Fishing & Hunting

In this section:

Fishing the Sipsey River

Anglers will discover the excellent fishing that the Upper Sipsey Fork has to offer. April-May and October-November are the ideal months. Anglers can expect to catch a variety of fish species such as bluegill, longear sunfish, green sunfish, spotted bass and white bass. Other species possibly encountered are redbreast sunfish, largemouth bass, redeye bass, striped bass (rockfish), and channel catfish. Light-spinning or fly-fishing tackle are the preferred gear. For terminal tackle, anglers can catch bream and bass on small in-line spinners (Rooster Tails, Panther Martins), small crank-baits, plastic grubs, or you may try to “match-the-hatch” while fly-fishing. Anglers should concentrate their efforts to deep pools and current breaks behind boulders or fallen trees.

Three stream expanses on the Upper Sipsey Fork can be float-fished. Equip yourself with a good map prior to casting-off on any one of these floats. The first section extends from the Thompson Creek (iron-bridge) access off Forest Service Road #208, downstream to the Sipsey River Recreational Area at the crossing of Winston County Road #60. This nine and one-half (9.5) mile stretch of stream is within the Sipsey Wilderness where hikers, kayakers, and canoeists can find the solitude and isolation that are part of the wilderness experience. Plan for this float to take ten hours or more depending on the flow and your commitment to fishing. Attempting this stretch should be restricted to the wetter months to avoid having to drag your watercraft over the shoals.

The second float fishing stretch is from the Sipsey River Recreational Area at County Road 60, downstream to the W.T. Mims’ Family Public Access Point at the Highway 33 crossing. This nine-mile length of stream is the most popular and provides excellent sport fishing for both bream and spotted bass. Expect to take about nine hours to float and fish this section. It too can be difficult to float during times of little or no rainfall.

The final expanse would be from the W.T. Mims’ Family Public Access Point off Highway 33, downstream to Payne Creek at Moody Bend, approximately two and one-half (2.5) miles or stretch it to four and one-half (4.5) miles to County Road B15 (Forest Service Rd. 109A) access just downstream of the mouth of Sandy Creek. This stretch of stream will have the slowest current but will provide the angler with the best chance of catching a striped bass (rockfish). To hook that striped bass, fish large baits on medium-heavy tackle in the pools at the tail end of shoal areas during mid-March to mid-April.

Fishing Smith Lake

Like a diamond that is deep, clear and blue, Lewis Smith Lake is one of Alabama’s treasures. Located in Walker, Winston and Cullman counties, this 21,200-acre lake is different than most other Alabama reservoirs. If you typically fish a shallow, stained body of water, then your first trip onto Smith Lake can be intimidating. Watching your depth finder jump to 200 plus feet can leave you feeling lost. However, like most lakes, the majority of bass, bream and crappie fishing is done by casting to the numerous large rocks and fallen trees along the shoreline. With 500 plus miles of shoreline, it isn’t that difficult to find fish. An hour north of Birmingham or south of Huntsville and just off I-65, the lake is not difficult to find.

The overall population of black bass in the lake is good. According to the April, 2007 electrofishing survey by fisheries biologists with the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, largemouth bass and spotted bass were captured at the same rate. Sixteen percent (16%) of the black bass population exceeded fifteen inches (15″). This is a slight increase above that of 2003. The spotted bass population has responded well to the slot limit and has shown a positive shift towards larger fish, while the largemouth bass population has improved at a lesser degree. For the slot limit to continue to restructure the black bass population, anglers are encouraged to keep bass less than 13 inches. This will result in both increased growth and overall size of the remaining bass. The creel limit is 10 black bass in combination (largemouth bass, spotted bass…) per day. The slot limit is 13 to 15 inches. Anglers must immediately release all black bass in the slot (13″-15″), but may keep black bass over 15 inches (15″). Remember, harvesting bass under 13 inches (13″) is not only encouraged, but also recommended.

Smith Lake also produces monster striped bass. Fish in the 40+ pound range are present, and some anglers feel a 50+ pound Smith Lake record should be caught soon. Anglers have fought several huge fish that broke off. One angler hooked a fish that, “had to go at least 70 pounds;” the big one that got away. Live shad, available locally, are the preferred bait.

Hunting in Winston County