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Tips for September - October

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

By Eileen Davis

King Mackerel: Orange Beach

Captain Don McPherson of Get Away Charters out of Orange Beach reports September is a good month for catching king mackerel weighting 17 to 25 pounds with the occasional fish hitting the scales at 30 pounds. If you have not experienced a strike from a king, it’s as if your bait hung a passing nuclear submarine.

To catch king mackerel, McPherson trolls a No. 2 or 3 Clark spoon behind a No. 2 planner at 5 to 7 knots. He also free lines live or dead baits as his boat drifts over our many artificial reefs. He finds kings from nearshore out to 7 or 8 miles.             

“Always look for any kind of surface action,” McPherson said. “Bait popping on the surface or diving birds is a good sign kings are present.”

The limit on king mackerel is three fish per person per day, and the minimum size limit is 24 inches fork length. According to the state health department, do not consume mackerel over 39 inches.

Speckled Trout: Inshore Waters

As the residents of Baldwin County sleep soundly in their beds, successful speck anglers maneuver through the quite darkness of our back bays to fish boat docks, bridges and piers – any structure where light shines on the water.

The lights attract baitfish, which in turn draw good numbers of speckled trout. On a good night with an incoming tide, these lights can produce two- dozen keepers with a few measuring 18 inches or more.

Since specks spook easily, use the current to drift within casting distance, then quietly lower the anchor. Once in position, anglers use a variety of baits, lures, and techniques to tempt these scrappy inshore fish into biting. Casting live baitfish or shrimp is always effective, as are soft plastics like D.O.A. shrimp and Berkley Powerbait Tubes. Fly fishermen get in on the action using five-inch streamers.

Rainbow Trout: Sipsey Fork

September is an excellent month for wading in the cool water flowing from the base of the Lewis Smith Dam. Fisheries biologists report the chilly water supports a year-round rainbow trout fishery, which is stocked monthly at a rate of about 3,500 fish.

Anglers catch the greatest number of trout between the dam and the S.R. 69 Bridge. On this stretch of the stream, anglers are restricted to wading. Wading, however, is not possible if Alabama Power is generating hydroelectricity. Fish with caution and be prepared to move quickly to high ground in the event they release water from the dam.

Light tackle is all you need to catch rainbow trout. Spinners, small spoons, salmon eggs, and corn, are excellent baits. Fly-fishing is popular with light rods.

Hybrid Bass: Lake Eufaula

Ken Weathers, District IV fisheries supervisor targets hybrid striped bass on Lake Eufaula from late August to early October. Because of a reciprocal agreement with Georgia, there’s a 15 fish limit for hybrids on Eufaula, but it’s not a matter of the lake having a low population. Weathers said when the fishing is hot, anglers can fill their coolers with hybrids weighing between 1 and 6 pounds.

“This is prime time for hybrids,” Weathers said. “During this time, my family and I enjoy fishing for hybrids more than anything else. It’s a blast fishing for them.”

“We troll deep-diving crankbaits on channel ledges and points at creek mouths of Barbour, Cheneyhatchee and Cowikee creeks in 20 to 25 feet of water. Using your sonar, look for the fish to suspend about 15 feet deep. I troll with lures that reach depths of 9 to 12 feet. The best fishing is from late afternoon until dark.”

Crappie: Lake Eufaula

On Eufaula, anglers find crappie remain in a summer pattern that produces good numbers of fish with the occasional slab weighing 2½ pounds. Water temperatures in the upper section of the water column keep these fish at depths of 14 to 30 feet and holding close to vertical cover.

To target deep-water crappie next to standing timber and bridge pilings, cast or shoot 1/16-ounce jigs on ultra-light spinning gear.

The jigs descend at about a foot per second. When you see the line twitch or go slack, set the hook.

According to anglers and biologists, Barbour, Cowikee, White Oak and Wylaunee creeks are best.

Largemouth: Lake Eufaula

With hot days and warm water temperatures continuing into September, anglers wanting heavy stringers target largemouth bass on the main-river channel below the U.S. Highway 82 Bridge. They look for a change in direction or depth on ledges in 6 to 15 feet of water, as the fish hold on these breaks waiting for shad. A Carolina rigged worm is the most effective lure for this late-summer pattern.

For those anglers not trying to win a tournament, schooling bass offers great fun in the back of coves, especially during early morning. The bass will strike nearly every splashing or gurgling bait in your tackle box. At times, it seems like they are competing to kill your lure. Fish the backs Bustahatchee, Little Barbour and Soapstone creeks for these aggressive largemouths.

Flathead Catfish: Jones Bluff Lake

Jones Bluff on the Alabama River produced the current state record flathead in 1986. The giant yellow cat weighed 80 pounds. For anglers who know where to find them, this stretch of the river consistently yields 20- to 40-pound fish. It also has many eating size flatheads.

In September, winning catfish tournament angler Richard Stocks of Valley Grand finds big fish in the river’s deepest holes with a hard bottom, and he catches eating size fish from the snags along the riverbank on the lower part of the lake.

The best time to fish is when Alabama Power is generating electricty.

To access the upper lake, use the ramp off Highway 31 at Coooter’s Pond. For mid-lake, use the ramp at Swift Creek and on the lower lake, there is a ramp north of Edsons.

