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Pickwick Reservoir

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division logo

Fish and Fishing
in Pickwick Lake
and the Wilson Tailwater

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Rick Laws with a large smallmouth bass from Pickwick LakeLocated in northwest Alabama on the Tennessee River, Pickwick Reservoir runs 50 miles from Pickwick Landing Dam in Tennessee to the "Shoals" area below Wilson Dam. The total surface area at full summer pool is 47,500 acres. McFarland Park at Florence can host major fishing tournaments.

According to the 2012 BAIT Report, Pickwick Reservoir ranked among the top four Alabama reservoirs for “Average Bass Weight,” “Pounds per Angler-Day,” and “Hours per Bass Larger than 5 pounds.” It ranked 3rd overall for reservoirs reporting five or more tournaments.

Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are the most sought after species by anglers, although some nice spotted bass exist in the Reservoir too. Pickwick Reservoir is Alabama’s best location for that angler trying to catch a black bass “Grand Slam:" largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass.  Pickwick Reservoir's greatest reputation is its superb smallmouth bass fishing. 

To protect this superb smallmouth bass fishery, a 15-inch minimum size limit has been in effect since October, 2012. This minimum size limit on smallmouth bass covers all of Pickwick Reservoir, including the Mississippi and Tennessee portions of the reservoir. One of the most popular smallmouth fishing areas is the "Shoals" section directly downstream of Wilson Dam to the end of Seven-Mile Island. Generation discharge from Wilson Dam creates a strong current in this area that smallmouth bass love. The middle to lower reaches of Pickwick provide excellent habitat for both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. Smallmouth bass habitat in Pickwick Lake is so good that several line class records have been certified by the International Game Fish Association.

Crappie are another favorite fish species sought by Pickwick anglers. The majority of the crappie angling in Alabama occurs during the spring on Bear Creek and Second Creek embayments. Most of the successful anglers drift jigs and minnows along the creek channels to find concentrations of crappie. Crappie must be nine inches or longer to be harvested from Pickwick Lake.

The tailwaters of Wilson Dam provide excellent opportunities to catch sauger during the winter months when they migrate upstream to spawn. Blue catfish and channel catfish are also found in high numbers during the summer. Bank access is available on the south side at Sheffield and Muscle Shoals. Florence (McFarland Park) and Waterloo provide fishing on the north side. Boaters may use TVA's locks to go downstream to Kentucky Lake or upstream to Wilson Lake: Wilson Lock 256-764-5226 Pickwick Lock 731-925-2334.

9-1/2 pound bassSampling: Electrofishing during April, 2012, revealed a population of largemouth bass that were fatter than the Alabama statewide average. A high percentage of the largemouth bass population consists of fish less than 15 inches and yet the percentage of largemouth bass over 15 inches is the highest it has been in more than 15 years. Annual recruitment to larger sizes appears good, and the outlook is for tournament anglers to expect good catches of "keeper" sized bass. That “kicker” may be a little more difficult to find, but chances are as good as they have ever been on Pickwick Reservoir.  

Lake Pickwick Sunset by Jerry Foster of FlorenceFishing: Anglers should fish deeper in the riverine stretches of the reservoir where larger bass reside. Aquatic weeds (milfoil and hydrilla) have become established in the lower end of the reservoir. Anglers fishing deep humps and aquatic weed margins have been successful in catching their limit. Traditional baits remain good for catching bass on Pickwick Lake, but anglers are encouraged to throw shad-colored grubs, fish-head spin rigs, shaky-head finesse rigs, spoons, and 5-inch swim baits to be more competitive. Live bait angling remains popular, and is one of the most successful methods of catching smallmouth bass. Current is the key to catching bass on Pickwick, so anglers need to be in the best locations when TVA opens the turbines to begin generating electricity.

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.

Links (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. The license requirement are a little odd because the lake includes three states, but a resident or non-resident Alabama license allows anglers to fish the entire lake. Possession and creel limits for Alabama public waters are listed at: www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/regulations/

The area below dams can be DANGEROUS, be aware of the dangers before boating.

eleven pound largemouth bass from Pickwick LakeBass fishing quality at Pickwick Reservoir is assessed in the B.A.I.T report.
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.

This page lists Alabama fish management information and Alabama reservoir location, size and elevation.

Information from the Tennessee Valley Authority is provided at lakeinfo.tva.gov/ and at www.tva.gov/sites/pickwick.htm and navigation maps through TVA, http://maps.tva.com/. or email mapstore@tva.gov, call 1-800-MAPS-TVA, fax 1-423-751-6216, or write 1101 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402-2801.

Boaters may use TVA's locks to go downstream to Kentucky Lake or upstream to Wilson Lake: Wilson Lock 256-764-5226 Pickwick Lock 731-925-2334 .

For information on your mobile device, try http://m.tva.com.

Report missing or damaged navigation guides or buoys on TVA reservoirs by completing their Web form.

Colbert County Tourism may be contacted at www.colbertcountytourism.org/. The City of Florence has a site at www.visitflorenceal.com/

Luxury accommodations on Pickwick Lake include the new Shoals Marriott Hotel and Spa,

Regional information may be found at the north Alabama regional tourism site, www.northalabama.org 1-800-648-5381, or e-mail info@northalabama.org. For resorts, lodges, cabins, RV parks, marinas, and camping accommodations, look in the "Stay" Section. TVA Certified Clean Marinas include Aqua Yacht Harbor, Grand Harbor Marina and Pickwick Landing State Park Marina.  For motels and bed and breakfast inns, look in "Places to Stay."
General information may be found at: www.shoalschamber.com

Talk with anglers that fish Pickwick Lake at www.al.com/forums/fishing/.
Bass fishing reports for Pickwick Lake may be available at: www.wmi.org/bassfish/reports/alabama/ and http://tnfishingreport.com/fishing-reports/lakes/pickwick-lake/.
See what the June 11, 2011 FLW winner did to catch fish.

Contact the following guides:
Steve Hacker (smouth@hiwaay.net), 256-366-8765, www.smallmouth.com
Barry Holt (Bassnut306@aol.com) 256-383-7481.
Capt. Chris Jackson, chris@chrisjacksonfishing.com, 205-706-2425, chrisjacksonfishing.com
Reed Montgomery, www.fishingalabama.com/ 1-205-663-1504, ALABASSGYD@aol.com
Rick Sizemore (jrsizemore@bellsouth.net), 256-394-2280
Chris Stephenson (ChrisStephensonOutdoors@hotmail.com) 850-693-0900 for smallmouth bass, striped bass and hybrids (wipers)

Eagle watching is a popular pass time at Pickwick Lake, especially during the winter.

Current water levels may be found by searching for Florence at: iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwin/al/hydro.html

Pickwick is home to several Alabama record fish;
silver redhorse (sucker) (fourteen pounds, fourteen ounces);
sauger (five pounds and two ounces); 
muskellunge (nineteen pounds, eight ounces - muskies are no longer stocked);
paddlefish (fifty-two pounds, twelve ounces - currently, paddlefish must be immediately released upon capture).

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 Fisheries Section's District I Supervisor can answer specific questions about Pickwick Lake at keith.floyd@dcnr.alabama.gov.

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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