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Lake Mitchell

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Fish and Fishing in
Lake Mitchell

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Located just off I-65 and ten miles due east of the city of Clanton in central Alabama, Lake Mitchell is a 5,850-acre impoundment on the Coosa River with 147 miles of shoreline. The Lay Dam tailwater area at the upper end of the lake is a popular recreational area to many anglers with ample bank fishing access. Impounded by Alabama Power in 1922, an abundance of material left behind serves as fish habitat. Lake Mitchell is very fertile and supports high densities of sport fish and forage species. The lake was constructed to provide flood control, and supply hydroelectricity to central Alabama; however, the lake has become very popular for various types of recreation including boating, swimming and fishing.

Public boat ramps, private boat ramps, and several private marinas provide access to Mitchell Lake. Two popular boating access areas include Higgins Ferry on the west side of the lake and Barrett’s Fish Camp (launch fee) to the east, although several private marinas located on the lake also include boat ramps. Topographic maps of Lake Mitchell are available at local marinas and sporting goods stores.

The most common sport fish found in Lake Mitchell include the Alabama spotted bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and black crappie and white crappie. Popular non-game fish include channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. Primary forage species include both threadfin and gizzard shad. Overall, the status of the fish population in Lake Mitchell remains unchanged from the 1980s. Like many other fertile impoundments, the potential of this fishery is limited by poor early life survival and high mortality of fish during their first winter. However, growth of important sport fish species such as black bass and crappie are generally near the statewide average. Most anglers are very satisfied with the fishing on Lake Mitchell because it has remained very consistent during the last 20 years and usually ranks among the top ten reservoirs in the state for bass fishing.

Bass sampling in the spring of 2010 revealed that Lake Mitchell contained an abundance of quality size largemouth and Alabama spotted bass. It appeared that largemouth bass are becoming more abundant than spotted bass and this pattern may continue. The spotted bass population was especially impressive where most of the sample were large fish in exceptional body condition. Growth rates of both black bass species was above average. According to angler catch data from BAIT-participating tournaments, both number and pounds of bass per day were higher in 2010 than ever recorded on Lake Mitchell.
Crappie were sampled in fall 2010 to assess the condition of the population. Crappie recruitment is variable in Mitchell Reservoir and the fishery is dependent on the production of moderate to strong year-classes every few years. Moderate year-classes were produced in 2007 and 2008 and it appeared that the 2010 was also significant and should enter the fishery by fall 2011. Crappie growth and condition was excellent in Mitchell Reservoir, far exceeding the average amongst other Alabama reservoirs. The white crappie population appeared to have diminished and was no longer a significant component of the crappie fishery in Mitchell Reservoir.
The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division have stocked numerous sport fish into Lake Mitchell beginning in 1980, which include Florida largemouth bass, walleye, hybrid striped bass, and striped bass. The Division currently stocks hybrid striped bass.

The most productive times to fish are during spring and fall; however, during the summer months, nighttime catfish and bass fishing can also be very good. Largemouth bass are more cover oriented and are usually caught by fishing in or near dense water willow stands that grow near the shoreline. Spotted bass are more structure oriented and can be caught from various habitat-types including, points, humps, ledges, rock-piles, and vegetation.

Higgins FerryPopular bass lures include willow-leaf spinnerbaits in white or shad color patterns, topwater chuggers and walking baits in shad colors, hard and soft plastic jerk-baits, and Carolina-rigged centipedes or finesse worms in various shades of green. Numerous bass tournaments are held at Higgins Ferry, with night tournaments generally held during the week and daytime tournaments taking place on weekends.
Crappie often congregate around shallow woody debris during springtime and can be caught using live minnows. During winter months, crappie frequently remain in large schools suspended just below the surface in open water and can be caught by trolling light-weight jigs tipped with live minnows.

Bluegill, shellcracker, and other sunfish species are abundant and are often longear sunfishfound along weed beds, backwater sloughs and in shallow coves. Live crickets or tiny beetle-spins are the best choices when targeting bluegill. Fishing for bluegill is usually best near the first full moon in May, but remains good throughout the summer. Bluegill spawning areas can be identified by the clusters of circular depressions in shallow water areas protected from wind and wave action. Peak spawning activity usually occurs near the full moon during summertime. Shellcrackers can be caught using redworms fished on the bottom in shallow coves during late spring.

"Jug-fishing" is also a very popular fishing method for catfish on Lake Mitchell. The jugs are usually baited with chicken liver, nightcrawlers, or cut shad and are allowed to drift down the river with the current just above the bottom. Early summer is the best time to catch catfish.

