The winter doldrums are now a distant memory and the unpredictable winds and showers of early spring are dissipating.
While a lot of anglers already have been fishing this spring, the warmer and more settled weather makes many of us start thinking about traveling farther from home to wet a hook.
If you find yourself feeling that irritation, here are some places across Alabama where you can scratch the itch!
Escambia County Public Fishing Lake | Bluegill
Escambia County Lake is part of Alabama’s State Public Fishing Lakes system and is just east of Brewton. The 184-acre impoundment, also is known as Leon Brooks Hines Lake, is noted for being one of the best places in the state to catch big bluegills. Fish as large as 2 1/2 pounds have come from the lake in recent years.
Most serous bluegill anglers know that the two days prior to and after the full moon in May are the peak for catching the biggest fish of year. Bream spawn on each full moon in the spring and summer.
Tactics are simple for these fish. Find the moon-scape pockmarks of their beds in shallow water and any bait presented there likely will get a strike. Wax worms, red wigglers and crickets all are good live offerings, while small Beetle Spins and 1/32-ounce inline spinners also pay dividends.
Look for the beds in the shallow upper, northern end of the lake, or any of the small feeder arms. After the spawn, look for the fish to have moved to the fish attractors around the boat launch on the eastern side of the lake.
If You Go
The office at Escambia County Lake has a bait, tackle and snack shop onsite, along with restrooms and a boat ramp. They also offer rentals of jon boats, electric motors and batteries.
Gulf State Park | Saltwater Grab Bag
The fishing pier at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores stretches for 1,540 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico, providing access to fishing for a number of saltwater species. It also is the state’s only true ocean-fishing pier. In total the structure offers 2,448 feet of space for angling along its rails.
The pier actually offers two fishing opportunities. One is to fish vertically around the pilings directly under the pier. That’s the place to find sheepshead, redfish, seatrout, and Atlantic croakers. The croakers here often are not the hand-sized bait stealers, but rather can weigh a couple of pounds each. All of these fish can be caught on live or dead shrimp free-lined or fished under a cork.
Out on the end of the pier you can use heavier gear with live or dead minnows for bait and have a shot at tangling with some bigger fish. King or Spanish mackerel, bluefish and even cobia show up here. You’ll need stout rods and reels to heave dead bait far out for bottom fishing, or float rigs if you choose live bait.
If You Go
The Gulf State Fishing Pier has restrooms, an indoor concession area, and a bait and tackle shop. Gulf State Park offers hotel, cabin and campground accommodations, two miles of sand beach, and restaurants, making it a complete angling vacation destination.
Lake Eufaula | Hybrid Bass
This 45,000-acre reservoir on the Chattahoochee River on the southeast border of the state has a reputation as a fantastic bass fishery, as well as being good for crappie.
As a result, the hybrid bass action here gets overlooked. Lunker-sized hybrids are rare, but they make up for that in numbers of 2- to 3-pound fish.
For anglers who target hybrids the lake can provide some fast fishing. In the spring many anglers concentrate their efforts for these fish along the riprap near the dam on the southern end of the impoundment. Rat-L-Traps or Shad Raps in shad patterns generally work best.
Also be on the lookout for surface feeding. When the hybrids force schools of shad to the top, a feeding frenzy can erupt and you need a rod rigged with a topwater bait ready to toss into the melee.
As summer arrives turn your attention to the area from the mouth of Sandy Creek north to the mouth of Sandy Branch on the Georgia shore. Look for schools of shad and the hybrids likely are below them. Trolling through the schools can lead to hook ups. But, you still want to have that rod ready if the hybrids come to the surface.
If You Go
Lakepoint State Resort Park on Cowikee Creek near the town of Eufaula is a full-service resort ideal for anglers. It offers lodge rooms, cabins and campgrounds, as well as restaurants, a marina with boat ramps, and a host of other amenities.
Aliceville Lake | Crappie
This reservoir is on the Tenn-Tom Waterway, midway along the Alabama and Mississippi border and covers 8,300 acres. Always known as a good lake for crappie fishing, that reputation continues today.
According to Alabama Department of Conservation’s recent surveys, good year-classes in 2014 and 2016 mean the lake should have plenty of 3- to 5-year-old fish that will be above the 9-inch minimum limit and often of slab size.
By now, the spawn is winding down or is over, so the papermouths are beginning to move out of the backwaters and toward their summer haunts. You still can find fish around shallow wood structure, but some will already be headed to the creek and river channels.
