January 25, 2018
[caption id="attachment_93397" align="aligncenter" width="648"] While few folks might be thinking about fishing right now, it is never too early to start making plans for the upcoming year, especially since Alabama has such great fishing year 'round. Here are 36 places and species to consider pursuing over the next 12 months. Photo By Ron Sinfelt[/caption]
JANUARY - Lake Mitchell Spotted Bass
"Winter is absolutely the best time to catch spotted bass on Lake Mitchell," said Dustin Connell, Coosa River guide (www.dustinconnellfishing.com). "On average, you are going to catch 30 to 40 fish, with many weighing 3 pounds."
In January, Connell fishes the upper section of the lake. He says the current, regardless of strength, is key, as it positions fish in eddies, dropoffs, shoals and near rock walls. He even catches spots when the floodgates are open on Lay Lake Dam.
Other Options: Mobile Delta Largemouth Bass: This month, a north wind concentrates the fish along the causeway. Wheeler Lake Blue Catfish: Catch big blues on the bottom of the river channel below schools of shad.
FEBRUARY - Aliceville Lake Crappie
District III Fisheries Supervisor Jay Haffner recommends Aliceville for slabs.
"Anglers may encounter a little muddier water on Tombigbee Reservoirs, but it is possible to find clearer water in creeks and backwater areas," Haffner said. "Two of my favorite areas on the lower lake are the shallow areas of Coal Fire and Pumpkin creeks."
According to Haffner, Aliceville should have a lot of 4-year-old crappie, along with abundant 2-year-old crappie, which should exceed the 9-inch limit.
Haffner uses side-scan sonar to find woody cover 3 to 10 feet deep, enticing crappie with either jigs or minnows.
Other Options: Jones Bluff Spotted Bass: Look for pre-spawn spotted bass in current on gravel bars and humps. Lake Eufaula White Bass: Small jigs and spoons trigger aggressive strikes when fished near schools of shad.
MARCH - Jones Bluff Flathead Catfish
According to Damon Abernethy, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources assistant chief of Fisheries, a trip to Jones Bluff will produce flatheads weighing between 7 and 40 pounds.
Abernethy recommends that anglers go bream fishing first, either with rod and reel or by setting limblines. Once bait is caught, anchor up-current from creek mouths and cuts at night to catch actively feeding flatheads.
Other Options: Mobile Bay Sheepshead: This is the best month to catch a limit of fish around manmade structure. Lake Guntersville Largemouth Bass: The primary pattern this month is to fish grassy flats adjacent to deep water.
APRIL - Weiss Lake Largemouth Bass
"Fishing on Weiss in April is excellent," said tournament angler Brian Shook. "It takes from 24 to 27 pounds to win and during one tournament last year it took a 6-pound average to win. If the water temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees, you can catch all you want using the right baits."
Shook's favorite lures for April are 1.5 Strike King square-bill crankbaits, chatterbaits and Rat-L-Traps.
This time of year, he likes to fish the mid-lake in Cowan, Spring and Three Mile creeks, looking for swings in the creek channel near docks.
Other Options: Millers Ferry Crappie: Catch spawning fish by casting Blakemore Road Runners jigs near shore. Gulf Beaches Pompano: Use a 3/8-ounce jig with a teaser to catch these delicious fish this month.
MAY - Lake Eufaula Shellcrackers
Ken Weathers, ADCNR District IV Fisheries supervisor, says fishing for redear sunfish on Lake Eufaula is excellent from late April through May. The heavy growth of aquatic weeds supports an abundant mollusks population that produces good growth for shellcrackers. Once water temperatures reach 70 to 75 degrees, these hard-fighting panfish begin bedding.
"In May," Weathers said, "look for shellcrackers anywhere you find hydrilla, alligator or primrose in places where it creates an edge that is about 3 feet deep and has a sandy bottom. Then work along the edge of the weeds using a bream buster to pick up and lower your bait to the bottom."
Weather recommends rigging lines with a slip cord without using a bobber stop so it slides on the line. This allows baits to sink to the bottom where the fish feed, while giving a visual reference for placement next to cover.
Other Options: Demopolis Lake Bluegills: On the Warrior, fish Power Line Slough, Backbone and French creeks and for bluegill. Smith Lake Striped Bass: Stripers feed near boat dock lights in the early evening hours.
JUNE - Geneva County Lake Channel Cats
Geneva County State Lake is actually two lakes. In an effort to provide the best catfishing possible, the state stocked the lower lake heavily at a rate for 150 channel catfish per acre for three years beginning in 2014. Due to its location, this lake has received very little fishing pressure.
"Usually, the channel catfish spawn peaks in June," said Weathers. "They like to spawn in a hole or some type of cavity, and they like really tight cover. Some of the best places to fish in early summer are the submerged edge of the concrete skirt on the dam or downed timber along the bank."
Other Options: Orange Beach Red Snapper: The largest artificial reef program in the nation makes this the place to catch snapper. Tensaw River Bluegill: Catch spawning bluegill in Bear, Little and Nap lakes off the Tensaw River.
