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AHQ INSIDER Lake Hartwell (GA/SC) Summer 2021 Fishing Report – Updated June 23

  • by Jay

June 23

Lake Hartwell water levels are still very high at 661.22 (full pool is 660.00) and the lake is very clear. Morning surface water temperatures are 82-83 degrees. 

It’s been a really good year so far for hybrid and striped bass on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that there’s no doubt that 2021 is fishing way better than 2020 did. They are catching very good numbers of fish, and each day for about the last week they have caught thirty plus.

More fish are showing up at the dam, but overall the best concentrations are still about mid-way down the rivers and creeks. Now the early bite is in 20-25 feet of water off points, while later on they are in more like 40-45 feet.   

While everything is coming on down-lines, there is some very sporadic schooling which will periodically give away the locations of the fish even if they don’t stay up for long.

One morning Chip saw 4 or 5 fish run up bait off a steep bank in about 20 feet of water, and when he idled over he marked a huge school of fish in 40 feet just away from the ones that had been on top. 

A good striper caught this week with Chip Hamilton
A good striper caught this week with Chip Hamilton

There are still a bunch of different ways to target bass on Hartwell, and even though high water levels change the bite a bit Guide Brad Fowler reports that fishing has been decent. 

The combination of the June 24 full moon and high water levels have a ton of bream up shallow, and Brad is seeing a lot of wolfpacks roaming the shallows. Buzzbaits, Pop-Rs and subsurface baits can all work. 

Brad has also caught some fish suspended near deep brush on flukes, and then there is a pretty good offshore bite with Carolina rigs and big worms on a Texas rig around humps, drops and of course brush. 

The catfish and shellcracker bite is still good on Hartwell, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that both species can be found in 2-20 feet of water across the lake.  Worms will catch both species, while if you want to target just channel cats then cut bait, shrimp, dip baits and more will also work.  The few shellcracker that are still spawning will of course still eat, but the channel catfish are less likely to feed during the spawn.  But they don’t all spawn at once.

The common denominator for finding both species together is that they will be around sand, as most of what shellcracker eat lives in sand and channels will feed on the same stuff. 

Flatheads can also be caught fishing large live baits around trees in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks. While you can fish for them in the dead of night, fishing around dawn from about 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. is another good time to target them.

June 10

Lake Hartwell water levels are still very high at 661.44 (full pool is 660.00) and the lake remains clear. Morning surface water temperatures are in the lower 80s.   

The hybrid and striped bass on Lake Hartwell are still in the same general areas, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that even though a few fish are showing up at the dam the best concentrations are still about mid-way down the rivers and creeks.  They have pushed a little deeper, however, and the early bite is now in more like 15-20 feet off points. When the sun gets up they get into 30-40 feet of water in the same areas. The good news is the bite has gotten a little more prolonged, with good fishing lasting until about 9 o’clock. 

Overall numbers are very good with some big fish mixed in.

A nice striper caught this week with Guide Chip Hamilton
A nice striper caught this week with Guide Chip Hamilton

At the same time that the striper seem to be getting into a good warm water pattern, Guide Brad Fowler is less enthusiastic about the bass bite. Fish have moved into a full-on summer pattern, and as is normal at this time of year on Hartwell there is a little bit of everything going on but nothing is great. 

High water levels have probably kept a few more fish shallow, and there are a lot of bass up shallow cruising that will take buzzbaits and Pop-Rs as well as subsurface baits. There are tons of bream around the banks. 

At the same time high water levels are not as good for the offshore topwater bite because fish aren’t set up as well. You can still catch some fish on top but the better pattern may be fishing with a drop-shot rig. 

 The catfish bite is still predictable and solid on Hartwell, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that the channel cats can be found in 2-20 feet of water across the lake. They will take cut bait, worms, shrimp and processed dip baits. 

Flatheads can also be caught fishing large live baits around trees in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks. While you can fish for them in the dead of night, fishing around dawn from about 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. is another good time to target them.

Finally, there is a good bite for better bream in 8-10 feet of water. Look for sandy spots and fish worms. 

May 28

Lake Hartwell water levels are still very high at 661.32 (full pool is 660.00) and the lake remains clear. Morning surface water temperatures have shot up to 81 degrees. 

In less than a week the water temperatures on Lake Hartwell shot up 7 or 8 degrees, but Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that hasn’t meant the hybrid and striped bass are quite ready to give up the late spring pattern. The biggest change this week is that the early bite when the fish are by far the most aggressive doesn’t last as long. Yesterday they caught 21 hybrids and stripers plus some other species, and 14 of the fish came very quickly before it slowed down.

