Santee’s summer patterns

Capt. Jon Mercer said anglers should take advantage of the striper bite before the season closes on June 15. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

June brings stability to the weather patterns at the Santee Cooper lakes, and with the consistently warm weather, many fish species begin to get into typical summer patterns. 

Adapting to changing patterns is simply a fact of life for year-round anglers.

Striper Season

June represents the last opportunity to catch stripers for a few months. The season remains open through June 15, then is closed until Oct. 1. 

Striper and catfish guide Jon Mercer said the striper action is still excellent, but it’s often a deep-water affair. Suspending live bait is his primary tactic.

“I’ve found the most consistent bite is in the deeper water areas of Lake Moultrie, or Lake Marion, by late-May until the season closes,” Mercer said.

Mercer (910-734-3845; No Mercy Fishing with Capt. Jon) guides out of Blacks Camp located on the Diversion Canal, providing access to both lakes.

“My go-to tactic is using live blueback herring fished vertically over schools of stripers I mark on my graph,” Mercer said. “I’ll sometimes find a big school and fish a specific target. But it’s also common this month to find a lot of stripers in a general area. So setting up multiple rigs and drift-fishing that area is highly effective.”

Mercer said it’s all about the bait, and finding plenty of forage around the areas you’re marking stripers is a key to catching fish consistently. Mercer also guides for exciting night fishing striper trips under the lights.


Bream opportunities are excellent whether the fish are bedding, scattered in the shallows, or feasting on mayfly hatches that typically occur around the lakes. The timing of mayfly hatches varies, but the areas where you’ve enjoyed big mayfly hatches in the past are certainly prime spots to check right now.

Bream bedding provides plenty of consistent action on both lakes. Typically, the bluegill bite is better than the shellcracker action in June, but both are certainly available. 

Crappie action is also good in June, and for most crappie fishermen, summertime means consistency in terms of the fishing patterns. The general pattern is using a graph to locate schools of crappie relating to deep water cover. Brushpiles, sunken logs and upgraded artificial reefs are prime examples.

Both lakes Marion and Moultrie produce quality crappie action from now through the fall by searching deep water.

Crappie will relate to some form of cover in deep water, but they change specific areas frequently because they follow forage. The fish-finding process is the key. Once located, using jigs or live minnows produces excellent action. 

Depth is a key for crappie, and on cloudy days, or days when the wind chops the water but isn’t strong enough to cause boat control issues, crappie will often be found shallower. Not as shallow as during the spring spawn, but more of a move from being buried in a maze of brush embedded in the limbs, to suspending just over the top of the same cover.


Largemouth bass are certainly another prime target during June, and although the spawning and ultra-shallow water time is over for the most part, big bass are feeding in relatively shallow water. Certainly, shallow enough to readily take topwater lures.

Bass anglers agree that the hot spots right now for largemouth are not far from where they were most of the spring, just a little deeper and usually associated with cover. If you’re fishing ditch or channel edges, look for those that have irregular edges with small points and pockets all along the way. These provide prime ambush points and make great targets for fishermen. Casting accuracy will also have a significant bearing on bites from quality fish around shallow-water targets. The closer to the target your lure is, the better.

Hunting alligators on the Santee Cooper lakes, or elsewhere in South Carolina, requires an application for the public alligator draw hunts. Applications for the draw hunts are open from June 1 – July 15. and the season is from noon on the second Saturday of September to noon on the second Sunday of October. For more alligator hunting information and how to apply, go to the SCDNR website at 

Apply for gator tags:

The fishing is great for multiple species throughout the Santee Cooper lakes this month, but this is also the time to apply for your alligator tags. The gator hunting season begins in September, but the application period is from June 1 – July 15.

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.

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