Located deep in the south east of the United States, Alabama has something for everyone. Whether you want to take in some city sights, enjoy the region’s history and vibrant culture, or you simply want to spend the time when you’re not fishing in the company of your family, surrounded by beautiful beaches and countryside, you’ll find it all here.
Alabama has plenty of opportunities for keen anglers. Whether you love to fish the challenging surf of the Gulf in search of offshore giants, or if you’re content to spend a tranquil day fishing picturesque lakes stuffed with bass, catfish, and perch, Alabama has everything the leisure fisherman needs for a truly memorable experience. Also, pier fishing is a big “thing” in Alabama, and there are plenty of great private piers to try.
Many of the locations featured in this guide form part of the famous Alabama Bass Trail. Tournament fishermen MUST check this out! The $10,000 qualifying tournament first prize will pay for plenty of fishing trips for you and your buddies!
Before you head out for a day’s sport in Alabama, be aware that at certain times of the year creel and catch sizes are imposed on both fresh and saltwater fishing locations, including deep water offshore spots.
All recreational fishermen require a license to fish legally in Alabama’s waterways, reservoirs, and offshore locations. The income from licenses goes towards the cost of supporting the enhancement and protection of Alabama’s outstanding aquatic resources.
You can find out more about how to obtain a fishing license here.
Now that we’ve looked at proper licenses, let’s look at our favorite places to go. Every location we’ve included in this guide is teeming with many species of fish; there’s something for every angler here, including kids!
1. Pickwick Lake
Pickwick lake is part of a region known locally as, “The Shoals”. The lake has an impressive surface area of over 43,000 acres.
Located on the Tennessee River which also runs through Tennessee, Pickwick Lake is renowned for its smallmouth and largemouth bass population. In fact, Pickwick Lake is rated by Bassmaster magazine as number 7 of the top bass lakes in the whole southeast area of the United States.
The exact location can be found at this link in Google Maps.
A key stopover on the Alabama Bass Trail, Pickwick Lake ranks highly for trophy-size catches, as well as hours taken to catch the really big guys.
Fishing with the right gear setup at the lake is best when the dam is discharging big volumes of water, ideally when the discharge rate is around 40,000 cubic feet per second.
An afternoon’s fishing at Pickwick Lake could see you landing any of the following species, depending on the season:
In March, try using tube gigs, bucktail jigs, and curly-tail grubs if you’re after smallmouth bass. Later during the summer, switch to football jigs, deep-diving crankbaits, and plastic worms to catch largemouth.
If you have no luck with large and smallmouth bass, Pickwick Lake is also great for other species such as crappies and striped bass.
2. Lake Eufaula
Although bass fishing is the prime draw for anglers, there are many other species available too, especially catfish. It’s not uncommon to see blue catfish over 40 pounds landed at Lake Eufaula.
Species you can expect to catch here include:
- Black crappie
- Channel catfish
- Blue catfish
- White catfish
- Flathead catfish
Try rigging your line with jigs, minnow, and jigging spoons to hook crappie. Buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, and swimbaits are your best bet if you’re after spring bass. Use crankbaits for fishing ditches and creeks that lead to spawning flats.
3. Joe Wheeler State Park
Joe Wheeler State Park resort sits on the banks of Wheeler Lake. The beautiful 2,550-acre park offers a stunning waterfront lodge, complete with convention facilities and a restaurant. There’s an 18-hole championship standard golf course, a full-service marina with overnight and permanent docking slips, modern and basic camping, cabins, a rustic group lodge, and lakeside cottages.
Wheeler Lake is a wonderful place for bank fishing and one of the best fishing locations in Alabama. There are also opportunities for pier fishing and boat fishing; either rent a craft or bring your own if you prefer. Other facilities include accommodation. It can be deep in areas, so you’ll want to have equipment that will help you track fish and measure depth.
Joe Wheeler State Park can be found in northern Alabama, close to Athens. The exact location can be viewed at this link.
