Heart Of Dixie Angling Hotspots

Now is a good time to decide what species to pursue and where to pursue them in our state in the coming year, and that's why we have 36 strong recommendations for action-packed fishing trips this year. Clearwater lakes, fertile rivers, offshore reefs, tailrace waters, or state-managed county lakes, Alabama has it all.

JANUARY

Red Snapper: Gulf Of Mexico

On a calm sunny day in January, it's difficult to find a more enjoyable place to fish than the reefs 20 to 30 miles south of Orange Beach. The reefs often produce limit catches of triggerfish and vermilion and white snapper, and on good days grouper. Still, it is red snapper that draw most anglers to the Gulf.

These bottom fish eagerly attack a variety of lures; however, the best terminal tackle for winter is a two-hook porgie rig tied above a 14-ounce bank sinker. Bait the hooks with squid cut into pieces large enough to hide the hook. Fish near the bottom at depths of 120 to 220 feet.

To book a fishing trip or obtain more information, visit Capt. Erik Manthei's website at fishnfool.com.

Other Hotspots

It's never too cold to catch spotted bass on the lower Coosa River. The best fishing lies on the upper stretches of Jordan, Lay and Mitchell, where the lakes are riverine and the current is strong.

For smallmouths, anglers find good action fishing main-river dropoffs on Wilson Lake.

FEBRUARY

Largemouth Bass: Escambia County Lake

Unless you receive an invitation to fish a professionally managed private lake, Escambia County offers the best opportunity to catch a largemouth weighing more than 10 pounds. Many say it holds the next state-record bass. In the last two years, this state-managed 184-acre lake produced 43 bass exceeding 10 pounds. Last year, anglers caught 150 bass weighing more than 5 pounds. The lake record is 14.6 pounds.

To locate bedding bass, successful anglers search the lake's expansive spawning flats from johnboats modified with 3- to 5-foot elevated platforms or towers. You won't be able to spot many of the big bass leaving the beds if you don't have a tower.

Proven baits for the lake's trophies include shiners, bream and 4-inch plastic worms.

For current fishing information, call lake manager Clyde Chandler at (251) 809-0068.

Other Hotspots

In the Mobile Delta, bluegills congregate in deep holes and creeks, offering phenomenal fishing. Limit catches are possible using grass shrimp as bait in Mallard Fork and Bay Minette Creek.

Also, Wheeler Lake offers anglers excellent fishing for large blue cats on fresh cut bait.

MARCH

Crappie: Millers Ferry Lake

As one of the top crappie fisheries in the state, Millers Ferry consistently produces heavy stringers in March. This 17,200-acre reservoir, with its excellent habitat and abundant forage, holds good numbers of 1 1/2- to 2-pound slabs.

Bogue Chitto, Rum and Gee creeks are top areas for spawning fish. To find concentrations of crappie, look for sloughs with gravel or other types of hard bottom. Then using a long pole, fish every piece of available cover. If you are only catching smaller males, increase your distance from the bank to fish a little deeper. After heavy rains, limit your fishing to Rum and Gee creeks.

The best baits for fishing cover are small minnows, as they are easier to control.

For updates on fishing conditions, visit Lori Stogner at L'n L Marina, located off State Route 28, or call (334) 682-5125.

Other Hotspots

On Weiss Lake, anglers target pre-spawn largemouths by fishing a jig-and-pig next to cover. Skilled anglers frequently catch fish weighing up to 6 pounds.

Meanwhile on the coast, saltwater anglers are catching big cobia as the fish migrate westward past Gulf Shores.

APRIL

Largemouth Bass: Guntersville Lake

One could easily claim Guntersville Lake as the best bass water on the continent. The heaviest total tournament weight in Bassmaster history was brought to the scales in April 2002 on Guntersville, where pros caught more than 5,645 pounds of bass. Five-fish limits weighing more than 20 pounds are common.

"The word is beginning to spread that Guntersville is back," reported Dan Catchings, district fisheries supervisor. "Fishing has really rebounded."

Given typical weather conditions, you find bass in pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn patterns this month, so just about any style of fishing produces bass. However, the most effective pattern is to fish the ditches and channels leading into spawning areas.

Texas-rigged plastic lizards fished less than 9 feet deep produce quality bass.

