Fish and Fishing in the Alabama River
True to its name, the Alabama River flows through the heart of the state of Alabama. Originating just north of Montgomery, the Alabama River is born from the marriage of the Coosa River and the Tallapoosa River near the Fall Line. As with most of Alabama’s great rivers, dams slow the progress of the Alabama River as it flows to meet the Tombigbee River and form the Mobile River.
All of the Alabama River downstream of Montgomery is commercially navigable. The Alabama Scenic River Trail is a 631-mile boating trail from Weiss Lake down the Coosa River into the Alabama River and through the Mobile Delta to the Gulf of Mexico. Gage height readings and water discharge information for the Alabama River is available from NOAA. The lakes on the Alabama River are run-of-the-river type impoundments, each lake is basically the old river channel. From upstream to downstream, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes on the Alabama River are Jones Bluff, Millers Ferry, and Claiborne.
Jones Bluff or R. E. "Bob" Woodruff Reservoir
Officially, Robert F. Henry Dam forms R. E. "Bob" Woodruff Lake, but it is commonly known as Jones Bluff. Most local anglers simply call it the Alabama River. This upper section of the Alabama River and the lower ends of both the Coosa River and the Tallapoosa River are known for the giant spotted bass, which often hold on the edge of current. Largemouth bass like to ambush prey from quieter sloughs and flooded creeks of the lower section of Jones Bluff. Unimproved access to the lower Coosa River is available below Jordan Dam on the east side. Improved boating and fishing access to the lower Coosa River is available at Crommelin Landing and Fort Toulouse. Boat ramps are available in the middle and lower part of Jones Bluff at Benton, Cooters Pond, Gunter Hill, Holy Ground Battlefield Park, Powder Magazine, Prairie Creek, and Swift Creek.
Millers Ferry or William "Bill" Dannelly Reservoir
From R. E. "Bob" Woodruff Lake, the Alabama River flows into William "Bill" Dannelly Reservoir. The 105-mile long Dannelly Reservoir is more commonly known as Millers Ferry, after Millers Ferry Lock and Dam operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Although this section of the Alabama River has excellent fishing for largemouth bass, Miller Ferry is more famous for its consistently good crappie fishing.
Historically significant Selma is in the upper half of Millers Ferry Lake. An inexpensive getaway spot on Millers Ferry is Roland Cooper State Park near Camden, which has a nine-hole golf course, vacation cabins, and a modern campground. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the US Army Corps of Engineers have boat ramps around Millers Ferry. The tailwaters below Millers Ferry Lock and Dam provide excellent seasonal fishing for striped bass, spotted bass, crappie and large catfish.
Immediately downstream of Dannelly Reservoir is Claiborne Lake. Formed by Claiborne Lock and Dam, Claiborne Lake is the most primitive of the Alabama River lakes. Nestled in Alabama's southwest hill country, the lake encompasses over 60 miles of the Alabama River. Although the lake remains mostly within the original river banks, Claiborne Lake provides extensive opportunities for water-related recreation, including good fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish.
Lower Alabama River
The Lower Alabama River begins at the Claiborne Lock and Dam and runs south 72.5 miles through Monroe, Clarke, and Baldwin counties where it joins the Tombigbee River. This reach of the Alabama River is located within a 30-minute drive of hotels, restaurants, service stations, and grocery stores in Monroeville, Grove Hill, and Jackson. Public boating access along the Lower Alabama River is operated in cooperation with the Corps of Engineers, county government, and the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. Privately owned ramps also service the Lower Alabama River.
The lower Alabama River is one of Alabama's natural treasures. The lower Alabama River has natural beauty including high bluffs. Home to one of the richest freshwater mussel beds in Alabama, The lower Alabama River also provides a home for a host of interesting fish species such as alligator gar, paddlefish, Alabama darter, and one of the most endangered species on the planet, the Alabama sturgeon.
Anglers on the lower Alabama River generally target largemouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, catfish, striped bass, and white bass. Many bass tournament anglers will travel over 110 miles north to fish the lower Alabama River from as far south as the Causeway on US Highway 90-98. Largemouth bass can be found among the fallen timber and creek mouths along the banks, as well as in the backwater areas off the main river. These backwater areas are important nursery habitats for a host of game and non-game fish species. Spotted bass are commonly found just below Claiborne Lock and Dam, and along creek mouths, rock piles, and bluff banks.
Crappie fishing is typically good in early spring in the southernmost oxbows and lakes such as The Cut-Off, Boatyard Lake, and Mimms Lake. Spring is also a good time to fish below Claiborne Lock and Dam for white bass up to 3 pounds and large striped bass.
Channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish are all abundant in this area and can be caught almost year-round. Anglers should not be surprised to catch blue catfish over 30 pounds and flathead catfish over 40 pounds.
It is illegal to possess blueback herring in Alabama. Regulations designate legal capture methods for bait and specify additional species that cannot be used for bait.
Fishing license information may be found at: Licenses. Instant licensing is available via Internet or telephone. Youth age 15 and younger fish for free. Alabama residents age 65 or older are not required to purchase a fishing license.
Possession and creel limits for Alabama public waters are listed at: Creel Limits
The US Geological Survey gives water discharge estimates and gage heights.
The Alabama Water Watch has published a report on this water.
For more information on the Lower Alabama River, please contact the District V Office at 251-626-5153.
Portions of the Alabama River (FourMile/Six Mile creeks portion of Millers Ferry, Claiborne Reservoir and the lower Alabama River) have fish consumption advisories. Information on the consumption advisory may be found at the Alabama Department of Public Health Web site, www.adph.org. Consumption advisory information is found under "A-Z Contents" by looking for "Fish Consumption Advisories."
"It shall be unlawful to intentionally stock or release any fish, mussel, snail, crayfish or their embryos including bait fish into the public waters of Alabama under the jurisdiction of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries as provided in Rule 220-2-.42 except those waters from which it came without the written permission of a designated employee of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources authorized by the Director of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries to issue such permit. The provisions of this rule shall not apply to the incidental release of bait into the water during the normal process of fishing."
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