Fishing in Lake Tuscaloosa

Background: Located five miles north of the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport in west central Alabama, Lake Tuscaloosa is a 5,885-acre water supply reservoir with 177 miles of shoreline. The tailwater area (North River) drains into the Black Warrior River basin and is a popular recreational area to many anglers. When the reservoir was impounded by the City of Tuscaloosa in 1971, little material was left behind to serve as fish habitat. Consequently, biologists suspected that the lake would be clear and infertile with relatively low fish production. This has proved to be the case, and water visibilities near the dam often exceed 20 feet. Upper reaches of the lake near Binion and Turkey Creeks are more fertile, have lower water visibilities, and are generally better areas to fish.


The dam at Lake Tuscaloosa by Jerry Moss.
Lake Tuscaloosa Dam

Lake Tuscaloosa was constructed to supply domestic and industrial water for the City of Tuscaloosa. However, the lake has become very popular for various types of recreation including boating, swimming and fishing. There are public and private boat ramps located on the lake, as well as several private marinas. Public launches are located at Binion Creek (State), Rock Quarry and Sharps Landing (Municipal). Detailed maps of Lake Tuscaloosa are available at local marinas and sporting goods stores.

Fishery: The most common sport fish found in Lake Tuscaloosa include the Alabama spotted bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and white crappie. Popular non-game fish include blue catfish, channel catfish, freshwater drum, buffalo and carp. Forage species commonly found in the lake include gizzard shad and threadfin shad and various minnows and shiners.

Overall, the status of the fish population in Lake Tuscaloosa remains unchanged from the 1980s. The fishery continues to be forage limited, and growth of important sport fish species such as black bass and crappie range from below average to average. Anglers that fish the lake frequently complain about low catch rates and the small size of fish. During 2000, bass tournament results ranked Lake Tuscaloosa 11th out of 25 major reservoirs in pounds of bass caught per day. Lake Tuscaloosa was the site of the B.A.S.S. Federation Qualifying Tournament in 2001, which was held out of Binion Creek Access Area.

Sampling: Sampling work in 2003-2004 revealed that the abundance of black bass was similar to what was reported in 1992, while crappie abundance was significantly lower. Condition of bass and crappie was below average, and growth of these popular sport fish was average to below average when compared to other District III reservoirs. The harvestable bass population continues to consist primarily of fish from 2-4 years of age that range from 10 to 15 inches length.

Stocking: The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division has stocked numerous sport fish into Lake Tuscaloosa beginning in 1970, which include largemouth bass, walleye, hybrid striped bass and saltwater striped bass. The Division stopped stocking both hybrids and striped bass in the mid-1980s after fisheries biologists determined that production and recruitment of forage species was very limited.

Fishing: Popular top water baits include jitterbugs and willow-leaf spinning lures, but many anglers prefer the traditional plastic worm or lizard to catch spotted bass off rocky walls or ledges found throughout the lake. Redear sunfish and other sunfish species are abundant, and are often found along weed beds, backwater sloughs and coves.

Contact the Fisheries Section's District III office for specific questions about Lake Tuscaloosa.