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AHQ INSIDER Lake Hartwell (GA/SC) Winter Fishing Report – Updated February 9

  • by Jay

February 9

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 650.30 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the low to mid-50s.  Because of drought conditions any rain is quickly soaked into the ground and there is relatively little inflow into the lake.

“Winter” weather has been wacky in the Upstate, and as a result Guide Brad Fowler reports that Lake Hartwell bass don’t know whether they should be coming or going.  Water temperatures never got and stayed below 50 degrees for any extended period of time, and as a result there was never really a mass movement of fish out deep.  Accordingly, Brad says that fish are scattered all over the place.  They could be caught in very deep water, or against the bank.  And whereas a lot of times winter fish will move up shallow but stay close to deep water, Hartwell fish are as likely to be found up shallow on a flat in the very back as in a main lake pocket near deep water.  Fish can also be found in between shallow and deep.

Overall fishing is fair to good, again with the caveat that fish are very, very scattered and finding concentrations is difficult.  Certainly fish can be caught around deep structure on spoons and drop shots, and in shallow areas finesse fishing with soft plastics or jerkbaits is working.  In more stained shallow areas fish are being caught on crankbaits.

Right now it’s hard to characterize what stage fish are in, and even though temperatures resemble what is typical for the early pre-spawn there are a lot of fish out deep.  Brad says this may be a spring like a few years ago when fish went from winter straight to spawning on the banks without an extended staging period.

While bass have been a little hard to pattern, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that crappiefishing on Lake Hartwell has been strong.  Good numbers of fish and good sizes have been caught.  Fishing 9 or 10 feet down with minnows over brush in 15-20 feet of water has been the best pattern.

The catfishbite has also been good, and Captain Bill reports that they have caught some nice blue catfish in the 20+ pound range fishing in about 30 feet of water with cut bait on the bottom.  As water temperatures rise fish should start to move further back into the creeks, but for now they have been at the mouths.

A nice Hartwell blue cat caught this week on Captain Bill Plumley's boat
A nice Hartwell blue cat caught this week on Captain Bill Plumley’s boat

Striped bassfishing has been a little tough, and in a recent tournament bites were very, very hard to come by.  Many of the fish that are being caught are coming pulling free-lines through areas where you find birds, and there are also a few fish being picked up on umbrella rigs trolled in the same areas.  Captain Bill says they are actually doing better live bait fishing for spotted bass with herring on downlines in 25-35 feet of water at creek bends.

January 16

Lake Hartwell water levels are at 649.51 (full pool is 660.00), and water levels range from the upper-40s to the lower to mid-50s.

Guide Brad Fowler reports that bass patterns are basically unchanged in the last couple of weeks on Lake Hartwell.  Despite some dips water temperatures still haven’t gotten really cold on Lake Hartwell, and he is still finding a lot of fish in that 25-30 foot depth range.  There are also some fish out deeper, but a lot of them are suspended due to the warmer temperatures.  Conditions over the next few weeks will provide some clues about whether this may be a very early spring, or if fish will at some point settle into a deep winter pattern.

On the striped bassfront Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that, as is typical at this time of year, fishing has slowed down on Hartwell.  He is catching a few fish on free-lines, and this is also getting into a period when umbrella rigs can be successful.  However, that is typically when water temperatures get a little colder.  To improve numbers he sometimes downsizes his baits and moves to fishing crappie minnows or smaller threadfin shad at this time of year.  This will generate a mixed bag of species.  If he pulls the minnows on free-lines instead of fishing them on down-lines Bill points out that you have to move very, very slowly.  Bill is fishing a little bit shallower than a few weeks ago and following the birds to locate fish.  He reminds anglers that the birds aren’t there just for their health – bait is around!

Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) concurs that the bite has slowed down, and he pinpoints the cold front/ snow last weekend as the moment when things changed.  On the water he is still fishing the same pattern – down-lines 30-40 feet down near the bottom in the backs of creeks – but the catch ratio is just not as good.

A nice haul of winter striper caught on Lake Hartwell with Lines Out Charters
A nice haul of winter striper caught on Lake Hartwell with Lines Out Charters

Captain Bill reports that the blue catfishbite has slowed down on Hartwell after the snow, but some fish can still be caught on fresh cut perch and herring in 30-40 feet of water.

Crappiefishing remains decent, and Captain Bill reports that anglers have moved a little deeper to catch fish.  Brush in the 15-30 foot range is holding crappie, which can be a little hard to find with the water down.

December 28

Lake Hartwell water levels have dropped to 649.44 (full pool is 660.00), while water temperatures are in the mid-50s.  Clarity is very good although there has been just enough rain to create some stained water in the creeks.

Bassare settling out deep on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that on the shallow end he is finding a good number of fish in 20-25 feet of water.  These could be around brush or structure, and with water temperatures about 10 feet down that also means that a lot of these fish are at the edge of the timber.  Brad has also found a good bite out as deep as 35-37 feet, and with relatively warm water temperatures a lot of the fish are suspended.  Fish are eating spoons as well as football jigs dragged along the bottom, but drop shot rigs have been the most productive.  Brad has also picked up some fish on fish head spins.

As on most lakes there are some fish shallow, and some anglers have been catching fish on a shallow running crankbait.  Brad has also seen a bit of surface activity, and on one recent trip he saw bass coming up in areas where striper had bait pushed up over about 30 feet of water.  Overcast, drizzly days can put the bait higher in the water column.

A nice largemouth caught in 30 feet of water that was mixed in with the striper and hybrids
A nice largemouth caught in 30 feet of water on Lake Hartwell

In striped bassnews fishing Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that fish are moving up the creeks and they are scattered all over the place.  On his most recent trips Bill has caught fish on down-lines fished about 33-35 feet down over water up to 55 feet deep.  He has not observed any surface schooling activity.

Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) has also found a lot of fish and bait in the backs of creeks, and he is also having the best luck fishing down-lines about 30-40 feet down (near the bottom).  Chip has found that the backs of creeks are really slammed with bait.  Some anglers are pulling free-lines and planer boards to targets some bigger “teenage” sized fish, but numbers have been far better on down-lines.  Chip has only found negligible schooling activity and in his experience it has usually been spotted bass that have come up.

Blue catfishare feeding pretty well in the creeks, and Captain Bill has found them feeding along the edge of the channel in about 25-30 feet of water.  Fresh, cut perch and herring are both working.

There has been a pretty decent crappiebite over brush, with the best action about 4 or 5 feed down over 12-15 feet of water.  Fish have been found at that depth in both the main lake and the creeks and some good crappie have been biting.