Alabama's 2011 Fishing Calendar

From the Tennessee River to the Gulf of Mexico, the Cotton State holds a wealth of fishing options. Here's a look at three-dozen of the best!

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Informed anglers worldwide know of Alabama fisheries on lakes Eufaula, Guntersville, Pickwick, Weiss and our offshore manmade reefs. Other fisheries like Jordan Lake's spotted bass and Lake Martin's striped bass rate just as high yet are not as famous. Still, others offer exceptional fishing, but remain relatively unknown.

Excellent populations of a wide variety of freshwater and saltwater species abound across the state. And though 36 picks are a lot to choose from, in Alabama, that's just the start of a very long list of great places to fish. Picking any destination is exciting; it's a chance to discover new angling adventures.

JANUARY

Largemouth Bass - Lake Eufaula

With water temperatures normally holding from 50 to 54 degrees in January, Lake Eufaula is your best opportunity for catching a 6-pound bass in the southern part of the state. Skilled, deep-water anglers can catch 20 fish a day and about half of those will weigh between 5 and 7 pounds.

Fish congregate on Eufaula's ledges along the flooded Chattahoochee River course in January just as they do in July and August, but deeper. Focus on ledges 20 to 28 feet deep on the lower section of the main lake below White Oak Creek.

It's possible to find fish with sonar, but it's often difficult. Instead, drag a 10-inch Texas-rigged worm with a ¾-ounce sinker on the bottom.

For current fishing information, call Young's Big Mouth Shop at (334) 687-3200, or visit them on Eufaula Avenue in Eufaula.

Other Hotspots

Watching schools of spotted bass busting shad on the surface in the morning on Lake Martin is thrilling. Cast topwater lures to breaking fish for fast action.

On Pickwick Lake you can bundle up to troll jigs over creek channels for slab-size crappie.

FEBRUARY

Blue Catfish - Wheeler Lake

On a cold day last February, catfish guide Mike Mitchell of Albertville assisted three clients in catching eight blues weighing a total of 420 pounds. The biggest weighed 102.52 pounds. Mitchell reported that many of the blue catfish his clients catch weigh more than 40 pounds.

Catch rates are low, but your chances of catching a trophy are good in winter. Catfish are cold-blooded, which makes them less active and less likely to inhale baits in cold water. On a good day, Mitchell catches five to eight fish.

"In winter," Mitchell advised, "big fish gorge on shad. It's not so much about fish holding to structure as it is about finding the shad."

To book a winter guided trip, call Mike Mitchell at (256) 673-2250 or visit www.tnriveroutfitters.net.

Other Hotspots

Crappie on Weiss Lake know no season. It may take time to determine their preferred depth, but it's worth the effort. Find them by trolling jigs across main-lake points.

Down in the Mobile Delta pre-spawn largemouths concentrate in Briar, Dead and McReyonlds lakes.

MARCH

Crappie - Aliceville Lake

Aliceville's shallow, weedy waters are first to reach spawning temperatures for crappie on the Tombigbee River. In fact, it's surprising how many crappie are on the banks in February. By March, the spawn is in full swing, and the fishing is exceptional.

Start by fishing little pockets in the grass along the bank in areas protected from the wind. Amazingly, gaps in the grass as small as 5 feet can produce a dozen fish. If unsuccessful, fish the edge of the weed line, and always work the stickups, stumps and cypress trees in the shallows.

Minnows are effective, but it's simpler to probe weedy perimeters with 1/16-ounce tube jigs fished 1 ½ feet below a bobber. Aliceville's biggest slabs prefer pink-and-black or orange-and-black color combinations.

Other Hotspots

With sheep-like teeth ideal for crushing barnacles and shellfish, the sheepshead in Mobile Bay fight like giant bream and taste even better.

Also in March, the tailrace below Wheeler Dam offers excellent smallmouth bass action.

APRIL

Spotted Bass - Jordan Lake

"April is my favorite month to fish Jordan Lake for spots," reported guide Chad Miller. "The fish have moved off the beds and are feeding heavily to regain their strength. It's the best time to catch high numbers, and we often catch 30 spots a day."

Miller finds fish on the main lake from Mitchell Dam downstream to Jordan's twin dams. Specifically, he targets any structure near the river channel that forms a current break at depths of 12 to 20 feet.