Fish are still about mid-way down the rivers and creeks, and first thing they are still in 10-12 feet of water. After that the fish are in the same areas, but you have to fish in 30-35 feet of water off the sides of those points with down-lines. 

A couple of good striper caught today with Guide Chip Hamilton
A couple of good striper caught today with Guide Chip Hamilton

At the same time the bass are definitely transitioning out of spring patterns, and former Clemson fishing team angler Reid McGinn of Fort Mill reports that the last few days visiting Hartwell he has found fish in a major in-between phase. He has caught just a few small spotted bass up on the herring points, and he has seen more schooling activity, including hybrids and striper, in deeper water like the fish are moving out in the direction of cane piles but haven’t gotten there yet. He has also caught some fish on a drop shot around deeper brush.

But there is still a significant shallow bite, and he has found some fish around bream beds that are chasing bluegill and will take a Pop-R. Up towards Clemson things are further along than in the lower lake. There are also some fry guarders up shallow, and Reid even found several (very fluky) fish on beds considering it is 80 plus degrees and almost June!

After this week we’ll stop pointing out that the blue catfish have moved out to the deep timber, but Captain Bill Plumley reports that the channel catfish bite is still really good and fish can be found in 2-20 feet of water across the lake. They will take cut bait, worms, shrimp and more, and soon processed dip baits will be very good. 

Captain Bill is also starting to concentrate on flatheads, and they can be caught fishing large live baits around trees in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks.  While you can fish for them in the dead of night, fishing around dawn from about 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. is another good time to target them.

May 20

Lake Hartwell water levels are very high at 661.52 (full pool is 660.00) but the lake remains clear. Morning surface water temperatures are in the low 70s. 

There’s no way around the fact that the bass fishing is still very tough on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Brad Fowler still can’t pin down an exact reason. But no one thinks the fishing pressure right now is very helpful. It’s only taken 12-14 pounds to win recent tournaments, including ones with very strong locals competing. 

Bedding is pretty much done for the year, although you can still find a scattered bass on a bed here and there.  There is a little bit of topwater activity going on, both around the banks and off herring points. While the herring spawn is slowing down it is still going on. 

There are also a few fish starting to come up around offshore brush, and you can certainly still catch fish on a drop shot. However, as has been the way for a while most of these top out at around two pounds.  

At the same time the hybrid and striped bass fishing continues to outpace the bass action, and Guide Chip Hamilton(864-304-9011) reports that overall they are still catching fish in about the same areas where they have been for weeks now. They are about mid-way down the rivers and creeks, not all the way up or down them.

But the fish have gone deeper, and instead of catching them in chest-deep water first thing they are now in 10-12 feet of water. After that the fish are in the same areas, but you have to fish in 30-35 feet of water off the sides of those points. They are also not nearly as aggressive, and it’s not unusual to catch more than ¾ of the eventual fish early then grind out a few more over the next few hours. 

A nice Lake Hartwell striper caught yesterday with Guide Chip Hamilton
A nice Lake Hartwell striper caught yesterday with Guide Chip Hamilton

There’s not a lot of change with the catfish, and the blues do seem to have disappeared out to the timber.  However, Captain Bill Plumley reports that flatheads can be caught fishing large baits around trees in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks. While you can fish for them in the dead of night, fishing around dawn from about 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. is another good time to target them.

It’s still very hard to beat the channel catfish bite, and they can be found in 2-20 feet of water across the lake. They will take cut bait, worms, shrimp and more, and soon processed dip baits will be very good. 

The bream fishing remains very good in the shallows, and next week they should spawn again. Bluegill and shellcracker are both looking for shallow sandy spots where they will eventually bed. Worms are hard to beat.

May 6

Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 661.58 (full pool is 660.00) but the lake remains very clear. Morning surface water temperatures are around 69-71 degrees. 

Going into last weekend’s Skeeter Challenge on Hartwell Guide Brad Fowler didn’t think the bass were acting right, and nothing that he saw in the tournament changed his opinion. The herring spawn itself was wide open, but the bass were just not set up on points the way they usually are. They weren’t gorging in the morning, and there is some speculation that the fish are just getting too educated with all the pressure this time of year. When Brad did find a really big group of good fish stacked up they would not eat.   

Part of the problem may have been that ten days ago the more aggressive fish on the herring points were pre-spawn, but those fish have now started spawning. There are a ton of fish that can be seen on beds, including a few good ones, but a lot of the fish at this time of year are also spawning in areas where you will never see them. It remains to be seen whether the bite gets better in week or two.

You can certainly still catch plenty of small fish, and as usual there are lots of fish up to about two pounds that can be caught on a drop shot. 

