The fallen tree in the background is the target for Rodney Crimm’s cut skipjack. Once a spot like this is proven effective it can be returned to in the future.
Catfishing With the Family—Wetumpka, Alabama
by Ron Wong
Wetumpka, Alabama offers visiting anglers more than just fishing. There is plenty of activities for all the family
As winter draws to a close and spring is in the air, we all start thinking about fishing and family activities. Spring Break is coming and school will be out for us that like to fish. It is often a family affair and there is there is no better fun for the family than an outing that targets catfish.
If your adventure is a road trip, a destination that takes you off the beaten path will likely deliver fun for the whole family, those that like to fish and those that don’t. That requires a destination that has productive catfish waters and other recreational amenities.
Wetumpka, Alabama in Elmore County is one of those places. The city is near Jackson Lake and the Alabama River. Both bodies of water produce good catfish action that will provide the fishing fun the family is looking for.
Wetumpka is the county seat of Elmore County with a population of around 7,200. It’s a small town with all the amenities of a big city. Just 15 minutes from Montgomery, the picturesque little town is adorned with shopping boutiques, antique stores, museums and local restaurants. The old bridges over the Coosa River are an attraction in themselves. Jackson Lake is a stone’s throw away from the center of town and offers excellent fishing, especially for catfish.
Catfishing families visiting the area can choose to fish Jackson Lake or exit the lake and fish the Alabama River. B’n’M Poles pro staff anglers Michael Haney and Rodney Crimm have both fished the area numerous times and provided some tips and techniques for each body of water.
Geographically, Jackson Lake is an old slough connected to the Alabama River. A popular attraction In the middle of the lake is Jackson Lake Island. The island has been developed to include a playground with canoe, kayak, and boat rentals. Overnight camp sites are available as well. Tame goats, that love to be petted, roam the island to add another element to the adventure.
Jackson Lake has a good population of blue and yellow channel catfish along with some flathead catfish. It is a great lake to bring the family to fish. Anglers can fish off the bank or from a boat to catch the whisker fish.
Catfishing gets very good as the water begins to warm in the spring with the fish moving towards the banks. A wad of nightcrawlers or red worms, cut skipjack, or shad work well when fished on the bottom along ledges in early spring. All you need is a simple rod and reel rigged with a circle hook and a small split shot to present your bait. As the water warms and the fish move shallower and towards the bank, use a bobber to keep your bait 6 to 12 inches off the bottom.
If fishing from a boat, Haney and Crimm recommend a very slow drift (.5 to .8 mph). Target ledges to find the bigger fish using a Carolina rig with a 3- to 4-ounce siding sinker to keep the bait near the bottom. Whether you are catching them for the frying pan or catch and release, this is fishing in its simplest form.
More serious anglers may want to venture into the Alabama River to wet a line. If so they can make passage from the lake directly into the river.
The Alabama River
Fishing the Alabama river is different than fishing in Jackson Lake. The river is used for power generation that alters the speed of the river’s flow. Anglers will find current that varies with the amount of power generation at any given time and will need to adjust their fishing accordingly.
The river holds some big blue and flathead catfish. Haney and Crimm like to target cover on the outside bends of the river. Look for laydowns and fallen trees for best success. The outside bends in the river or areas where tributaries connect with the river are likely spots to have deeper water and hold bigger fish.
Haney and Crimm target these spots by fishing on the rope or by using Spot-Lock to hold the boat in place. They set up above the cover and cast back to the edge of the laydown or fallen tree. The scent from a bloody bait will flow with the current into the cover and attract the catfish.
They rig their B’n’M rods with a sinker slide rig. Their favored baits are cut skipjack or live bream. Haney and Crimm often use live bream when their target is flatheads. Flatties are known to love live bream. The rig is normally fished on the bottom close to cover with about 6-ounces of weight to hold it in the current. If power is being generated and creating a faster current , then a heavier weight may be needed.
If the bite is slow, a change is strategy is warranted. One thing that Haney and Crimm always consider is adding a Dragging Chub from Flathead Fever Tackle. They replace the hook leader with about 12 to 18 inches of leader material with the Dragging Chub tied in between the hook and the leader swivel approximately 8 to 10 inches off the bottom. That distance can be adjusted to raise or lower the bait in relation to the bottom. The Dragging Chub will hold the bait off the bottom and also provide a rattling sound that attracts the catfish.
Haney and Crimm offered a word of caution for the rainy season. Anglers should be cognizant of floating debris when navigating the river, especially after a rainstorm. Also, during the spring when heavy rain is prevalent the road leading into Jackson Island could flood. Anglers can call ahead at (334) 430-7963 for up to date information on accessibility.
Haney and Crimm are sponsored by B’n’M Fishing, The Original Rod Sox, Millennium Marine and Moeller Marine. Haney is the owner operator of Flathead Fever Tackle. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 662-552-5511.
For the fisherman bringing the family along for a fish vacation, there are some neat landmarks to visit and plenty of southern hospitality and cuisine.
Historical sites include Fort Toulouse, Fort Jackson, Charters of Freedom, Elmore County Museum and the Wetumpka Impact Center. They are all located in Wetumpka.
The Coosa River is an outstanding canoe, kayak and stand up paddle board destination. The family operated Coosa River Adventures can outfit you with a rental or sell you a new or used vessel to enjoy some fun on the water. Anglers can begin at the Jordan Dam and follow the Coosa through whitewater rapids, a few public parks, and right through the middle of Wetumpka. This segment of the Coosa is part of the famous Alabama 650 paddle race that goes through Wetumpka. It is billed as the world’s longest paddle race.
There are several nice parks in the area including Gold Star Park, Robinson Springs Park, Village Green Park and the Memorial Park Complex. Most have playgrounds and picnic facilities for visitors to enjoy.