It is now the second week of November in north Alabama. With the first frost behind us and the promise of colder weather ahead, thoughts of many outdoorsmen have turned to hunting. Bow season for whitetail deer is open, and there are some varieties of small game that can be pursued right now and others opening in the next few days. As much as I love hunting and all that goes along with it, let’s not forget the many angling opportunities that exist in our area this time of year.
Several of these opportunities can be enjoyed from the bank, with easy access, and won’t take much of your time to find out if the fish are biting. For our purposes, let’s talk about crappie and striped bass, or stripe as they are locally known.
Crappie fishing in the late fall on Lake Guntersville can be exceptional, and the fish are easy to reach this time of year. All of the major bridges and causeways around the lake will produce crappie throughout the day. There are usually plenty of places to park within easy walking distance of areas where the tasty Crappie can be caught. Most crappie anglers fishing below our bridges and causeways will opt to use light or ultralight spinning gear with 2-6 pound test line and small jigs or jigheads with a soft-plastic trailer. Popular local choices include the Bass Assassin Tiny Shad and the Bobby Garland Baby Shad. However, use whatever your favorite bait is, as confidence in your selection will make you stick with it when the bite is slow. That brings up a great point in that crappie this time of year tend to travel in schools which makes the fishing go from ice cold to red hot and back again rather quickly – especially for the angler that is fishing from shore. When a school moves through your area, you can catch several before they move off. Then it is just a waiting game until they return.
When you begin to see cars parked in the side of the road around the bridges and causeways on our beautiful lake, you can bet the crappie are biting. Don’t worry if you are new to the game. Just pick a spot that does not interfere with other anglers and ask for help. Most of the fishermen that I have encountered over the years are willing to share tips and tricks and help you get started. As unwilling as they often are to share their spot, they will gladly share information that will assist you with your future trips. If someone is catching more fish than others, pay attention to their location, the bait they are using, and if they are doing anything different with their presentation or retrieve than the other anglers in the area.
Another popular area for fall fishing is technically not on Guntersville Lake, but included here because the access is easy and the fishing is also very good in the fall. The area just below Guntersville Dam on Wheeler Lake is a great place to go and catch several species of fish in the late fall. Crappie and stripe are both abundant off of the rocks just downriver from the dam itself and with a little effort, great fishing is easy to enjoy. Using the same baits mentioned above, and fishing them as close to the rocks as possible without hanging up is as close to a sure thing as I know of. Without giving away any secrets, there are a couple of area below the old ferry crossing below the dam that consistently give up big crappie and big white stripe in the fall. You will also catch an occasional Largemouth, smallmouth, or spotted bass. And, of course, freshwater drum are always on the menu below the dam. If the crappie and stripe prove uncooperative close to the rocks, tie on a roostertail or other weighted tailspinner that you can cast a long distance and heave it out into the current. Using this method, you decrease your chances of anything but white tripe or hybrid stripe, but increase the chances that you will catch something during you time in the outdoor.
If you have access to a boat, chasing crappie on Lake Guntersville is even easier. Again, you can target the bridge and causeways, but you can also reach crappie that shorebound anglers cannot. The bluffs along the river immediately upriver from the Highway 431 bridge just north of downtown Guntersville have been a great crappie spot for as long as I can remember. Likewise, the bluffs just upriver from the entrance to Honeycomb Creek are also a standard among he knowledgeable crappie catchers on the lake. Another popular technique among boaters chasing crappie is to “shoot the docks”. Crappie will often congregate in large numbers beneath boathouses and marinas dotting the shoreline of Guntersville Lake. The only way to present a bait to these fish is to either have access to the boathouse or marina, or shoot your jig as far under the structure as you can. Although it is a lot of work, and can be frustrating, the rewards are often a quick limit of oversized crappie.
If you happen to be boat fishing and have some time left after you catch your limit of crappie, you might want to drop a jigging spoon around the bridge pilings around the lake. This is always a great way to spend some time. You will catch a variety of fish using this method, and some of my largest bass have been caught doing this.
Whatever you decide to do this fall, be safe, have fun, include family and friends when you can, and thank God for putting it all there to enjoy.