Unlike the bass the hybrid and striped bass have been all over the herring spawn on Lake Hartwell, but Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that for the last couple of days the combination of the cold front and extremely high water levels has messed up the herring spawn and the early morning bite. They had been catching fish on live bait in 3-8 feet of water from the pre-dawn hours to about 45 minutes after dawn, and soon that pattern should come back because the herring spawn is far from over.  

Overall fish are still in the rivers but coming out, and in the last few weeks they have gone from, for example, catching fish within sight of the Keowee dam to finding them at the mouth of Keowee River. The same is going on in the Tugaloo and other creeks and rivers. 

With the dawn herring bite on hold right now the best pattern is pulling free lines off the sides of points, and there have also been some fish caught on down-lines out to about 25 feet in the same areas. This has generally been the daytime pattern for a couple weeks and should stay that way. 

A nice hybrid caught this week with Guide Chip Hamilton
A nice hybrid caught this week with Guide Chip Hamilton

The blue catfish really do seem to have disappeared out to the timber, but Captain Bill Plumley reports that for right now the flatheads have also been absent. However, when water temperatures pick up a few degrees then fishing large baits around trees in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks should work for flatties. While you can fish for them in the dead of night, fishing around dawn from about 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. is another good time to target them.

It’s still very hard to beat the channel catfish bite, and they can be found in 2-20 feet of water across the lake. They will take cut bait, worms, shrimp and more, and soon processed dip baits will be very good. 

The bream fishing remains very good in the shallows, and this week Captain Bill caught 43 in one short trip. Bluegill and shellcracker are both looking for shallow sandy spots where they will eventually spawn. Worms are hard to beat.

April 29

Lake Hartwell water levels are still well over full pool at 661.11 (full pool is 660.00). Water temperatures are in the mid to upper 60s at daylight and the lake remains very clear. 

It’s a strange time for bass fishing on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that it’s unclear exactly what is going on with the fish right now. There are fish on beds, plenty of post-spawn fish around, and Brad’s tournament partner Brock weighed three or four pre-spawn fish last weekend. Blueback are also everywhere, but the fishing is just not wide open right now.

The problem could be that there are so many different patterns right now that no single pattern is very good, and it could be that we are somewhere between a post-spawn funk and the blueback bite getting really strong in the next few days once water temperatures rise. However, another explanation is that there could be so much pressure right now that the fish are just not acting right. If you see a boat pull off of a point and don’t immediately get on it someone else will!

The best bet is that in the next few days there will be a better herring spawn bite on points with flukes, Spooks, Sammys and sometimes shakey heads, although just how good it will get with all the pressure is anyone’s guess. Brad thinks there should also be some fish getting back on brush although he has not seen it yet. 

A nice largemouth caught on Chip Hamilton's boat while striper fishing
A nice largemouth caught on Chip Hamilton's boat while striper fishing

The hybrid and striped bass are on the move on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that fish are slowly starting to come out of the rivers. There are still fish in the rivers, but more are moving out each day. At the same time the herring spawn is getting better each day, and in the shallows for the first two or three hours each morning striper can be caught around red clay points and sometimes rocks. By 8 or 8:30 that bite is over. 

After that you can still catch fish pulling free-lines in about 15-20 feet of water in the same areas, and when the bite is a little slow Chip will put out planer boards as well. When they are hitting the free-lines well he sometimes finds the planer boards are more trouble than the benefits. If they detect fish congregated while pulling free-lines then he may drop some down-lines, but generally there is not much of a down-line bite right now. 

The blue catfish bite that was pretty good has slowed, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that it is normal that by the middle of April or early May the blues will start to go back deep. You generally have a two-month window beginning in about mid-February. 

At the same time there has been some action for flatheads, and fishing large baits around trees in 15-20 feet of water in the creeks is the best pattern. While you can fish for them in the dead of night fishing around dawn from about 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. is another good time to target them.

But if you just want to catch fish it’s hard to beat the channel catfish bite right now, and the channels are really moving around in 2-20 feet of water across the lake.  They will take cut bait, worms, shrimp and more, and soon processed dip baits will be very good. 

The bream fishing is just starting to get good in the shallows, and bluegill and shellcracker are both looking for shallow sandy spots where they will eventually spawn.  Worms are hard to beat and Captain Bill has caught some big shellcracker in the last few days.

April 16

Lake Hartwell water levels are still well over full pool at 661.16 (full pool is 660.00). Water temperatures are around 66 at daylight and the lake is pretty clear.  

There’s a lot going on in the bass world on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that there are still a ton of fish all over the banks spawning. In some clear areas he reports that you either see fish on the beds or they are not up, and when Brad and tournament partner Brock Taylor finished 6th in the Palmetto tournament everything they caught came off the bed. The supply of pre-spawn fish is rapidly diminishing. However, Brad notes that in some areas with colored water you can just go down the bank and fish in pockets with floating worms and other soft plastics. 

