Summer patterns for Santee Cooper lakes

Guide Leroy Suggs and Kevin Davis found this striper in a deep hole. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

Last chance for stripers until the fall

Consistent, diverse and sometimes spectacular fishing success are typical descriptions of June fishing patterns on the Santee Cooper lakes. Multiple species are on a strong bite including catfish rebounding from spawning, crappie caught on hard, woody targets and striper season winding up on June 15 with exciting action. And it’s time to apply for alligator hunts.

Catfish make a comeback 

Catfish action typically improves significantly this month in terms of consistency as the spawn winds down and big cats are on the prowl for chow. By mid-month the action heats up considerably. And catfish are generally found in multiple depths of water.

As temperatures heat up, some anglers think deep water is the key. And plenty of catfish will migrate to deeper water. But don’t overlook the shallower water.

Catfish guide Steve Howard said May is typically difficult because the spawn often trumps eating for spawning catfish. But June brings excellent action for day or night fishing.

“Follow the forage is the best guideline as to where specifically to fish during June,” he said. “Don’t overlook water in the 10- to 15-foot depth range as well as deeper water during the day. It’s common to find catfish fairly shallow in low-light times early and late in the day during this month. 

“One of my favorite ways to hook big catfish during June is night fishing the shallow flats adjacent to deeper water from an anchored setup,” he said. “By fishing at night, anglers have favorable air temperatures. And I think the odds of hooking big fish are better at night.”

Howard (336-421-5313) said for daytime fishing he’ll fish from an anchored setup as well as drift fish. 

“Drift fishing around baitfish marked on the graph, and the mussel beds, are good choices as long as I see big fish also marked on the graph,” he said. 

Howard guides out of Blacks Camp and said catfishing is good on both lakes Moultrie and Marion from June and throughout the summer.” 

If ample current flow exists in the Diversion Canal that resource provides excellent catfish action this month. With ample rain, plenty of current will be flowing through the Canal. And that typically creates excellent fishing for blues, flatheads and channel catfish.

Benji Brown shows off a summertime blue catfish, a common species to catch this month. (Photo by Terry Madewell)

Last chance stripers at Santee

June 15 is the last day for striper fishing until October 1 as the striper fishing closes for the hot weather portion of the year. 

But Striper guru LeRoy Suggs said these last two weeks of the season can provide outstanding action.

“The stripers tend to pile up along the deep-water ledges and humps at this time of the year and move along these areas until they find big pods of forage,” he said. “The key is finding the forage and suspending live herring at the depth the forage and fish are marked, or slightly above that depth.”

Suggs (910-995-1168) said both lakes Marion and Moultrie are productive. But on Marion much of the best fishing is in the lower end of the lake by June. 

“This is the type of fishing where we can hook multiple stripers quickly, then have to move around some and fish another school of fish,” he said. “But odds are great we’ll be able to catch limits of keeper fish. Go now or you’ll have to wait until October.”

Crappie on hard, woody targets

Kevin Davis, former owner of Blacks Camp on the Diversion Canal, said both lakes produce quality crappie action from now through the fall.

“Based on the seasonal patterns I’ve found, during June the crappie relate to deep water and cover such as brush, logs or stumps during June,” Davis said. “But they change specific areas frequently so the fish-finding process requires patience.”

Davis (843-312-3080) said depth patterns may vary from 15 to 35 feet of water depending on conditions. On cloudy days, or those days when enough wind blows to create a chop on the water, the fish will often be found shallower. 

“I’m not referencing spring fishing type of shallow water, but instead of the fish being jumbled in the limbs and brush of crappie beds near the bottom, they may be found on top of the structure and on an active bite,” he said. “Bright days may push the fish deeper along the sides or in the brush. They’re still catchable, but it requires more finesse.”

Gator getting application time

It’s alligator hunting application time and for those planning to hunt around the Santee Cooper lakes, applications can be submitted electronically beginning June 1. The applications must be received by 5 p.m, July 15. Go to the SCDNR website at and check the ‘Alligator Hunting’ section on the website for complete details.

Santee striper fishery closes on June 15

Santee Cooper’s striper fishery closes on June 15 and will open again in the fall. The first two weeks of this month can bring hot striper action to anglers who can find these fish along deep-water ledges and humps as they chase baitfish in big schools.

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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