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Lake Hartwell (GA/SC) Fishing Report – Updated May 17

  • by Jay

Overall, Lake Hartwell is at 660.14 and water clarity is normal.  Water temperatures are in the mid-70s.

It’s a transition period for bass on Lake Hartwell according to Guide Brad Fowler, and even though fish can be caught there is no “red hot” bite right now.  Fish can still be found bedding, and there are even a very few fish up shallow that have not spawned yet, but overall the spawn is winding down.  Similarly, while the blueback herring spawn is still going on in certain places, the big fish aren’t on the blueback herring like they were a few weeks ago, and particularly during tournaments such as the Ray Scott Championship.  Some small fish can be caught around herring, but the big ones just don’t seem to be there.

Fish are in the process of transitioning out to deeper water as temperatures rise, but right now there are still plenty of decent ones up shallow.  Brad has seen some wolfpacks of fish cruising.  But finding big fish has been difficult, and it’s an open question where the solid numbers of better fish can be found.

With water levels very high Brad doesn’t expect the deeper, summer topwater bite to be as good as it often is this year.  Fish want to hang out in the tops of timber, and with water levels up they probably won’t be as willing to come all the way up to the surface to eat.  The fish are also more spread out.  It may be a better season for fishing drop shot rigs and other, deeper presentations.

Striped and Hybrid Bass: Good to very good. Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that the cold front has knocked the fishing back a bit the last couple of days, but this is only a temporary effect and soon the striper bite should be red hot again.  Overall the fish are in a transition period but feeding very well, and they are starting to ease their way out of the rivers and very backs and out towards bigger water.  For now they are staging in pockets/ coves in 30-40 feet feet of water in the main rivers, and as temperatures continue to warm they will move deeper.  The best pattern has been fishing blueback herring just off the bottom on down-lines.  Early in the morning there has been sporadic schooling activity, although fish might school one morning and then not for a couple of days.  On mornings when they are schooling free-lines are working well, and cut bait is still a method of choice for anglers looking to pick up a few big fish.  The blueback herring spawn is definitely winding down but is not over.

A nice Hartwell striper caught recently on Guide Chip Hamilton's boat
A nice Hartwell striper caught recently on Guide Chip Hamilton’s boat

Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) concurs in this assessment of the striper bite, and he says that fish are working their way down the rivers even though there are still a lot of fish up.  Fish are still pretty scattered out, but he is finding a lot of fish in the mid-lake area as they make their move.  Fishing down-lines 30 feet deep off points has been working well for him, and he is also catching fish on free lines.  Like Chip he has seen sporadic schooling.

Catfish: Good.  Captain Bill Plumley reports that the blue catfish bite is starting to drop off on Lake Hartwell, and with warming water temperatures many blue catfish are starting to head out to deeper timber.  A few fish can still be found in 2-15 feet of water, but once temperatures bump up a few more degrees they will leave.  Cut herring, gizzard shad and white perch are all working.

Meanwhile, the channel catfish bite is coming on strong, and good numbers of channel catfish are being caught in 5-20 feet of water.  They will eat dip baits, cut herring, and night crawlers as well as a variety of other baits, and the fish are literally over the lake.  Bill has found the best concentrations in 18-20 feet of water.

The flathead catfish bite continues to improve, and fish are being caught at night around standing timber or brush in 5-30 feet of water.  Live bream, perch, herring, or trout will all catch fish.

Crappie: Fair. Captain Bill Plumley reports that the crappie bite has seen some improvement, and the general pattern is fishing 12-15 feet down over brush in about 20 feet of water with minnows.  There have also been a bunch of fish caught on jigs around docks in 8-12 feet of water that have brush under them.  Some fish can also be caught at night around bridges and brush in 15-20 feet of water on minnows.

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