Alabama Angling Adventures For 2008

From the Tennessee River to the Gulf of Mexico, the Cotton State has plenty of destinations to keep you busy wetting a hook. Check out these 36 top sites for the year. (February 2008).

Anthony Campbell

So much water, so little time. That's how a traveling angler has to feel about Alabama. The state is blessed with oceans, rivers, reservoirs and even creeks that harbor an abundance of fish. Tapping into this great resource can be as simple as walking down the road to your nearest fishing hole or driving all the way across the state, boat in tow, on a grand fishing adventure.

Here are 36 places you might like to wet a line in the coming months.

JANUARY

Crappie

Tennessee River

Longtime Tennessee River angler Wayne Baker of Grant loves January for crappie on his home waters.

"That's when it really picks up for me," he said. "When the deer go in rut in our part of the state, so many people are deer hunting that I have the crappie spots all to myself."

Wayne specializes in fishing from the shore. He looks for rocky banks, such as riprap causeways He fishes exclusively at night, starting at about sundown and fishing as late as midnight.

Patience is a key to this angling. He believes that the fish move into the rock banks at some point during the early evening to feed on minnows. You can go from catching nothing to having 20 keepers in a matter of minutes.

Baker fishes with minnows, but many of his partners have success on jigs as well.

For info on how crappie and other species are biting on the Tennessee River, contact Waterfront Grocery at (256) 582-6060.

Other Hotspots: State fisheries biologists have noticed improvements to the structure of the bass population on Weiss Lake in Cherokee County. Now might be a good month to give those fish a try.

The winter months, believe it or not, are also an excellent time to catch bluegill and other bream in the Mobile Delta. Look for the fish in deep channels along the edges of shallow lakes and bays of the lower Delta.

FEBRUARY

Spotted Bass

Bankhead Lake

Bankhead Lake on the Warrior River has a better than average bass population and is a good place to try in the very early spring. These turbid waters warm rapidly, especially on the upper end of the lake. It's a place where an angler can throw baits at anything that looks fishy and have good results. Downed trees, weeds, debris and any other visible structure often hold fish.

Good baits are jig-and-pigs, spinnerbaits, Carolina rigs and topwaters. Trophy-sized spotted bass are caught in this reservoir, too.

District III fisheries biologist Jay Haffner said that the upper reaches of the lake are a beautiful, and a good stretch for finding bass.

Other hotspots: February is one of the best months for catching trophy largemouth bass on Lake Eufaula as the fish feed to get ready for the spawn. Good places to fish slow-moving baits are the edges of the weed beds, creek channel intersections, and debris piles along the river channel edge.

Crappie season is still rolling strong this month and Logan Martin is an overlooked hotspot for the species. Remember that this lake has a 9-inch length limit for crappie.

MARCH

Sheepshead

Mobile

"When the azaleas bloom, the sheepshead are sure to loom": an old axiom that many seasoned Gulf Coast saltwater fishermen live by.

That azalea bloom coincides with the water temperatures in the Mobile area rising enough to prompt the sheepshead to spawn. That, in turn, congregates the fish.

Good baits for the handsome black-and-white striped fish are shrimp and oysters. Look for the fish around pilings, jetties, oilrig legs and other structures likely to have barnacles on them. A good trick to entice a feeding frenzy is to scrape some barnacles off the structure and into the water with a shovel.

Standard tackle includes heavy barrel weights, heavy leaders and stout bronze hooks. You may have to experiment to find the proper depth.

Other Hotspots: The crappie season is winding down, but one good place for a late trip to is Gainesville Lake on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. State biologists have noted nice populations of the fish in the 9- to 12-inch range. Look for them around standing timber in backwater sloughs.

Improving water quality in West Point Lake in recent years has boosted the spotted bass population there, with lots of small, numerous fish. There's no size limit on spots and it's one place where anglers are encouraged to keep what they catch.

Anthony Campbell

APRIL

Striped Bass

Lewis Smith Lake

Smith Lake is legendary for its monster striped bass and April is a hot month to catch them. Fish in the 40-pound range have been documented in the lake and many anglers feel a 50-pounder will eventually be caught here. Live shad are the preferred bait.

Numerous guides operate here if you feel you need one. You can learn more by contacting the Cullman Chamber of Commerce at www.cullmanchamber.org.

Don't overlook the night bite on Smith Lake as that is when many anglers have report their best success on stripers.

Other Hotspots: Millers Ferry is considered one of the top bass lakes in the state and this is an excellent time to give 17,200-acre Alabama River reservoir a try. The lake regularly produces largemouths greater than 3 pounds.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources calls the Logan Martin spotted bass fishery one of the best in the state. Good baits are Zara Spooks and trick worms.

MAY

Bluegills

Guntersville Lake

May is prime time for bluegill fishing on Guntersville Lake. The fish can be found along just about any bank. Keystone minnows are excellent artificial baits. Crickets are the go-to live bait. If you find a bed of shellcrackers, try live worms. The best tactic: Simply get in your boat, troll down the banks and hunt for the fish. When you find them, anchor and see if you c

an catch several from the same nest. Using ultralight gear can make landing a hand-sized bluegill a whole lot more sporting.

An afternoon of this kind of fishing should produce more than enough bluegills for a fish fry.

If you don't have a boat or would like a guide to lead the way, give Guntersville Lake bass guide Tee Kitchens a call at (256) 859-1465. He's known to keep a basket of crickets in his boat this time of year.

You can also call Waterfront Grocery at (256) 582-6060 for the latest water and fishing conditions. Other Hotspots: Catfishing gets going strong in May in the Cotton State and an excellent place to try is the Tombigbee River in west-central Alabama. The tailwaters of Gainesville and Demopolis lakes are particularly good and even have some fishing piers operated by the Corps of Engineers.

