The late-winter deluges have transitioned into a spring dry pattern that has allowed the flooded rivers in many portions of Alabama to return to more normal levels.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee River system in Alabama was at its highest levels in about three decades, which made it difficult on anglers who normally enjoy a fishing bonanza in February and early March.
According to a Tennessee Valley Authority document, the greatest flood on record in the lower Tennessee Valley occurred after 21 straight days of rain in 1897.
Between 12 and 13 inches of rain fell in north Alabama in late February. Anglers were basically shut out of normal fishing patterns during one of the most productive times on the Tennessee River lakes of (east to west) Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick.
The other rivers in Alabama, like the Coosa and Tombigbee, were not spared from high water and the resulting damage to boat ramps and other facilities.
Weiss Lake and Logan Martin Lake on the Coosa sustained damage to campgrounds and boat ramps. The Tombigbee reached its highest level in 28 years.
Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division is currently traveling statewide to determine how much damage was done by the high water.
Mike Carter guides on Guntersville Lake, a sprawling 67,900-acre impoundment that is perennially rated as one of the top bass lakes in the nation.
Carter said during the worst of the high-water period that the mid-lake area at Guntersville was up between 2 and 3 feet and up more than 3 feet upriver, which is the highest he’s seen it since 1990.
“Back then we were catching fish in people’s pastures and up in the woods,” Carter said. “The fish were schooling in the pastures because of all the food that was in there. I didn’t go into the pastures this time because I didn’t want to go through the woods to get there.
“Guntersville can hold a lot of water, but it was tough during that time. We had to move up shallow. Instead of the fish being on the outside of the grass lines, they were between the bank and the grass line.
“We still caught some good fish on chatterbaits and square-bill crankbaits. I fished a lot of primrose that I normally can’t fish, but the water was so high I was able to catch a lot of fish around the primrose.”
Carter expects the bass spawning activity to be wide open in the next few days, with water temps approaching the magical low 60s mark.
Carter expects the spawning activity to last through April because Guntersville’s bass usually move up in stages. After the fish spawn, they move to the river ledges and will be looking for something to eat.
“When the fish get out on those ledges, they will gorge heavily,” Carter said. “We’ll use a lot of swimbaits and, on calmer days, jigs. We’re looking for deep shell beds. They’re a lot easier to pattern at that time, and we catch some good fish.”
Guntersville is known for its abundant grass with hydrilla mats and abundant Eurasian watermilfoil. Carter is somewhat worried high water may have altered the grass dynamic.