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AHQ INSIDER Lake Russell (GA/SC) Spring 2020 Fishing Report – Updated January 10

  • by Jay

January 10

Lake Russell water levels have dropped to just below full pool at around 474.75 (full pool is 475.00), and surface temperatures are about 54 degrees. The lake is a little more stained than usual but certainly not muddy.

Fishing is not in typical patterns for early January, and Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) believes the combination of warmer-than-usual temperatures, rising and then very high water levels, and dingy conditions are probably to blame. Whatever the reason, instead of the 60-fish trips they were having earlier in the season a 20-fish day is pretty good right now.

Bass are scattered out, and while some fish are as deep as 60 feet on the bottom others are being caught casting at points in 15-20 feet with jigs, worms and other baits that you can crawl along the bottom.  The creeks and main lake are fishing about the same, and so whether you want to fish minnows, jigging spoons or drop shot rigs in 28-30 feet in the creeks or 60 feet on the main lake you can expect about the same results.

While striper are supposed to be in the mid-lake right now, there are only a few fish there and by far the best concentrations are on the lower end. That is also where the vast majority of the birds are, but right now seagulls are on loons and not really around fish. This is probably a function of water temperature.

The best pattern has been fishing down-lines about 30 feet down in roughly 50 feet of water, and while they are waiting for striper to bite Wendell’s boat has been putting minnows on the bottom in 50 feet and picking up some big white perch and some channel catfish.

There are also some crappie being caught in the creeks, and they are mostly on the bottom in about 40 feet of water.  The fish are related to bait schools and not structure.

December 24

Lake Russell water levels are right around full pool (full pool is 475.00), and surface temperatures are about 53 degrees. Even with the recent rains so far the lake continues to have good water clarity.    

There is not a lot of change in the bass pattern, but Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that he is finding fish a bit deeper in 40-50 feet of water. Spoons, drop shots, jigs and live bait are all working. Usually the fish are on the bottom, but some days they will suspend a little more.

A good catch with Guide Jerry Kotal

A good catch with Guide Jerry Kotal

 

In addition to spotted bass, Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is catching a mixed bag with a lot of yellow perch, some largemouth, white perch, crappie, and catfish. Wendell’s boat is concentrating on the middle of large creeks and coves off the main channel, fishing mostly in 30-40 feet of water. Medium minnows just off the bottom are hard to beat.  

 

Wendell reports that striped bass are supposed to be on the lower end of the lake, but right now they are grouped up in the mid-lake area around Beaverdam Creek and the Rocky River. Look for gulls and loons and throw Alabama rigs at the fish, or pull large shiners or herring on free lines or planer boards. 

Catfish can be targeted along flats, at the ends of points and off the edges of the timber in 30-35 feet of water. Even though channel catfish are more common there are also some very big flatheads in Russell that can be caught in the same areas.

December 9

Lake Russell water levels are around 474.75 (full pool is 475.00), and morning surface temperatures are about 57 degrees. The lake is relatively clear.  

Warm weather at this time of year isn’t what Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) likes to see, and as a result of mild late fall temperatures he says that the bassaren’t quite as easy to catch as they were. Still, fish continue to bite well and they are positioned about midways back in the creeks in 23-44 feet of water; usually they are on the bottom but some days they will suspend. Spoons, drop shots, jigs and live bait are all working. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has been fishing a similar pattern, and while they are still catching plenty of bass he notes that the yellow perch have slowed down probably as a result of the warm weather. In addition to creeks he is also catching fish in larger coves off the main lake. His target depth range has been 25-45 feet and drop shotted minnows and jigging spoons have been his go-to baits.   

The striped bass are still scattered, with Jerry reporting that it will take some cold weather to group them up well. His boat has picked some up on jigging spoons. 

Wendell says that for now the best place to locate striper has been on the lower end of the lake. Striper have been over very deep water and gulls and loons are usually around them. Pulling free-lines or casting Alabama rigs or bucktails is working. 

Catfish can be found along flats, at the ends of points and off the edges of the timber in 30-35 feet of water. Even though channel catfish are more common there are also some very big flatheads in Russell that can be caught in the same areas. 

It’s a slow time for crappieand Wendell will not be targeting them again until after the New Year.

November 20

Lake Russell water levels are around 473.25 (full pool is 475.00), and morning surface temperatures are about 60 degrees. Even after recent rains the lake is pretty clear.

Temperatures have finally dropped on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that as expected the bassfishing has turned on. Fish are biting very well and catching 40-50 fish in a day is normal. Fish are positioned about midways back in the creeks in 23-44 feet of water; usually they are on the bottom but some days they will suspend. Spoons, drop shots, jigs and live bait are all working. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has also been targeting spotted bass, and fishing in 22-30 feet of water in the creeks his boat is also catching yellow perch in the same areas. The fish are around bait schools and biting well on spoons as well as minnows on a drop shot. 

The striped bass are still very scattered, but with the gulls and loons both having arrived it is only a matter of time until the action is wide open. The water just needs to get a little colder.

