Richard B. Russell Dam and Lake

Recreation Areas - Catch a Fish



Fishing is one of the most popular wildlife related activities in the southeast and Lake Russell’s 540 miles of shoreline and 26,650 acres of water create an excellent playground

for both the experienced and novice angler. The lake levels remain relatively stable throughout the year; and there is an abundance of standing timber areas and other structures that create excellent fishing opportunities. In addition, fisheries habitat improvements include the maintenance of deep water and shallow water fish attractors and felling trees into water along the shoreline. Its undeveloped shoreline offers a quiet recreation experience – one that has been described as being similar to fishing on a remote Canadian lake while being surrounded by civilization. Because of these things, the lake has developed into a quality fishery dominated by anglers fishing for largemouth bass and crappie. Other species that are commonly caught at Lake Russell include bream and catfish. Numerous recreation areas, fishing piers, and bank fishing areas provide ample fishing opportunities.

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 Russell Dam & Lake Office at (706) 213-3400 or 1-800-944-7207.

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

Corps Part Rangers are on duty at Lake Russell throughout the year and can answer any additional questions you may have. The Lake Russell Project Manager’s Office and Visitor’s Center is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The office can be reached at (706) 213-3400 or toll free at 1-800-944-7207.

Fishing Licenses

Georgia and South Carolina have a reciprocal license agreement; residents of both states may fish anywhere on Lake Russell (from boat or shoreline) or its tailwaters with a license from either state. Residents of other states must purchase a nonresident license from either Georgia or South Carolina. Fishermen with resident or nonresident Georgia licenses do need a Georgia Trout Stamp if they fish for or have trout in their possession.

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, water intake structures, and any other area marked as restricted or prohibited access.

Developed bank fishing areas are areas where brush piles have been 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 Lake Russell’s numerous Day Use and Access Areas. Some of these areas have fishing piers provided for your convenience”.

Fishing piers are located at the following Recreation Areas:


South Carolina:

Fish Consumption Advisories

Fish consumption advisories that affect Lake Russell 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:

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, or courtesy docks.  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 Lake Russell

*Click fish name for picture


Crappie is the most frequently caught species at Lake Russell. They are easier to find and catch than other fish because they stay near protective cover and travel in schools. The most popular season to fish for crappie is the spring – when they move into shallow waters (2-8 feet) to spawn. During the summer, night fishing and fishing around fish attractors may give good results. At other times, slow trolling or drifting in the open waters using minnows or jigs has proved productive.


Varieties of bream in Lake Russell include Bluegill, Redbreast Sunfish, Red Ear Sunfish, Green Sunfish, and Pumpkinseed. The most popular baits are crickets, worms, and mealworms, although some bream will strike small artificial lures such as spinners, flies, and popping bugs. As a general rule, small to medium-size bream can be located along the shoreline while larger fish will be in slightly deeper water. A good time to fish for bream is during the summer when a full moon is present because bream tend to spawn at that time.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are caught most easily in the spring. As water temperatures approach 70 degrees F, the fish move into shallower areas with cover in order to spawn. At this time a variety of top water and shallow running lures are effective. Although bass move to deeper water in the summer, they can still be found near the shoreline in the early morning or late afternoon. During the rest of the day, bass can be found at the thermocline depths because they prefer temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Farenheit. In the winter, bass (especially large ones) go as deep as 40 – 60 feet. At these times, fishing with large jigs, plastic worms, and jigging spoons at underwater islands, steep drop-offs, and old creek channels can be productive.

Fishing Tips

Understanding seasonal lake changes and the habits and distribution of fish may help you be more successful in finding and catching fish (sorry, no guarantees!)…

The Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources have placed fish attractors in Lake Russell. These artificial reefs, made of trees and brush, attract large schools of fish, especially crappie. The locations of the deep water fish attractors are marked with buoys. Fish attractor maps are available from the Russell Dam and Lake Office and are typically shown on navigational charts. Boaters and fishermen are reminded not to tie up to fish attractor buoys or any other navigation buoys or signs on the lake.

From late spring to early fall, Lake Russell, like all large lakes in the southeast, becomes stratified, in layers based on water temperature. Each of the layers behaves relatively independently and has different water qualities. These qualities affect the distribution of fish and therefore fishing success. There are three distinct layers or zones:

The epilimnion is the top layer. Although there is plenty of dissolved oxygen in this zone because of its frequent contact with air, fish are generally not found here because the temperatures are too warm. Fish may briefly move into this zone during early morning or late afternoon to feed when light is decreased and food is abundant, but most of the time fish will be in deeper, cooler waters.

The hypolimnion, or bottom zone, is the coolest layer. However, because this layer does not come into contact with air, the dissolved oxygen is used up by natural processes and soon depleted. Fish therefore cannot survive in this zone and fishing at these depths holds little chance of success.

The thermocline, or middle zone, is the most important zone to the fisherman. It offers a wide range of temperatures, including those preferred by many fishes. During summer, the thermocline will often produce good fishing, but remember that the factors of cover and available food also have an influence.

At Lake Russell, thermal stratification begins near the dam (the area of greatest depth) in late April and early May of each year. The thermocline establishes at a depth of approximately 30 feet and stays at this depth through early August. At that time, it moves to a depth of about 40 feet and then in mid-September to about 50 feet. In late October or early November, the thermocline moves to a depth of about 70 feet and shortly thereafter the water becomes mixed.

Shallower main-channel locations of the lake exhibit stratification at depths from 20 to 30 feet from late April through early September. The water in these locations becomes mixed in September, about 1 to 1 ½ months earlier than the waters behind the dam.

Night fishing is also popular at Lake Russell. For light, fishermen usually use a boat-mounted lantern. These lights attract insects, food organisms, and threadfin shad, which in turn attract game species such as crappie.  Minnows are the primary bait, but jigs and small plugs may also be effective. When fishing with lights, many fishermen have been successful under the various bridges that cross the lake (some bridges have “boat tie-ups” available) and at the fish attractor sites. These places are worth a try during the summer months when fish are hard to locate.

Tailrace fishing (fishing in the area below the dam) is another popular pastime for many anglers.

The Corps of Engineers urges you to use extreme caution when fishing the tailrace section. First, the rocks may be slippery, loose, or dangerous. If you do wade, make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear with good traction. Second, the water is subject to rapid rise and violent turbulence during power generation. A horn is sounded for one minute before generation begins, but it is only heard within a mile of the dam. Upon hearing the horn, immediately move back to the shoreline. Warning signs are posted at popular access points along the river, and the Corps urges you to read and obey them. In addition, the Corps provided daily generation schedules. This information can be obtained by calling the Russell Project Dam and Lake Office toll-free at
1-800-944-7207 or (706) 213-3400.

Fishing Related Links