Overall, Lake Hartwell has come up to 660.40 and water temperatures are in the low to mid-60s; there can be five degrees of variance between creeks and the main lake. Generally the water is pretty clear but fishermen can find some color in the creeks.
In his last report Guide Brad Fowler estimated that about 50% of the bass on Lake Hartwell were actively bedding, while another 50% were still pre-spawn. Naturally those percentages have now changed, and Brad estimates that around 60 or 70% of the fish are now either bedding or have already spawned, while the remaining portion of the fish are are still pre-spawn. Brad believes that the next full moon will certainly have the remaining fish up shallow bedding, but for now they continue to catch some fat pre-spawn fish that definitely have not laid out.
Because of the stage of the spawn Brad says that fish are all over the place and can be caught on pretty much everything. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to catch fish, and with so many fish consumed with spawning or in a post-spawn lull he thinks anglers in the ABA Ram Truck Open Series Ray Scott Championship starting this Thursday on Hartwell will only find a “fair” bite. There are some very, very spotty reports of blueback herring spawning but they haven’t really gotten started, so nothing is kick-starting a hot post-spawn bite.
Pre-spawn fish continue to be caught around secondary points and drops that lead into spawning flats, and 10-20 feet is a good depth range. Fish at all stages of the spawn can also be caught in the shallows. Jigs and shakey head worms are good for deeper fish, while for shallower fish floating worms, Senkos and swimbaits will all work.
Striped and Hybrid Bass: Good. Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that as expected striped bass fishing has improved, and on recent trips his boat has been catching 15-25+ fish. Today they caught 22. However, cold fronts have continued to make fishing unpredictable, and whenever it looks like fish are going to get into a shallower pattern dropping temperatures push them deeper. For instance, free lines had been working best recently but cold fronts over the weekend pushed the fish they targeted today into 30-38 feet of water where they were caught on down-lines. Temperatures in the 30s later this week will do nothing to reverse this pattern. Overall fish are scattered all over the lake, and they are just starting to pull up on points to feed on bait – when temperatures permit.
Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) concurs that fishing has improved, and most anglers are starting to catch fish now. Fish have run up the rivers in their annual false spawn, and his boat is catching them on free-lines, planer boards and down-lines in 20-30 feet of water. The fish he is seeing are all relatively shallow and sometimes in as little as 8-10 feet of water. Very sporadic schooling has been observed. It looked like the herring spawn was on the verge of getting under way recently, but then dropping temperatures pulled them out. The same appears to have happened with the shad, as last week Chip saw some fish in spawn-like behavior – until the cold front over the weekend messed them up.
Catfish: Captain Bill Plumley reports that the catfish bite remains strong on Lake Hartwell, and perhaps the only reason for the down-grade from very good to good is because with the striper heating up more time has been targeting linesides! Fish remain in 2-20 feet of water in the backs of creeks, with the bends in the creeks the best places to look. First target the inside bends, and if fish aren’t there switch over to the outside of bends. Cut herring, gizzard shad and white perch are all catching fish. Channel catfish are just starting to begin to move shallower and feed better, but temperatures need to warm a few more degrees before they get good. By mid-May or when water temperatures rise another 8-10 degrees fishing for them will be wide open.
Crappie: Slow. Captain Bill Plumley reports that crappie fishing has fallen apart in the last few weeks, and whereas fish had come into the shallows to spawn cold fronts dropped them back out deeper. This pattern of a new cold front every few days is really tough for crappie fishing. The only good news is that since a large number of fish have yet to spawn they will make another move shallower.