Wendell advises that soon fish will be under the birds in the main channel or coves off of it, with most fish in the mid-lake between the state park and the railroad bridge. Throwing Alabama rigs is the best way to catch fish feeding around birds. 

It’s also a good time to pull planer boards and free-lines. Cover water but look in areas with gulls and loons. 

Catfish can be found along flats, at the ends of points and off the edges of the timber in 30-35 feet of water. Even though channel catfish are more common there are also some very big flatheads in Russell that can be caught in the same areas. 

It’s a slow time for crappieand Wendell will not be targeting them again until after the New Year. 

 A nice catch this week with Jerry Kotal

October 31

Lake Russell water levels are around 473.75 (full pool is 475.00), and morning surface temperatures remain about 72 or 73 degrees. Parts of the lake are turning over, and the water is dark and bubbling in those areas.

It’s still unseasonably warm on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that as a result bassare still suspended. They are feeding pretty well on live bait fished 15-20 feet down over 30-35 feet of water, and they will also take a drop shot. Fish can be found in both the main lake and the creeks. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has again been concentrating on the creeks, and he reports that if you go to the very backs you can catch a decent 5-fish limit of largemouth. In the back of Coldwater, Beaverdam, and the upper Rocky River if you target any wood cover and beat the banks with a spinnerbait or crankbait there are fish to be found. 

The striped bass bite has been pretty good on Russell, and Wendell reports that his boat has been catching a fair number of fish in the 12-15 pound range. They can be caught on down-lined herring fished from 30 feet down to the bottom in 40-50 feet of water. Fish are in the middle of the lake, mostly on flats adjacent to the main river channel.

If anything the crappiebite has improved, and Wendell reports that his boat is having great success fishing brush in 15-25 feet of water. The fish are good-sized, and they are eating minnows fished right in the brush. The best action has generally been in the creeks, but there are also fish in coves just off the main channel. 

Perch are just getting started on the bottom in 30-35 feet of water where will they eat minnows, but that bite will get better in November and December. 

Jerry reports that the best place to look for channel catfish is in the creeks off humps and points in 15-30 feet of water. Cut herring is the bait of choice. 

 

October 17

Lake Russell water levels are around 474.25 (full pool is 475.00), and morning surface temperatures are in the low to mid-70s. The lake is pretty clear but in areas it is turning over and you can see bubbles on the surface.    

Even though temperatures have dropped, Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that bassfishing remains a little tough. He has mainly been fishing the main lake, and they are mostly finding fish 15-25 feet down over 40-50 feet of water over trees. They are following bait schools and fish are suspended and on the move. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has been fishing more in the creeks, where his boat is finding a little better bite than they were on the main lake. In the afternoon he is seeing some schooling activity where fish are running small shad in about 18-25 feet of water. Even when they are not on the surface he is only finding them about 8-10 feet down. Small topwater lures, lipless crankbaits in the ¼ ounce range, or drop shots will all work. 

Perch can be found in the same areas on the bottom, but that bite will get better in November and December. 

1-5 pound channel catfish are also in the creeks on the bottom, and Jerry points out that on the main lake around the bait schools he is fishing if you put a bait on the bottom all you will catch is catfish.

Jerry is finding a little better action for striped bass than bass on the main lake, and they have caught some good fish suspended in the same areas where the bass are.

Wendell points out that this is a period where there are still a few striper on the upper end that are holdovers from the summer that can be caught on free lines or topwater lures. There are also some holdovers on the lower end, which can be caught 20-40 feet down with down-lines over deep water.

Overall, though, fish are starting to move into the mid-lake where the greatest numbers will be in the next month or two. All this means the fish are pretty scattered out.

Wendell reports that crappie fishing is still great around brush piles in the creeks. His boat is fishing one or two rods per person vertically with minnows 8-10 feet deep over 15-20 feet of water. 

 

September 24

Lake Russell water levels are back up to very close to full pool (full pool is 475.00), and morning surface temperatures have rebounded to about 82 degrees. The lake is still clear. 

After dropping to around 78 degrees Lake Russell water temperatures have rebounded into the lower 80s, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that all this has not been a positive development for the bass. Fishing has gotten tougher, and the bass have started to suspended even more and gotten harder to find. They are on the move in the 30-50 foot timber, and he is still targeting them with live baits and drop shot rigs.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports that he has found a tougher bass bite on the patterns he had been fishing. On the flats fish have not been biting very well, but he has found better success up the creeks. To target bass he suggests heading into the very backs of the creeks and fishing a crankbait, and the grass that once again has water on it (with higher water levels) is also holding fish. 

On his last trip they caught about 50% bass well back in a creek where they were also targeting crappie with minnows on a drop shot. Fish were suspended around brush in about 17 feet and both species bit very well.  

Wendell reports no change in the striper bite, and he notes that they can now be caught on both ends of the lake. On the lower end of the lake he is still mainly fishing down-lines 20-30 feet down, but with more cool water coming out of the Hartwell Dam there are now some good fish up there, too. Free-lines are the best way to target shallower fish in the Hartwell tailrace. 

