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The 5 Best Fishing Spots in Alabama

There are few states that have as many options for fishing as Alabama. The state is famous for its largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, with tournaments running across the state. The Gulf Coast is lined with reefs, making it a prime spot for coastal saltwater fishing. Looking for a unique challenge? This is one of a handful of states that allows noodling. Also called “hillbilly hand fishing,” it involves wiggling your fingers in front of a catfish, tricking it into thinking it found some worms. Once it bites, you pull the fish out of the water. While dangerous, it’s hard to think of a greater fishing challenge than wrestling a fish with your bare hands.


Where is the best fishing in Alabama? While it’s hard to find a body of water here that doesn’t offer good sport fishing, we’ve narrowed down your choices to a few places that stand out due to their variety and opportunities for trophy fish.


What To Know Before You Go

Alabama issues separate licenses for freshwater and saltwater fishing. There’s also a cheaper license for residents that only includes Alabama’s Public Fishing Lakes, and there’s the Wildlife Heritage License, which includes small-game hunting and freshwater fishing. You’ll also need a reef fish endorsement for most popular saltwater game, including snapper, tilefish and grouper. There are also separate licenses for wire basket fishing and spearfishing. If you want to go noodling in Alabama, all you need is a freshwater license. Licenses are available online, over the phone, from licensing offices and from approved dealers.


Residency is defined by your driver’s license or non-license state ID. If you have one issued by Alabama and you don’t have a license from another state, you’re a resident. If you have multiple licenses, you’re a non-resident, even if you live in Alabama. However, there are exceptions for landowners and close relatives of landowners. Under certain circumstances, college students and military personnel are allowed to buy resident licenses, even if they aren’t residents.


All year-long licenses are valid from September 1st to August 31st, no matter when you buy them.


Alabama has a reciprocal license agreement with Mississippi and Tennessee. Alabama licenses are valid on the Tennessee River between Pickwick Dam and Southern Railroad Bridge, and Smith’s Branch up to Scruggs Bridge.


Where should you fish? The Alabama Bass Trail tournament alone covers 11 lakes, and there are also saltwater and river opportunities in the state. We think these five areas stand out among the fishing areas in Alabama.


Smith Lake

This lake in northern Alabama offers some of the best bass fishing in the state. It has over 500 miles of shoreline, 11 places to launch and high numbers of trophy fish. It also holds the record for the largest bass caught in the state. This is one of the cleanest lakes in the country, which makes fishing more challenging. While you may be able to see through as much as 20 feet of water, it also means fish have no trouble distinguishing food from artificial lures.


Wheeler Lake

Wheeler Lake is an impoundment on the Tennessee River between the Guntersville and Wheeler dams. This lake is well stocked with largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and crappie. It’s also an excellent place for noodling, thanks to a large population of catfish. At one time, this lake held the record for the world’s largest blue catfish, weighing in at 111 lbs. Fishing is good year round, but smallmouth fishing peaks in the spring during spawning season.


Zebra mussels are present in this lake, so boaters are encouraged to clean their boats before and after outings to stop the spread of this invasive species.


Mobile

It should be no surprise that the state’s only saltwater port has good fishing. However, you may be surprised by the variety. Between Mobile Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, there are plenty of places to fish, and plenty of species to catch. Multiple reefs attract saltwater fish, while moving out of the bay provides opportunities for freshwater game. This is the best place in the state for redfish, and it’s also a great place for flounder, grouper and snapper. Go into the delta and you’ll find speckled trout and catfish.


Fishing for most species peaks in the summer due to higher water temperatures and spawning. While red snapper has a short season, other varieties of this fish can be caught year round. Dauphin Bay and Fort Morgan are great places to fish for grouper and snapper. Dog River is quieter than the delta, and it’s well stocked with speckled trout and redfish.


Gulf Shores

Although it’s close to Mobile, this area between the bay and the Florida border offers an entirely different fishing experience. With 17,000 artificial reefs and shallow waters up to 60 miles offshore, this area is a prime area for reef fish. While the area is mostly known for red snapper, there are also redfish, speckled trout, cobia, amberjack and kingfish. Be sure to check fishing season information before you go. Some fish can only be caught on certain days of the week, and the length of the season varies depending on the number of fish taken from the water.


Want to get in a little freshwater fishing? Nearby Wolf Bay and Bay La Launch are both good spots for largemouth bass.


Lake Guntersville

Alabama’s largest lake spans 75 miles between the Nickajack and Guntersville dams, with boat ramps dotting the entire coastline. The thick weed beds are a perfect place for big bass, making this one of the best places for angling in the state. Your biggest problem fishing this lake may be avoiding the almost weekly fishing tournaments. While most people target largemouth bass, it’s just one of many game fish in the lake. Fishing is great all year, as long as you know what to target. Bream peaks in late spring and early summer, crappie in spring and fall, and sauger in winter and early spring.