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Tips for March and April

Short tips from around the state on some of Bama’s best fishing.

 

By Eileen Davis

Sheepshead: Mobile Bay

“Beginning in late February,” said charter captain and shore guide Stan Crooke (redfishman48@gmail.com) “sheepshead school so thick that if you present your baits correctly, you will catch one right after another. An average fish weighs 4 to 5 pounds, with big fish weighing 10 to 11 pounds.”

For boaters, Crooke says the best places to drop baits are rocks, reefs and rigs. If fishing from shore, he recommends the Gulf State Park Pier and the Perdido Pass jetty and seawall.

Whether fishing from boat or shore, Crooke prefers fishing two hours before and after a tide change to take advantage of slower tidal flows so he can stay in contact with his bait without using heavy sinkers. A light sinker is essential for feeling a sheepshead bite.

 

Sheepshead: Mobile Bay

“Even if I don’t book a charter,” said guide Patric Garmeson (www.uglyfishing.com), “I am looking for a reason to go sheepshead fishing in March. When water temperatures warm between 65 and 70 degrees, the big fish begin to appear on the rigs. The sheepshead we catch range from 3 to 4 pounds up to 7 to 10 pounds.”

Garmeson recommends searching around an oil rig for sheepshead before choosing where to fish. While he does use down and side imaging to locate fish, he prefers spotting fish near the surface.

“If you drive by the rig,” he said, “and see three or four fish on a single pole, then you have a very large school in that area.”

To catch these hard fighting fish, the guide spools his reels with 20-pound braid, which he ties to a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a No. 6 Kahle hook. He completes the rig with split shot and live shrimp.

 

Sheepshead: Mobile Bay

Beginning in March, veteran guide Captain DeJuan Tedder targets sheepshead moving into Mobile Bay. He says waves of migrating fish stage on concrete structures, steel pylons and rocks. Nearly everything that breaks the current with barnacles attached attracts fish.

“These structures hold good numbers of sheepshead weighing 5 to 10 pounds,” Tedder said. “It’s not unusual for my clients to catch a 10-fish limit from one spot.”

To catch fish, Tedder positions his boat on the down current side of the structure and has his clients lower live shrimp to the bottom on a Carolina rig with a No. 2 Kahle hook. He uses enough weight to hold the bait near the structure.

For a guided sheepshead trip, telephone Captain Tedder at (251) 978-9711 or visit www.gulfadventures.net.

 

Flathead Catfish: Jones Bluff

Jones Bluff on the Alabama River offers some of the state’s best fishing for flathead catfish.

“If you want to have a fish fry,” said Damon Abernethy, Assistant Chief of Fisheries, a trip to Jones Bluff will produce flatheads weighing between 7 and 40 pounds, but it’s the smaller ones that are best for frying.”

To catch flatheads, Abernethy first goes bream fishing; live bait is essential for this predatory species. He says anglers can use two different techniques on the same night by fishing with a rod and reel and setting limblines. Set the latter just before nightfall on a small green limbs. Select flexible limbs, as a stiff limb will allow a big fish to straighten your hook.

Since limblines are so effective, Abernethy only sets a dozen. Once the limblines are set, anchor up current from creekmouths and cuts, then use your rod and reel to catch actively feeding flatheads. 

 

Largemouth Bass: Lake Guntersville

In March, anglers fishing Lake Guntersville typically catch prespawn fish weighing 3 to 4 pounds, with enough 5 to 6 pounders to keep excitement levels high. Moreover, there is always the possibility of hooking a 10 pounder.

“The numbers of bass are phenomenal in March,” reports winning tournament angler and veteran guide Mike Carter of Flatrock. “If you find the right flat and grass edge, it’s not unusual to catch 40 to 50 fish.”

One of Carter’s primary patterns this month is to fish grassy flats adjacent to deepwater. He uses side-imaging sonar to find fish-holding points or indentions in the weedline at depths of 8 to 10 feet.  

To book a fishing trip with Carter, visit www.anglingadventures.info.

 

Sheepshead: Mobile Bay

Beginning in March, veteran guide Captain DeJuan Tedder targets sheepshead moving into Mobile Bay. He says waves of migrating fish stage on concrete structures, steel pylons and rocks. Nearly everything that breaks the current with barnacles attached attracts fish.

“These structures hold good numbers of sheepshead weighing 5 to 10 pounds,” Tedder said. “It’s not unusual for my clients to catch a 10-fish limit from one spot.”

To catch fish, Tedder positions his boat on the down current side of the structure and has his clients lower live shrimp to the bottom on a Carolina rig with a No. 2 Kahle hook. He uses enough weight to hold the bait near the structure.

For a guided sheepshead trip, telephone Captain Tedder at (251) 978-9711 or visit www.gulfadventures.net.