Another bream hotspot is the Mobile Delta, where crickets fished around old duck blinds produce excellent stringers.

JUNE

Smallmouth Bass

Pickwick Lake

Drifting live bait in Pickwick Lake just below Wilson Dam is something of a year-round sport, but it especially produces good catches of smallmouth bass in early summer.

There's a lot of fishing pressure, but the angling still produces a lot of big fish. Use a cast net to catch live shad next to the dam; then, fish with them. The best action occurs when current flows through the dam.

If you prefer to use artificial baits, you can pick up fish on plastic worms, flukes, grubs and spinnerbaits tossed in the swirls.

Other Hotspots: Catfishing continues to be hot across the Cotton State this month and just about anywhere on the Tennessee River offers a good chance to catch some whiskerfish. Lots of anglers like to put out set lines with jugs or pool noodles as floats and then come back to check on them later. Bait your hook with a big worm or a live bream.

You can still get into some bream this month on Coffeeville Lake by using red wigglers and catalpa worms fished over deeper structure.

Anthony Campbell

JULY

Whiting

Alabama Beaches

You're probably going to the beach with your family this month anyway, so why not pack a stout bass rod and do some surf fishing while you're there. Fishing the from the sand of Alabama's sugar white beaches can be as simply a walking behind your condo or hotel, or as specialized as hiking into the secluded beaches of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

Shrimp -- live, dead or frozen -- are hard baits to beat. If you're lucky, you'll get on some redfish or speckled trout, but whiting are the staple. You probably will also catch plenty of catfish. It's fun no matter what kind of fish you pull from the brine.

Other Hotspots: Lay Lake has become a summertime hybrid bass fishing paradise in recent years. Anglers have tremendous luck on live shad drifted below Logan Martin Dam.

Flounder fishing in Mobile Bay is usually well underway by this time of year. Live shrimp and mud minnows are the baits of choice and the Dog and East Fowl rivers are hotspots.

AUGUST

Rainbow Trout

Sipsey River

August is the time when the heat runs a lot of anglers off the water. You can beat the heat, at least somewhat, by visiting the Sipsey River to fish for rainbow trout this month. The state stocks rainbows here several times each year and you likely will have the place to yourself this month.

Wear hip boots so that you can wade to some of the best holes. You'll need 'em: The water's cold!

Berkley Power Bait is a good choice for these fish. Check online for recent stockings of trout at the DCNR Web site, its address www. outdooralabama.com. Click on Fishing and Boating, Fish In Alabama, and, finally, Trout.

Other Hotspots: If you want to tangle with a prehistoric monster, then head south to the Mobile Delta for an encounter with an alligator gar. These fish reach 150 pounds and demand heavy gear.

You can have good success by fishing at night for largemouth bass on Wilson Lake. A black light is an invaluable aid and good baits are spinnerbaits and plastic worms.

SEPTEMBER

Largemouth Bass

Demopolis Lake

Demopolis Lake is one of those out-of-the-way destinations that can be worth the drive to get there. It consistently ranks among the top 10 reservoirs in the state for largemouths.

This riverine impoundment features creeks, cypress-lined backwaters, rock bluffs and weedy swamps. Good baits to try are crankbaits, jerkbaits and soft plastics. There's lots of woody cover holding fish in the creeks.

Other Hotspots: You can still tie into catfish this time of year and Lake Eufaula is overlooked for this particular species, even though it has good numbers of cats. This is also the month to get in some late-season deep-sea adventures for snapper and triggerfish at Orange Beach.

Anthony Campbell

OCTOBER

Speckled Trout

Alabama Coast

Fall is a great time to catch speckled trout on the Alabama Gulf Coast and there are lots of options for doing so. You can hire a guide through the Orange Beach Fishing Association, surf fish or even catch migrating trout along the seawall at Perdido Pass. Good baits are shrimp, spoons and crankbaits. Nighttime fishing by trolling under the lights along the docks that dot the bays can also be good.

Other Hotspots: With everyone focusing on football this month, you can have Saturdays nearly to yourself on Tuscaloosa Lake while spotted bass fishing. Aliceville Lake is also a good bet for largemouth bass in October.

NOVEMBER

Jones Bluff Lake

Largemouth Bass

A good shad population in Jones Bluff means the body of water has a good population of plump bass. It's a riverine lake, but there are lots of flooded creeks with outstanding fishing potential.

The lower reaches of the lake are thought to be the most productive. The bass tend to school up in deep water in winter. You can find them on creek channels and ledges. Other good places include points, weed beds and around woody debris.

Other Hotspots:

The saugers -- cousins to the walleye -- should start biting around bridges and below dams on the Tennessee River this month. R.L. Harris (better known as "Lake Wedowee") is an overlooked choice for some fall crappie fishing.

DECEMBER

Spotted Bass

Martin Lake

Bass here don't grow very big, but they're abundant; Lake Martin is one of the state's most popular wintertime bass fishing destinations. Most anglers first target spots and then try to find a largemouth or two. Preferred baits include finesse worms, jigs and spinnerbaits, with smaller baits producing better than large ones in the deep, clear waters of this reservoir.

The best fishing for spotted bass is on deep rocky structure. Spots on this lake are known for schooling up in the winter, so if you find one or two, you're likely to have a good outing.

Other Hotspots: The tailwater below Guntersville Dam has been lauded by some as the best fishing hole in all of Alabama -- that is, if you don't care what kind of fish stretches your line. Chopped-up shad coming through the turbines there make it a year-round mixed-bag fishery. Striped bass are the biggest of the fish, but you can also catch species largemouths, bream, freshwater drum and catfish. The winter crappie fishing is beginning to pick up on Weiss Lake in east Bama this month.

Find more about Alabama

fishing and hunting at:

AlabamaGameand Fish.com

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