Wheeler Lake is a popular location for fishermen hoping to land a giant catfish. It’s not unheard of for blue and flathead catfish to grow to over 100-pounds here.
In addition to catfish, you can fish for bass here too.
The best time to fish Wheeler Lake is when there’s lots of water flowing through the dam that was built to dam the Tennessee River and create the lake. Trolling with skipjack herring or shad is the way to go if you’re after catfish. Skipjacks can be caught for bait beneath the dam.
Concentrate on fishing deep-water overhangs if you want to land a really enormous catfish. However, you must note that anglers are encouraged to practice catch-and-release with the monsters that dwell here, so as to preserve a productive fishery for the future.
4. Lay Lake
Lay Lake on the Coosa River was created in 1914 and is one of the USA’s oldest impoundments. Covering some 12,000 acres and with a shoreline around 289 miles long, you’re almost assured of total peace and quiet when you fish here.
Lay Lake is located 65 miles to the south of Birmingham. You can find directions to the lake at this link.
The recreational lake is home to many different species of fish, including:
- Largemouth bass
- Spotted bass
- Striped bass
- White bass
- Hybrid striped bass
If you visit the lake in the summer months, make for the shallows at the lower end of the water to find largemouth bass. Try using a weedless frog and a swim jig to land a monster. You’ll find largemouth bass where the river turns onto the main lake. Fish in 18 to 25 feet of water if you want to catch summer schooling shad.
Another profitable location for bass is upriver towards Logan Marin Dam. When the current is flowing, use a jig-and-pig. When the water is slower, try a crankbait or topwater.
5. Gulf State Park Pier
Gulf State Park Pier, located at this link, is a glorious spot if you want to try your hand at fishing Alabama’s coastal waters.
The pier is 1,540 feet long, 20 feet wide, and boasts an impressive 2,448 feet of clear fishing space. This is the largest pier on the Gulf of Mexico and it’s also the only public pier on the Gulf in Alabama. The pier has covered seating, an indoor retail area stocking tackle and souvenirs. There are comfort stations at the pier’s midpoint, and there’s wheelchair accessible rail fishing here too. You can buy fishing licenses and permits on-site.
There are saltwater fish in abundance here, including:
- King mackerel
- Speckled trout
For those who prefer fishing closer to the shore, you’ll have luck catching speckled trout and flounder. You might even find a sailfish in the deeper water off the end of the pier.
6. Lewis Smith Lake
An hour north of Birmingham, you’ll find tranquil Lewis Smith Lake. For directions, check out this link.
Surrounded by deciduous woodland and rocky limestone outcrops, Lewis Smith Lake presents an interesting challenge for those more used to fishing stained water. The naturally filtered waters of the lake are deep and crystal clear. This makes it much tougher to fish, but the satisfaction and reward when you’re successful is well worth the extra effort.
The major game fish that you’ll find in Lewis Smith Lake include:
- Largemouth bass
- Spotted bass
- Striped bass
- Speckled trout
You might want to downsize your tackle if you’re on the lookout for bass. Try 8-pound test for spotted and largemouth bass to get strikes in the clear water.
If the bass aren’t biting, the tailrace down below the dam supports Alabama’s only year-round trout fishery. The tailrace is formed by the Sipsey fork of the Black Warrior River, and although trout don’t actually reproduce here, they do sometimes stay there from year to year.
If you’re lucky, you might land an 18 to 20 inch trout using live bait (redworms are good for this), or by fly fishing if you prefer a more traditional technique.
7. Mobile-Tensaw Delta
The Mobile Delta is a vast jungle wilderness where myriad river channels intertwine to form hundreds of islands. Many of those islands and channels are home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bears, bobcats, alligators, bull sharks, and several species of venomous snakes. In the spring when the Delta floods, the land vanishes under 10 feet of water.
Because of the rains and spring flooding, fishing begins earlier in the year in the Delta than in other fishing spots elsewhere in the state. In particular, the Delta is fantastic for bream fishing.
