Lake Hartwell: Lake Hartwell water levels are at 650.30 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the low to mid-50s. Because of drought conditions any rain is quickly soaked into the ground and there is relatively little inflow into the lake.
Winter weather has been wacky in the Upstate, and as a result Guide Brad Fowler reports that Lake Hartwell bass dont know whether they should be coming or going. Water temperatures never got and stayed below 50 degrees for any extended period of time, and as a result there was never really a mass movement of fish out deep. Accordingly, Brad says that fish are scattered all over the place. They could be caught in very deep water, or against the bank. And whereas a lot of times winter fish will move up shallow but stay close to deep water, Hartwell fish are as likely to be found up shallow on a flat in the very back as in a main lake pocket near deep water. Fish can also be found in between shallow and deep.
Overall fishing is fair to good, again with the caveat that fish are very, very scattered and finding concentrations is difficult. Certainly fish can be caught around deep structure on spoons and drop shots, and in shallow areas finesse fishing with soft plastics or jerkbaits is working. In more stained shallow areas fish are being caught on crankbaits.
Right now its hard to characterize what stage fish are in, and even though temperatures resemble what is typical for the early pre-spawn there are a lot of fish out deep. Brad says this may be a spring like a few years ago when fish went from winter straight to spawning on the banks without an extended staging period.
While bass have been a little hard to pattern, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that crappie fishing on Lake Hartwell has been strong. Good numbers of fish and good sizes have been caught. Fishing 9 or 10 feet down with minnows over brush in 15-20 feet of water has been the best pattern.
The catfish bite has also been good, and Captain Bill reports that they have caught some nice blue catfish in the 20+ pound range fishing in about 30 feet of water with cut bait on the bottom. As water temperatures rise fish should start to move further back into the creeks, but for now they have been at the mouths.
Striped bass fishing has been a little tough, and in a recent tournament bites were very, very hard to come by. Many of the fish that are being caught are coming pulling free-lines through areas where you find birds, and there are also a few fish being picked up on umbrella rigs trolled in the same areas. Captain Bill says they are actually doing better live bait fishing for spotted bass with herring on downlines in 25-35 feet of water at creek bends.