Fishing Bear Creek Reservoir (Big Bear)
Bear Creek Reservoir, also known as Big Bear, was impounded in 1969. It holds 670 acres of water at full pool and is lowered ten feet during the winter. Located approximately 20 miles southwest of Russellville in Franklin County, it is one of four Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs operated by the Bear Creek Development Authority (BDCA). The primary uses of this reservoir are flood control, recreation, and water supply.
Bear Creek Reservoir is wild and scenic, and no residential developments are found along the shoreline. Anglers often encounter deer, turkey, and other wildlife in the woods surrounding this reservoir. Camping and fishing provide the main recreational opportunities. Two campgrounds (Piney Point and Horseshoe Bend) are located on the lake. Each of these campgrounds has a public access area for launching boats. A BCDA fishing permit is required in addition to Alabama state fishing license requirements. Pre-impoundment topographic maps are available through the TVA.
Since the completion of the repairs to the Bear Creek Dam in June 2009, the reservoir has been operated according to the guidelines set forth by the TVA (www.tva.gov/river/lakeinfo/op_guides/bearcreek.htm).
A significant amount of flooded brush still exists in the reservoir from the period when it was lowered to make repairs to the dam. This material exists from the full pool elevation of 576 feet (msl) down to the winter pool elevation of 566 feet (msl), and is abundant on the flats in the upper half of the reservoir. It provides excellent nursery habitat for young-of-year fishes and provides structure to which adult fishes are attracted.
To help jumpstart the fishery after the reservoir filled in 2009, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources stocked several species of fish to supplement the natural reproducing populations. Over 13,000 channel catfish were stocked in 2009; nearly 154,000 bluegill fingerlings were stocked in January 2013; and from 2009 through 2011, nearly 284,000 Florida strain largemouth bass fingerlings were stocked in an attempt to incorporate the Florida gene into the largemouth bass population.
Based on recent sampling by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, the largemouth bass fishery appears to be strong. Age-3 bass are abundant and reach nearly 14 inches in length. Bass up to 22 inches and weighing 5.5 pounds were present in the electrofishing sample conducted in 2012.
Fall 2011 electrofishing samples revealed a healthy and dense population of crappie; therefore, crappie fishing should remain excellent. Most of the crappie sampled were age-2 and averaged 10 inches in length, but fish up to 15 inches in length were present in the sample. Crappie anglers should locate crappie amongst shoreline brush or suspended above or near the old creek channel.
Bear Creek Reservoir is a fertile reservoir, with chlorophyll A levels more than twice that of the other BCDA reservoirs. During the summer months adequate oxygen levels are restricted to the top eight feet and anglers should not fish below this depth. Traditional bass baits such as crank baits, spinner baits, and plastic worms work well. Crappie are caught in brush tops or suspended above the old creek channel and can be enticed to bite jigs or minnows.
Contact the Fisheries Section's District I office for specific questions about Bear Creek Reservoir.