Fishing in Lake Mitchell
Background: Located just off I-65 and ten miles due east of the city of Clanton in central Alabama, Lake Mitchell is a 5,850-acre impoundment on the Coosa River with 147 miles of shoreline. The Lay Dam tailwater area at the upper end of the lake is a popular recreational area to many anglers with ample bank fishing access. Impounded by Alabama Power in 1922, an abundance of material left behind serves as fish habitat. Lake Mitchell is very fertile and supports high densities of sport fish and forage species. The lake was constructed to provide flood control, and supply hydroelectricity to central Alabama; however, the lake has become very popular for various types of recreation including boating, swimming and fishing.
Public boat ramps, private boat ramps, and several private marinas provide access to Mitchell Lake. Two popular boating access areas include Higgins Ferry on the west side of the lake and Barrett’s Fish Camp (launch fee) to the east, although several private marinas located on the lake also include boat ramps. Topographic maps of Lake Mitchell are available at local marinas and sporting goods stores.
Fishery: The most common sport fish found in Lake Mitchell include the Alabama spotted bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and black crappie and white crappie. Popular non-game fish include channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. Primary forage species include both threadfin and gizzard shad. Overall, the status of the fish population in Lake Mitchell remains unchanged from the 1980s. Like many other fertile impoundments, the potential of this fishery is limited by poor early life survival and high mortality of fish during their first winter. However, growth of important sport fish species such as black bass and crappie are generally near the statewide average. Most anglers are very satisfied with the fishing on Lake Mitchell because it has remained very consistent during the last 20 years and usually ranks among the top ten reservoirs in the state for bass fishing.
Sampling: Bass sampling in the spring of 2010 revealed that Lake Mitchell contained an abundance of quality size largemouth and Alabama spotted bass. It appeared that largemouth bass are becoming more abundant than spotted bass and this pattern may continue. The spotted bass population was especially impressive where most of the sample were large fish in exceptional body condition. Growth rates of both black bass species was above average. According to angler catch data from BAIT-participating tournaments, both number and pounds of bass per day were higher in 2010 than ever recorded on Lake Mitchell. Crappie were sampled in fall 2010 to assess the condition of the population. Crappie recruitment is variable in Mitchell Reservoir and the fishery is dependent on the production of moderate to strong year-classes every few years. Moderate year-classes were produced in 2007 and 2008 and it appeared that the 2010 was also significant and should enter the fishery by fall 2011. Crappie growth and condition was excellent in Mitchell Reservoir, far exceeding the average amongst other Alabama reservoirs. The white crappie population appeared to have diminished and was no longer a significant component of the crappie fishery in Mitchell Reservoir.
Stocking: The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division have stocked numerous sport fish into Lake Mitchell beginning in 1980, which include Florida largemouth bass, walleye, hybrid striped bass, and striped bass. The Division currently stocks hybrid striped bass.
Fishing: The most productive times to fish are during spring and fall; however, during the summer months, nighttime catfish and bass fishing can also be very good. Largemouth bass are more cover oriented and are usually caught by fishing in or near dense water willow stands that grow near the shoreline. Spotted bass are more structure oriented and can be caught from various habitat-types including, points, humps, ledges, rock-piles, and vegetation.
Popular bass lures include willow-leaf spinnerbaits in white or shad color patterns, topwater chuggers and walking baits in shad colors, hard and soft plastic jerk-baits, and Carolina-rigged centipedes or finesse worms in various shades of green. Numerous bass tournaments are held at Higgins Ferry, with night tournaments generally held during the week and daytime tournaments taking place on weekends. Crappie often congregate around shallow woody debris during springtime and can be caught using live minnows. During winter months, crappie frequently remain in large schools suspended just below the surface in open water and can be caught by trolling light-weight jigs tipped with live minnows.
Bluegill, shellcracker, and other sunfish species are abundant and are often found along weed beds, backwater sloughs and in shallow coves. Live crickets or tiny beetle-spins are the best choices when targeting bluegill. Fishing for bluegill is usually best near the first full moon in May, but remains good throughout the summer. Bluegill spawning areas can be identified by the clusters of circular depressions in shallow water areas protected from wind and wave action. Peak spawning activity usually occurs near the full moon during summertime. Shellcrackers can be caught using redworms fished on the bottom in shallow coves during late spring.
"Jug-fishing" is also a very popular fishing method for catfish on Lake Mitchell. The jugs are usually baited with chicken liver, nightcrawlers, or cut shad and are allowed to drift down the river with the current just above the bottom. Early summer is the best time to catch catfish.
A tournament weigh-in station is now available to bass clubs at the Higgins Ferry Access Area. This facility is a joint project of the Lake Mitchell Home Owners and Boat Owners Association, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Alabama Power Company. Proper handling of fish during weigh-ins helps to minimize post-release mortality. For information or reservations for free use of this facility contact Mr. Frank Atkinson, Chilton County Park Ranger at 1-205-755-5952.
Contact the Fisheries Section's District II office for specific questions about Lake Mitchell.