 A tournament weigh-in station is now available to bass clubs at the Higgins Ferry Access Area. This facility is a joint project of the Lake Mitchell Home Owners and Boat Owners Association, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Alabama Power Company. Proper handing of fish during weigh-ins helps to minimize post-release mortality. For information or reservations for free use of this facility contact Mr. Frank Atkinson, Chilton County Park Ranger at 1-205-755-5952.

Alabama Power Company has improved fishing by providing habitat in this lake. Coordinates of these habitat improvements are available as an Excel spreadsheet or a GPS download from www.alabamapower.com/community/lakes/fishing-information.asp.

It is illegal to possess blueback herring Duane Raver's Blueback Herring courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alabama. Regulations designate legal capture methods for bait and specify additional species that may not be used for bait.

Link list disclaimer):

Fishing license information may be found at: www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/license. Instant licensing is available via the Internet (2% fee), via the telephone by calling 1-888-848-6887 ($3.95 fee), or at 900 vendors and probate offices in Alabama. All youth age 15 and younger fish for free.

Possession and creel limits for Alabama public waters are listed at: www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/regulations/

Bass fishing quality at Lake Mitchell is assessed from bass club tournament results at www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/where/reservoirs/quality/.
If you are a member of a bass club, please consider being a part of our Bass Angler Information Team. We use information from clubs to help better manage your lakes for fishing.

State fish management information and Alabama reservoir location, size and elevation are listed at: /fishing/freshwater/where/reservoirs/

Alabama Scenic River Trail paddlers can call G.R.A.C.E.S. Marina a day ahead for a portage appointment to bypass Mitchell Dam and go to Mama Jeans Fish Camp.  Graces Marina can be contacted at telephone 205-280-4110.

Higgins Ferry Park has a weigh-in facility for tournaments, RV parking, camp sites, bathhouse, free boat launch, a roped-off swiming area, and a large pavilion that can be rented. The children's play area has slides and swings. For information or reservations for free use of this facility contact Mr. Frank Atkinson, Chilton County Park Ranger at 1-205-755-5952.

Additional information about the local area is available at: www.chiltoncountychamber.com/.

Information about the Lake Mitchell Home Owners and Boat Owners Association can be found at: www.lakemitchellhobo.homestead.com/
Marinas include G.R.A.C.E.S. Marina, Lake Mitchell Marina, and Blue Creek Marina.

Bass fishing reports for Mitchell Lake may be available at: www.wmi.org/bassfish/reports/alabama/ and www.fishingalabama.com/LAKE REPORTS/MITCHELL.htm.

Fishing Guides:
Capt. Chris Jackson, chris@chrisjacksonfishing.com, 205-706-2425, chrisjacksonfishing.com
Reed Montgomery, www.fishingalabama.com/, 1-205-663-1504, ALABASSGYD@aol.com

Current water levels may be found for Mitchell Dam at: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwin/al/hydro.html

Lake Mitchell Fish-N-Camp is being developed near the dam, 334-806-6339.

Read an article about Striped Bass of the Coosa River System by Steve Smith.

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit. This includes releasing minnows into the lake after fishing.
"It shall be unlawful to intentionally stock or release any fish, mussel, snail, crayfish or their embryos including bait fish into the public waters of Alabama under the jurisdiction of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries as provided in Rule 220-2-.42 except those waters from which it came without the written permission of a designated employee of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources authorized by the Director of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries to issue such permit." The provisions of this rule shall not apply to the incidental release of bait into the water during the normal process of fishing.

The Alabama Water Watch has published a report on this water.

The Fisheries Section's District II Supervisor can answer specific questions about Lake Mitchell by sending mail to: Dan.Catchings@dcnr.alabama.gov.  

Lake Mitchell headwaters, Lay Dam tailwaters
The headwaters of Mitchell Reservoir, Coosa River.
(Lay Lake tailwaters with turbines running.)
Photo by Doug Darr

Prepared by: Fisheries Section, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This site is presented for information only the Fisheries Section cannot be responsible for the quality of information or services offered through linked sites, disclaimer. To have your site included, send your URL, email address, or telephone number to the Fisheries Web Master, doug.darr@dcnr.alabama.gov. The Fisheries Section reserves the right to select sites based on relevant and appropriate content, of interest to our viewers. If you discover errors in the content or links of this page, please contact Doug Darr. Thank you.

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