The Alabama Reservoir Management Program was established in 1986 with the objective of collecting baseline information on the fish populations of all public reservoirs larger than 500 acres. This information is used to develop management plans for each reservoir, intended to improve fish population structure and fishing quality. Sampling continues periodically on each reservoir and the management plan is updated.
Fish sampling is conducted with various gears, depending on the species of interest. Largemouth bass, spotted bass, bluegill and the major forage species, gizzard shad and threadfin shad, are collected in the spring by specially designed electrofishing boats. Gill nets are used in the fall to evaluate walleye, sauger, striped bass, hybrid striped bass and white bass. Specially designed trap nets are used in fall to sample crappie. These nets collect crappie of all sizes, including those that are only three or four inches long. This allows for accurate predictions of fishing success several years in advance. Another useful management tool is interview surveys with anglers to assess fishing effort, catch and angler opinions.
Alabama’s Reservoir Management Program monitors 42 reservoirs totaling more than a half million acres. The information collected is vital for biologists to make wise management decisions. Whether a fish population needs a minimum length limit, a slot limit, change in creel limit, or is found to be in good condition, the Reservoir Management Program is the primary source of reliable data.
In addition to baseline reservoir monitoring, research projects are often needed to address specific fisheries problems. Some research projects are undertaken by Fisheries Section biologists but other research projects are contracted to experts from various state and educational institutions.
Generally, research projects evaluate various aspects of standardized sampling techniques, food habits analysis, population age structure and growth rate, fish movement, fish production and stocking, genetic diversity and engineering, fish population dynamics, angler exploitation, tournament related fish mortality, gear evaluation, instream flow dynamics and many other fish related topics. Relationships between environmental conditions, fish species interaction, water quality, macroinvertebrates and man reveal the complexity of understanding the nature of our aquatic resources.
Some recent research has produced interesting findings. For example, the best crappie spawns are often associated with higher than average rainfall in winter followed by lower than average rainfall in summer. Another recent study analyzed the food habits of striped bass. More than 2,400 prey items were retrieved from striped bass stomachs. Almost 2,300 of the prey items were shad, the primary forage of striped bass. Only twelve prey items, six bluegill and six crappie, were game fish. This is important information because many anglers assume that striped bass often prey on game fish.
Many other species, including smallmouth bass, paddlefish, walleye and alligator gar have been the focus of recent research efforts. This work is a necessary part of Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries' efforts to preserve, protect and enhance Alabama’s aquatic resources.
Fish kills sometimes occur on public waters and can be the result of pollution incidents or various natural causes. Any time you observe more than a few dead fish in public waters notify the appropriate District Fisheries Office immediately.
Following is a list of public reservoirs (large lakes) in Alabama:
For more information on reservoir management and research efforts in your area, contact the appropriate District Fisheries Office.