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AHQ INSIDER Lake Russell (GA/SC) Winter Fishing Report – Updated February 19

  • by Jay

February 19

Lake Russell water levels are at 473.93 (full pool is 475.00) and water temperatures are in the mid-50s.  Clarity is good.

Water temperatures are unseasonably warm on Lake Russell, and Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) reports that bass can be found pretty much everywhere.  Unlike on some lakes where warm temperatures have the fishing tough to pattern, on Russell they are biting pretty well everywhere.

Jerry says that he is still catching some fish deep in 38-40 feet on drop-shots and spoons, and there are also plenty of fish that have already moved up onto the banks.  Overall fish are starting to move into the pockets and creeks.  He has been picking up a lot of shallow bass as a side-catch on crappie jigs, but they will also take small crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

His boat is also catching a lot of crappie around the banks, and Jerry says that he is finding them in the backs of pockets on jigs and minnows.  The fish he has caught recently have not had eggs, while in January he caught some with eggs.  Considering that some fish hit the banks last year when water temperatures were 52 or 53 degrees, he would not be surprised if one wave of fish has already spawned!

A couple of slabs caught on Guide Jerry Kotal's boat
A couple of slabs caught on Guide Jerry Kotal’s boat

January 13

Lake Russell water levels are at 471.22 (full pool is 475.00) and surface temperatures have already risen 2-3 degrees in the past couple of days.  In the morning they are about 51 rising to about 54 during the day.  Clarity is good.

It’s a dynamite time for striped bass fishing on Lake Russell, with the big fish really biting!  On his most recent trip Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) caught a bunch of large fish including one a little over 20 and one 31-pounder.  The key lately has been running around and using “a lot of gas.”  The fish have been suspended about 20-25 feet down over main channel timber in roughly 50 feet of water, and everything has come casting an Alabama rig.  Yesterday Jerry only saw one fish roll and so the fish were caught by “throwing and throwing and throwing.”

The big striper caught yesterday on Guide Jerry Kotal's boat
The big striper caught yesterday on Guide Jerry Kotal’s boat

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) concurs about the overall pattern, and he has also found the fish scattered all over the main channels.  Some of them are a little ways up the Savannah River, some to about halfway up the Rocky River, and a few just up Beaverdam.   In addition to throwing an Alabama rig on a baitcaster with heavy braid, he is also catching fishing pulling herring or shiners on free lines or planer boards.

Jerry says that some good bass have been mixed in lately with the striper when they are throwing A-rigs, and he is also catching a lot of bass on spoons and drop-shot rigs.  Fish have been as deep as 65-70 feet, but with the recent warming he doesn’t expect that to last very long.

Wendell is also catching a mix of bass and yellow perch fishing in 35-60 feet of water around bait at the edge of underwater timber.  Fishing medium minnows has been accounting for a mixed bag including big perch, some spotted bass over 3 pounds and some largemouth over 4 pounds.  White perch and crappie have been pretty absent.

December 27

Lake Russell water levels are at 474.81 (full pool is 475.00) and surface temperatures are around 57-58 degrees, having risen several degrees from about 53 degrees after the most recent warm spell.  Clarity is good.

Spotted bass fishing on Lake Russell is strong, although Guide Jerry Kotal (706-988-0860) says that the warm weather slightly changed the pattern he has been fishing.  Fish were very deep, but yesterday he found them from 45-50 feet all the way up to 25 feet.  They “only” caught 50 fish, which is down from even better numbers before we had several warm days.  Fish are being caught on deeper flats, as well as at the end of points.  They are on the main lake as well as at the mouth of creeks and his boat is catching them on drop shot rigs as well as spoons.

Guide Wendell Wilson (706-283-3336) is fishing a similar pattern, and like Jerry he is picking up some nice yellow perch (which are very good eating) along with the spotted bass.  He is targeting 40-60 feet of water on deep flats near the main lake, and Wendell’s boat is fishing just off the bottom with jigging spoons as well as medium minnows on a drop shot rig.  They are picking up a few white perch as well as crappie in the same areas.

While spotted bass are prolific, how to target largemouth bass right now is something of a head-scratcher.  Jerry and Wendell suggest going further back in the creeks and maybe fishing a crankbait or a jig, or trying to crawl a jig off the points in timber areas in 20-25 feet of water.

Striped bassfishing has been pretty good, with fish being caught in the lower part of the main channel of the Rocky River as well as the Savannah River, and particularly where the two run together.  There are lots of birds on the lake now, and they are starting to feed around the striper.  Overall striper are biting better on Alabama rigs than on bait, and throwing rigs into the areas where birds are diving has been a good technique.  While a mix of techniques can be used with live bait the best bet has been pulling free lines close to the surface.  Fish move up out of the timber to eat, and then run back down into the trees.

While neither guide is targeting catfish right now, Jerry’s boat has picked up a bunch while jigging a spoon for bass and perch.  He also recently landed a 36-pound flathead this way!

A big flathead landed recently on Guide Jerry Kotal's boat while jigging for bass!
A big flathead landed recently on Guide Jerry Kotal’s boat while jigging for bass!