Particularly early in the morning the blueback herring spawning is also getting underway, and there are a lot of little spotted bass ganging up on the herring that will take the usual baits including flukes, Spooks, Sammys and more. However, he is not yet seeing the groups of several good fish that should feed on herring soon.

With the super high water levels don’t be surprised if the herring spawn plays out a little differently this year. Brad says that he is seeing herring spawning on traditional red clay points, but they are also in unusual areas such as dock walkways that would usually be out of the water in main lake pockets. 

It’s a great time for hybrid and striped bass fishing on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that fish are piled up in the backs of creeks and rivers.  The action is good and with the herring spawn progressing it’s getting better every day.  

Right at dawn they are super shallow in 3-10 feet of water off points, and when the sun gets up they are dropping out to 20-25 feet of water.  In the evenings they pull shallower again.  Chip’s boat is mainly fishing with free lines, but there is also some good down-line action. And early and late you can also cast Pulse jigs and scrounger heads with flukes. 

The backs of the Seneca and Tugaloo have a lot of fish but also a lot of boats, while the creeks may have slightly lower numbers of fish but less pressure.

Chip Hamilton put some happy anglers on this nice hybrid this week
Chip Hamilton put some happy anglers on this nice hybrid this week

Captain Bill Plumley reports that he is also seeing a ton of fish way up the Keowee, and in addition to the other techniques you can also catch fish by pulling the boat up on the banks and casting live bait or cut bait out the back. 

It’s a great time for crappie fishing if you like shallow action, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that they are in the middle of the spawn right now. Fishing in 2-3 feet of water around most any shoreline cover with minnows or jigs will catch fish. 

The catfish action continues to improve, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that the channels are really moving around and you can catch them about anywhere on about anything. In 2-20 feet of water they will take cut bait, worms, processed dip baits and more.  The blue catfish are shallow in the creeks, and anchoring cut bait in 8-10 feet is the best pattern. 

April 2

Lake Hartwell water levels are still well over full pool at 661.39 (full pool is 660.00). While water temperatures had been in the upper 50s and low 60s, with two nights in the upper 20s they are dropping fast. There is trash everywhere and certain creeks such as some at the upper end of the Seneca are muddy right now. 

The lake has been off-limits to Guide Brad Fowler in the run-up to the Palmetto Boat Center tournament this weekend, but for some time now there have been a lot of bass relatively shallow on Lake Hartwell.  That’s not to say that you can’t still wear them out in deep water, but for anglers who want to fish shallow there are plenty on the banks.

In the colored water areas a spinnerbait has been working well, while in clearer water a floating worm or Senko is good. 

Sometimes the herring spawn and the bass spawn overlap, and before this cold front Brad thinks that the herring were on the verge of starting to spawn, too.  If they do spawn while the water is very high then they will not be as predictable as usual because instead of spawning mainly on points and shoals high water puts them everywhere. 

A more complete report will follow after the tournament.

The hybrid and striped bass have finally made their move on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that right now most of the fish are in the backs of rivers and creeks in 3-20 feet of water. They are mostly relating to the sides of the bank, and when the bait goes shallow they push up to follow it. Planer boards and free-lines are both working, but Chip’s boat is also using the trolling motor anchor and flipping free-lines to the fish. 

The extreme back of the Tugaloo is a bit colder and not holding as many fish, but the Seneca, 12-Mile, 18-Mile, Coneross and all the creeks near the dam are fishing well. 

This weather isn’t really helping the crappie action, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that the fish are just confused. As a result they haven’t really moved to the banks yet, and this cold front should delay them even more. Look in 10-12 feet of water until temperatures heat up.    

The winter catfish slump is officially over, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that his boat has caught some nice blues as they get into the creeks or stage in the mouths. The best action has been in about 40 feet of water on cut herring or gizzard shad. 

When the water warms a few more degrees the channels will be easy to catch on about any bait from worms to cut herring to chicken livers, and the blues will move shallower. The flatheads should bite better when temperatures hit about 67 but get good when water temperatures are around 70. 

March 19

Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 659.85 (full pool is 660.00). There remains stained water in some creeks but overall the lake is clear. Morning surface water temperatures are about 55-57 degrees. 

In the last week Guide Brad Fowler reports that bass have moved up pretty well on Lake Hartwell, and although he has not actually seen any largemouth on beds yet he predicts that the next two to three weeks there will be a lot of activity on the banks. Right now there are a lot of fish cruising in pockets or staging just outside of them, although a large group of spots also stays deep well into April and they don’t all come up at once. Ultimately the spots will spawn on red clay points, flats, and shoals where you will not usually see them.

