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Wilson Lake

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Fish and Fishing in
Wilson Lake and the Wheeler Tailwaters

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Wilson Reservoir is located in northern Alabama near the towns of Florence and Muscle Shoals. The reservoir extends upstream for 15 miles to Wheeler Dam and covers 15,500 acres.

Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and catfish are targeted most often by anglers on Wilson Lake. No minimum size limit is effect for largemouth bass and spotted bass, and the minimum length limit for smallmouth bass is 14-inches. During the spring and fall, smallmouth bass congregate in the tailwaters of Wheeler Dam. Most anglers drift live threadfin shad, locally called yellowtails, in the swift current for trophy smallmouths.

Smallmouth bass picture provided by Lake Wilson guide Jerry Crook.
Smallmouth bass caught in Wilson Lake.

Guide Bill Beleu with Lake Wilson smallmouth bass
A Lake Wilson smallmouth bass caught by Bill Belew.

Other species that congregate below Wheeler Dam are hybrid and saltwater striped bass in the spring, sauger in the winter, and blue catfish and channel catfish during the summer. This area is very popular with both boats and bank anglers. A fishing platform directly below the dam is convenient for bank anglers.

Channel catfish are fast growing, reaching a harvestable size in two years. Flathead catfish reach a harvestable size in 3.6 years.

Lake Wilson can be fished from this new TVA area near the dam.
Visitors to the overlook at Wilson Dam will find a new pier, built to improve fishing access, especially for people with disabilities.

It is illegal to possess blueback herring Duane Raver's Blueback Herring courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alabama because their presence may cause harm to other fish. 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. No person shall operate any vessel on the waters of this state within 244 meters (800 feet) below a hydro-electric dam and/or navigational lock and dam unless each person aboard, including the operator, is wearing a U. S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device Type I, II, III, or V. Such personal flotation device will be worn and securely fastened in accordance with manufacturer's instructions and recommendations for such personal flotation device

Bass fishing quality at Wilson 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/

Information from the Tennessee Valley Authority is provided at lakeinfo.tva.gov/ and at www.tva.gov/sites/wilson.htm and navigation maps at www.Irn.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 downstream to Pickwick  or upstream to Wheeler.
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.

The U. S. government has information about recreation opportunities on Wilson Lake at www.tva.gov/sites/wilson.htm
Maps are available on the Internet from ESPN.

Find official information on Joe Wheeler State Park, near Wheeler Dam just above Wilson at www.alapark.com/parks/park.cfm?parkid=4. Wheeler State Park has some new cabins.

Resorts on Wilson Lake includes the new Shoals Marriott Hotel and Spa,
www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/mslmc-marriott-shoals-hotel-and-spa/ and the Doublehead Lodge, www.doublehead.com/

Read what the Huntsville Times says about Joe Wheeler State Park at www.al.com/parks/parks.html.Colbert County Tourism may be contacted at www.colbertcountytourism.org/index.html ; Florence has an excellent site at flo-tour.org

Recreational opportunities in the area are listed at:
General information may be found at: www.cityofmuscleshoals.com/ (includes pictures of boat access)

Regional information may be found at the north Alabama regional tourism site, www.alabamamountainlakes.org/ or call 1-800-648-5381. Talk with anglers that fish Lake Wilson at or www.al.com/forums/fishing/.

Bass fishing reports for Wilson Lake may be available at: .www.wmi.org/bassfish/reports/alabama/

Contact the following guides:
Barry Holt (Bassnut@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)

Wilson Lake is the home of the Alabama record smallmouth bass (ten pounds, eight ounces) and freshwater drum (forty-one pounds, eight ounces).

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

Big Nance Creek upstream of AL Highway 101 bridge has a fish consumption advisory. The Alabama Department of Public Health posts information about their fish consumption advisory at their Web site, www.adph.org. Consumption advisory information is found in "A-Z Contents" under "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 Wilson or Wheeler dams.

Most of Wilson Lake does not have problems with chemical contamination of fish, but the Big Nance Creek arm of the lake has a fish consumption advisory.  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."  The use of commercial fishing gear is prohibited in waters where a consumption advisory has been issued for a commercial or non-game fish species

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.

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.

Before impoundment with Wilson Dam, Muscle Shoals looked like this:
...The expansion of the Tennessee River, known by the name of Muscle Shoals, is of the character I have described; it is shallow, ornamented with a number of small islands, and its bed is full of the long grass which abounds in various species of Naiades (freshwater mussels). The lover of the grand and the beautiful in natural scenery, as well as the student in science, will here find abundant sources of interest. He will be delighted with a noble river, whose beautiful and numerous islands are clothed with gigantic trees; whose high and undulating shore on the one hand is ornamented with thriving villages, and on the other spreads out an extensive alluvial, rich in all the gifts of Ceres, or rises abruptly from the river a mural escarpment of carboniferous limestone, which reflectes its blue and sombre aspect in the crystal waters at it base...." ~ Timothy Abbot Conrad, "New Freshwater Shells of the United States," Philadelphia, 1834.

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