Lake Tugalo is a beautiful 600-acre lake formed by the Tallulah and Chattooga rivers. Owned and operated by the Georgia Power Company, Tugalo is on the South Carolina border near Clayton. Outboard motors are restricted to 25 horsepower.
Georgia Power: ph. 706-782-4014
Prospects and Fishing Tips
LARGEMOUTH BASS, WALLEYE, REDBREAST SUNFISH, AND CATFISH
Lake Tugalo supports an abundant largemouth bass population. This year, anglers can expect high catch rates of small bass that range from 10 to 14-inches. These conditions make Lake Tugalo a great place to introduce children and novice anglers to bass fishing. Lake Tugalo also provides the added bonus of quiet solitude and unmatched scenic beauty.
From December through March, largemouth bass find security among the deep branches of fallen trees along the lake's shoreline. Soft plastic worms, pig & jig combinations, and live baits are effective this time of year.
During the spawning period (April and May), cast soft plastic baits like flukes, floating worms and soft-bodied lizards around visible structure against the shore's edge.
When water temperatures rise in the summer months, look for quality-sized fish in the cooler headwater areas of the lake. Bouncing crayfish imitations along the bottom is an effective approach for bass in these rocky, shallow, swift water areas. Blueback herring lures, live crayfish, nightcrawlers and minnows also are effective in the headwaters.
The cool transition into fall months pushes bass into the interior recesses of downed trees, especially on the upper end of the lake. Shad-imitating crankbaits, soft plastics and jigs are best bets in the fall. Anglers should also keep a watchful eye for surface feeding fish in the upper reaches of the lake and cast toward breaking fish with crankbaits and surface plugs.
The shoreline of Lake Tugalo is very steep, undeveloped and dotted with fallen trees, which provide a haven for largemouth bass. Largemouth bass gorge on blueback herring most of the year. Anglers should focus their efforts on the upper reaches of each river arm and fish around the deep water edges of blown down trees. The Chattooga River arm in the vicinity of South Carolina is one of the best places to fish for bass in both the spring and fall months. The upstream headwater areas on both river arms are the best places to fish for bass in the summer.
Spotted bass are now present in Lake Tugalo in measurable numbers. Spotted bass are more abundant in the Tallulah River arm of the lake where DNR biologists have collected spotted bass weighing up to two pounds.
Spotted bass will roam a wide area in search of their favorite food – blueback herring. White-bodied lures that imitate herring will likely attract the attention of a hungry spotted bass on the prowl.
Spotted bass are relatively common in the Tallulah River arm of the lake but are not well established on the Chattooga River arm. Anglers who want to target spotted bass are advised to start in the mid-section of the Tallulah River and fish toward the upper reaches of the gorge. Spotted bass orient to points and areas with large rocks. In the fall, spots can be seen feeding on blueback herring over open water.
White bass weighing up to two pounds are relatively common in Lake Tugalo. Anglers will have their greatest success in March and early April by targeting fish in the headwaters of the Chattooga River. October provides another good window of opportunity to catch white bass when they are feeding on small blueback herring at the surface. Fishing is best at dawn and dusk in the upper half of the Chattooga River arm.
White bass will readily take small, in-line spinner baits, like a Mepps Spinner or Rooster Tail, as well as small curly-tailed grubs in white, yellow or chartreuse on a light-weight jig head.
Target white bass in the headwaters of the reservoir within the Chattooga River arm. Start fishing where the river narrows down and the river current becomes visible. Continue fishing upstream as far as motor boat access is possible.
Catfishing is popular among the local anglers who fish Lake Tugalo. Channel catfish are more abundant than white catfish.
Catfishing techniques involve simple baits and simple tackle. Worms, liver, small bream and artificial catfish mixtures are the most popular baits. Place your preferred bait onto a number six size hook up to a 1/0 size hook. Attach a few split shots onto the line and fish on the bottom near the shoreline at depths ranging from 20-40 feet.
