Fishing Information

Fishing is one of the most popular wildlife related activities in the Southeast, and Hartwell Lake's 962 miles of shoreline and 56,000 acres of water create an excellent playground for both the experienced and novice angler. Fish species include largemouth bass, bream, crappie, catfish, striped bass and hybrid bass. Numerous recreation areas, fishing piers, and bank fishing areas provide ample fishing opportunities. Fisheries habitat improvements include the maintenance of deep water and shallow water fish attractors and felling trees into water along the shoreline.

Fishing tournament organizers are reminded that a Special Event Permit may be needed for tournaments larger than 10 boats. A Special Event Permit can be obtained by contacting the Hartwell Dam & Lake Office at 1-888-893-0678 or 706-856-0300.

Additional information that may be helpful when planning your next fishing trip:

Corps of Engineers Park Rangers are on duty at Hartwell Lake throughout the year and can answer any additional questions you may have. The Hartwell Lake Project Manager's Office and Visitor Center is open every day from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. during the non-peak season (mid-March through May 1st and October 1st through the weekend before Thanksgiving).  Weekend hours during the peak season (May 1st through September 30th and July 4th) are 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  The Project Manager’s Office will be closed on weekends starting the weekend after Thanksgiving until mid-March, and on all Federal Government holidays during this time (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, MLK, Jr. Day, Presidents Day).  The office can be reached at 706-856-0300, or toll free at 1-888-893-0678.


Fishing Licenses


Georgia and South Carolina's Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) have a reciprocal license agreement.  Residents in both states can fish anywhere on Hartwell Lake or its tailwaters with a license from either state.


Where Can You Fish?

Fishing from the bank (shoreline) or from a boat is permitted in most areas of the lake except at boat ramps, courtesy docks, off bridge, off private boat docks (unless you have owner's permission), water intake structures, and any other area marked as restricted or prohibited access.

Developed bank fishing areas have brush piles installed along the shoreline to attract fish. They also have cleared areas along the shoreline for access and parking areas. Most are identified with a fishing area sign.

Other bank fishing opportunities exist at Hartwell Lakes' numerous day use and access areas. Some of these areas have fishing piers provided for your convenience.

Fishing piers are located at:

Tailwater fishing is another popular pastime for catching game fish.  Rainbow trout are annually stocked by Georgia and South Carolina DNRs.  Access to the tailwater is obtained by utilizing GA River Recreation Area on the Georgia side, or SC River Recreation Area on the SC side.  There are 2 piers on the SC side with one being mobility impaired accessible.  There are 2 piers on the Georgia side with one being mobility impaired accessible.  Wading on the rocks and in the tailwater is permitted, but the Corps urges you to use extreme caution when doing so.  The rocks are very slippery and dangerous, and the water is subject to rapid rise and turbulence when the power generators are operating.  A horn is sounded before generation begins, but is only heard within a mile of the dam.  Warning signs are posted below dam for a reminder.  The generation schedule can be obtained from the Corps of Engineers by dialing a toll free number:  1-888-893-0678.


Fish Consumption Advisories


Fish consumption advisories that affect Hartwell Lake have been issued by the states of Georgia and South Carolina.  Advisories are issued by states to inform the public when high concentrations of chemical contaminants have been found in local fish.  They also include recommendations to limit or avoid eating certain fish species from specific areas.  Please visit the following sites for more information:

Fisheries Management at Hartwell Lake

The purpose of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fisheries management program is to help maintain a quality sport-fish population for the enjoyment of present and future fishermen.  The Corps of Engineers works cooperatively with state fishery agencies in both Georgia and South Carolina to maximize the fishery population and habitat on Hartwell Lake.

