Fishing in Shades Creek
Shades Creek is a small to medium size stream that runs through the southwest corner of Jefferson County and Bibb County, Alabama, before finally emptying into the Cahaba River. Its watershed extends roughly from Tannehill flowing northeast through Irondale. Portions of the watershed have experienced tremendous residential expansion and development in recent years, which has increased stormwater runoff. Stormwater drainage from urban areas results in more contaminants and pollutants entering this system, impacting both water quality and quantity. Jefferson County has developed a Comprehensive Plan (The Shades Creek Watershed Plan) that addresses many of these issues and focuses on road and sewer development in addition to economic and recreational issues.
As with many small streams and watersheds, sediment runoff from urban development has impacted Shades Creek over recent years, which has affected the natural diversity of aquatic resources in this small stream. Several federal and state agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama Water Watch and others have a mission to preserve the biodiversity of the aquatic and wildlife resources within the watershed. In 2003, Samford University's Biology Department, designed a program using students to monitor and survey the stream using a variety of sampling and collection techniques. Findings indicated that Shades Creek had or was currently experiencing pollution problems. This conclusion was based upon low diversity, expanded urban construction, sedimentation problems, and channelization of the stream bed. New measures have since been developed by the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission to help reduce the unhealthy sediment discharge into this creek and to assist in recovery efforts.
Although Shades Creek has experienced habitat problems in certain “high development” areas where it flows through Jefferson County, it continues to maintain a population of popular sportfish and non-game species for savvy anglers who enjoy stream fishing. Various species of bream and sunfish, largemouth bass, Alabama spotted bass, and channel catfish are often found in large pools or along the edge of riffles adjacent to deeper sections of the creek. Small beetle spins, rooster tails, popping bugs, artificial crayfish or various artificial flies are the most popular lures used to entice fish to strike.
The land on the bottom of the stream and land adjacent to the stream may be privately owned, and permission must be obtained from the landowner prior to crossing or wading these areas. Access to Shades Creek can often be found at road crossings or bridge overpasses along the 54.6 mile length before it joins with the Cahaba River at the Shelby-Bibb County line. This scenic creek runs through six urban areas that include Irondale, Birmingham, Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover and Bessemer, AL.
Several effort are on-going to restore the biological and recreational integrity of Shades Creek. Near Samford, the Alabama Clean water partnership held a workshop to show a stream restoration. A 33-acre section of the creek adjacent to Homewood High School serves as unique habitat for a rare salamander and is under petition to be listed as a special conservation easement. The Black Warrior and Cahaba Land Trust have also purchased 47-acres of property along Shades Creek near the Shannon community and behind Wildwood Shopping Center as a permanent conservation area for preservation purposes.
Shades Creek is a unique stream system that flows through several geographical and urban areas in Jefferson County and contains a variety of fish and other aquatic resources. However, due to its location, this small stream flows through some of the fastest growing regions of the state whose population expansion and suburban sprawl threaten to degrade the habitat and ecology of this fragile system. It is up to concerned citizens and conservation groups to protect and monitor residential development and make sure Better Management Practices (BMP’s) are followed to protect this ecosystem from further environmental impacts so that future generations can enjoy the scenic beauty and recreational opportunities along this stream.
For more information on Shades Creek, please contact the District III Fisheries Office.