It’s big-fish season again at the Santee Cooper lakes

Slab crappie rule this month around deep brush piles on Lakes Marion and Moultrie.

Quality goes up on lakes; quantity stays high

November is an overlooked and underappreciated time at the Santee Cooper lakes. As good as October was in terms of catching fish and seeing a lot of deer, the action improves this month with larger fish getting on a strong bite and big deer moving during the rut. It’s “go” time.

The average size of stripers improves, and November is the sleeper month for taking huge largemouth bass out of both Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie. The fall run of slab-crappie action peaks, with many huge crappies caught during November, plus, hefty blue catfish are taken on a regular basis on both lakes.

According to guide Truman Lyon, the striper fishing goes from outstanding for numbers during October to awesome for numbers and size this month. Lyon said he typically fishes Lake Moultrie.

“During November, we will consistently catch larger fish than during October but still enjoy plenty of action,” Lyon said. “The fish are still caught in big numbers by using a graph to locating schools of stripers to pinpoint the target. We catch them using jigging spoons fished vertically. This technique will produce legal fish over 26 inches and a lot of quality fish near legal size that are released. As the month progresses, we’ll begin to enjoy plenty of action on stripers using live bait with herring or gizzard shad both very productive. We’ll begin to catch some considerably larger stripers more consistently as the month progresses.”

Lyon (843-899-4325) said schooling action will be excellent with early and late being prime times; cloud cover will often produce excellent topwater fishing throughout the day.

He said schooling stripers can be caught on bucktails, with white or yellow productive colors, as well as white jigging spoons and noisy topwater lures. He  drops live bait on down rods as his party casts to the schooling fish. Live bait will usually get quick attention from . marauding stripers.

The striper action is also great in the lower end of Lake Marion, according to guide Alan Spence.

“The cooler weather during November seems to enhance the schooling action, and typically, a lot of gulls are on the lower end of Lake Marion by then,” Spence said. “It a good situation, but a fisherman needs to be ready for schooling action using artificial such as bucktails and topwaters, as well as live bait for deeper fish suspended in large schools.

“During November, we’ll frequently find a big school of fish in one area, and we’ll anchor and catch a lot of fish in that fashion. Drift-fishing over smaller schools of scattered fish will produce consistent action. The key is to be prepared to take what the stripers are willing to give.”

Spence (803-478-5029) said as the weather cools, he’ll find fish in the larger creeks such as Wyboo and Potato on the lower end. Some anglers will troll deep-diving lures in the creeks and pick up a few stripers. Trolling is a pattern that actually improves during December and January.

There isn’t as much fishing for largemouth bass in November, at least compared to the spring and early fall, but it’s an excellent time to hook a hawg.

Guide Joe Dennis (843-245-3762) of Bonneau said big bass are often found in fairly shallow water this time of year on both lakes.

“A lot of bass are fat and sassy after heavy feeding all summer and fall, and many are in some of the best physical condition of the year and feed heavy as the water begins to cool,” Dennis said. “The fish are in shallow water (and) they provide explosive topwater action during November. The most-productive lures for me are Flukes worked on top and around shallow cover as well as plastic worms and stick-type topwater lures worked fast and noisy. I like to find some shad or baitfish in the area as well. Shad, good cover and some slightly deeper water nearby are a combination that usually attracts bass in November.”

Dennis said that fishing the Santee and Cooper rivers remains very good during November, and it’s an excellent time to take big bass in shallow water.

“Plastic worms, as well as jig and craws and swimming minnow lures, will work well throughout the month,” he said. “As the water cools, the bottom bumpers seem to produce better results.”

Both lakes are very productive for crappie fishing, especially early in the month. The slabs are typically found on open water brush in water from 12 to 24 feet deep in Lake Marion and 18 to 38 feet deep in Lake Moultrie. Unless weather conditions are extreme, it is  a great time to load up on limits of huge crappie. Tight-lining minnows and casting small jigs around the top and edges of brush will produce excellent results.

Guide Buster Rush (803-432-5010) guides for crappie and catfish and said both provide good action in November.

“The early part of the month is usually best for crappie fishing,” Rush said. “It’s weather-dependant, and as the water cools, the crappie action will slow, but the catfish action will actually improve. In 2014, we had excellent crappie-fishing weather well into November, but some years it slows with early cold weather. But I just transition to catfish when that occurs. The catfish action is very good on both lakes. Cut shad, perch and herring are prime baits for catfish, and most of the time we’ll find the catfish in the main-lake portions of both lakes.”

Deer hunting around the lakes is at a fever pitch with deer in the rut and bucks moving really well. A lot of hunters  reported seeing big bucks on their trail cameras before and during early season, and although a few were taken early, most hunters are focused on the increased daytime moment during the rut to see some big bucks they know are in their area. Also, numerous hunters reported seeing many doe deer with two fawns each this year, far more than in the past several years. That does bode well for the future deer hunting around here.

About Terry Madewell 805 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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