12 Months Of Yellowhammer Angling
September 28, 2010
Join the author as she provides a tour through Alabama's angling year. These three dozen top destinations can fill your 2010 fishing with action!
From north to south, Cotton State anglers planning fishing trips this year have a tremendous variety of opportunities available. With so many fresh and saltwater destinations across the state, it's possible to experience a new fishing adventure every month of the year.
Our wide range of species can challenge any angler eager to stalk a trophy or ready for fast action and full stringers.
To help make the most of your time on the water in 2010, here is a full year of places and species.
Blue Catfish Wheeler Lake
Winning catfish tournament angler and guide Mike Mitchell revealed that his favorite lake for "old whiskers" is Wheeler and winter as the best season. Last year, his biggest blue weighed 98 pounds, and the heaviest stringer weighed 650 pounds. He said 50-pounders are common in winter.
Mitchell caught both the big fish and stringer from a hump the size of a car near the main river channel. The top of the hump was only 10 feet deep, which was the depth where he hooked the big fish.
Instead of downsizing his bait for the cold water, Mitchell uses hand-size chunks of skipjack herring. He fishes the bait on an 8/0 circle hook.
To book a winter guide trip, call Mike Mitchell at (256) 673-2250 or visit www.tnriveroutfitters.net.
Other Hotspots: For fast action, fish the causeway crossing the Mobile Delta for largemouth bass. A north wind forces water from the shallow bays and concentrates the fish there.
Also in January, Lake Mitchell's crappie hold on points near schools of shad.
Largemouth BassLake Eufaula
The possibility of catching a 10-pound largemouth makes this the best month to fish Lake Eufaula. As big sows move from their winter haunts to spawning flats, they become aggressive feeders and vulnerable to reaction lures like crankbaits, Rat-L-Traps and spinnerbaits.
A few days into a warming trend, start by fishing the flats, and then search the creeks and ditches -- the migration routes -- leading out to deep water. Most likely, you'll find them 8 to 10 feet deep on top of the ledge holding next to old brushpiles and snags. Retrieve lures from shallow to deep. Bass usually strike near the dropoff.
Creeks that produce "hawgs" are Barbour, Bustahatchee, Cheneyhatchee, Cowikee and Tobannee.
To book a day of guided bass fishing on Eufaula, call David Cole at (334) 687-7229.
Other Hotspots: Spotted bass on Jones Bluff Lake are unbeatable as it's the only time of the year to catch 5- to 7-pound fish.
In the Mobile Delta, bream congregate in the deep holes of Mallard Fork and Bay Minette creeks.
Striped BassLake Martin
In March, the best place to catch stripers weighing more than 30 pounds is in Lake Martin's creeks as the big fish move shallow. These trophy rockfish are the exception, as most big fish are 20-pounders.
Nearly all of Martin's creeks attract big fish in spring. Search tributaries by trolling live shad -- the larger the better -- 40 feet behind planer boards. The boards allow you to work the shallow water near the bank without spooking the fish. Use a speed sufficient to keep the board in position and monitor that speed with a GPS unit.
Anglers who use live bait on Martin usually collect shad below a Coosa River dam on their way to the lake.
To book a guide trip, call Jim Parramore at (205) 533-3664 or (205) 699-1886.
Other Hotspots: On Lake Guntersville, look for groups of big females migrating to their spawning areas in the backs of North and South Sauty creeks. Start by ripping a red Rat-L-Trap through weeds on the points leading to the spawning flats.
This month on the Gulf of Mexico, grouper season re-opens March 15.
Weiss Lake's crappie attract anglers from not only Alabama, but also from across the nation. The fertile waters of the Coosa River in combination with an abundance of cover, excellent structure and plenty of backwater flats support a first-rate fishery.
With a 10-inch minimum limit, anglers can expect to catch heavy stringers in April, with the biggest fish weighing 2 1/2 pounds. Two-pound crappie are common.
Jigs trolled on long lines produce more limits on Weiss than any other technique. Rig your gear to fish 8 to 12 feet deep and troll near spawning areas, which have rock or sand bottoms.
