Max Tiberghien, the 13-year-old son of “Fish’N Crazee” television show host Xavier Tiberghien, thought he was reeling in another one of Lake Hartwell’s striped bass or maybe a spotted bass on Monday when he joined the club of anglers who have landed a trophy walleye from the lake – this one a 6.1-pounder.
Tiberghien was fishing with his father and his younger brother, Alex, when the fish took a blueback herring being fished on a down-rod presentation during a guide trip that Xavier was leading for one of his sponsors.
“We had marked some fish on the graph down the lake, south of Sadler’s Creek, and we already had three stripers, two spotted bass and a largemouth when this fish hit,” said Xavier Tiberghien, whose show airs on Saturday mornings at 5:30 on WSPA in the Upstate. “We saw the green back and thought it was another spot, but it turned out to be a big walleye.”
Tiberghien initially thought the fish could be a sauger, a close relative of the walleye that’s common in a number of lakes in Tennessee where he grew up. The thought prompted him to have the fish weighed, and after a stop at Lake Hartwell Fishing & Marine, knew the trio had something weighing 6.1 pounds on their hands – a state record if the fish turned out to be a sauger, breaking the 1985 record of 4 pounds, 7 ounces, set by Broadus Moody of Honea Path, whose fish came from Clarks Hill Lake.
“I talked to a biologist with the SCDNR at Clemson and he confirmed it was a walleye, not a state record – which is around 10 pounds – but still a great fish,” Xavier Tiberghien said.
Lake Hartwell is included in one of nine lakes regularly stocked with walleye by Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, reared in three coldwater fish hatcheries.
According to Anthony Rabern, a biologist at Georgia’s Burton Hatchery, Lake Hartwell walleye are fairly predictable in the spring when they migrate up into the lake’s headwaters behind the Yonah Dam to spawn, but they disperse widely across the lake’s 56,000 acres the remainder of the year, making them hard to specifically target.
Most anglers who catch walleye during the remainder of the year do so incidentally while targeting other species. Lake Hartwell is one of only three documented lakes in the Georgia program that have a naturally reproducing population of walleye.