June fishing busting out all over Santee Cooper lakes

Guide Bobby Winters likes to fish live bait in low-light periods for June striped bass on the Santee Cooper lakes. (Picture by Terry Madewell)

It’s all biting at Santee Cooper this month

A lot of “fishy” stuff is happening on the Santee Cooper lakes in June, with the common theme being excellent fishing for several species. If you’re a “gator hunter” it’s also time to plan ahead and apply for alligator permits for the 2021 season.

Bass still shallow

Largemouth bass action remains excellent but has morphed from the spawn to more typical summer patterns. But excellent fishing in relatively shallow water still exists.

Most bass have migrated from the shallow, spring spawning areas and now relate to various forms of cover in slightly deeper water. They’ll scatter on flats with stumps, logs, brush and weeds located near drops — all excellent targets. Low-light periods produce good topwater action, with bass actively surface feeding. Walk-the-dog type lures, buzzbaits and poppers are highly productive. Shad colored swimbaits and spinnerbaits are also effective.

Mid-day fishing is best around heavy cover that provides protection from bright sunlight. And good ambush hideaways — trees, logs and slightly deeper woody or weedy habitat — are prime targets. Crankbaits, buzzbaits and soft plastics are good choices. Accurate casts to specific targets will directly impact success as bass often nestle tight to objects.

Bull bream active

As the water temperature rises, bream get very active. And June is an excellent month for targeting fish on the beds as well as scattered fish around weedy and woody cover when not bedding.

Bream are generally are found in 2- to 6-foot depths in June. But water level and clarity impact the depth they are found. That pattern changes based on the habitat you fish, such as shaded swamps or the open water flats in full sun. Fish different depths until you find a productive one to target for the specific day and area you’re fishing. For example, swamp fishing often means shallower bream because of the shade-producing canopy.

One technique is to use a 10- to 12-foot, lightweight fiberglass pole with no reel and swing or pitch the bait to a target. But plenty of successful fishermen also use light spinning or spin-cast tackle. If using the long pole, tie 8- to 10-pound-test line the length of the pole to the eyelet at the tip and use a No. 4 wire hook with a BB split shot a few inches above the hook. Use a small bobber that can be easily changed for depth control.

Bluegill and shellcrackers are likely targets in June

Most bream fishermen prefer either crickets or artificial lures when targeting bluegill. But it’s a good idea to have a box of worms in case you locate a bed of shellcrackers. If you catch a shellcracker or two using crickets, give the worms a try, and you may catch multiple shellcrackers from that spot. Both baits catch either species, but worms are usually best when targeting shellcrackers. Artificial lures such as Beetle Spins, tiny jigs and popping bugs also work well for big bream.

Fish around trees, logs, stumps and weeds, but stay mobile as you search for concentrations of fish. Small openings in dense clusters of trees, scattered stumps or a small stump in the open can hold multiple fish. If an area produces several fish but the action stops, start searching again. But unless you limit out, go back and check that spot later. Watch for mayfly hatches for excellent localized fishing.

Santee stripers all done

The keeper season for striped bass continues through June 15, then closes until Oct. 1. The first two weeks of June typically provide excellent opportunities, with the most-consistent bite typically on live bait, primarily blueback herring. The summer closure was brought about because of poor survival of released stripers during that time of the year, not poor fishing.

By early June, stripers are found throughout both lakes, with fishing productive in Lake Marion, the Diversion Canal and Lake Moultrie.

Bobby Winters, a guide out of Blacks Camp, said the slot limit offers anglers the chance to catch plenty of keeper-sized stripers and enjoy catch-and-release fishing.

Winters (843-751-3080) said any time of the day can produce striper action using live bait. But he typically prefers the low-light conditions of mornings and evenings because fish will occasionally school, and casting bucktails is also an option.

Apply for gator permits

Alligator hunting is popular on both lakes, and now’s the time to submit applications for the 2021 season. Those planning to hunt alligators on the Santee Cooper lakes this year must submit applications by June 15. Applications can be submitted electronically over the internet at www.dnr.sc.gov. Go to the “Alligator Hunting” link on the website and check out the complete application process.

Bream baits:

If you’re on a spot that’s filled with bluegills (above), crickets are likely your most-productive baits. But if you stumble onto shellcrackers, aka redear sunfish, go to red worms. They produce better for shellcrackers.

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About Terry Madewell 722 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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