August is a prime time to catch a trophy striped bass in South Carolina’s Lake Russell, and finding them is pretty simple, according to guide Wendell Wilson of Elberton, Ga. — go north or go south.
“The reason I like to target big stripers in August is because the fish are concentrated in two areas: the Hartwell Dam tailrace at the upper end of the lake or the deeper water down near the Russell Dam at the lower end,” Wilson said.
“If you go up the lake near Hartwell Dam, the best way to target the stripers is pulling planer boards with large herring, gizzard shad or trout. If you fish down near Russell Dam, you can use down lines, fishing live blueback herring down in the thermocline, usually about 30 feet deep.”
The thing that makes striper fishing unique on Lake Russell in August, he said, is that it is not a place to come and catch a cooler full of fish; the limit is two fish per day per angler.
“Russell is a place to come and catch some larger fish. We throw back the smaller ones,” said Wilson (706-283-3336). “I am amazed at how many people still don’t realize that the limit on Russell is only two fish, even with signs up around the lake. It’s really kind of shocking that a lot of people think the limit on Russell is the same as on Clarks Hill and Hartwell, where it is 10. If you want a numbers of stripers, go right below Russell Dam. You can catch plenty of them there.”
On Russell, he explained, an angler can keep one fish over 34 inches or two fish under 34 inches. But chances are good at catching a good-sized striper, he added.
“Right now in Russell, we seem to have a pretty good crop of stripers that weigh in the teens into the low 20-pound range,” Wilson said. “This also seems to be a banner year for hybrids. They don’t stock hybrids in Russell, but they come into the lake during the pump-back operation at Russell Dam from Clarks Hill Lake. Hybrids are not plentiful, but we caught one in June that weighed 6 pounds, which is good size for a hybrid.”
Several things are essential when fishing for Russell’s stripers, Wilson said. First, you need good tackle; make sure the line is not frayed and the hook is in good shape.
“We’ve lost them just about every way you can lose them, and you do have the submerged trees to worry about,” he said. “It’s not a good combination when you have a fish that will pull line and you have all those trees it can get into.”
The good bite for big stripers lasts into the middle of September when the water starts cooling slightly.
“Once we start getting longer nights and cooler mornings the fish start scattering out,” Wilson said.