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 BLUEGILL
Among the six reservoirs in the Tallulah River system, Lake Tugalo supports the most abundant largemouth bass population. Small bass in the 10 to 14-inch size range are plentiful but anglers will also enjoy occasional catches of bass greater than 4 lb.
Because bass are relatively abundant and they receive relatively light fishing pressure, Lake Tugalo is 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 submerged branches of fallen trees that are scattered along Lake Tugalo’s steep, undeveloped shoreline. Fishing the trees with wacky rigged Senko worms, pig & jig combinations and live baits are effective cold water tactics.
During the spawning season (April and May), cast soft-bodied jerk baits, floating worms, spinner baits or plastic lizards around visible structure near the shore's edge. Slow rolling spinnerbaits in the creek channels is also effective springtime tactic.
When water temperatures rise in the summer months, look for quality-sized fish in the cooler headwater areas of the lake. Bouncing crayfish imitations or live nightcrawlers along the rocky bottom are effective baits for catching bass in these rocky, shallow water areas. Shallow running stickbaits in herring color patterns or jigs tipped with a curly-tailed grub can also be effective in the headwaters.
The transition into the cooler 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. The Chattooga River arm in the vicinity of South Carolina boat ramp is one of the best places to fish for bass during 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. Because spotted bass are relatively new to the reservoir, the bulk of the population consists of small fish less than 12-inches long. Spotted bass are more abundant in the Tallulah River arm of the lake.
Spotted bass will roam a wide area in search of their favorite food, which is blueback herring. White-bodied soft plastics or hard baits that imitate herring will likely attract the attention of a hungry spotted bass on the prowl.
Spotted bass are more abundant in the Tallulah River arm of the lake. Anglers who want to target spotted bass are advised to start in the mid-section of the Tallulah River arm and fish toward the upper reaches of the gorge. Spotted bass orient to points and areas with large rocks. During the fall months, spots can be seen feeding on blueback herring over open water.
Over the last three years, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of white bass in Lake Tugalo. White bass weighing up to 2-3 lb can be caught during their spring migration into the headwaters of the Chattooga River. October provides another window of opportunity to catch white bass when they are feeding on small blueback herring at the surface.
During the spring months, 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 threaded onto a light-weight jig head. Small topwater plugs will generate some strikes during the fall months when white bass are feeding on schools of small herring at the surface.
During the springtime, anglers will find white bass in the upper portion of the Chattooga River. Start fishing where the river narrows down and fish upstream as far as motor boat access is possible. In the fall, look for breaking fish in the narrow section of the lake on the upper Chattooga River arm.
Catfish were once very abundant in Lake Tugalo and was the number one favorite among its anglers. Today, the abundance of channel catfish and white catfish is much lower. Most catfish that are caught this year will weigh around 1 lb. The upper half of the Chattooga River arm supports the highest numbers of catfish.
Catfishing techniques involve simple baits and simple tackle. Worms, liver, small bream and artificial catfishing mixtures are the most popular baits. Put 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 the electrical generators are pulling water through the dam. The gentle current that occurs during power generation seems to trigger a feeding frenzy in catfish. Catfish are most abundant 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 can 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 lb range are very common around downed trees and stream outlets in the upper half of the lake. Redear sunfish are less abundant, but trophies weighing up to 3 lb are caught each year along the rocky banks near the South Carolina boat ramp.
Crickets and small spinners are effective baits for redbreast and bluegill. Cast around shallow water structure that is located in the small pockets and backs of coves. Fishing with red wigglers on slightly deeper rocky bottoms on the main shoreline is a more effective approach for targeting trophy shellcrackers.
Fallen trees are abundant along the rugged, undeveloped shoreline of Lake Tugalo. The submerged tree trunks and branches provide a perfect hideout for bream that should be targeted by bream anglers. In addition, good numbers of bream reside in the many small creek mouths that drain into the lake.
Record high numbers of walleye are swimming in Lake Tugalo this year. Although the lake contains some trophy-sized walleye that weigh over 8 lb, most of the walleye in Lake Tugalo are in the 2 lb size range, which is the perfect eating size!
From March to early-April, cast Shad Raps or stick baits in crayfish and herring patterns or a small jig-head tipped with a nightcrawler or curly-tailed grubs into the flowing waters of the Chattooga River. This same tactic also works downstream of the Tugalo Power Plant on the Tallulah River side of the lake. Use a slow but steady retrieve and be prepared for gentle resistance on the line, which indicates a strike. During daylight hours, anglers should bounce nightcrawlers on the bottom around downed trees.
The summer heat forces walleye to migrate into the main body of the lake. Brushpiles and downed timber in 30-50-feet of water are the favorite summertime hideouts for Tugalo walleye. Using sonar, locate these areas on the Chattooga River arm and then slowly and patiently dabble nightcrawlers or jigs into every nook and cranny of the structure in hopes of enticing a gentle strike. If you suspect the walleye has taken the bait, allow plenty of time before setting the hook.
In the fall months, walleye often move into shallow water at night 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 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 all year. Anchoring in the slack water adjacent to the large cascade is the safest way to fish this fast water area, and it is well worth the effort because large concentrations of walleye are within casting distance of this spot.
From mid-April through June, anglers should fish on the bottom around downed trees along the upper half of the main lake. Cast nightcrawlers toward the bank and move it along the bottom very slowly.
Surprisingly, the best catches of walleye occur on the lower half of the lake during the summer months. Use sonar to locate downed trees and structure on the bottom in 30 to 50-feet of water. Walleye will hide under these structures and wait to ambush their prey. Slowly and methodically drift nightcrawlers or jigs in and around these structures to entice a strike.
Lake Tugalo is an excellent destination for those who fish from kayaks or small boats. Because of Lake Tugalo's rugged access roads, anglers should use vehicles with four-wheel drive and trailer small boats less than 16-feet long. 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.