In the colored water a spinnerbait or shallow-running crankbait is the best bet for largemouth, while in the clear water a floating worm, fluke or Senko is best.  For deeper spots shakey head worms or another slow-moving bait that you can work on the bottom is best. 

The hybrid and striped bass bite is continuing to improve on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that they still want free-lines the most. Very early in the morning and late in the evening there has also been some schooling with spots, hybrids and stripers. 

The majority of fish are still in the middle section of creeks, although a handful of fish have also been caught in the very backs in a sign that a few are already moving that way. If the water temperatures continue to rise then very soon they should make a significant move.

There have also been some good reports on free-lines in creeks near the dam. 

The crappie spawn is close at hand but not here yet, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that when water temperatures hit about 60-62 degrees he expects the spawn to get started. For now there are still some groups of shallower fish, but there is also good action in the creeks channels around brush in 15-20 feet of water. They are also doing well long-line trolling in the creeks. 

There has been significant improvement with the catfish this week, and Captain Bill Plumley reports that the big blues are simultaneously moving out of the very deep water and starting to feed more often. He has been catching them in 25-30 feet of water in the creeks on a mix of cut bait including frozen shad and carp, and in the last week he has caught multiple fish in the 20 to 30 pound range. 

A big one caught this week by Captain Bill Plumley
A big one caught this week by Captain Bill Plumley

 

March 10

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 658.96 (full pool is 660.00). There remains stained water in some creeks but overall the lake is clear. Morning surface water temperatures are about 51-54 degrees. 

Particularly for the last couple of days we have had some warm highs, but Guide Brad Fowler reports that the key to dramatically raising the lake temperature is avoiding cold nights, and particularly in the earlier part of the week it was still freezing each overnight. As a result Lake Hartwell bass are a little behind those on some other lakes, including ones like Murray that Brad has also been fishing. 

A good pattern to run right now is to start out fishing in ditches with 10-25 feet of water for bass that are chasing bluebacks first thing. Blade Runners, swimbaits and jerkbaits are all good lures for this pattern. Then after the sun gets up head to some colored water and try cranking in some of the creeks where bass are up shallower. 

On Hartwell the spawn still appears to be a little ways off, but there are largemouth in areas leading into spawning pockets and flats, and they are grouping up on points and 45 degree banks that are adjacent. Spinnerbaits are also a good choice if the water has some color.

There are also still lots of spots than can be caught in 20-25 feet on brush.  These fish will ultimately spawn mostly on points and shoals in 10-20 feet of water where they will usually not be visible but will fall prey to a jig or shakey head dragged along the bottom. 

The hybrid and striped bass are still in similar areas on Lake Hartwell, but Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that one really big change is that they do not want down lines. Every now and then you will pick up a fish on a down line, but in general the fish seem much more interested in and aggressive towards free lines. It’s not unusual at this time of year for the fish to want to see the bait drop and to rise to take it but it is significant. 

Beyond that the water really has not changed temperatures enough to move the fish much, and while a few remain at the mouths of creeks the majority of the fish are still being found in the middle section of rivers and creeks. As the creeks warm they will move up the creeks more. The bite should also get better and right now fish are feeding but they are certainly not on fire. 

This past weekend Lake Hartwell was home to a Crappie USA Super Event, and even though the lake was cold it was notable how shallow some of the crappie were caught. Veteran tournament angler Will Hinson of Cassatt notes that the 2.8 pound tournament big fish was caught in about a foot of water, and a second place team fished caught most of their fish in 3-4 feet of water. He doesn’t believe any of the fish were terribly close to laying eggs but they were definitely up there eating.

While there are fish shallow, overall this is the time of year when Will reports that you can catch fish about any way you want. He found some under docks and bridge pilings in about 22 feet, and long-line trolling in the creeks he picked up tons of smaller crappie. However, the biggest fish seemed to relatively shallow and scattered, and to target bigger individuals Will used LiveScope technology to cast at individual fish 3-4 feet down in 7-8 feet of water in the creeks. 

Will Hinson with two big Hartwell crappie caught last weekend
Will Hinson with two big Hartwell crappie caught last weekend

As the water slightly begins to warm Captain Bill Plumley reports a moderately improved catfish bite, and he has caught some fish in 14-34 feet of water. As the water continues to warm the fish should slide shallower in the creeks and get to the point where they are again feeding daily. The fish are not showing a preference for any particular type of cut bait. 

March 5

Lake Hartwell water levels are down to 658.88 (full pool is 660.00). There is still some stained water in some creeks but overall the lake is pretty clear. Morning surface water temperatures are about 52-55 degrees. 

