A Year Of Cotton State Angling

Regardless of the season, Alabama offers anglers some hot prospects for fast action. Here's a look at 36 worthy destinations for the coming year. (February 2006)

Alabama has a tremendous variety of fish species and waters for anglers to enjoy. From widely accessible bream to big migrating cobia, there's a fish waiting to challenge every angler in every month of the year.

Whether it's size or numbers, live bait or artificials, simplicity or sophistication, this year's 36 destinations offer you a full year of fishing adventures.

JANUARY

Largemouths

Millers Ferry Lake

Most anglers who fish Millers Ferry put their rods away in January. Savvy anglers, though, know that this month and the next offer excellent fishing for trophy largemouths, as the females are prime for the coming spawn. Though you can expect few strikes, the bites you do get produce good-quality fish weighing from 3 to 8 pounds.

The best fishing occurs at the mouth of feeder creeks anytime there is a current on the Alabama River. When the water temperature is in the mid-40s to low 50s, the bass hold in slack water at depths greater than 10 feet. Target these winter bass using a vertical presentation to work a Hopkins spoon or a jig-and-pig slowly along the edge of the current.

For current fishing information, visit Lori Stogner at L'n L Marina located off state Route 28 or call her at (334) 682-5125.

Other Hotspots: For fast action, fish for spotted bass in the current breaks below the Mitchell Dam. Also in January, anglers on Wilson Lake find good smallmouth action on main river dropoffs.

FEBRUARY

Spotted Bass

Jones Bluff Lake

Moving upstream on the Alabama River, Jones Bluff's riverine banks and current create excellent habitat for spotted bass. Anglers report that the fishing in February for spots is unbeatable. It's only at this time of the year that they catch 5- to 7-pound fish; as soon as the water begins to warm, the big spots disappear. The best fishing for big spots is from Swift Creek to the dam.

The most productive locations for spots this month are river gravel bars 6 to 15 feet deep and the first bends up in deep feeder creeks. To fish gravel bars, find any hump or point that causes a current break. To fish creeks, look for channels at least 20 feet deep that have bends with a tight radius.

For current fishing information and water conditions call Big Bass Bait & Tackle at (334) 365-0600.

Other Hotspots: Opening for the new year on Feb. 1, Escambia County Lake offers Alabamians their best opportunity to catch a largemouth weighing more than 10 pounds. In Mobile, bluegills congregate in the deep holes of Bay Minette Creek to offer phenomenal fishing.

MARCH

Crappie

Logan Martin Lake

Last year, anglers reported taking full stringers of slab crappie from Logan Martin, with good numbers of 1 1/2- to 2-pound fish. This 15,263-acre reservoir produces one of the best growth rates for crappie on the Coosa River.

Blue Eye, Choccolocco and Clear creeks are top areas to troll for pre- spawn fish. To find concentrations of fish, troll 1/24-ounce jigs rigged with tiny curlytail grubs parallel to dropoffs in 12 to 15 feet of water. Early in March, before the fish become aggressive, add a small minnow to entice big crappie.

Initially, troll slowly to work dropoffs in deeper water. If you don't find fish, increase your trolling speed as you move up the creek.

For updates on fishing conditions or to book a guide, call Charles Slaton at (256) 593-7249 or (256) 572-6217.

Other Hotspots: During the pre-spawn on Weiss Lake, anglers who work a jig-and-pig next to visible cover catch 5- to 6-pound largemouths. Out from Gulf Shores saltwater anglers are catching some of the biggest grouper of the year.

APRIL

Cobia

Orange Beach

Clearly the paramount saltwater species for April, cobia offer the most excitement that anglers can experience in our state. The dark-brown bruisers are massive at 45, 70 or even exceeding 100 pounds; plus, they put up a fight of a magnitude not equaled by other coastal fish. But it's the element of anticipation while waiting to sight-cast to one of these heavyweight contenders that causes the adrenaline to flow.

Depending on the weather, migrating cobia begin to arrive just off our beaches in mid-March. Fishing is unpredictable early on, making April the best time to plan a trip.

Sight-fish for cobia by using live bait rigged on 30- to 80-pound-test monofilament. Crabs, eels, shrimp or small baitfish retrieved in front of a cruising fish will start a good fight.