Channel Catfish: Lake Martin

For numbers of catfish, it is hard to beat fishing for channel cats on Lake Martin’s clear water. On a good day, anglers report catching 30 to 40 fish weighing between 1 ½ to 3 pounds, with a few weighing more than 5 pounds.         

Anglers have the best success drift fishing while using their trolling motors to control speed and direction. This is especially important so you can drift over the same track where you caught fish earlier. If you don’t have GPS, place a buoy markers on the spot.

A couple of productive places on the lake to begin fishing are the flats 15 to 20 feet deep in the coves of Wind Creek and New Hope. It is tempting to fish more than one rod by using rod holders, but you will catch more fish by handholding one rod. It allows you to feel the bite while keeping the bait just off the bottom.

Striped Bass: Lake Martin

Retired striper guide Jim Parramore revealed that his secret for success in September is night fishing. “The time to fish is from sunset to midnight,” he said. “And the best period to fish are the days before a full moon.”

Fishing at night produces school-size stripers weighing 8 to 12 pounds, with the possibility of catching a trophy exceeding 35 pounds. When he was guiding, one of Parramore’s clients caught a 50 pounder while night fishing.

In September, fish between the mouth of Blue Creek and the Kowaliga Bridge. Depending on the thermocline, stripers hold 30 to 60 feet deep. To reach the fish, use downlines baited with lively gizzard shad.

Spotted Bass: Logan Martin Lake

As summer ends, the weather is still hot and fishing can be tough. The shad on Logan Martin have spawned three to six times since March and bass can easily select from the menu of available sizes. Fortunately, stable fishing conditions in September produce predictable behavior for spotted bass weighing up to 3 pounds.

Logan Martin’s three most effective late-summer patterns are main lake points with manmade brush piles, main lake humps and the submerged river channel.

In early morning, work points with either a Zara Spook or fast moving jerk bait. When the bite dies, try the deepwater hump just upstream from the dam or the old river ledge mid-lake. Crankbaits, heavy spinnerbaits and jigs work best for this structure when the water is moving.

Flathead Catfish: Millers Ferry

On Millers Ferry, yellow cats remain in a solid summer pattern that produces good numbers of fish with the occasional big fish exceeding 30 pounds. Although, the small 5 pounders taste best.

Flatheads hold in prime river holes, which are outside bends with a tangle of old snags. The best fishing is after sunset, especially if there is a current.

Anchor upstream from the hole, and fish one bait shallow and the other on the bottom. To satisfy the appetite of old whiskers, live bait is essential, and many anglers prefer bream.

For current fishing information, call or visit the Millers Ferry Marina located off Highway 28, (334) 682-5125. Hours of generation for the lake are available by calling (334) 682-4655.

Flathead Catfish: Warrior River

In September, the tributaries of the Warrior River hold jumbo flatheads weighing 20 to 40 pounds. The big cats move into the feeder creeks in the spring and stay until late fall. Anglers have found that hard-bottom creeks with holes at least 12 feet deep can hold huge catfish.

As you move up the creek, look for logjams next to deep holes on outside bends. These are major daytime resting areas. Fish the shallow flats upstream from these holes from sunset to midnight.

The most effective bait is a live gizzard shad fished on a slip-sinker rig with a 3-foot leader.

Striped Bass: Lake Martin

“Striped bass fishing improves in October as the water cools,” said veteran striper guide Steve Smith (205-365-5226).  “The cooler temperatures allow the stripers to follow shad into the river and creeks. When they migrate to shallower water, I focus on fishing Hillabee and Coley creeks and upriver in the shoals area.”

On some of his best days in October, Smith has caught as many as 28 fish. With the double stocking by the state some years ago, he expects a large population of 20-pound fish in 2018. “When you find them,” he said, “the fish are fairly concentrated and the fishing is good.”

To catch stripers chasing shallow baitfish, Smith deploys planner boards and rigs the bait so that it appears free-swimming about 35 feet behind side planer boards. For bait, he uses gizzard shad and redhorse suckers, which he catches from the Neely Henry tailrace.

Spotted Bass: Smith Lake

“On a good day in October,” revealed winning tournament angler and guide Craig Daniel (256 347-4096) of Cullman, “an angler can catch 50 spotted bass on Smith. The fish will weigh 2 ½ to 3 pounds and will be fat from eating blueback herring.”

To find spots, Daniel looks for herring, as it is the most important factor in finding fish. He says sometimes the herring give their location away when fish are busting them on the surface, but mostly he relies on sonar to search for them at depths of 5 to 12 feet.

“The best lures that time of the year,” revealed Daniel, “are Zara Spooks and buzzbaits.”

Crappies: Lake Eufaula

Crappie enthusiast recognize Eufaula as a lake where they have the potential to catch heavy slabs weighing more than 2 pounds, as well as good numbers of quality fish. Biologists report an abundance of 10-inch crappie.

As waters cool this month, fishing transitions from a summer to a fall pattern. Hungry crappie form schools in pursue of baitfish in the creeks. They often follow creek channels when stalking shad.

To find crappie, use sonar to locate schools of baitfish about halfway back in the creeks, then slowly troll jigs or minnows through the area. Creeks known to hold fish in the fall are: Barbour, No Name, Rood, Wylaunee, and Cowikee’s two forks.