Stripers are red hot at Wateree River

The striper bite is as hot as it gets in the Wateree River just below the Wateree Dam in Lugoff. Cant. Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service said the fishing is simple. But navigating to the best fishing grounds is a little more challenging.

“The stripers are up here in big numbers. The females are full of eggs and look like they’re about to pop. And they’re all hungry,” said Wolfe.

His favorite lure for fishing here right now is a Cotton Cordell Red Fin wake bait. He suggests casting into areas where current meets slack water, like behind boulders in the river. Any type of break in the current is a likely area to get a bite.

“These fish love to sit in those areas to get a break from the current, and also to ambush baitfish. If you get one of those lures in those areas, you better hold on. They are crushing it. These fish are strong, and you’ll be in for a fight when one hits,” said Wolfe (803-487-3690).

A steady retrieve is all you need

Current breaks like Wolfe mentions are present all throughout this section of the river. Downed trees, the rocks, and areas where deeper water meets shallow water all offer the types of changes stripers like to focus on. Wolfe said all it takes is a steady retrieve of those Red Fins.

“You don’t want to reel it too fast. Just a steady retrieve makes that lure wobble and wiggle just right. The stripers will absolutely destroy it,” he said.

Wolfe uses a jet drive outboard on an aluminum boat here. He said using anything else is a big mistake.

“Even on days when it looks safe for a fiberglass boat or a regular outboard, all it takes is them closing off a wheel at the dam to lower the water level so much that you can’t get through here without banging against the rocks. You will tear up a propeller in here real quick. And you can put a hole in a fiberglass boat right quick too,” he said.

Stripers will stick around throughout spring

The stripers in this section of the river come out of the Santee Cooper lakes. They run upriver every spring and stick around until early to mid-summer. Wolfe is one of the few charter captains who guides for this type of fishing on the Wateree River.

Wolfe prefers to launch from the Hwy. 1 bridge landing very early in the morning. He travels upriver, stopping just below the big section of shoals to try his luck out there as the sun comes up.

“Fishing here below all the rocks, you’ll catch stripers in any juts in the banks, behind downed trees…anything that creates a break in the current. Even when you’ve anchored your boat, you want to cast behind you in the break created by the boat. They’ll find it real quick, and they’ll set up to take a rest and to ambush prey,” he said.

Once the sun gets up and he can see the shoals clearly, then he moves up into the thick of them. After fishing there a while, he’ll often make another stop on the way back to Hwy. 1, anchor down, and fish for catfish with cut bait.

“You can make a whole day of it on this section of the river any day of the year for catfish. But for these stripers, the springtime is unbeatable,” he said. “Right now is a great time to go because you can catch both species without any trouble.”

Rainy days can make great catfish days

The cold, dreary days of February can be great for catching catfish.

The rain in the Carolinas has been completely dreary lately. Rain, cold, wind…even some snow has fallen on waterways in both states in recent days. And while it’s easy to stay home and let the fishing wait for sunnier days, it’s not at all necessary.

Staying home right now is actually a horrible way to spend these bleak days. The catfish are biting like made all across the Carolinas. They either don’t mind the cold, or the cold makes them especially hungry. Either way, days like these can be some of the best fishing days of the year for anglers willing to brave the elements.

Capt. Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service recently had a stellar day at Santee. He and his clients caught big numbers of Arkansas blue catfish that ranged from 5 to 25 pounds. The bite was non-stop.

“We caught them steady throughout the day. The majority of them were from 15 to 25 pounds, with a few smaller ones that would make great nuggets. We were just fishing for fun, so we released them all. We didn’t get into any truly trophy-sized fish, but that is always a possibility this time of year,” said Wolfe.