In July, Santee’s fishing is hot, but many anglers are no-shows

Catfish action can be as hot as the weather on the Santee Cooper lakes, especially in the Diversion Canal.

After July 4, fishing is great and pressure drops

Fishing is as hot as the summer sun in July, but the fishing action in terms of angler participation seems to slack off a bit this month.

Jamie Courtney at Hills Landing said that July typically features some of the very best catfishing of the entire year in the Diversion Canal. That’s also true on both lakes Marion and Moultrie. But the number of fishermen diminishes after the July 4 holiday.

“The fishing is great when the weather is at its hottest, which is July and into August,” Courtney said. “But the heat seems to keep some of the fishermen from fishing. While the catfishing is certainly good on the main lakes, the current flow in the Diversion Canal will draw catfish like crazy. It is literally some of the very best fishing of the entire year.

Courtney (843-753-2731) said that fishing is excellent both during the daytime and at night. But the techniques are different.

“During the day, drift-fishing, bouncing the bait on the bottom, is the best tactic,” he said. Different fishermen have different ways of doing it. I’ve found the best way is to have a 3-way swivel and a weight on the bottom heavy enough to keep the line fairly straight and vertical so you can feel the bite and bottom better. The size of the weight will vary with the current flow. The swivel should be about 18 inches up the line, and a leader with hook attached there.

Stinkbaits, cut baits, and live baits all work well

“The best baits will vary. Surprisingly to some, stinkbaits produce extremely well, especially on numbers of fish. But anglers will also catch plenty of 30-pound and larger catfish caught on the stinkbaits. Most of the big fish will be blue catfish. But a lot of channel catfish and blues are caught on stinkbaits. For really big fish, use cut shad or herring.”

Courtney said live bait or fresh cut bait will also produce some big flatheads in the Canal as well.

Courtney said that at night, fishermen prefer to anchor and flat-line fish the bottom. He said they have to use their running lights to be visible, but they don’t use underwater lights to attract fish.

“The same baits work well at night, and that’s a great time to catch some big fish as well,” he said. “Some anglers travel from other states and will fish the entire night. Others may fish just a few hours. Sometimes, it doesn’t take long to catch a huge cooler of mixed species of catfish at this time of the year whether you fish by day or night.”

By July, the crappie action has perked up again in deep water along drops loaded with brush.

Guide Buster Rush fishes Lake Marion, and he said July offers good fishing for both crappie and catfish.

“The crappie will begin to really orient to the brush piles along the drops by July,” Rush said. “They become quite predictable. And fishing for crappies can be very productive at this time of the year. We’ll catch some really big crappie and often, limits of fish as well. The key is to find the best depth and pattern for the day. Wind, cloud cover and local water conditions can all influence the depth where you find crappie on any given day.”

Look for catfish near depth changes

Rush (803-432-5010) said catfishing is also good in the open-water areas of the lake as well. He said cut bait such as shad and herring are very productive. Anglers should focus their fishing efforts near a change in water depth like a creek, river or even just a small ditch.

On Lake Moultrie, Kevin Davis out of Blacks Camp echoed the crappie fishing success on the brush piles and said it’s a great time to load up on big crappie.

“But one thing some of the guides do, and I certainly do, is take a couple of cages of crickets with me at this time of the year,” said Davis (843-753-2231). “Often, we’ll find crappie on the brush, but sometimes I’ll mark a lot of fish but only catch a few crappie on that particular brush pile on that given day. Typically, that means there’s a bunch of bream around that particular brush.”

And these are big bream

“It’s not uncommon to quickly catch a bunch of huge bream from the deeper water, sunken brush areas from July on through the fall. So I keep plenty of bream bait handy. We’ll catch some huge bream before moving to another area to look for crappie. This is one type of fishing I think is overlooked by a lot of anglers. Plus, these are often some of the biggest bream we catch all year — even the biggest of the bedding bream. And they are great-eating fish and big enough to fillet with an electric knife,” he said.

The largemouth bass fishing continues to be good in both lakes; the basic pattern is to fish heavy cover with a variety of lures: worms, topwater, soft-plastic frogs, shallow-running crankbaits and a variety of bottom-bumping lures, depending on the specific cover being fished.

The key to success this month is not a matter of the fish cooperating; it’s a matter of dealing with the heat and getting on the lake and locating fish. Because of the summer patterns, the fish are often bunched up, but when you find them, you can catch a lot of fish quickly.

About Terry Madewell 809 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.