Russell: a true trophy fishery

A 2-fish creel limit and restrictions on taking more than one big fish per day are regulations aimed at further developing Lake Russell as a trophy striper fishery.

Guide Wendell Wilson said the potential to catch trophy stripers at Lake Russell exists year-round, although winter is prime time.

“Plenty of huge stripers are also caught in the spring and summer below Hartwell Dam in the upper end of the lake,” he said. “The fact is, this is likely the best lake in South Carolina for trophy stripers.”

Data from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources bears this out. The state record is a 63-pound Lake Russell striper caught in 2009 by Terry McConnell.

Dan Rankin, a fisheries biologist for SCDNR whose territory includes Lake Russell, said the big striper fishery developed on its own for years, likely originally fed by striper influx from Hartwell and Clarks Hill lakes. Now, a low-density stocking program is in place, and the creel limit is low to help the trophy fishery flourish.

South Carolina’s daily creel limit for Lake Russell and the Lake Hartwell tailwater is two striped bass or hybrid bass — or a combination of those. Only one fish can be more than 34 inches long.

Wilson said fishermen do need to temper expectations in terms of numbers of big fish caught, but the top-end size is wide open.

“I think Lake Russell has striper bigger than what’s been caught in the past,” Wilson said. “I’ve been guiding here a long time and have seen enough to believe stripers are still growing to very large sizes in this lake. Odds are good we’ll see even bigger fish in the future.”

About Terry Madewell 809 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.

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