JULY - Pickwick Lake Largemouth Bass
"Ledge fishing on Pickwick is far and away above all other summer fishing, Abernethy said. "When you find a school of fish, it's possible to sit in one place and catch 30 to 50 largemouth. It's fun to catch fish averaging 3 1/2 pounds on nearly every cast. Ledge fishing is best from late May through July."
To find schooling bass, Abernethy uses side-scan sonar to search main river ledges. Often, he will idle for more than a mile before seeing a large school of fish.
To catch them, Abernethy recommends anglers fish with a variety of lures, rotating through them every 10 or 15 minutes until figuring out what they want.
Other Options: Cahaba River Flathead Catfish: Flatheads leave holes at dusk to feed at night in shallow water. Intracoastal Waterway Speckled Trout: Night fishing for speckled trout is good on the Intracoastal Waterway near dock lights.
AUGUST - Sipsey Fork Rainbow Trout
The water temperature below Smith Dam stays cold enough to support trout year 'round, making the upper Sipsy Fork ideal for trout fishing in the dog days of summer.
To sustain the put-and-take fishery, about 1,500 pounds of 8- to 15-inch trout are stocked every month, usually on the third Thursday. Occasionally, in summer that number can more than double.
Access to the tailrace is via Cullman CR 95, which parallels the Sipsey Fork. The road leads to parking areas from where it's a short walk to one of the seven staircases down to the water. Some of the best trout habitat on the river is about a half to three-quarters of a mile above the pump station.
Other Options: Alabama River Mullet: Mullet fishing peaks on the Alabama River between Claiborne Dam and Cliff's Landing. Gainesville Lake Blue Catfish: Avoid the heat and catch heavy stringers of blue catfish by floating jugs at night.
SEPTEMBER - Gulf of Mexico King Mackerel
Captain Don McPherson of Get Away Charters (www.getawaygulffishing.com) out of Orange Beach reports September is a good month for catching king mackerel weighing 17 to 25 pounds, with the occasional fish hitting the scales at 30 pounds.
To catch king mackerel, McPherson trolls a No. 2 or 3 Clark spoons behind a No. 2 planner at 5 to 7 knots. He also free lines live or dead baits as his boat drifts over artificial reefs. He finds kings from nearshore out to 7 or 8 miles.
"Always look for any kind of surface action," McPherson said. "Bait popping on the surface or diving birds is a good sign kings are present."
Other Options: Little Bear Creek Crappie: Spider rigging and early mornings are the ticket to catching a limit of crappie. Lake Wedowee Largemouth: Fish topwater in the backs of creeks at sunrise where bass are busting shad.
OCTOBER - Lake Martin Striped Bass
"Striped bass fishing improves in October as the water cools," said striper guide Steve Smith (205-365-5226). "The cooler temperatures allow the stripers to follow shad into the river and creeks. When they migrate to shallower water, I focus on fishing Hillabee and Coley creeks and upriver in the shoals area."
To catch stripers chasing shallow baitfish, Smith deploys planner boards and rigs the bait so that it appears free-swimming about 35 feet behind side planer boards. For bait, he uses gizzard shad and redhorse suckers, which he catches from the Neely Henry tailrace.
Other Options: Lake Guntersville Largemouth: Frogs and buzzbaits produce explosive strikes over grass beds. Lake Jordan Crappie: If you're ready to catch a limit of crappie, fish Lake Jordan in October.
NOVEMBER - Wilson Lake Smallmouth Bass
This smallmouth fishery on the Tennessee River is so good that Damon Abernethy makes an annual fishing trip in October or November. Depending on the weather, Abernethy says fishing can be better in October, but it's more consistent in November in both the Wheeler and Wilson tailraces.
Abernethy recommends the Wheeler Dam tailrace for anglers who have not fished these areas before, saying there are dangerous areas below the Wilson Dam as the water is shallower.
"A good day of fishing below either dam would be 15 to 20 smallmouth over 4 pounds," said Abernethy. "You will also catch plenty of smaller ones. We do catch 6 pounders, but it is rare."
Other Options: Lewis Smith Lake Striped Bass: For hard-hitting action, cast a swimbait to surfacing stripers. Mobile Bay White Trout: White trout are abundant around the gas rigs.
DECEMBER - Orange Beach Redfish
From late October through December, Capt. Don McPherson (www.getawaygulffishing.com) guides anglers for bull redfish. He says the fishing is the result of huge schools of red minnows and menhaden moving nearshore.
"It's a natural setup for winter fishing, as all the ingredients come together to form this great fishery," said McPherson.
When reds churn the surface to foam while feeding on baitfish, McPherson has his clients casting topwater plugs on spinning tackle.
If the fish are not actively feeding on the surface, the guide trolls up to five lures in water 15 to 35 feet deep.
Other Options: Lake Jordan Spotted Bass: As water temperatures fall in December, spotted bass fishing peaks on Lake Jordan's upper lake. Wilson Lake Blue Catfish: To catch big catfish, drift cutbait through deep holes next to the river channel.