For current fishing information, drop by Waterfront Grocery and Tackle on S.R. 79, or call them at (256) 582-6060.

Other Hotspots

When the pecan leaves begin to open in April, Gantt Lake's shallow flats at the head of the lake attract huge concentrations of spawning shellcrackers.

Cobia fishing is in full swing just off Orange Beach in April.

MAY

Bluegills: Pickwick Lake

May is an outstanding month for catching 20 to 30 bluegills in a couple of hours of fishing on Pickwick Lake, and it's not unusual to catch 50 to 100 in a day. Typically, the bluegills weigh 1/2 to 3/4 pound.

Bluegill action peaks in May because of the conjunction of the spawn and the mayfly hatch. These events double the angling fun. For bedding locations, fish the gravel bars around the rock rows in the town of Sheffield and on Sevenmile Island. Fishing is also good in Cypress and Spring creeks and at Jackson Island, which is immediately below Wilson Dam.

To target the mayfly hatch, use a fly rod with a mayfly nymph or Elk Hair Caddis on or just below the surface.

For current fishing information, check with Gray's Tackle Shop in Sheffield. Their telephone number is (256) 383-2716.

Other Hotspots

For fast topwater action on Jordan Lake, bump your buzzbait into woody cover in the shallow flats on the lower lake. The largemouths will reward you with explosive strikes when the right location is found.

This is also an excelle

nt month for catching monster flathead catfish on limblines on the Alabama River.

JUNE

Striped Bass: Lewis Smith Lake

There's no better place for catching huge striped bass in June than Smith Lake. An average fish weighs 16 to 18 pounds, with good numbers of stripes weighing in the mid-20s. A few years ago, Nick Bailey set a new lake record with a giant 46-pounder.

In June, the fish move down the lake to take advantage of the cooler water available at greater depths. This migration, which was revealed to biologists through radio telemetry, also causes anglers to switch to a night-fishing pattern.

For fast action, start fishing a few hours after sunset and slowly troll live shad near pier lights at depths of 20 to 30 feet. The light attracts insects, which in turn attract baitfish.

Current fishing information is available by calling Bob Alexander at Smith Lake Trade Center and Tackle Box at (256) 734-7484.

Other Hotspots

Floating the Conecuh River above Gantt Lake often produces more than 100 largemouth strikes on light tackle. Use a light johnboat or canoe on this section of the river.

Night-fishing is also excellent for speckled trout on the Intracoastal Waterway in south Baldwin County.

JULY

Channel Catfish: Lake Martin

For a half-day of summer fishing on Lake Martin, it's common to catch 30 to 40 catfish weighing between 1 1/2 and 3 pounds, with four or five big fish weighing up to 8 pounds. Martin's clean water produces some of the state's best-tasting catfish.

Instead of anchoring, anglers have found that drift-fishing produces more and bigger cats. The technique is simple but effective. Anglers slowly drift red wigglers inches off the bottom, using their trolling motors to control depth, speed and direction. Plan your drift to begin over a flat in the coves of Wind Creek or New Hope in water 15 to 20 feet deep.

For current fishing information, call or visit Lake Martin Bait & Tackle on U.S. Highway 280. The telephone number is (256) 329-9107.

Other Hotspots

Also this month, smoker king mackerel cruise the larger offshore reefs out of Orange Beach, looking to attack baits trolled slowly on the surface or as deep as 20 feet. Live menhaden and ribbonfish are sure-bet offerings for kings weighing up to 30 pounds.

Summer finds bass busting topwater baits on the Warrior River early in the morning.

AUGUST

Blue Catfish: Gainesville Lake

During August, if very little rain falls on the Tombigbee watershed, you find excellent fishing for good numbers of blue catfish on Gainesville Lake in water less than 8 feet deep. This is especially effective at night as the big fish swim near shore, looking for an easy meal.

Your best opportunity for fast action lies on the lower section of the lake, where it's possible to catch cats weighing 30 to 60 pounds. The truly big boys, though, make their home in the tailwaters of the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam. Anglers have removed many blues from this area weighing nearly 100 pounds.

The best fishing occurs where the river channel hugs the shoreline. For current fishing information, call Hubert Ferguson at the H&B One Stop in Pickensville at (205) 373-6696.

