Lake Hartwell Fishing Guide.

Lake Hartwell Fishing Guide

Written by Lenny Rudow
September 25, 2023

Last Updated on September 25, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

Anglers from South Carolina and Georgia flock to Lake Hartwell for fishing fun.

There are 56,000 acres of angling territory with almost 1,000 miles of shoreline straddling the border of South Carolina and Georgia, where the Savannah, Tugaloo, and Seneca rivers come together to create Lake Hartwell.

This is one of the largest manmade lakes in the Southeastern United States, and fortunately for us anglers, it’s teeming with fish. That makes Lake Hartwell a top fishing destination, and a huge portion of its 14 million annual visitors arrive with rods and reels in hand.

That also means there are plenty of boats for rent at Lake Hartwell, so you can cast off the lines and do some serious exploring in your quest to catch fish.

Explore fishing boat rentals and charters near Lake Hartwell

Where to fish: Best Lake Hartwell fishing spots

Lake Hartwell sunrise.

Lake Hartwell is such a massive body of water that there’s certainly no shortage of fishing spots. Just where you’ll want to try depends largely on the time of year, but as a basic rule of thumb, you’ll find fish and especially bass in the shallows of the creeks and coves early in the season.

Once summer sets in, expect the fish to move deeper off drop-offs and points in search of cool water; in the fall, fish shift back to creek mouths and coves to fatten up on shad and herring; and in winter, most sportfish species will be found around deepwater structure.

Also note that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains dozens of fish-attracting artificial reefs in Lake Hartwell. These are made of Christmas trees and artificial structures and are scattered throughout the lake. Visit Corps of Engineers Savannah District Website Fishing Information to get a listing of the sites with GPS coordinates.

What to fish for in Lake Hartwell: Top species list

Bass fishing in Lake Hartwell

The lake is popular for largemouth bass fishing, and it’s also very well known for its strong population of striped bass. But these aren’t your only options by a long shot. Plying these waters, you can catch:

  • Catfish (multiple species)
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth bass
  • Rainbow trout
  • Sauger
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Spotted bass
  • Striped bass
  • Sunfish (multiple species
  • Walleye
  • White bass

When to go fishing in Lake Hartwell

Lake Hartwell sunset.

This lake is large enough and has a big enough diversity in its environment to create fisheries year-round. That said, different fisheries will peak at different times of the year so if you want to target one or another specifically, you may want to time your fishing trip around the season.

Spring is the time for serious bass anglers to look for largemouth bass, America’s most popular freshwater gamefish. Once summer sets in, those bass will move deep and can still be targeted over structure, but stripers become a favored catch because they tend to continue to bite strongly through the warmer months of the year.

As water temperatures dip during fall, just about every species of fish is trying to fatten up for winter. This is the very best time of year for fishing the lake for a range of species. And, in winter, crappie fishing heats up, especially over deep structures where tight, large schools of fish can be located.

How to fish in Lake Hartwell

Fishing in Lake Hartwell.

Just about any tactic can be applied here, but there are some pro tips when it comes to how to fish in Lake Hartwell.

Pro tips: Tossing topwater is certainly a popular move for fishing at Lake Hartwell, especially if you’re targeting bass during a season when they dwell in the shallows. When they’re deep, jigging spoons that sink down and stay down is a popular option. This is also a great way to go after the stripers.

Speaking of stripers: another way to go is trolling, often with planers, particularly during the fall and winter when the fish group up to chase schools of bait. Keep a sharp eye out for gulls and loons, which are telltale signs of bait being nearby, and be sure to put an umbrella rig on the end of your line.

Live bait fishing is another excellent way to score while fishing on Lake Hartwell. Crappie anglers often use live shiners, either on a bare hook or tipping a small jig or dart. And when you’re trying to tempt larger predators to bite, few things will trigger an attack quicker than a live blueback.

There are plenty of opportunities for anglers at Lake Hartwell. Once you hone in on your target and start casting, one thing is for sure: you’d better be ready for that rod to bend over, and that drag to start screaming.

Want more fishing guides? We’ve got more

Enjoy your day on Lake Hartwell, and share your catches with us on social media — tag #BSCatchoftheWeek for a chance to be featured by Boatsetter Fishing.

About Boatsetter Fishing

Boatsetter offers over 50,000 boats to rent or charter–for anglers, that means you can rent everything from bass boats or pontoons to fish freshwater to center consoles or skiffs to fish saltwater from inshore to offshore. Your next personal best or bucket list catch is here!

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