You can expect to find big shellcrackers and bluegills here. Use light tackle and bait with nightcrawlers for shellcrackers and redworms or crickets if you’re after bluegills. Shellcrackers can be found lurking in weedy cover, while bluegill favor cleaner banks. Note that if you smell ripe watermelon, you’ve found a bluegill spawning bed!
One tip to note: It can be easy to get lost in the maze of backwaters and creeks while you’re engrossed in fishing. Take a GPS unit with you to ensure you make it back to the marina!
8. Fort Morgan Peninsula
Located on beautiful Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan Peninsula offers lots of exciting action for those anglers whose favorite challenge is surf fishing. The water is home to the following species:
- Spanish mackerel
- Speckled trout
- King mackerel
- White trout
Choose your moment and head out to the Fort Morgan Point next to Dixey Bar on the falling tide for the best chance of landing something truly impressive. Try using mullet, big blue crabs, large pogy, and croaker as bait. Depending on what’s in season, you might also encounter red snapper.
More adventurous anglers may want to charter a deep water fishing boat and go in pursuit of more sizeable quarry, including billfish.
If you don’t fancy cooking your own catch, there are plenty of good fish restaurants in the area.
9. Escambia County Lake
Escambia County Lake (located here) is also known locally as Leon Brooks Hines Lake. The 184 acre body of water is one of 23 public fishing lakes that are managed by Alabama State and is one of the largest.
Escambia County Lake is well-known for producing big largemouth bass, some up to 14 pounds in weight, but it’s perhaps more popular as a fabulous bream fishery.
Species you can expect to land here include:
- Largemouth bass
- Redear sunfish
For the best chance of success, visit the lake at the beginning of May through August, around the full moon. At this time, huge schools of bream make for the banks to spawn, making them more accessible to fishermen than at any other time of the year.
Spawning beds are usually found in three to five feet of water, and bluegill and shellcracker bed right next to each other, offering nonstop action for anglers, which makes Escambia County Lake one of the best fishing locations in Alabama.
Although the beds are often accessible from the fishing pier or from the bank, you’ll probably have more luck if you fish from a boat or even a kayak. Try using crickets or worms fished under a float, close to the bottom, using a small weight to hold the bait down. Light spinning tackle is the best outfit to use for bream fishing, making this an pastime for kids to get involved in.
You can purchase different kinds of suitable bait from the on-site tackle shop.
10. Guntersville Lake
Guntersville Lake is located close to the town of Guntersville. The 69,100-acre lake sits on the Tennessee River, and its stable water levels, fertile environment, and good cover make it the perfect habitat for giant bass. Fish in the three to five pound range are regularly landed here.
If you’re fishing for trophy bass, the best time to visit the lake is from February through April, although you can land bass all year round. Use jerkbaits, swimbaits, and football gigs early in the year, and switch to topwaters or a 6 to 12 inch Texas-rigged plastic worm during the summer months.
And it’s not just bass that make the waters of Guntersville Lake their home. You can also expect to find several species of trout, catfish, and sunfish here too.
Alabama offers a huge variety to choice for fishermen. Whether you’re seeking the challenge of a bracing day’s surf or deep water fishing, or if you prefer the peace and tranquillity of a well-stocked lake, Alabama offers something for everyone.
Best Fishing Locations in Alabama: Conclusion
A trip to Alabama is an absolute must for both leisure fishermen and serious, competitive anglers. In addition to making the most of the area’s wonderful fishing opportunities, you can wind-down and relax surrounded by gloriously diverse scenery, take-in some of the local history, and finish your day with a delicious dinner at one of the regions many fish restaurants.
My articles appear in Marketing Edge Magazine, on Gizmogrind, and with various Medium publications. But one thing hasn’t changed in all of my life: no matter where I was or what I was doing. I’ve always loved to be outdoors.
A man needs nothing more than a good flannel shirt, a well-worn pair of jeans, and comfortable hiking boots. I don’t go for all the fancy luxury stuff. Suits are uncomfortable and shaving sucks.