Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are where crappie, largemouth, striper and monster catfish are hunted by anglers in the know when they take to the water in South Carolina. There is plenty of room for all comers; Marion covers 110,000 acres while Moultrie weighs in at 60,400 acres.
Now, these lakes weren’t always what they are now. As a matter of fact, they were not there at all. They were created when the Santee River and the Cooper River were dammed. This occurred in the 1940s and as little as twenty years later the lakes had already gained a reputation as a crappie fishing hot spot.
Types of Fish in the Santee Cooper Arena
Of course it’s become a haven for trophy Crappie, or “papermouths”, as they are commonly referred to. But don’t be surprised if you reel in a monster catfish. These range from five pounders up to fifty pounds, rivaling anything caught in the Mississippi or anywhere else for that matter. Try putting one of those babies in your pan.
But crappies are what we are talking about and the best way to fill the boat with keepers. This won’t be hard to do in these two lakes if you can just find them.
How to find Keeper Crappie
Crappie like to hang out in and around underwater structure. If you are not familiar with the Santee Cooper lakes, consider using a fish finder to reveal underwater structure. The lakes are fairly dense with it. In the first place, the damming of the rivers and subsequent flooding left plenty of growth underwater. In addition to that, since the 40s, guides and local anglers have sunk their own structure to create their personal honey holes. Consequently, it only takes a short run by boat to find productive water.
If you hire a guide you can expect to pay for it. Unless you’ve got very deep pockets you might want to consider using a guide the first day to get a feel for the lay of the water and then take it from there for the rest of your trip.
For two people you can expect to pony up $150 to $280 depending on if you furnish your own bait/lures and tackle or leave that up to the guide. Accordingly, the fee for 6 people can be as steep as $480. So you see, how much you rely on the guide service or your own adventuresome spirit determines how you structure your trip.
When and Where to Fish for Crappie
Although crappie can be caught year round, the most productive time starts in early March and ends in mid December. Crappie have their temperature comfort zone and they try to stick to it while staying in structure. This has them moving deeper and the temperatures fall and then moving back closer to shore as spring approaches.
As the weather warms, crappie start getting ready for spawning. They spawn in structure in the shallow water, depositing eggs in structure for the safety of the eggs and the subsequent minnows. After depositing the eggs they will move back into slightly deeper water.
Once they begin spawning, the best place to fish is where permanent grass might be found.