For current fishing conditions or to book a guide, drop by J.R.'s Marina on Little River or telephone them at (256) 779-6461. Their web site is www.jrsmarina.com.
Other Hotspots: In the lower part of our state, Escambia County Lake has shallow flats that produce jumbo-sized shellcrackers during the spawn.
Not far from this public lake in road miles, yet worlds apart in size, you find cobia migrating near shore along our Gulf of Mexico beaches.
If you love hand-sized bluegills, Aliceville is the lake to fish. Known for great bass and crappie fishing, the abundant bluegills have remained in the background and a secret.
Lower Aliceville's expansive grass flats and wood cover provides a nursery for the young and protection from predators. These flats also attract concentrations of spawning fish, making May a perfect time to fill freezers with delicious bluegills.
Look for aggressive fish in areas around weedbeds with sandy bottoms on Coal Fire and Pumpkin creeks. If the fish are small, move deeper to locate the big bull bluegills.
To fish Alabama's section of Aliceville Lake, launch your boat at the Raleigh Ryan Access Area on the west side of the river across from Pickensville.
Other Hotspots: Little in bass fishing compares with the thrill of a topwater strike. On Jordan Lake, buzzbaits worked over weeds and wood attract vicious attacks by largemouths.
Also this mont
h, anglers on the Cahaba River catch good numbers of flatheads, with big fish weighing 20 pounds.
Red SnapperOrange Beach
The Red Snapper World Championship begins on June 1, which is also opening day for the species in the Gulf of Mexico. A combination of a shortened season, a reduced limit of two fish and the largest artificial reef program in the nation makes this the place to target big fish. Last year, the opening fell on a workday and caused many a boss to worry about employees sick with snapper fever.
With plenty of fish on the reefs, it's so easy to catch 16-inchers that anglers are happy to cull fish until they land a couple of pigs. The winning snapper at last year's tournament weighed 35.9 pounds.
For most conditions, rig a 4-foot leader of 40-pound-test fluorocarbon with a 3-ounce sinker and a 5/0 circle hook.
For tournament information, visit www.redsnapperworldchampionship.com.
Other Hotspots: For fast action with striped bass on Lewis Smith Lake, fish at night by trolling live shad near pier lights at depths of 20 to 30 feet.
There's also great fishing for bluegills on the Tennessee River this month as hatching mayflies stimulate a feeding frenzy.
One way to beat the summer heat is an early-morning trip to the beach to catch whiting from the surf. An onshore salty breeze improves attitudes and expectations. A whiting looks like a redfish without the spot, and they are good fighters. The state record is 2 pounds, 15 ounces.
When packing for your vacation, take a 6-foot medium-action rod with 12-pound-test monofilament. Also take your beads, weights of 1/4 to 1 ounce and swivels for tying a Carolina rig, plus a pack of 1/0 hooks. At the beach, buy a pound of fresh shrimp at the fish market for bait, and you are ready to hit the surf.
The best places to cast are cuts in the second sandbar. Whiting move from the Gulf through the cuts to feed in the trough between the bars.
Other Hotspots: Also this month, plastic frogs retrieved over Lake Guntersville's grass in the early morning trigger largemouths to strike.
During the long summer nights on Lake Andrews, floating jugs baited with chicken livers produces stringers of delicious channel catfish.
Largemouth BassWarrior Lake
According to biologists and anglers, the largemouth bass fishery on Warrior Lake is on an up trend with good numbers of 2-pound bass. These young bass are an angler's best friend when conditions are tough. Located between Eutaw and Tuscaloosa, this riverine lake has plenty of weedbeds and river ledges to support productive summer patterns.
During early morning, work weedbeds by sliding a surface frog over the vegetation. Afterward, search the cooler water under the vegetation by flipping creature baits.
By far, though, the primary pattern in August is hitting stumps and humps on the river ledges with crankbaits or jig-and-pigs.
To fish the lower lake, the Army Corps of Engineers has a ramp at Jennings Ferry, which is off County Road 14.
