Species, Seasons & Fishing Strategies

The Santee Cooper lake system consists of two lakes, Marion 110,600 acres and Moultrie 60,400 acres. These two lakes are joined by the 6.5 mile diversion canal. These world-class fishing lakes were created from 1939 to 1942 for a hydroelectric project by the South Carolina Public Service Authority, commonly known as “Santee Cooper” because of the two river systems the project connected. At the present time these lakes hold a world record Channel Catfish (58 lbs). These lakes held the world records for Striped Bass until 1993, its weight was 55 lbs. and Arkansas Blue until 1996, its weight was 109.4 lbs. State records currently held are: Largemouth Bass – 16.2 lbs, Black Crappie – 5 lbs., Chain (Jack) – 6.4 lbs., Shellcracker – 5.7 lbs, Warmouth 2.25 lbs., Channel Catfish – 58 lbs., and Arkansas Blue Catfish – 109.4 lbs., Flathead – 77.3 lbs.

The lakes vary from shallow swamps and blackwater ponds to vast open water with a multitude of underwater structures. Lake Marion was not completely cleared, as a result fishermen will find there are thousands of stumps, standing dead tree trunks and live cypress trees. Lake Moultrie is more open and is 14 miles across at its widest point. These lakes do not ice over during the winter and there is no closed season for fishing. Weather permitting, fishing is year round.

Types of Fish


Bream begin to bed in water six inches to four feet deep as spring turns mild and will continue to bed monthly on each full moon into the fall, moving to deeper water as the days turn cooler. Crickets and worms on #6 hooks are the baits of choice. Observant fishermen can try for bream during lake April and May when Mayfly hatches occur.

White Bass

White bass are not native to SC but, were stocked in 1952 from specimens originating in Tennessee. White bass concentrate in schools primarily in open water areas over bare sandy points in 8 to 12 feet of water. The schools are most active from April through May and August through September. Favorite baits are jigs, spoons, minnows, and spinners. Average less than a pound.

*Note: Hybrids (white x stripers) are in the Santee Cooper lakes and school with both white bass.


Blue catfish came to the lakes in 1964 and 1965 when a total of 825 fish weighing about a pound each were obtained from Arkansas in exchange for striped bass fry produced at the Moncks Corner hatchery. The fishermen who pursue this species stand excellent chances of boating some really big fish. In the spring of 1979, the lake (state) record was broken five times. Blue catfish weighing 40 to 45 lbs. are common in our lakes.

vTheir range includes deep water holes and drop-offs throughout the lakes. April through October are the best months for blue catfish. Cut herring, gizzard shad, mullet, worms and commercially prepared baits are effective. Blue catfish are principally bottom feeders.