The biggest change this week on Lake Hartwell is the number of bass that have moved shallow, but first Guide Brad Fowler points out that there are still plenty of deep fish. His tournament partner Brock Taylor caught his three biggest (spots) last weekend in 30-35 feet of water on a blade runner, and even though shallow temperatures have changed the deep water is still basically the same. There are still lots of spots than can be caught in 20-25 feet on brush as well.  These fish will ultimately spawn mostly on points and shoals in 10-20 feet of water where they will usually not be visible but will fall prey to a jig or shakey head dragged along the bottom. 

With that said, solid numbers of largemouth are moving towards the banks.  They can be found in areas leading into spawning pockets and flats, and they are grouping up on points and 45 degree banks that are adjacent. In the next few weeks some fish will be on beds.  Soft plastics will catch fish, and in the colored water they are biting well on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. 

Patterns are very stable for hybrid and striped bass on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that numbers continue to be respectable and teenage sized fish are still being caught. They are optimistic for a better 2021 after a good start to the early spring. 

There are a few fish in the mouths of creeks but the majority of the fish are still being found in the middle section of rivers and creeks. As the creek warms they will move up the creeks more. The best patterns are fishing down-lines over points in 20-25 feet of water, but there are also starting to be some good fish caught on planer boards pulled across points near the banks. The baits are usually sitting in 10-15 feet of water when they get bit.

Chip Hamilton with a nice striper caught today
Chip Hamilton with a nice striper caught today

This week Captain Bill Plumley continues to report a sporadic catfish bite, and the water just hasn’t warmed enough where the fish need to feed every day.  The best action is still deep in about 30 feet of water, but Bill expects the fish to slide shallower in the creeks in the next couple of weeks as the water warms.  The fishing should get much better once the fish are again feeding daily.

February 26

Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 659.35 (full pool is 660.00).  There is still stained water in some creeks but overall the lake is getting clear again. Morning surface water temperatures are about 48-50 degrees. 

It’s been a better week for hybrid and striped bass on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that some good fish in the low to mid-teens have been caught this week. They are also seeing a ton of the fish on the graph, a very good sign for the fishery. Improving water clarity may have helped the bite.

There are few fish in the mouths of creeks but the majority of the fish are still being found in the middle section of rivers and creeks. As the creek warms they will move up the creeks more. The best patterns are fishing down-lines over points in 20-25 feet of water, but there are also starting to be some good fish caught on planer boards pulled across points near the banks. The baits are usually sitting in 10-15 feet of water when they get bit.

While there are certainly still plenty of bass to be caught deep on Lake Hartwell, Guide Brad Fowler reports that fish are generally starting to slide up as water temperatures start to rise and the spawn gets closer. Fish are starting to set up at the mouths of spawning areas, and Brad suggests looking at the mouths of creeks that have some colored water which warms a little faster. In the clear water a jerkbait is working well in 10-15 feet, and you can also fish a crankbait against the banks. A blade runner is also fishing well in the ditches early when there is bait. 

File this is in the “it’s called fishing for a reason” category, but this week Captain Bill Plumley reports a very tough catfish bite. One day on the water he didn’t get a single bite besides some small channels pecking at his bait. However, there have also been days where he caught several nice ones, and when a blue catfish eats it is usually a good one. 

For right now the best action is still deep in about 30 feet of water, but Bill expects the fish to slide shallower in the creeks in the next couple of weeks as the water warms. The fishing should get much better once the fish are again feeding daily.

 

February 18

Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 658.38 (full pool is 660.00).  The creeks have gotten muddy and the rivers are getting dirtier as well.  

The action for hybrid and striped bass continues to improve on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) is very optimistic that this year will be better than last year as things have already gotten off to a better start. Last year was the toughest year of fishing he has had in 27 years of guiding on the lake. 

The dirty water has messed the bite up just a little, but overall the fish are still biting pretty well and the morning action has come on (instead of fish only really getting going in the afternoon). The majority of the fish are in the middle section of rivers and creeks, and they will move up the creeks more once the water warms.  

The best patterns are fishing down-lines over points in 25-35 feet of water, but there are also starting to be some good fish caught on planer boards pulled across points near the banks. The baits are usually sitting in 10-15 feet of water when they get bit.

A young angler caught this nice hybrid with Guide Chip Hamilton
A young angler caught this nice hybrid with Guide Chip Hamilton

Captain Mack Farr points out that turbulent weather has spread the fish out right now, but he concurs that the middle parts of creeks are holding the most fish. Even if you don’t mark big schools of fish look for bait and they will be in the vicinity.

Also, continue to focus on the birds. This week they have not been a big help because they are so focused on staying out of the wind but in general they offer important clues. 