"Spots are conditioned to feed when there's a current," he explained, "so call 1-800-LAKES to get the schedule before fishing. These fish are mean and will strike your favorite lures."

For a guided day on the water with Chad Miller, telephone (334) 300-5337, or visit his web at www.bamaspots.com.

Other Hotspots

Below the Neely Henry Dam, it's possible to wade and fish for hybrid bass if only one turbine is running. Anglers report catching 20 fish in a few hours of angling.

Just off our beaches at Gulf Shores cobia are migrating west. These fish can be sight cast for plenty of action.

MAY

Largemouth Bass - Guntersville Lake

To win a tournament during May on Guntersville requires an average largemouth to weigh 5 pounds. In the last two May tournaments, five BASS anglers weighed in 20 fish with a total weight exceeding 100 pounds. On a good day, local anglers catch 25 to 35 fish weighing 3 to 5 pounds, with a big fish tipping the scales at 6 to 7 pounds. Look for those quality post-spawn fish near bedding areas in 3 to 9 feet of water.

These aggressive bass attack a variety of lures. For pure excitement, work a white ½-ounce buzzbait over weeds. If the vegetation is below the surface, another big-fish tactic is to swim a paddle tail worm.

For a guided trip, call Tim Chandler at (256) 655-8292 or visit his site at www.mildrillafishing.com.

Other Hotspots

In early May on Gantt Lake, there are so many shellcracker beds that many never get fished. The best bait for spawning shellcracker is a lively red wiggler.

Another hot fishing spot this month is Lewis Smith Lake for striped bass.

JUNE

Bluegill - Mobile Delta

Anglers across Alabama catch enormous numbers of bluegill and this is especially true in the Mobile Delta. The fishing is so good bream anglers consider the area a vacation destination to fill coolers.

Biologists attribute the Delta's excellent fishing to a combination of its fertile watershed, the area's nutrient-rich soil, available forage and unique habitat. They recommend fishing the upper Delta north of Interstate 65 in Big Beaver, Bear, Little and Nap lakes.

Bluegill spawn in summer so fishing beds is productive. However, another method that's just as effective is to fish the creek mouths where bluegill congregate as they move to and from spawning areas. Anchor and fish 2 to 14 feet deep.

For current fishing conditions, call Upper Bryant Landing on the Tensaw River at (251) 937-1045.

Other Hotspots

During summer Cahaba River flathead catfish leave holes at dusk to feed in shallow water. Fish live bullheads on inside bends of the river to catch these delicious fish.

On Lay Lake fishing for spotted bass is exceptional on river ledges downstream of the Gaston steam power plant.

JULY

Red Snapper - Orange Beach

It's too early to assess the impact of the BP disaster on our Gulf of Mexico fisheries, but Captain Troy Frady is already promoting the conservation of fish caught from our artificial reefs.

"I encourage people to take what they want, not what they can," he said.

Additionally, he increases the survival of released reef fish by catching them at mid-depths.

Frady's trips to the reefs produce red, white and vermillion snapper and triggerfish.

"Larger fish are not afraid to come up in the water column," Frady explained, and you can use lighter line, because you are not fishing on the bottom. Go light and enjoy the fight."

To experience reef fishing with Captain Troy Frady, call him at (251) 975-8111 or visit his web site at www.distractioncharters.com.

Other Hotspots

This month, channel catfish feed heavily on the upper section of Andrews Lake when there's a strong current. Drop fresh bait in current breaks next to the bank for fast action.

Also in the Gulf of Mexico, king mackerel willingly take live bait this month.

AUGUST

Channel Catfish - Millers Ferry

While Alabama swelters during the hot, muggy days of August, savvy catfishermen on Millers Ferry prepare for the night. Relief from the summer's oppressive heat is reason enough, but the dark also eliminates recreational boaters. More importantly, catfish are on the move to feed.

Arriving on the lake at dusk, catfishmen first bait and release jugs to drift over the old submerged riverbank. Channel catfish move to the shallow water to feed at night and make up most of the catch. With jugs adrift, anglers move to the up-current side of a creek mouth to anchor and fish with rod and reel. Every hour, sooner if the bite is slow, they check for jugs dancing on the surface.

For current fishing information, visit the Millers Ferry Marina located off State Route 28 or call them at (334) 682-5125.

