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|Study guide - Learning the Lakes
|A word about Lake Marion.
Lake Marion varies from shallow swamp flats and black water ponds to large expanses of open water loaded with
underwater structure. In addition to offering some of the finest fishing in the world, this area known as "Santee
Cooper Country" offers many other outdoor opportunities.
Prior to impoundment, the land was not cut and cleared. As a result, fisherman will find many thousands of
stumps, standing dead timber and live Cypress trees. The submerged wood makes these lakes extremely
dangerous. The flodded timber and numerous stumps are extremely hazardous to your boat & motor. In 1989,
Hurricane Hugo broke off thousands of trees at or just below the water line. Use extreme caution, go slow and be
watchful of your surroundings.
There is a well marked route from where the Santee River enters Lake Marion to the lock at Pinopolis Dam on
Lake Moultrie. Lake Marion begins on the South side at Marker 62. When traveling the navigation routes,
caution is still advised, since even the marked channels could have floating timber.
Characteristics of the Lake
Lake Marion is about 110,600 acres with a maximum depth of 50 feet. It is joined to Lake Moultrie by a diversion
canal that is 6 1/2 miles long. The canal is 200 feet wide with a depth of 15 1/2 feet. Lake Marion was created by
a dam across the Santee River. The Congaree River and the Wateree River join above Lake Marion to form the
Santee River. These rivers along with many small feeder creek drain a watershed of 15,000 square miles. Most
of the water flows from Lake Marion into Lake Moultrie via the Diversion Canal. There is some flow into the
Santee River at the Marion Dam.
The bottom of the Lake is primarily sand with muck in the shallow areas. Heavy sedimentation has reduced water
depths in parts of the lake. This is most notable where the incoming Santee River leaves the confines of the river
channel. As much as 11 feet of sediment has accumulated since 1941. Silting also occurs in the deeper areas of
the lake. The water is Tannic (brown) stained in most of the lake. Many of the dark water ponds are heavily
stained with tannic acid. During periods of heavy rain, the upper lake will be muddy, and flushing the dark water
ponds stains the lake. Lake Marion has aproximately 20,000 acres of hydrilla which was first noticed in the lake
in 1984. In some shallow water areas, fanwort and coontail are present. Naiad and Elodea are two other
non-native plants that are becoming established in the lake. Native species include alligator weed, water
primrose, lilly pads, pickerelweed and Valisnaria.
Lake Marion offers outstanding opportunities for trophies of many species. The Santee Cooper Lakes and their
tributaries have produced the following state records: Largemouth Bass - 16.2 pounds, Black Crappie - 5
pounds. chain pickerel - 6.4 pounds, channel catfish - 58 pounds (World record), flathead catfish - 63 pounds, In
1989 a 109.4 pound Blue Catfish was caught, and in 1991 a 55 pound striped bass was caught. Striped bass,
catfish, largemouth, and crappie recieve most of the angling attention. The bream and shellcracker fisheries are
outstanding and often over-looked by non-local fishermen.
Striped bass move up the Santee River into the Congaree River and the Wateree River to spawn in February
and March. After spawning, they return to Lake Marion and on to Lake Moultrie from Mid-April until June.
Threadfin shad, gizzard shad, American shad, blueback herring, white perch, golden shiner, Atlantic menhaden
and sunfish are the most common forage. Clams, frogs, a variety of minnows and insect larvae are also
Striped bass are stocked at an annual rate of about 15 fingerling
(1-2 inches long) per acre.
Lake Marion offers an outstanding fishery and an abundance of cover in the form of both weeds and trees.
Thousands of standing cypress trees cover the lower and upper two-thirds of the lake. In addition thousands of
stumps extend to just below the surface.
April thru October are the best months for catfishing. Anglers pursuing these fish stand an excellent chance of
boating truly BIG fish. Blue catfish tend to be bottom feeders, making cut-bait ideal. On the other hand, flatheads
favor live bait. Bream and Crappie are used heavily for flathead bait, with crappie being the preferred choice.
Gamefish are legal to use as bait, but you may not have more than the legal limit in your posession. (Curent limit
is a total of 30 gamefish per person: ie: 15 crappie & 15 bream OR 30 crappie) Crappie up to 1 1/2
pounds are used for flathead catfish.
In the Diversion Canal, most catfishing is done with cutbait, either by drifting or anchoring. This area is a popular
place in the Summer for catfish. A favorite cutbait rig uses a 3-way swivel and one or two ounces of lead on a 3
foot leader. Run 18 inches of leader to a 2/0 hook and bump the bottom. If you see any floating clams, open
them and use the insides for bait.
Crappie begin spawning in March and continue into May, and are found in 2 to 2 1/2 feet of water. You can bet
that the catfish will be there looking for feeding opportunities too. Some of the best crappie spots are found on
the North side of the lake from I-95 down to the Cow Pasture.
Look for brush areas to hold the most fish.
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