Full pool for Lake Hartwell is 660.0 feet, and right now Lake Hartwell water levels stand at 664.15. This actually represents a dropof about a foot in the last few days, and at their peak water levels were more than five feet above full pool. Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) points out that the problem is that there is nowhere for the water to go, as all the downstream reservoirs are also way over full pool. As a results many public landings are closed, although Green Pond Ramp is still good because their floating docks are on poles. However, at many facilities water on the dock walkways is waist-deep, and Captain Bill says he has never seen anything like this – particularly at this time of year. In the summer of 2013 water levels got to five feet above full pool, but this winter seems to be even higher. Yesterday in the wind water could be seen splashing over the top of Lake Hartwell Dam! As would be expected this is playing havoc with at least the fishermen, if not the fish.
Although water levels have been limiting many people’s access to and time on the water – and sending a lot of Hartwell regulars over to Lake Keowee – Guide Brad Fowler reports that there has been a strong deep bass bite recently. Fish are being caught in 30-50 feet of water around creek channels, timber and depth changes. The high water does not seem to be affecting deep fish, and in fact many striper guides report catching lots of bass deep mixed in with striper. Jigging spoons and drop shot worms have both been working well. It does appear that high water is causing the fish to suspend off the bottom a little more than might be typical at this time of year, and so anglers should pay close attention to their electronics.
Cold nights in the last few days will probably move temperatures towards a more typical range for January, but even though water temperatures have been warm for January until now fish don’t seem to have wanted to move shallow in large numbers even as water levels rose. Even though dirty/ muddy conditions do have the tendency to push fish shallower much of the year, Brad says they are less likely to have that effect when temperatures are dropping. He doesn’t doubt that someone has figured out how to catch fish up shallow considering that water is “in the woods”, but in cold, stained water that is less of a pattern. Some of the creeks are downright muddy and out on the main lake water got a little dirty after the last major rain.
Even though Lake Hartwell is a mess, along with bass other species are continuing to bite through the crazy water conditions.
Catfish: Fair to good. Captain Bill Plumley reports that as expected at this time of year blue catfish have moved up shallower and into the creeks this January, and when conditions permitted fishing they have been catching some pretty good numbers of 8-12 pound blues on cut herring. He has also caught some bigger fish including a 35-pound blue that was caught on loaf bread! Drifting in 15-30 feet of water has been pretty effective, and if anglers could find a shore that was possible to pull up on they could probably do well anchoring baits at the same depth. The wind has been so strong that anchoring a boat in open water has been tough. Cut herring, cut shad, or most any other fresh cut bait is working. Because water temperatures have been uncharacteristically warm a pretty good number of channel catfish have been mixed in with the catch, too.
Striped Bass: Slow to fair. Captain Bill Plumley reports that fishing has been pretty tough for striper, but some fish have been caught on jigging spoons. Anglers should first mark fish on the bottom, and then drop a spoon down – and expect plenty of white perch to be mixed in with the catch. In the afternoon when temperatures warm up marginally some fish have also been caught on free-lined live herring.
Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) concurs that fishing has been kind of tough, and he has also seen some of the best action on free-lines as well as artificials. In the afternoon free lining with planer boards has generated some catches, and there have also been some fish caught on Pulse Jigs and scrounger heads. Chip believes that striper are feeding on small bait because of the areas they are in – moved into the backs of creeks, and a little bit shallower – and as a results some small artificials have been effective. Overall both guides concur that catching 5-10 fish is a good day right now, and all the rain, mud, and fast current has the bait and the fish a little sideways.
Crappie: Slow to fair. Guide Chip Hamilton reports that before the most recent rain anglers were catching some nice coolers of crappie fishing 10-12 feet deep over brush in 16-20 feet of water, and he saw some really nice boxes of crappie including some big fish. However, since then the action has really slowed down, and Guide Bill Plumley reports that from what he has heard the few fish now being caught are coming around brush in 25-30 feet of water. The rain, cooler temperatures, the mud or some combination of those have pushed the fish deeper.
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