Santee River fishing explodes with mixed bag of panfish, bass

Capt. Joe Dennis looks over the shoulder of Meagan Daugherty to get a look at the big bluegill she caught in the Santee River.

Drifting with crickets on bottom producing tremendous catches this week

For some of the hottest, fast-paced and diversified fishing any angler could dream of, the Santee River seems to be the hotbed for a myriad of fish-catching opportunities.

Capt. Joe Dennis guides on the Santee and Cooper river, as well as Lake Moultrie, but he spends much of his time on the Santee River this time of year.

“We catch an awesome diversity of fish in huge numbers,” Dennis said. “On most any given day, we can catch lots of huge redbreast, giant bream, shellcrackers, and on some days, a lot of big crappie,” he said. “Also, we’re rigged with topwaters such as Tiny Torpedos and white Flukes. Plenty of big striper and largemouths are schooling on top as we fish along the river. When they blow up feeding on baitfish within casting range, we’re hooking up with these fish as well. Overall, the action on the panfish is just part of the equation, but we’re usually catching limits of huge panfish.”

Warm water has numerous species turned on

Dennis (843-245-3762) said the time is ideal because the water has warmed sufficiently to put the redbreast and bream on a great bite whether they are bedding or not. Plus, the bonus bass and stripers add a special dimension.

“As a rule, we’re catching most of our redbreast and bream and other panfish species on crickets bumping the bottom in 6 to 10 feet of water,” he said. “There’s usually a little current. So we move along and hit pockets of fish. If they are big, we’ll re-drift those areas and continue to catch fish. Only occasionally will we anchor. It has to be pretty special, because moving and searching seems to be the best way to catch the biggest fish consistently.

“We use light spinning rigs loaded with 4-pound test line on the panfish. We have a 1-ounce bell sinker on the bottom. Then a short leader a few inches above that with a gold No. 2 Eagle Claw hook. We’ll occasionally catch some catfish drifting, and that adds even more diversity.”

Largemouth, stripers add excitement

Dennis said the fishing for stripers and largemouth can be exceptionally exciting. Some keeper stripers will be surfacing, and a number of largemouths in the 5- to 7-pound class have been caught.

“What I love about this action is we can be catching big redbreast and bream, and when largemouth or stripers school near us, we pick up a rod that’s rigged and ready and work it over those schooling fish. They’ll usually explode on the bait, and it’s game on,” he said. “It creates an active fish-catching environment. But one that’s exciting. And at the end of the day, my clients have enjoyed an awesome day of fishing. On one memorable trip, we caught bass and stripers as well as three limits of big panfish and completely emptied four cages of crickets. We threw back a lot of big bream that were keepers because we get selective toward the end of the trip.”

Dennis said this fishing should continue to be good through the summer, but the most-consistent action will be over the next few weeks.

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Terry Madewell
About Terry Madewell 715 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.