While catfish are still mixed in with other species and even suspended, the best place to target them specifically is still in 15-20 feet of water off main lake points and flats. Cut herring are hard to beat.

 

 

September 19

Lake Russell water levels are back up to around 474 (full pool is 475.00), and morning surface temperatures are around 81-83 degrees. The lake is still clear. 

Striped bass fishing has picked up on Lake Russell, andGuide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that he is finding good numbers of fish suspended 28-30 feet down in timber. They caught more than a dozen fish on one recent trip, particularly impressive considering that Russell has trophies but not a ton of striper. The big fish weighed almost 23 pounds. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports that he has found an improved striper bite, and he notes that they can now be caught on both ends of the lake. On the lower end of the lake he is still mainly fishing down-lines 20-30 feet down, but with more cool water coming out of the Hartwell Dam there are now some good fish up there, too. Free-lines are the best way to target shallower fish in the Hartwell tailrace. 

In bassfishing Jerry reports that the fishing is still pretty tough, with fish still very suspended and on the move in the 30-50 foot timber. Live baits and drop shot rigs are the best ways to catch them. With air temperatures getting back into the 90s very soon Jerry is not optimistic that this cool front will improve the bite very much. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is mainly finding bass in the typical late summer/ fall pattern of hanging around schools of threadfin shad in 20-30 feet. There are some fish on main lake flats, and some are in coves off the main channel. Fishing minnows on a drop shot he is catching a mixed bag of both bass species, white and yellow perch, catfish and crappie. 

Additionally, there are some crappie up the creeks around either brush or natural timber in 15-20 feet of water. The fish are usually about 10-15 feet down where they will eat minnows. 

While catfish are still mixed in with other species and even suspended, the best place to target them specifically is still in 15-20 feet of water off main lake points and flats. Cut herring are hard to beat.

 

September 12

Lake Russell water levels are back up to around 472.75 (full pool is 475.00), and morning surface temperatures have risen into the mid-80s. The lake is still clear. 

The overall patterns remain fairly similar, butGuide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that catching bass continues to get tougher.  Fish are suspending even more than last week in the 30-50 foot timber, which means instead of relating to the bottom or at least staying in one area they are usually on the move.  You can catch two or three in one area but then they swim off.   Live bait is still working best for bass, but a drop shot can also effective. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) also reports that bass fishing remains tough, but he is still catching some fish on main lake flats in about 25-30 feet of water around schools of bait. He is also having trouble getting suspended fish to bite at times, but there are also times when they are chasing small threadfin shad on top and will take a topwater or small Shad Rap.

There are still some early nice white perch mixed in with the bass in 25-30 feet. They will take minnows fished on a drop shot, as will the bass.

Crappie fishing is still something of a bright spot, and Wendell reports that they are doing well fishing about 10-15 feet down over brush in 15-25 feet of water. Most of the fish are in the creeks and they are taking minnows. 

Striped bass are still a mixed bag, and at times Jerry reports that they have gotten into some good ones fishing over the same timber where the bass are holding. The fish are 20-25 feet down and will take herring on down lines.  

While neither guide has been actively targeting catfish, Wendell reports that they are still very aggressive while fishing for other species. He is catching them suspended 15 feet off the bottom while pursuing bass! The best place to target catfish is in 15-20 feet of water off main lake points and flats. Cut herring are hard to beat.

 

September 4

Lake Russell water levels are down to around 472 (full pool is 475.00), about as low as the lake typically gets, and morning surface temperatures are roughly 80-83 degrees. The lake is still pretty clear. 

The overall patterns remain fairly similar, butGuide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that catching bass has gotten a little tougher.  This is mainly because the fish are suspending even more in the 30-50 foot timber, and instead of relating to the bottom or at least staying in one area they are frequently on the move.  You can catch two or three in one area but then they swim off.   Live bait is still working well for bass, but a drop shot is also effective. 

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) has also noticed the bass pattern getting a little tougher, although he is still catching fish on main lake flats in about 25-30 feet of water around schools of bait. He is also having trouble getting suspended fish to bite at times, but there are also times when they are chasing small threadfin shad on top and will take a topwater or small Shad Rap.

They are just starting to catch some nice white perch mixed in with the bass in 25-30 feet. They will take minnows fished on a drop shot, as will the bass.

Perhaps the biggest change this week is that the crappie fishing has picked up, and Wendell reports that they are doing well fishing about 10-15 feet down over brush in 15-25 feet of water. Most of the fish are in the creeks and they are taking minnows. 

Striped bass have been a mixed bag, but at times Jerry reports that they have gotten into some good ones fishing over the same timber where the bass are holding. The fish are 20-25 feet down and will take herring on down lines.  

While neither guide has been actively targeting catfish, Wendell reports that they have been very aggressive while fishing for other species. He is catching them suspended 15 feet off the bottom while pursuing bass! The best place to target catfish is in 15-20 feet of water off main lake points and flats. Cut herring are hard to beat.

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