Even though there has not been a lot of heat the combination of a few sunny days and then a lot of dirty water continues to push some bass shallow, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that in the stained shallows there is still a pretty good crankbait bite. Even though fish are shallow they are not everywhere, and the best areas are steep, rocky banks with deep water access nearby. Fish will be around the mouths of creeks on both the main lake and creek side. 

The most consistent way to catch fish remains deep, though, where the fish are in the 40-50 foot range in ditches and creek channels. Again the best action is in the front of creeks, and while there are some schools as shallow as 30 feet the best numbers are still closer to 50. Brad has had the best luck fishing on the inside of timber lines where there is bait present. A variety of baits have been working and he has caught fish on football jigs and drop shots. This week spoons have also been working well. 

The catfish bite is about the same this week, and Captain Bill Plumley reminds anglers that with the water very cold the fish are not having to feed every day.  He is still finding the best action deep in at least 30 feet of water in the creeks.  A variety of cut baits will work.

February 5

Lake Hartwell water levels are down to 657.21 (full pool is 660.00). The main lake is clear but there is some stain in the backs. Water temperatures range from the upper 40s to low 50s. 

With all the recent rain there is still plenty of dirty water in the creeks, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that in the stained shallows there is still a pretty good crankbait bite. Even though fish are shallow they are not everywhere, and the best areas are steep, rocky banks with deep water access nearby. Fish will be around the mouths of creeks on both the main lake and creek side. 

The most consistent way to catch fish is still deep, though, where the fish are in the 40-50 foot range in ditches and creek channels. Again the best action is in the front of creeks, and while there are some schools as shallow as 30 feet the best numbers are still closer to 50. Brad has had the best luck fishing on the inside of timber lines where there is bait present. A variety of baits have been working and he has caught fish on football jigs and drop shots. This week spoons have also been working well. 

Check out the new Lake Hartwell Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brad.

 A nice spot caught on a fly rod with Guide Chip Hamilton
A nice spot caught on a fly rod with Guide Chip Hamilton

The hybrid and striped bass are still in a similar pattern on Lake Hartwell, but Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that the bite has improved and they are getting much better numbers recently. Instead of struggling to scratch out a few fish, double digit trips are becoming more common. 

There are some fish being caught right at daylight in 25-35 feet of water over humps and ridges in the channels, but you have to be right on top of them. However, the best fishing by fair is coming in the afternoon and Chip really doesn’t advise getting on the water until 10 or 11, and then fishing until 4:30 or 5:00. During the warmest part of the day bait moves shallower in the same areas where fish have been holding in the channels. Casting small swimbaits and retrieving them near the bottom in 10-20 feet of water off points should produce. You can also troll umbrella rigs.   

Overall, while there are always a few fish in the dam area that move around the majority of fish are up the Seneca and Tugaloo rivers or at the mouths of creeks up those rivers. Some of the longer creeks such as Lightwood also have fish in the very backs, and generally fish are still up and/ or out. Finding the bait is key.

The catfish bite is about the same this week, and Captain Bill Plumley reminds anglers that with the water very cold the fish are not having to feed every day. He is still finding the best action deep in at least 30 feet of water in the creeks. A variety of cut baits will work.

January 21

Lake Hartwell water levels are down to 658.56 (full pool is 660.00).  The lake is clear and water temperatures run from about 48 degrees down to the mid-40s. 

While there is still a deep pattern for bass on Lake Hartwell, Guide Brad Fowler reports that with all the sunny, windy afternoons we have had recently there has been a pretty good crankbait bite. While fish will move shallow they are on steep, rocky banks since they want deep water access nearby. Fish will be around the mouths of creeks on both the main lake and creek side. 

The most consistent way to catch fish is still deep, though, where the fish are in the 40-50 foot range in ditches and creek channels. Again the best action is in the front of creeks, and while there are some schools as shallow as 30 feet the best numbers are still closer to 50. Brad has had the best look fishing on the inside of timber lines where there is bait present. A variety of baits have been working and he has caught fish on football jigs, spoons, and drop shots. 

Check out the new Lake Hartwell Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brad.

The hybrid and striped bass are still spread out on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that while there are always a few fish in the dam area that move around the majority of fish are up the Seneca and Tugaloo rivers or at the mouths of creeks up those rivers. Some of the longer creeks such as Lightwood also have fish in the very backs, and generally fish are still up and/ or out.  Finding the bait is key.

The best place to fish down-lines is still in 25-35 feet of water over humps and ridges, but this bite remains pretty tough.  Pulling umbrella rigs across points is also a decent way to pick off some active fish, and there have been some good ones up to the 10-pound range caught this way. 