Other Hotspots

When temperatures peak, so does mullet fishing between Claiborne Dam on the Alabama River and Cliff's Landing on the Tensaw River. Using worms and bream poles, anglers quickly fill coolers.

On Guntersville Lake bass are eager to kill plastic frogs dragged across weeds.

SEPTEMBER

Spotted Bass - Logan Martin Lake

As summer ends, the weather is still hot and fishing can be tough. The shad on Logan Martin have spawned three to six times since March and bass can easily select from the menu of available sizes. Fortunately, stable fishing conditions in September produce predictable behavior for spotted bass weighing up to 3 pounds.

Logan Martin's three most effective late-summer patterns are fishing main-lake points with manmade brush piles, main-lake humps and the submerged river channel.

In early morning, fish points with either a Zara Spook or fast moving jerkbait. When that bite dies, try the deepwater hump just upstream from the dam or the old river ledge at mid-lake. Crankbaits, heavy spinnerbaits and jigs work best for this structure action when the water is moving.

Other Hotspots

On Millers Ferry it's a great time to pitch jigs or lizards to largemouths holding beneath water hyacinth. Target mats near creek channels.

For keeper-sized redfish in Mobile, try the bayous off Chickasaw Creek or the flats near the I-10 causeway.

OCTOBER

Smallmouth Bass - Pickwick Lake

During the previous 20 years, Alabama Game & Fish has picked this time and place more often than any other fishery. October is a magical time on Pickwick as fall triggers explosive action for bronzebacks in its headwaters.

Four- to 6-pound smallmouth dominate on weekdays when water is flowing from Wilson Dam's turbines. A strong current is key to catching big fish.

Drift for at least a mile, which is down to the two bridges below the dam, and then repeat. Practice caution. The rocky bottom, shallow water and strong current combine to create dangerous boating conditions.

Bump the bottom with curly-tail grubs, hair jigs, tube lures, and plastic worms on light line.

For guided smallmouth action, call Steve Hacker at (256) 760-8090, or visit www.smallmouth.com.

Other Hotspots

On Lake Harris move to the shoals at the head of the lake to fish stump rows next to the bank for largemouth bass. Spinnerbaits or worms work best.

October is also an exciting time to catch crappie on the Bear Creek watershed lakes.

NOVEMBER

Striped Bass - Lake Martin

Veteran striper guide Jim Parram

ore's favorite way to catch linesides is by stalking them in the backs of creeks, while trolling suckers or shad near the bank with side planer boards. The baits weight up to 2 pounds each.

"The cooler water in the creeks attracts the big loner stripers," Parramore revealed. "November is an excellent big fish month. Fish are not as heavy as in spring, but it's possible to catch fish weighing 40 pounds."

To find big fish the guide trolls in the backs of Britt, Coley and Elkahatchee creeks and believes all of Martin's creeks can produce trophy fish.

To learn how to catch big stripers using planner boards, book a trip with Jim Parramore by calling (205) 533-3664 or (205) 699-1886.Other Hotspots

When temperatures cool on the Mobile Delta seatrout move from the bay and into the rivers. Baits bumped along the bottom of Dog and Fowl rivers produce 3-pounders.

November is also the month when saugers congregate below dams on the Tennessee River.

DECEMBER

Crappie - Weiss Lake

When the weather turns cold, Weiss Lake offers anglers an opportunity to catch large numbers of crappie weighing 1 to 1 ¼ pounds from dense schools of fish. The cold concentrates the crappie at the warm water discharge pipe on the Chattooga River near State Route 60, and also in the warm spring water flowing into Spring Creek.

At the discharge pipe, the float-and-fly technique will quickly find and catch fish. Tie two 1/16-ounce deer-hair jigs on the line about a foot apart beneath a bobber. In Spring Creek, slow troll the shallow water near the shoreline with 1/32-ounce jigs.

To book a day of guided crappie fishing on Weiss Lake, call Jason Tucker, who fishes out of J.R.'s Marina on Little River. The telephone number is (256) 779-6461 or visit the web site at www.jrsmarina.com.

Other Hotspots

Spotted bass on Jones Bluff continue to feed heavily on shad throughout the month. Look for 5-pounders to hold over gravel bars and humps.

On Neely Henry, cast crankbaits to giant stripers feeding in the shallows below pier lights at night.

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