Lake Hartwell Fishing Report May 15 2019 | Sponsored by Hayes Automotive
Written by Rick Owen – Lake Hartwell Professional Fishing Guide
Time truly does fly by so welcome to year two of our Lake Hartwell Fishing Reports! It was a year ago on May 11th 2018 that we published our first ever Captain Mack’s Lake Hartwell Fishing Report and what a year it has been. We have seen many changes on Lake Hartwell with some being good and some bad but the fishery has remained strong. This past year we experienced some really high water levels that came from a much wetter season than usual. Many folks who spend their time fishing or for those who live on Lake Hartwell were pleased to see the lake full over this past year, but in an effort to maintain manageable water levels the Corp of Engineers pulled the water levels down during the hottest months of this past summer which resulted in taking away the cold oxygenated waters from the bottom of the lake.
This was done while the biggest Stripers were located in the deeper waters near the dam. The results of this were a major fish kill that we are in the process of recovering from now. It may take several years for the Stripers to reach trophy size again but as always Lake Hartwell seems to bounce back from any of these types of problems. All in all the fishing over this past year has been very productive for all species and we will do our best to keep everyone informed in this report each week in the coming year so that everyone has a good starting point to catch some really good fish. Fishing is always great in the month of May! It does not matter what type of fish you consider to be your favorite species to fish for May is always in my opinion one of the best months to focus on catching fish. I have found that in May you can start before the sun comes up or fish as the sun sets and you can always catch fish. I usually find myself on the water before sun up several times during the week and after a quick nap I’m back on the water all over again to catch fish as the sun sets. Typically whatever the fish do in the early morning they will do it again in the early evenings.
Don’t tell anybody but May is the best time to catch large Bream as they are on the beds in May. If you have the same desire that I have to fish crickets or worms under a float you won’t be disappointed this month. For those of us who have kids or grandkids or if you are a kid at heart and love to watch a float disappear you just can’t beat this type of fishing. Some of my greatest trips on Lake Hartwell are fished in May so before it gets really hot in the coming months give this next couple of weeks some priority and you won’t be disappointed.
The current Lake Hartwell water levels remain above full pool and the current levels are at 660.88 which is.88 feet above the 660 full pool levels. The current water temperatures are now in the mid-seventies during the early mornings and are in the high seventies after the sun comes up by mid-day. If you are interested in booking a fun day of fishing for Stripers or our hard fighting Hybrids on Lake Hartwell give Captain Mack a call. The fishing will be great and now is the best time to fish Lake Hartwell.
STRIPED BASS & HYBRIDS
Striper and Hybrid fishing on Lake Hartwell continues to be great with the fish still being caught all over the lake. The Hybrid Bass bite is strong right now and fishing down rods while drumming for fish will put fish in the boat every trip. We are catching some really big Hybrids and if you get them under your boat it will not take long to empty a bait tank. The Stripers and Hybrids seem to be more focused on smaller baits. I still will not go fishing unless I have at least a dozen big baits with me but I’m currently catching my best fish off of smaller Herring. Now that the water temperatures have reached into the high seventies the fish are moving back down the lake and can be caught at the mouth of most all major creeks and rivers in many areas of the lake.
Stripers and Hybrids are biting early morning before daylight mainly on points as well as just before sunset in the evenings. The live bait bite is great on the down rods and free lines. Pulling big baits behind your Perfect Planer Boards is your best chance to catch a trophy Striper in May. The point fishing around islands or shoals is really good so if you don’t have a problem beaching your boat on a red or sandy point you will want to give it a try. Live bait or cut bait both are working well before daylight on shallow points. The fish are usually found on major and minor points right off of a river or creek channel or around islands, old road beds or big flats. My favorite way to fish this method is to fish live or cut bait Carolina rigged off the bottom with bait thrown out around the back of the boat once you get beached.
The best bite seems to be in twenty to thirty feet of water after the fish pull off the banks. If you get on a school of really small fish you will want to leave. The small fish are about the size of your hand and they feed so aggressively that they tend to swallow the bait so I will always leave these fish if they bunch up under my boat to prevent killing them as well as to keep them from eating up all of my live bait. Free lines with or without planer boards are catching a lot of fish after the sun starts to come up and they will usually bite up until lunch time. I’ve found that many times that the larger fish come off the free lines especially if you use lighter tackle. Switching to my Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs after the sun gets above the tree tops is a very good option after the live bait bite slows down.
This past Sunday a cold front moved in which brought us ten to fifteen mile an hour winds over the past few days. This made my U-Rigs the most important tool in my boat when the winds blew too hard to fish live bait. This is my number one reason that I will not back my boat off the trailer without my Captain Mack Umbrella Rigs! We will continue to catch fish off of down rods, free lines, U-Rigs and casting top water baits as well as swim baits through the month of May.
Bass fishing continues to be great and we are seeing some really nice catches of largemouth Bass and Spotted Bass! All of the bass clubs are fishing now and you will find a tournament somewhere on Lake Hartwell every week. Many clubs have started their evening tournaments which usually weigh in around 9 pm. Largemouth and Spotted Bass are still being caught on Weedless Wonders, SteelShads, Mini Mack’s and various Crankbaits, Spinner baits, Topwater baits, Jerk baits and of course your favorite plastics. I personally have been catching some really good fish using my SteelShad baits as well as casting my Mini Mack bladed rigs at deeper points and around deep docks and bridges.
When it comes to Lake Hartwell Bass fishing it seems to me that whatever you have the most confidence in will be your go to bait now that the Bass are finishing up the spawn. I’m sure your favorite Plastics, Crankbaits, Jerkbaits, A-Rigs and Swimbaits in shallower waters will
continue to get the job done over the next couple of weeks as the Bass start to chase bait on the many shallow points and humps on Lake Hartwell.
The Lake Hartwell Shad spawn should start very soon and this will bring the bass into shallow waters to feed so be on the ready for the upcoming shallow water blast, this will make the top water bite a fun way to catch Bass. Many of the larger Bass have moved back to their favorite docks and the Spotted Bass are starting to show up schooling on shallow points at day break early in the mornings. Many of the Largemouth and Spots that are being caught are schooled up together and some are still full of eggs. If you fish a SteelShad in these schooled up fish you will catch fish!
The Crappie bite is still great on Lake Hartwell! Fishing under bridges in the late evening under lights is producing some big slabs using very small minnows. We are buying at least eight to ten dozen minnows and you will catch some smaller fish so you can throw them back to catch the big ones. When the threadfin shad get under your boat throw your cast net and catch you some small shad to fish with.
The biggest Crappie will come off of the shad and you will also catch the occasional Hybrid or Striper on your light tackle which can be a blast! The docks that are located in deeper waters are still holding some big fish and if you are good at shooting docks you will be able to catch some really good fish. Blue Ice jigs are working great as well as long lining baits with live and artificial baits.
Wishing you all tight lines and good fishing! Rick Owen – Lake Hartwell Professional Fishing Guide (Ret.) Certified SCDNR Fishing Instructor
To book your next Lake Hartwell fishing adventure please call Captain Mack Farr