It should come as no surprise that the hottest fish going this month on Lake Hartwell are striped bass and hybrid bass. Of the dozen or so full-time fishing guides on the lake, most of them have been running back-to-back trips for several weeks and expect to be busy through the July 4 holiday and beyond. 

“This is what most of us do during the summer,” said Steve Pietrykowski of Fishki Business Charters in Seneca (864-353-3438), “mostly because people are on vacation and want to go fishing, but as the water heats up, the hybrids and stripers move down the lake, and that’s probably the best place to catch them.”

Pietrykowski said a fish kill on the lake last year mostly affected larger fish;  it didn’t seem to bother fish in the 20-inch range.

“We’re catching limits early – sometimes 50 fish per boat, depending on how many people are in the charter,” he said. “I’m fishing all live-bait herring, using a down rod with a Carolina rig.”

Pietrykowski said fish have, for the most part, moved out of the Tugaloo and Seneca river arms, but there are still pockets of stripers and hybrids to be found all over the lake. Hartwell’s river arms tend to stratify more than the main lake, so anglers fishing there should adjust their depth finders to pick up the faint signal of the thermo-cline. Anglers fishing down the lake should concentrate on long points and humps adjacent to deep water and the forest of topped trees that cover much of the floor of the basin.

“Sadler’s Creek, Powderbag Creek, Lightwood Log – all those places can be accessed from Big Oak Landing on the Georgia side near the dam,” said Pietrykowski.

Earlier in the spring, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources made local headlines in beefing up their stocking efforts of Lake Hartwell in an attempt to offset losses from last summer’s kill and a gap in the survival rates of some fry classes.

“We know we have a strong 2- and 3-year-old class of fish in there now,” said biologist Dan Rankin. “We’ve nearly doubled our target stocking of seven fish per acre and, combined with Georgia, have put in nearly 12½ fish per acre this season.”