The best time to fish for Tugalo catfish is on a summer afternoon when power is being generated. The gentle current through the reservoir created by power generation seems to trigger a feeding frenzy in the fish. DNR's fish surveys indicated that the highest concentrations of catfish are found in the vicinity of the South Carolina boat ramp. Target the points on the Georgia side, especially in the sharp bends upstream of the boat ramp. During the summer, bank anglers catch catfish from the South Carolina boat ramp.
Bluegill, redbreast sunfish, and redear sunfish (shellcrackers) are plentiful in Lake Tugalo. Redbreast and bluegill in the 6-inch and 1/4 pound range are very common around downed trees and in the back of cove pockets. Redear sunfish are less abundant, but some real trophies up to 3 lb are caught each year on rocky banks along the main shoreline. The shoreline across the lake from the South Carolina ramp seems to hold a number of trophy redears throughout the year.
Crickets and spinners are effective baits for redbreast and bluegill when worked around visible structure, shallow pockets, and the backs of coves. Redwigglers fished on the bottom are more effective for redear sunfish, especially when fished on rocky banks and points.
Because of the high occurrence of fallen trees and small creek channels in Lake Tugalo, bream fishing is pretty good just about anywhere along the shoreline.
Lake Tugalo supports one of the most abundant walleye populations in Georgia. This year, the number of big fish is higher than in previous years. Walleye in the 2 to 4 lb range are still the most common but a few walleye up to 10 pounds are expected to be caught. State record-class fish exceeding 12 pounds most likely occur in Lake Tugalo.
From mid-March to mid-April, cast Shad Raps in crayfish and herring patterns or a small jig-head tipped with a nightcrawler into the flowing waters below the Tugalo power plant. Use a slow but steady retrieve and be prepared for gentle resistance on the line, which indicates a strike. Use this same technique to fish the Chattooga River headwaters area. Concentrate your efforts in the area where the river cascades into the lake. During daylight hours, anglers should fish on the bottom around downed trees using nightcrawlers worked slowly back to the boat.
The heat of summer forces walleye to migrate to the lower end of the lake. Anglers should fish with nightcrawlers along the points in 40 to 60-ft of water.
In the fall months, walleye move into shallow water in the evenings to feed on bluegill, yellow perch and blueback herring. Nightcrawlers, minnows and shad-imitating lures are effective this time of year. Walleye have a very light bite, so anglers new to walleye fishing should remain alert to slight movements in the line, which may indicate a strike.
From March to mid-April, walleye will congregate in the headwater areas of the Tugalo and Chattooga River arms. These areas are only accessible by boat. The Tugalo arm below the Power Plant is easier to fish during the non-generation periods, which usually occur from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. The Chattooga River arm maintains a steady flow below the cascades during the spring spawning run. Anchoring in the slack water adjacent to the large cascade is your safest way to fish this area, and it is well worth the effort since large concentrations of walleye are within casting distance. During daylight hours, anglers should fish on the bottom around downed trees using nightcrawlers worked slowly back to the boat. Surprisingly, the best catches of walleye occur on the lower end of the lake during the summer months. Several anglers reported large stringers of walleye while fishing the points and downed trees with nightcrawlers on the lower lake from 40 to 60-feet deep. Walleye will inhabit these same lower areas into the fall months but can be found in shallow water during low light conditions.
Lake Tugalo is an excellent destination for those who fish from kayaks or small boats. Because of Lake Tugalo's rugged access roads, vehicles with four-wheel drive that trailer small boats are strongly recommended. Boating access on the Georgia side of the lake is available through Tallulah Gorge State Park, which is located off Hwy. 441 in Tallulah Falls, Ga. Easier access to the lake is available at the South Carolina boat ramp. Directions to the South Carolina ramp are as follows: From Hwy. 441 in Clayton, Ga., turn east onto Hwy. 76. After crossing the Chattooga River Bridge into South Carolina, travel about three miles and turn right onto Orchard Road. At the stop sign, turn right onto Battle Creek Road. At the fork in the road, bear right. After passing Damascus Church, turn right onto the gravel road. This long, winding gravel road will lead to the boat ramp, which becomes paved and very steep as you approach the parking area.