A major management activity to promote a healthy fishery is the Corps of Engineers' efforts to manage water levels during spawning season.  Every year during spawning season, the lake temperatures and levels are closely monitored and managed.  Bass and crappie spawn in the spring when the water temperature approaches 65 degrees.  Because fish spawn in shallow water, special care has to be taken to make sure that lake levels do not fall too low and leave the eggs stranded.  Therefore, from the time water temperatures reach 65 degrees until three weeks after temperatures reach 70 degrees, Corps of Engineers field personnel work with the Savannah District Water Management Branch to keep lake levels from falling more than 6 inches.  These efforts insure that bass and crappie will have the best conditions in which to reproduce.

Healthy aquatic habitat is essential to maintaining a good fishery.  To monitor water quality, 8 stations have been designated on the lake.  These stations are sampled regularly to track changing water conditions.  Like all large lakes in the Southeast, Hartwell Lake goes through stratification starting in early Spring and ending in early Fall.  During stratification layers develop based on water temperatures.  Each layer has different characteristics that can affect the distribution of fish, and therefore, fishing success.  There are three distinct layers that develop.

The epilimnion is the top layer.  Although there is plenty of dissolved oxygen in this layer due to its frequent contact with air, water temperatures are high in the summer.  Warm-water fishes such as largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie can inhabit this layer year round, but cool-water fishes such as striped bass have to move to deeper water as the temperatures increase during the summer.

The hypolimnion is the bottom layer.  This is the coolest layer and has the lowest amount of dissolved oxygen, because it is not exposed to the air and all of the oxygen is used up during natural processes.  Fish are not often found in this layer in the late summer and early fall. 

The thermocline, or middle zone, is the most important zone to striper fishermen.  It offers a wide range of temperatures, including those preferred by cool-water fish.  The thermocline can produce good fishing; however factors such as cover and food sources also have an influence.

At Hartwell, thermal stratification begins at the dam, the area of greatest depth, in late April and early May of each year.  The thermocline is established at a depth of around 30 feet and generally stays at this depth through early August.  At this time the thermocline begins to slowly drop, reaching a depth of approximately 50 feet by mid September.  During late October through early November, the thermocline moves to a depth of about 70 feet and shortly thereafter the water becomes mixed or “turns over”.

During late April through early September, shallower main-channel locations in the Tugaloo and Seneca arms of the lake exhibit stratification at depths ranging from 20 to 30 feet.  The water in these locations becomes mixed in September, which is around 1 to 1 ½ months before waters near the dam “turn over”.


Please Remember…

Whether you are fishing from a boat or from the bank, please remember:

  • Be courteous.  Keep a safe distance from swimmers, water skiers, boats, and other people on the shoreline.  
  • Don’t fish from bridges, boat ramps, courtesy docks, or private docks (unless you have the owners permission).  Do not fish from or within any area marked as restricted or prohibited access.  
  • Please keep hold of your trash – it can easily be blown into the water, especially from a moving boat.  
  • Please make sure you remove your litter when leaving your fishing area.  Some of the most common litter found in popular fishing spots are drink containers, bait cups, and old fishing line.  Not only are these items unattractive, they can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life.  
  • Before boating, make sure you are familiar with the state boating regulations for the state(s) you will be boating in.  Don’t leave the shore without all required safety equipment on board.  
  • Although you may be in a hurry to catch a fish - watch your wake and keep a proper distance* from docks and other structures, swimmers, and other boats.  It’s the law and it is in place for everyone’s safety.  
  • Do not tie up your boat to buoys or signs.  
  • Wear a life jacket whether you know how to swim or not and dress appropriately for the weather.  Most people who drown never intended to be in the water in the first place and drown within 10 – 30 feet of safety; many of them also knew how to swim. 

State boating laws vary by state.  In Georgia, boaters must keep 100 feet from docks, structures, shoreline, swimmers or other persons in the water, and from other boats unless traveling a “no wake” speed.  In South Carolina, the distance is 50 feet.

Popular Fish Species Found in Hartwell Lake

*Click fish name for picture


One of the more popular game fish in the lake.  They stay near protective cover and travel in schools.  Minnows and jigs are the preferred baits.


Many varieties of Bream in Hartwell include Bluegill and Red-Ear Sunfish.  The popular baits are crickets, worms, and small artificial lures.

