Tugalo Walleye Sets Lake Record And South Carolina State Record

GON Staff | June 7, 2022

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recently certified a Lake Tugalo walleye that set a new South Carolina state record and also broke the Lake Tugalo lake record.

According to SCDNR, Chris Edlund, of Spartanburg, S.C., and Dave Starzek, of Greer, S.C., caught a 10-lb., 1.44-oz. walleye from Lake Tugalo on May 29. Edlund reeled the fish in and is the angler on record, while Starzek netted the fish.

“When it surfaced, we got excited and knew if that wasn’t a record, it was going to be close,” Edlund said.

Chris Edlund, of Spartanburg, S.C., with a walleye he caught on Lake Tugalo on May 29. The 10-lb., 1.44-oz. fish set a Tugalo lake record and will share a South Carolina state record with a Lake Russell walleye from 1994.

The Georgia state record walleye is a 14-lb., 2-oz. monster caught at Lake Rabun on Feb. 19, 2016 by fishing guide Wes Carlton, a long-time contributor to GON’s fishing reports. The new Tugalo record tops a lake record that has stood since 2014 when Phyllis Henderson caught an 8-lb., 15.02-oz. Tugalo walleye. 

The fish will officially share the South Carolina state record with a 10-lb. walleye caught in Lake Russell in 1994. While Edlund’s catch is slightly heavier, in South Carolina a fish weighing less than 25 pounds has to exceed the previous record catch by at least 2 ounces to replace the record holder.

Walleye require a cool-water habitat not found many places in South Carolina or Georgia. South Carolina reports a small reproducing population, primarily in the Tugalo River arm of Lake Hartwell, that move up the Tugalo River to spawn in the spring.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has a walleye stocking program that includes putting walleye in Lake Tugalo and Lake Yonah.

Starzek, a Michigan native who grew up walleye fishing, has targeted big walleye in South Carolina and Georgia throughout the past seven years and crafted a worm rig with a hand-painted lure he designed specifically to land trophy fish in the Tallulah basin, SCDNR reports.

“It’s a passion for me, and it’s been a long time coming,” Starzek said.

Starzek and Edlund were on the water by 6:30 a.m. and trolled less than two hours in the 13-foot Lowe boat before hooking up with the fish.

Dave Starzek, of Greer, poses with the lake-record walleye he helped land on Lake Tugalo on May 29.

The men searched for an open store with a state-certified scale for hours before being able to officially weigh the fish at a grocery store in Greer, S.C.

Walleye Georgia’s Best-Kept Secret

Lake Tugalo is a 597-acre Georgia Power Co. reservoir with 18 miles of shoreline located in north Georgia in Habersham and Rabun counties, but it also lies partially in Oconee County, South Carolina. It is the fifth lake in a six-lake series created by hydroelectric dams operated by Georgia Power on the Tallulah River. The series begins with Lake Burton as the northernmost lake, followed by lakes Seed, Rabun, Tallulah Falls, Tugalo and Yonah. Lake Tugalo and these other northeast Georgia mountain lakes offers some fishing opportunities unique to Georgia, where anglers can catch trophy walleye and yellow perch along with traditional species such as bass, crappie and bream.

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