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Lake Hartwell (GA/SC) Fishing Report – Updated May 24

  • by Jay

Overall, Lake Hartwell is at 660.49 and water clarity is normal.  Water temperatures are in the mid-70s.

It’s still a transition period for bass on Lake Hartwell according to Guide Brad Fowler, and the end of the spring phase on the lake is starting to give way to summer fishing.  There are only a very few straggler fish now bedding, and the herring spawn is virtually over even if some bait is still up early in the morning.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still some fish shallow, and of course some fish will stay shallow right through the summer.  Brad says that even as fish are in the process of transitioning out to deeper water he is still seeing some wolfpacks of fish cruising, and there have been some pretty good fish caught shallow on topwater lures.

Plenty of fish have also made their way offshore, or are in the process of heading that way.  Water levels remain very high and so Brad doesn’t expect the deeper, summer topwater bite for suspended fish to be as good as it often is this year.  While some fish will certainly take flukes, Spooks, Sebille Magic Swimmers and other baits fished in the top part of the water column over underwater structure numbers will be down.  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.

When topwater techniques aren’t working angler can target deeper fish with drop shot rigs, shakey head worms and Carolina rigs.

Striped and Hybrid Bass: Good.  Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that the cold front over the last few days as well as the full moon have hurt the bite a little bit, but the pattern is still pretty similar.  Fish continue to work their way down the rivers, and the bigger fish are starting to move a little deeper.  They are holding in 30-50 feet of water along the main river channel and the edge of timber.  Fish can also be caught around pockets and off deep points on down-lines fished in about 30 feet of water.  Free lines are also working, particularly early.

Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports little change in the bite over the last week, and he says that fish remain in a transition period but are feeding well.  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.

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

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 and move into the 30-foot depth range.  They are mostly being caught off points and in creeks without timber at that depth, and cut herring, gizzard shad and white perch are all working.

The channel catfish bite remains strong with good numbers of channel catfish being caught in 5-20 feet of water all over the lake.  They will eat dip baits, cut herring, and night crawlers as well as a variety of other baits, and 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 or early in the morning around standing timber or brush in 5-30 feet of water.  Creek channels and points with cover are good spots, and if fish don’t bite within an hour move on to the next place.  Live bream, perch, herring, or trout will all catch fish.

Crappie: Fair. Captain Bill Plumley reports that the best pattern for crappie remains fishing 15-18 feet down over brush in about 20 feet of water with minnows, and the bite around bridges is also getting better.  The fishing has been a little bit better at night than during the day.