Santee Cooper Blue Catfish
The Santee Cooper system is known as one of the best blue catfish fisheries in the country. Starting in the mid-1960’s with the introduction of 180 sub adults, today this fishery contributes as much as $8 million per year into the region’s economy. That is more than twice that of the largemouth and striped bass fisheries combined.
Since 2003, standardized winter gillnet sampling has shown a decrease in the amount of juvenile fish in the system. The lowest ever number of juveniles recorded in winter sampling occurred in 2013. This indicates that the fishery cannot sustain the current level of harvest and regulations are needed to protect the long term viability of the fishery.
Who is using the fishery?
- Rod and reel anglers
- Commercial freshwater fishermen
- Recreational fishing guides
- Trotline and trap anglers
- Bow fishermen
- No daily possession limit, with the exception of no more than 1 blue catfish over 36 inches can be taken from lakes Marion or Moultrie or the upper reach of the Santee, Cooper and Wateree rivers per person per day.
- All blue catfish must be landed with head and tail fin intact.
Why does DNR care?
- Blue catfish continue to have one of the largest economic impacts on the Santee Cooper Region making it an important economic and social fishery.
- Approximately a half of million pounds of blue catfish are removed from the system annually and sold for food.
- Outdoor recreation from the over 500,000 angler hours spent on the lakes per year targeting the fish.
- Blue catfish are the primary predator on the invasive Corbicula, or Asian clam in the system.
Recommended regulation changes for the Santee Cooper blue catfish fishery:
- 20 fish per day per person
- No more than 1 blue catfish over 32 inches can be taken from the system per person per day
- Regulation to be reviewed and revised in 4 years
- For most up to date information on the blue catfish legislation
- Santee Cooper Blue Catfish Public Meetings Summary
- Santee Cooper Reservoir’s Blue Catfish Presentation
The Santee Cooper system includes the Lower Santee and Cooper River systems. The Lower Santee River system includes all waters and tributaries seaward of the Lake Murray Dam, the Columbia Canal Diversion Dam, and the Lake Wateree Dam to the freshwater/saltwater dividing line on the North Santee River and the South Santee River. The Cooper River system is includes all waters and tributaries, including the Tailrace Canal, of the Cooper River from its point of origin seaward to the freshwater/saltwater dividing line.