 

Largemouth Bass: Lake Guntersville

Depending on the weather, the bass factory known as Lake Guntersville starts producing 5-pound prespawn bass in late February and shifts into high gear as the dogwoods blossom in April. It usually takes a 5 pound average or better to win a tournament this month. Occasionally, an anchor fish weighs 7 to 9 pounds.

In March, target fish in water 6 feet deep or less in good spawning creeks like Chisenhall and Siebold. Look for scattered patches of submerged weeds with new growth.  

Use a Rat-L-Trap to search the flat and try to hang it in the grass. Often, the strike occurs when you jerk it free.

For a guided day of fishing on Lake Guntersville, telephone Alex Davis at (256) 298-1178 or visit his web site at www.spinnerbaitkid.com.

 

Largemouth Bass: Lake Eufaula

Assistant Chief of Fisheries Damon Abernethy recommends Lake Eufaula as a place to hook big bass in 2019. Winning tournament anger Shane Powell of Dothan agrees and says anglers can catch a limit of 5 pounders from beds when the fish are spawning.

Powell explained, “Look for fish, not the beds, by searching with your trolling motor on high. If a fish is on bed, she will slowly swim off, as if she does not want to leave. Mark those spots on your GPS to fish later. Fifteen minutes later, slowly approach the area to find the bass. The key is to present your bait to the fish so she does not realize you are there.”

Sight fishing for bedding bass requires clear water, so Powell targets creeks on the south end of the lake. He says Sandy Branch on the Georgia side holds perfect habitat and clear water to fish for bedding largemouth.

 

Largemouth Bass: Weiss Lake

“Fishing on Weiss in April is excellent,” said winning tournament angler Brian Shook. “It takes from 24 to 27 pounds to win and during one tournament last year it took a 6-pound average to win. If the water temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees, you can catch all you want using the right baits.”

Shook’s favorite lures for April are 1.5 Strike King square bill crankbaits, ChatterBaits and Rat-L-Traps. 

This time of year, he likes to fish the lures mid-lake in Cowan, Spring and Three Mile creeks. 

“Look for swings in the creek channel,” Shook said, “where they meet docks. The big females use those creek channels to move up to the docks to spawn. The pilings provide vertical structure. One day, you will catch them on an outside post and then two days later if the water warms they will be on an inside post ready to spawn.”

 

Largemouth Bass: Lake Eufaula

Though this month has a reputation for producing big largemouth by targeting prespawn fish, winning tournament angler Ryan Ingram of Phenix City reveals post-spawn bass offer a more consistent pattern. He says anglers can use his winning pattern to catch big fish from the end of February until the end of May.

“Prespawn bass come up and go to the bank so fast that they are not dependable,” Ingram said. “If you find them in practice, you will probably be disappointed on tournament day.”

To find post-spawn bass, Ingram targets fish positioned on the first drop-off adjacent to spawning flats. Work the first contour line by fishing brush piles, snags, stumps and irregularities like points and ditches. Effective lures are crankbaits, willow-leaf spinnerbaits and football-head jigs.

 

Crappie: Millers Ferry

“Millers Ferry is a really good crappie reservoir,” said Tommy Purcell, District V fisheries biologist, “and the best fishing for crappie is from Chilatchee Creek to the dam. 

From late March to early May, anglers report catching high numbers of keeper fish with a few weighing 2 pounds or more. During this time, crappie are either spawning or migrating to spawning areas. It’s not unusual to catch spawning fish throughout the month.

For current fishing information, telephone McDonald’s Grocery & Sports store at (334) 682-4523 for visit them in Camden on Highway 221.

 

Crappie: Lake Martin

During the day, Lake Martin’s crappie anglers find slabs in brush piles 6 to 12 feet deep. These mostly man-made fish attractors offer excellent fishing, but require some effort to locate without side scan sonar.

Anglers new to the lake have an option well known to the veterans who fish Martin. It’s as easy as finding docks with the pier lights on. The clear water makes night fishing extremely deadly, and it’s fun for the family. Crappie congregate under the lights, and they are not as spooky. 

Of course, not every dock holds fish. The water must be at least 8 feet deep, and have hardwood cover nearby.

For a guided fishing trip for bass or crappie on Lake Martin, call Chad Miller at (334) 300-5337.

 

Spotted Bass: Lake Jordan

Between mid-March and the end of April spotted bass spawn on Lake Jordan and that makes this the best month to catch both quantity and quality fish. 

As the last lake in the chain on the Coosa River, Jordan’s fertile habitat consistently produces some of the best bass fishing in the state. Catches of 5- to 6-pound spots are possible.

Fish water 2 to 10 feet deep over hard-bottom shorelines and points. Sight fishing for bedding bass is not possible due to low water visibility.

A heavy spinnerbait fished on the bottom is the best big fish lure in March. Early in the morning, Zara Spooks draw explosive strikes.

For a guided day on the water, call Chad Miller at (334) 300-5337.