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Wheeler Lake

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Fish and Fishing in Wheeler Lake

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Background: Wheeler Reservoir is located in north central Alabama, halfway between Birmingham and Nashville. This TVA lake is Alabama's second largest reservoir, and Wheeler Lake stretches 60 miles from Guntersville Dam to Wheeler Dam near Rogersville. The upper end of the reservoir is a run-of-the-river reservoir as it goes past Huntsville and begins spreading out near Decatur. Stump flats, weed beds, and creek channels are popular locations in the middle section. The lower end has many steep banks and long points.

Ramie Colson, Jr., wins the FLW event on Wheeler Lake, March 2008.Fisheries: Bass fishing is the most popular fishery in Wheeler Reservoir. Largemouth bass are the primary species, but smallmouth bass are common from Decatur to the west end, especially from Elk River down. The northern subspecies of spotted bass are also common, and spots are found primarily near the main channel.

This reservoir is home to quality fishing for a variety of fish. Catfish fishing is excellent; and William McKinley caught the previous world record blue catfish, 111 pounds, from Wheeler Reservoir on July 5, 1996. Bream (bluegill, redear sunfish, and longear sunfish) fishing is excellent, also. Crappie grow exceptionally fast here. Sauger run upstream during the winter and early spring, and are caught below Guntersville Dam. Striped bass, hybrids and white bass make spring runs, and can be caught schooling during the summer.

Paul Stackhouse catches one of more than a hundred bass fishing with Doug Darr on March 10, 1997.

Sampling: Electrofishing in April, 2008, revealed a largemouth bass population consisting primarily of fish from 12  to 15 inches in length.  Numbers of bass above 15 inches are below the Alabama reservoir average.  Bass anglers can expect better than average catch rates of bass up to lengths of 15 inches or 1 - 1.5 pounds, but anglers will have to work hard to find larger fish.  Fast growth from these plump 12- to 15-inch bass should result in better than average numbers of 15-inch  and larger bass in 2009.

Fishing: Common baits for bass include crankbaits, Carolina rigs, plastic worms, spinner baits and shaky-head rigged finesse worms. If you are fishing the Decatur flats, you better try throwing a frog/rat type lure in the milfoil. Dark jigs cast on points and along bluff walls at night are good for smallmouth bass in the lower reservoir. Bream are found in shallow-gravelly areas during the spawn. Look for bream along the bluffs and banks during the occasional willow fly hatches during the summer.

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.
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.

Bass fishing quality at Wheeler Reservoir is assessed 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: www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/freshwater/where/reservoirs/

Find information on Joe Wheeler State Park, near Wheeler Dam (boat rental, resort, cabins, camping). Read what the Huntsville Times says about Joe Wheeler State Park.
Wheeler's Joe Wheeler State Park is part of the Alabama Bass Trail.

Information from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is provided at lakeinfo.tva.gov/ and at www.tva.gov/sites/wheeler.htm and navigation maps at www.lrn.usace.army.mil/opn/TNRiver/ or 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 upstream to Guntersville or downstream to Wilson.

For information lake level, discharge and other key recreation 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.

Maps are available on the Internet from Ingalls Harbor and www.fishingworld.com/MapServer/.
Current water levels may be found for Whitesburg at: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/iwin/al/hydro.html

Talk with anglers that fish Wheeler Reservoir at www.al.com/forums/fishing/.

Bass fishing reports for Wheeler Reservoir may be available at: www.wmi.org/bassfish/reports/alabama/ or get fishing tips at www.thefishinguide.com.
Local fishing lures are available from West End Outdoors.

Riverwalk, DecaturDecatur Convention and Visitors Bureau has an excellent site describing Lake Wheeler and fishing on Wheeler as well as accommodations around Decatur, www.decaturcvb.org/.
Athens - Limestone County Chamber of Commerce has information about facilities near Wheeler Reservoir, www.tourathens.com.
Regional information may be found at the north Alabama regional tourism site, www.alabamamountainlakes.org/ or call 1-800-648-5381.
Activities can include the river boat Pickwick Belle, www.pickwickbelle.com/, which sometimes operates out of Decatur.

The City of Decatur has Riverwalk Marina and Ingalls Harbor.
LDitto Landing south of Huntsvilleocated between Athens and Florence, Lucy's Branch Marina has cabins, camping and boat rental, as well as marina facilities.
Ditto Landing at Huntsville (upper Wheeler Reservoir) may be contacted via www.dittolanding.com/
Both Riverwalk Marina and Ditto Landing are certified by TVA as Clean Marinas.

Get information about Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge at wheeler.fws.gov/. Wheeler NWR had 590,743 visitors in 2006 who spent $12 million, of which $5.9 million was fishing related.

Learn about the mussel diversity in the Wheeler Reservoir area at fly.hiwaay.net/~dwills/alabib.html.
To learn more about mussels in general, see the Fisheries Section mussel pages at www.outdooralabama.com//watchable-wildlife/what/inverts/mollusks/mussels/

Contact the following 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
Rick Sizemore (jrsizemore@bellsouth.net), 256-394-2280

Canoe and Kayak Trail Limestone County, Alabama The beautiful Elk River is the perfect place for canoeing and kayaking in Limestone County. It is a Class-1 stream, with views of forests, towering bluffs, and rolling meadows. The water is challenging and the scenery is beautiful. The Canoe and Kayak Trail begins at Elkmont and ends at Wheeler Lake at Joe Wheeler State Park. The route is 21.9 miles along scenic Elk River with five easy in-and-out points. Since the creation of the water trail, small businesses have emerged to support this recreational resource and increase economic opportunities in surrounding communities.

The Alabama Department of Health issued an advisory for the Barker's Creek embayment at Wheeler Reservoir, Morgan County, for PFOS. Also check information for Flint Creek and Limestone Creek. The use of commercial fishing gear is prohibited in waters for which a consumption advisory has been issued for a commercial or non-game fish species.  Information on the consumption advisory may be found at the Alabama Department of Public Health Web site, www.adph.org. Consumption advisory information is found under "A-Z Contents" by looking for "Fish Consumption Advisories."

It is unlawful for any person to operate any vessel on the waters of Alabama within 800 feet below a hydroelectric dam and/or navigation lock and dam unless each person aboard, including the operator, is wearing a securely fastened U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device Type I, II or III or V.

How to lock through Guntersville or Wheeler dams.

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 Supervisor can answer specific questions about Wheeler Reservoir 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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