Cork-and-minnow tactics are popular here around the wood cover, along with offering jigs on single lines. As summer comes on, more anglers will be trolling for the slabs. Look for those fish in 3 to 10 feet of water right now. The Broken Pumpkin Creek (locally called simply Pumpkin Creek) and Big Coalfire Creek arms of the lake are good places to start the search. Later, the fish will be right on the drops into the old creek channels.
If You Go
Public boat ramps are sparse, as are bait and tackle emporiums on Aliceville Lake. The best launch option is in Pickensville at the eastern end of the State Route 86 bridge. For bait, stop by the Fisherman’s One Stop on 2nd Street in Reform on your way to the lake.
R.L. Harris Reservoir Bass
This 10,660-acre impoundment on the Little Tallapoosa and Tallapoosa rivers in west central Alabama is often referred to by anglers as Lake Wedowee, due to the close proximity of that town. Regardless of the name used, it offers some good options for both largemouth and spotted bass.
According to the most recent DWFF Bass Angler Information Team report the catch rate per angler and pounds of fish per angler caught in tournaments on Harris stand near all-time highs. On the other hand, real lunkers are rare due to the lakes lack of fertility. But, it is noted that the size of spotted bass in the lake is on an uptick, with some reaching 4 1/2 to 5 pounds.
Even the bass finished with the spawn are likely in the shallows feeding and recuperating. It is the ideal time for topwater action at Wedowee. A number of offerings will work, with Zara Spooks, buzzbaits and even frogs producing.
A couple of areas on which to concentrate are around Fox Creek on the lower lake, as well as the Wedowee Creek Arm up the Little Tallapoosa.
If You Go
To get a leg up on the bass fishing on Harris Reservoir, you might try booking a day of fishing with Reed’s Guide Service. Reed Montgomery has been guiding on the lake since it was impounded in 1983 and knows the bassin’ well. Contact him at www.fishingalabama.com.
Sipsey Fork | Rainbow Trout
The Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River offers the Cotton State’s only year-round trout fishery. Located near Jasper, the cold water released from the bottom of Lewis Smith Lake creates ideal conditions for the rainbow trout. In fact, they show up as far downstream as 12 miles below the dam.
The best access, however, is from Alabama Power Company land on either side of the river from State Route 69 upstream to the dam. There is a good parking area at the Birmingham Waterworks on the east side. A series of trails and access points are available along that shore.
From water facility upstream the river is wadable on low water. But, be wary — when the siren sounds at the dam and water is released, the river goes up very quickly.
Most trout are caught using corn or worms, but inline spinners or small spoons also account for many catches. Fly fishermen also score here with dry fly patterns when fish are rising. If no surface action is visible, drifting nymphs under a strike indicator is a good option.
The DWFF stocks the tailwater with 3,000 rainbow trout per month here, with the fish running in the 10- to 15-inch range.
If You Go
Before hitting the river, you need to stop off in the Riverside Fly Shop on SR 69 just east of the turn off on to County Road 95 that leads to the waterworks. Besides gear and advice, they offer guided fishing trips on the Sipsey Fork.
Lake Guntersville | Largemouths
At 69,000 acres, Lake Guntersville on the Tennessee River is the largest impoundment in the Heart of Dixie. It also is considered the best water for hooking a bass of a lifetime. It gives up numbers of largemouths of 10 or more pounds annually. As it perennially does, Guntersville rated among the top five lakes in the state for catching 5-plus-pound bass in the most recent B.A.I.T. report.
The habitat for bass here is dominated by aquatic vegetation, including extensive lily pad fields, as well as hydrilla. That kind of cover is ideal to grow big bass. It also makes the lake perfect for one of the most popular tactics for catching them.
Early in the summer, many anglers are throwing rat or frog lures amid those pads and over the hydrilla. The explosive strikes that result can be heart-stopping.
One area that well known for this fishing is around the Browns Creek causeway, just to the west of the town of Guntersville. Some experts point to the area as the best on the lake for hooking a lunker of more than 10 pounds. This area also offers another productive pattern on the surface this month: Tossing jerkbaits along the riprap on the causeway can yield some nice bass.
If You Go
Lake Guntersville State Park is on the lower end of the lake to the east of the town of Guntersville. It offers a lodge with guest rooms and a restaurant, chalets, cabins and a RV Campground. There also is a boat ramp onsite, along with a number of other resort amenities.