Other Hotspots: While fishing over artificial reefs in summer in the Gulf of Mexico, you can catch hard-fighting king mackerel by drifting a live cigar minnow on a light wire leader behind the boat.
Also this month, cut skipjack herring fished at mid-depths produce blue catfish weighing more than 60 pounds on Pickwick Lake.
Flathead CatfishMillers Ferry
On Millers Ferry, yellow cats remain in a solid summer pattern that produces good numbers of fish with the occasional big fish exceeding 30 pounds. But the small 5-pounders taste best.
Flatheads hold in prime river holes, which are outside bends with a tangle of old snags. The best fishing is after sunset, especially if there is a current.
Anchor upstream from the hole, and fish a bait shallow and another on the bottom. To satisfy the appetite of "old whiskers," live bait is essential and many anglers prefer bream.
For current fishing information, visit the Millers Ferry Marina located off State Route 28, or call them at (334) 682-5125. Hours of generation for the lake are available by calling (334) 682-4655.
Other Hotspots: On Weiss Lake, it's a great time to work main-lake points leading into creeks for largemouths. Fish congregate there to feed on shad moving into the creeks.
This month is also excellent for fishing below pier lights on the Intracoastal Waterway for speckled trout at Gulf Shores.
Smallmouth BassPickwick Lake
If a National Register of Fantastic Fisheries existed, smallmouth bass on upper Pickwick Lake would surely be on the list. It's just that good. Over many years, and still today, stringers of 4- to 5-pound smallmouths are common. Seven-pound bronzebacks are not unusual.
In October, drifting live shad in the current below the dam catches more big fish than any other method. Float the edge of the current breaks, moving downstream with the flow. Also try the flooded humps one-half mile downstream of the dam.
For bait, catch a supply of threadfin shad at the dam, and then fish them on 10-pound-test tied to a 1/0 hook. Select a sinker that keeps the bait near the bottom.
For guided smallmouth action, call Steve Hacker at (256) 760-8090, or visit www.smallmouth.com.
Other Hotspots: October is an exciting time for catching spotted bass on Lewis Smith Lake, as anglers can catch 50 fish a day on main creek points.
It's also a great time for catching crappie on Lake Eufaula.
FlounderGulf of Mexico
As the water cools in the fall, flounder migrate out of the rivers and bays to the Gulf of Mexico. In November, many use our artificial reefs as feeding stations, current breaks and staging areas to spawn.
If you find flounder concentrated on a reef in water less than 60 feet deep, it's possible to catch 50 fish in a day. Most fish will weigh 1 to 5 pounds, with an occasional doormat tipping the scales at 8 pounds.
The first choice for bait is live menhaden up to 3 1/2 inches long. If they are not available, cut squid into 3 1/2- by 1/2-inch strips. Drift these baits inches off the bottom on a Carolina rig.
For an up-to-date listing of reef maps and GPS coordinates, visit the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Web site at www.outdooralabama.com. Then check out the saltwater fish
Other Hotspots: On Lake Wedowee, the cooler fall water triggers largemouths to feed aggressively on steep brushy points. Walk a Zara Spook down the point for fast topwater action.
November is also the month to start jigging for saugers on Wheeler Lake.
Spotted BassJordan Lake
During the first weeks of December on Jordan Lake, 3- and 4-pound spotted bass slash through schools of shad with aggression. As water temperatures decrease at a faster rate, fishing sizzles.
The most important factor for spots this month is current, and the best current flow occurs within five miles of the Mitchell Dam at the head of the reservoir. Current triggers a feeding response in fish weighing more than 3 pounds and positions them in predicable locations. Those are rockpiles in the middle of the river or on points.
Fishing in the strong current requires a chartreuse 1-ounce spinnerbait with two No. 4 willow-leaf blades. Using a long rod for distance and fluorocarbon line for depth, make a cast against the current so the lure descends to the bottom before passing the current break.
Other Hotspots: Also, cold weather on Neely Henry Lake concentrates striped bass in the shallow water under pier lights as they feed on shad. In the shallow water, big stripers jump like tarpon.
December is good for catching slab crappie on the Tombigbee River above Demopolis.