Hartwell stripers are chowing down in tributary rivers

Hartwell stripers
Guide Preston Hardin said stripers will be schooling up in June, heading toward the lower end of 50,000-acre Lake Hartwell. (Photo by Pat Robertson)

Hartwell’s stripers gather in big groups this month

Lake Hartwell stripers are easy to pattern in June. And they will eat a bait that is put in front of them, according to guide Preston Harden of Commerce, Ga.

“In May, fishing for them can be a little sketchy, because you have a window in the morning when the fish are active. Then they disappear. But in June, the fish start migrating down the lake. And they start gathering in big groups,” he said.

The developing thermocline pushes the fish out of the creeks and into the Tugaloo, Keowee and Seneca rivers, according to Harden (706-255-5622). And then they start migrating down the lake in search of cleaner water.

“At 35 to 40 feet you can see the thermocline on your graph. So you will find the fish at 30 to 35 feet deep. If you are fishing every day, you can pretty much stay with the migration all the way down the lake,” he said. “Just idle up the river channel and mark some fish on the graph. Stop, and you will catch some of them, because they will take the bait so good.”

Go big on baits during hot weather

Live blueback herring are the bait of choice. But artificials can play a role in June, Harden said.

“Usually, June is not that much of a big artificial month because the fish have moved deeper. But you can start power-reeling for them because they are very active,” he said. “I like to power reel with a 1-ounce jighead and a 5-inch paddletail swimbait. My next option is a big spoon. The 8- to 9-inch Ben Parker spoons have become really popular over the past few years.”

“When you are in the river channel, throw the jighead or spoon and let it fall for about 20 seconds, down to 40 feet. Then work it back up through them fast.”

Whether you go with live bait or prefer artificials, the key is to go big, Harden said.

“When the water warms up they will eat a big bait. So in June, July and August, I want the biggest bait I can get.”

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