Perhaps the most exciting way to catch fish is to fish the warmest part of the day when bait moves shallower in the same areas where fish have been holding in the channels. This usually happens at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and dies off at the latest around 4:30 or 5:00, and when this happens fish can be caught casting small swimbaits and retrieving them near the bottom in 10-20 feet of water off points. While this pattern is not on fire it offers the benefit that you can move around throwing at points instead of just waiting for down-line bites that may not come. Much of the action is with hybrids. 

The catfish bite has improved just a little this week, although Captain Bill Plumley reports that with the water very cold the fish are not having to feed every day.  He is still finding the best action deep in at least 30 feet of water in the creeks.  A variety of cut baits will work.

Captain Bill Plumley was surprised to catch this 14-pound carp while trying for bait
Captain Bill Plumley was surprised to catch this 14-pound carp while trying for bait

January 13

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 659.03 (full pool is 660.00).  While the creeks do have some color the main lake is clear. Water temperatures range from about 46-50 degrees.

The bass fishing remains good on Lake Hartwell, but Guide Brad Fowler reports that if anything the fish have gotten even deeper into the 40-50 range in ditches and creek channels. He is finding the best action in the front of creeks. Brad did find one group of fish as shallow as 30 feet, but the largest schools were close to 50. He has had the best look fishing on the inside of timber lines where there is bait present. 

A variety of baits have been working, and he has caught fish on football jigs, spoons, and drop shots. 

While Brad has also found some fish chasing bait on the surface over 30 feet of water, there is also a true shallow pattern in the dirty water in the creeks. Between the stained conditions and some very early seasonal pressures a decent number of fish have slid up and will take Shad Raps and jigs. However, for right now they will be close to deep water on something steep. If they are on a flat it will have deep water very close. 

Check out the new Lake Hartwell Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brad.

Brad Fowler guided these young anglers to some nice spots this week
Brad Fowler guided these young anglers to some nice spots this week

The hybrid and striped bass remain in a virtually identical pattern to a week ago, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that the fish they are catching are still pretty far back in the creeks, mostly in 25-35 feet of water over humps and ridges.  Fishing is still pretty tough.

The bright spot remains that in the same areas of the creeks where they are marking fish on some afternoons the fish will pull up shallower at the warmest part of the day when bait moves shallower. This usually happens at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and dies off at the latest around 4:30 or 5:00, and when this happens fish can be caught casting small swimbaits and retrieving them near the bottom in 10-20 feet of water. This is not a reliable pattern day-in and day-out for guides because not all of the schools do it every day, but when you find a school that moves shallower you can catch a lot of fish. 

Unfortunately, Captain Bill Plumley reports that the catfish bite has gotten really tough. The few fish he has caught have been extremely deep but they are just not biting very well.

January 6

Lake Hartwell water levels rose to within 6 inches of full pool (full pool is 660.00) with recent rains but are now back down to 658.98.  After the recent rains the water got dirty in some of the creeks but the main lake remains clear. Water temperatures range from the uppers 40s to about 50 degrees. 

The bass fishing remains good on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that they are still catching them pretty well in the 30-40 foot range in ditches and creek channels. Fish are relating to steep drops as well as bait schools, and you can catch them on spoons or drop shot rigs. They can also be caught dragging a jig or shakey head worm. This pattern is likely to stay good until fish start to think about coming up for the spawn. 

Even though water temperatures have cooled off, with some color in the creeks a shallow pattern is also in play and some fish are being caught on small crankbaits around rock. 

Check out the new Lake Hartwell Catch ’Em Kits with lures hand-picked for each season by Brad.

While it’s not a tournament pattern, Captain Bill Plumley reports that you can also pick up spotted bass on minnows even deeper in 40-70 feet of water in deep ditches. At that depth you will encounter a mixed bag as perch and catfish have also gone deep. You can still hope to catch a blue cat in the same range, but like most species they don’t feed as much when water temperatures hit 50 and below.

Out of the lake and into the freezer!
Out of the lake and into the freezer!

 

The hybrid and striped bass remain in a similar pattern in most ways, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that the fish they are catching are still pretty far back in the creeks, mostly in 25-35 feet of water over humps and ridges.  While that bite is still pretty slow, a pattern that usually only starts in February and March has also emerged.

In the same areas of the creeks where they are marking fish on some afternoons the fish will pull up shallower at the warmest part of the day when bait moves shallower. This usually happens at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and dies off at the latest around 4:30 or 5:00, and when this happens fish can be caught casting small swimbaits and retrieving them near the bottom in 10-20 feet of water. This is not a reliable pattern day-in and day-out for guides because not all of the schools do it every day, but when you find a school that moves shallower you can catch a lot of fish. 

On the crappie front, Captain Bill advises fishing in 18-25 feet of water around deep docks and brush in the creek channels with minnows.

 

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