Hartwell Striper Breaks Records

GON Staff | March 12, 2002

If the news that giant stripers are being hoisted from the Savannah River reserviors above Augusta sounds like a broken record  — it is.

For the second time in 11 months, South Carolina fisheries officials are evaluating a new South Carolina state-record striped bass: a 59-lb., 8-oz. monster caught in Lake Hartwell Feb. 3 by Georgia angler Terry McConnell.

The 47-inch fish eclipses the current record from the South Carolina side of the Savannah River: a 56-pounder caught March 24, 2001 by James Robinson in the Abbeville County side of Lake Russell.

It used to be that the Santee-Cooper was known for the Palmetto State’s biggest linesides. That changed in 1993, when a 55-lb., 12-oz striper was caught in Clarks Hill. Today, with three consecutive records emerging from the reserviors along the Georgi- South Carolina border, fisheries officials in both states are evaluating the potential addition of a new striper fishery in Lake Russell.

Georgia and South Carolina currrently stock hundred of thousands of striped bass into Clarks Hill and Lake Hartwell. None are “officially” added to Lake Russell. That’s why eyebrows were raised last March when a new South Carolina record came from the one reservior that isn’t even sipposed to havr stripers.

But Russell, the 26,000-acre lake sandwinched between Clarks Hill and Hartwell, would be a perfect place to create a trophy striper fishery, said Ed Lepley, a  member of the Clarks Hill striper club.

“We’re looking at a smaller, more manageable lake, and it would be stripers only-not hybrids,” Ed said, adding that the lake already has stripers living there.

“I fished it myself,” he said. “My bait man told me I was wasting my time, but I caught four fish that weighed 82 pounds: an 11, 17, 23 and a 31,” he said.

Jerry Germann, a WRD fisheries biologist, said the existing Russell stripers likely entered the lake from Hartwell where stocking have doubled in recent years.

“We’re starting to get striped bass in good sizes in our gill nets when we do sampling (at Russell), so we know they’re getting in there,” he said.

Ultimately, it will require public input before decisions are made on whether to officially establish a new fishery on Russell, which could include rules designed to encourage trophy fish.

“There’s been some interst in trying to develop a fishery that would sustain these large fish,” Jerry said. “There have been several meetings, and we’d like to talk to some of the clubs, get some public input.”

Options are to encourage trophy fish could include a reduced catch limit or size and lenght restrictions. Such regulationswuld require affirmation by both states, however, which is traditionally easier said than done.

“The part that gets sticky is- we can make those changes in Georgia through our Board Of National Resources,” Jerry said. “But in South Carolina, it would take action by the legislature.”

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