Largemouth Bass

Caught most easily in the Spring, these fish move into shallow water to spawn as the water temperature approaches 65 degrees.  Top-water and shallow running lures work best at this time.  As the summer progresses and largemouth bass go to deeper water, but can still be found shallow during early morning hours, crankbaits and Carolina-rig worms work well.  During the winter, bass are found in deeper water. Using large jigs, spoons and plastic worms work best around drop offs and creek channels during this time.

Hybrid Bass/Striped Bass

These game fish have become very popular at Hartwell Lake in recent years.  Hybrid and Striped Bass are excellent fighters and travel in schools.  Several methods of carching these fish have proven effective from trolling large plugs, using jigs, and fishing live bait being the most poplar.  Some good top-water schooling action has also been very popular.  


Known mostly as bottom feeders, these fish are also good fighters.  Catfish feed mainly at night.  Use worms, chicken livers, “cut” bait and commercially available “stink baits”.


Fishing Tips

The Corps of Engineers and South Carolina DNR maintain 23 fish attractors on Lake Hartwell.  The artificial reefs made of Christmas trees and other artificial habitat structures attract large schools of fish, especially crappie.  The location of the fish attractors can be seen in the table below.  Night fishing has become a popular past time at Hartwell Lake.  For light, fishermen use a boat mounted lantern or headlight attached to flotation.  The light attracts insects, food organisms, and threadfin shad which in turn attract game species such as crappie, hybrid, and bass.  Minnows are the primary bait for this type of fishing, but small jigs may also be effective.  Most night fishing with lights has been successful under bridges and at the fish attractor sites.

For a printable list: Hartwell Lake Fish Attractors (PDF 118KB)


USACE Fish Attractor Buoys  Coordinates
F/A#1 Powderbag Creek 34º 21' 43" N 82º 52' 29"W
F/A#2 Cranes Creek 34º 27' 25" N 82º 54' 2" W
F/A#3 Lightwood Log Creek 34º 23' 54" N 82º 54' 59" W
F/A#4 Little Beaverdam Creek 4º 30' 20" N 82º 51' 2" W
F/A#5 Near Portman Marina 34º 31' 10" N 82º 48' 11" W
F/A#6 Near Friendship Boat Ramp 34º 36' 4" N 82º 54' 39" W
F/A#7 Rock Springs Access 34º 28' 11" N  83º 0' 36"  W
F/A#8 Near Mary Ann Branch Ramp 34º 29' 9" N 82º 53' 44" W
F/A#9 Bruce Creek 34º 33' 31"N 83º 8' 19" W
F/A#10 Near Buoy T60 34º 29' 53" N 83º 4' 2" W
F/A#11 Tugaloo State Park 34º 29' 46" N 83º 3' 38" W
F/A#12 Tugaloo State Park 34º 29' 30" N 83º 3' 38"  W


SCDNR Fish Attractor Locations  

Little River F/A #1

34º 42' 1.72" N

82º 51' 8.57" W

Twin Lakes F/A #2

 34º 38' 14.97" N 

82º 50' 9.24" W

Camp Creek F/A #3

34º 35' 3.98" N

82º 51' 21.75" W

Choestoea Creek F/A #4

34º 32' 25.86" N 

83º 6' 3.31" W

Glenn Ferry F/A #5                

 34º 29' 28.02" N

82º 56' 44.76" W

Weldon Island F/A #6              

34º 28' 20.36" N 

82º 51' 58.78" W

Darwin Wright Park Fish Pier F/A #7    

34º 34' 13.90" N 

82º 41' 10.50" W

Green Pond F/A #8                     

34º 31' 0.49" N

82º 48' 11.99" W

Sadlers Creek F/A #9              

34º 26' 37.07" N 

82º 49' 31.35" W

Big Water Marina F/A #10         

34º 24' 18.86" N

82º 49' 35.29" W

Coneross Creek F/A #11           

34º 37' 1.18" N 

82º 56' 50.59" W

Fishing Related Link