To book a fishing trip, or for more information, call Captain Erik Manthei at (251) 980-1919, or visit his Web site at

www.fishnfool.com.

Other Hotspots: Guntersville Lake offers world-class largemouth bass fishing throughout spring, April being no exception to the tendency. And in the lower part of our state, Gantt Lake's shallow flats provide perfect habitat to attract huge concentrations of spawning shellcrackers.

MAY

Bream

Guntersville Lake

The predominant species of bream at Guntersville are a good mix of bluegills and redear sunfish. Shellcrackers spawn a little earlier and have made their beds by late April, but bluegills always spawn during the full moon in May -- usually the third or fourth week -- provided the water temperature is in the high 70s to low 80s.

Anglers say that it's not unusual to catch 50 to 100 in a day. Typically, the bluegills weigh between 1/2 to 3/4 pound, and the shellcrackers average 12 ounces, with some big fish weighing 1 1/2 pounds.

To find these delicious fish, look for fresh green patches of milfoil growing about 6 inches off the bottom in water 2 to 5 feet deep on the flats located in the coves of Browns, Short and Town creeks.

To book a bream trip, call guide Charles Slaton at (256) 593-7249 or (256) 572-6217.

Other Hotspots: For trophy striped bass action on Lewis Smith Lake, use your depthfinder to locate large schools of shad with big fish swimming under the school. This is also an excellent month to catch largemouths on Lake Jordan by means of buzzbaits.

JUNE

Striped Bass

Lake Martin

"Not only is Martin an awes

ome lake for producing numbers of fish in June," said striper guide Jim Parramore, "it also produces unbelievable numbers of trophy fish. Last year, we caught 18 stripers weighing more than 30 pounds, with the biggest weighing 36 pounds."

According to Parramore, the secret to finding nomadic summer stripers lies in knowing where in the water column they swim. In June, he recommends, look for fish 35 to 40 feet deep on the upper lake above U.S. Highway 280, especially in Mad and Wind creeks and around Woods and Youngs islands. Use a high-resolution depthfinder to find fish in this narrow band of water, being always mindful that a school of baitfish may have stripers lurking nearby.

To book a guide trip, call Parramore at (205) 533-3664 or (205) 699-3247.

Other Hotspots: Another hot fishing spot in June is the Alabama River. Anglers there catch 20- to 40-pound flathead catfish on live bait fished around logjams. Bluegill fishing is also excellent on the Tennessee River as the mayflies hatch.

JULY

Channel Catfish

Lake Andrews

As temperatures peak in July, catfishing sizzles across our state. One lake often overlook is Lake Andrews, which is located below Lake Eufaula on the lower Chattahoochee River. Andrews offers outstanding fishing for 3-pound channel cats just right for the skillet. It's not unusual to catch a fish on your first rod while you bait the second.

To escape the hot weather, plan to fish from late evening into the night. The best fishing occurs when there is a strong current, as it forces the fish into predictable yet easily found locations. Every point, logjam or creek mouth may hold a fishing bonanza.

The most effective channel-cat baits at Andrews are fresh-cut shad, shrimp and chicken livers.

The schedule for power generation and associated water releases at the Andrews Lock and Dam is available by calling 1-866-772-9542.

Other Hotspots: Also this month, offshore anglers find that king mackerel weighing up to 30 pounds will aggressively attack baits trolled on the surface. Live menhaden or ribbonfish work best. And during summer, topwater action for largemouths is excellent on the Warrior River early in the morning.

AUGUST

Flathead Catfish

Conecuh River

The best time to catch flathead catfish on the Conecuh is when the river is low, yet flowing normally. When the Point "A" Dam generators are still, these predators hunt determinedly at night, moving from hole to hole. Actively feeding fish and water conditions combine to make the Conecuh the place to fish on a late-summer night.

Find the right hole when the fish start biting, and the fast action will have you smiling, as the aggressive flatheads take the bait as soon as it reaches the bottom. Nothing beats a live sunfish for catching these predators on the Conecuh.

Anglers routinely catch heavy stringers of 3- to 12-pound cats, with the occasional trophy weighing 30 to 47 pounds. Call Carolyn Morris at Stokes Sporting Goods in Andalusia at (334) 222-1225 for current fishing conditions.