Other Hotspots

Alabama's artificial reefs provide outstanding habitat for red snapper during the summer. GPS coordinates for these hotspots are available from the state's Marine Resource Division on Dauphine Island.

This is also a prime month for catching flathead catfish from the deep holes on the Conecuh River below the Point "A" Dam.

SEPTEMBER

Largemouth Bass: Lake Eufaula

Though cooler nights and slightly cooler water temperatures have finally arrived, anglers wanting heavy stringers continue to fish the main-river channel below the U.S. Highway 82 bridge. They look for a change in direction or depth on ledges in 6 to 15 feet of water as the fish hold on these breaks waiting for shad. A Carolina-rigged worm is the most effective lure for this late-summer pattern.

For those anglers not trying to win a tournament, schooling bass offer great fun in the backs of coves, especially during early morning. The bass strike nearly any splashing or gurgling bait in your tackle box. At times, it seems like they are competing to kill your lure. Fish the backs of Bustahatchee, Little Barbour and Soapstone creeks for these aggressive largemouths.

Other Hotspots

In September, the creeks flowing into the Warrior River hold big flatheads weighing 20 to 40 pounds. Fish at night using live bream or shad for bait.

On the Tombigbee River, bass willingly hit buzzbaits retrieved through blowdowns.

OCTOBER

Smallmouth Bass: Wheeler Dam

If you've never fished this world-class smallmouth water, you can greatly reduce your learning curve by watching other anglers. You quickly learn if the fish are active close to the dam or a little farther downstream. You also see where the flowing water breaks, as skilled anglers drift the inside edge in slack water.

During fall, big smallies prefer live threadfin shad fished near the bottom on a 1/0 hook. Take a selection of sinkers so you can match the weight to the current.

It takes an 8-pounder to earn bragging rights on these waters. On a good fall day, you can expect to catch 20 fish, with many weighing more than 4 pounds.

For fishing information, call the Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau at (800) 344-0783. A navigation chart of the area is available for viewing on the Internet (click here).

Other Hotspots

October is an excellent month for catching spotted bass from Logan Martin with crankbaits or spinnerbaits.

It's also a great time to catch a limit of crappie on Lake Martin.

NOVEMBER

Speckled Trout: Coastal Rivers

Plentiful, sporting and delicious, the speckled trout ranks first as Alabama's favorite inshore saltwater game fish. With the arrival of cool weather, anglers find that specks have moved into our coastal rivers. Bon Secour, Dog, Fish, Fowl and Magnolia rivers offer excellent fishing for 2- to 3-pound trout.

These fish live on a diet of shrimp, small fish, worms and small crabs, but the most popular bait from their fare is live shrimp. However, small baitfish catch the biggest fish. Specks also readily strike artificial lures like lipless crankbaits or grubs fished on jigheads.

Call Hoppe's Fishing Camp at (251) 479-8302 for current fishing information. Hoppe's sits on the north side of the Dog River Bridge on the Dauphine Isl

and Parkway.

Other Hotspots

Since the smallmouth bite remains hot on the Tennessee River, fish the humps and rocks below the Wilson Dam for 6-pounders.

November is also a great month for catching big stripes on Lake Martin.

DECEMBER

Spotted Bass: Jones Bluff Lake

Jones Bluff is a fertile reservoir with a dynamic shad population that provides plenty of small baitfish for the lake's growing numbers of large spotted bass. If it's not unseasonably cold, spots continue to feed heavily throughout December on riverine sections of the lake.

Spots weighing more than 6 pounds thrive in the strong current in these areas. Using your depthfinder, look for gravel bars and humps at depths of 6 to 15 feet. Then fish all structure near these current breaks with spinnerbaits or jig-and-pigs. The best fishing lies from Swift Creek downstream to the dam.

For fishing information, visit Big Bass Bait and Tackle in Prattville on S.R. 14 West or call (334) 365-0600.

Other Hotspots

If December turns cold, you'll find bass concentrated in holes at the mouths of Chocolata and Chukfee bays in the Mobile Delta. Small grubs and crankbaits produce numerous strikes from 12- to 16-inch fish.

Also, blue catfish remain active on Wheeler Lake this month on the Tennessee River.

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