker bite has been strong at Santee for a good month now, and it’s still just as strong. And the bluegill bite has picked up considerably in the past week. And beginning today, April 17 at noon, South Carolina’s public boat ramps are open.

Capt. Brandon Freeman of Gators Outdoor Adventure and Guide Service has been catching shellcrackers daily for the past month. He sees no sign of it slowing down. His clients have been limiting out on most days, and most of these fish are chunky shellcrackers.

Fishing among the cypress trees and around lily pads is the key to catching shellcrackers like this one in the Santee swamps.

After a fishing morning recently, Freeman did some riding around, looking for shellcracker beds in areas he hasn’t fished yet. And he found plenty.

Anglers are catching them all over the lake

“We did some scouting the other day. The Jack’s Creek area and Lion Island seem to be holding  plenty of fish right now. At Stump Hole, you’ve got to hit the banks and fish the grass. The island of trees in the middle of Low Falls is also a good spot. Out front of Elliots Flat is a little muddy, but if you fish hard you’ll catch fish. Russellville is holding some shellies too,” he said.

Fish red worms under slip corks to get the job done on Santee’s shelllcrackers.

The gars are ganged up spawning now, so Freeman said to pay close attention and don’t waste time getting fooled by their presence.

“Don’t get fooled by gars thinking it’s a bed of shellcrackers,” he said.

As much as Freeman loves catching shellcrackers, he’s also happy to see the bluegill bite picking up. He’s using ultralight and light rod-and-reel combos with slip corks. He’s using red worms when targeting shellcrackers. And even though the bluegill will eat those too, they prefer crickets, so take along both types of bait and you’ll be all set.

About Brian Cope 2762 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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