Other Hotspots: Avoid the heat this month and catch heavy stringers of blue catfish by floating jugs near the shoreline at night on Wheeler Lake. Fresh chicken livers are easy to use and effective for jug fishing. Also: Summer crappie fishing is good next to bridge pilings on Lake Eufaula -- and the fishing sites are in the shade!

SEPTEMBER

Speckled Trout

Mobile Bay

As the residents of Baldwin County sleep soundly in their beds, successful speck anglers maneuver through the quiet darkness of our back bays to fish boat docks, bridges and piers, and any other structure from which lights shine on the water. The lights attract baitfish, which in turn draw big numbers of speckled trout. On a good night with an incoming tide, these lights can produce two dozen keepers, a few measuring 18 inches or more.

Since specks spook easily, use the current to drift within casting distance; then, quietly lower the anchor. Once in position, anglers use a variety of baits, lures, and techniques to tempt these scrappy inshore fish into biting. Casting live baitfish or shrimp is always effective, as are soft plastics like D.O.A. shrimp and Berkley Powerbait Tubes. Flyfishermen get in on the action by using colorful 5-inch streamers.

Other Hotspots: In September on Lake Eufaula, the main river channel above U.S. 82 produces good numbers of channel cats on cut shad for bait. And at Guntersville, it's a great time to fish for largemouth bass on the edge of mature weedbeds.

OCTOBER

Smallmouth Bass

Wheeler Dam

Smallmouth bass move up Wilson Lake to the headwaters in the Wheeler Dam tailrace on the Tennessee River. The fish thrive there, growing big in the forage-rich waters. Their numbers and sizes make this a world-class fishery.

On a good fall day, anglers can catch 20 fish, taking many weighing more than 4 pounds. Five-pounders are common, and on a rare day, the tailrace produces a trophy 8-pound bronze beauty.

As water temperatures cool into the low 70s, look for fish about a half-mile below the dam around humps. Float with the current to fish the slack-water edge of current breaks. Since big smallies prefer live threadfin shad fished near the bottom, use a sinker that will quickly put the bait in the strike zone.

For fishing information, call the Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau, 1-800-344-0783.

Other Hotspots: October is an exciting time for catching spotted bass on Lewis Smith Lake; anglers can watch spots rise from the depths to strike topwater lures. It's also a great time for catching red snapper on the artificial reefs that provide an abundance of habitat off Dauphin Island.

NOVEMBER

Striped Bass

Lewis Smith Lake

During November, Smith's striped bass forgo their search for schools of shad to take up ambush positions at creek mouths and funnel points. This annual staging of stripers occurs as falling water temperatures force shad to leave the backs of creeks.

Once a school of stripers is found, it provides anglers both the opportunity to catch large numbers of fish and the possibility of returning to fish the same location another day. Congregating shad in late fall may hold in the same location for one to three weeks, depending on fishing pressure.

Look for striped bass at the mouths of Crooked, Little Crooked and White Oak creeks. Also check the long point in Lick Creek. In November, expect to find the fish holding 38 to 45 feet deep.

To book a guide trip, call Jim Parramore at (205) 533-3664 or (205) 699-3247.

Other Hotspots: With cooler temperatures, the lower Tensaw River produces excellent stringers of 2- to 3-pound speckled trout. November is also great for ca

tching smallmouth bass at Pickwick Lake.

DECEMBER

Crappie

Tombigbee River

According to fisheries biologists, crappie on the Tombigbee River above Demopolis Lake have spawned successfully for many years. Spawning conditions -- both temperature and water levels -- have produced an abundance of fish that bite willingly in December.

In fact, it's an excellent time to catch trophy-size slabs, provided you can find them. Since our weather varies greatly this month, the fish may hold anywhere from 3 to 20 feet.

Start your search at creek mouths by fishing cover on the edge of drop-offs. A vertical presentation works best, as crappie hold tight to cover. If the water temperature has dropped below 50 degrees, expect to find the fish holding near the bottom. Often smaller crappie hold a few feet above the big fish, so fish 4 to 8 feet deeper before moving.

Other Hotspots: The arrival of cold weather on Lake Martin doesn't diminish the excellent fishing for spotted bass. Fish live spottail minnows on humps and points for fast action. Also: Blue catfish remain active on Millers Ferry this month.

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