List of Fish Species in Demopolis Lake 2022 [Updated]

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List of Common Demopolis Lake Fish Species [Updated]

Tombigbee River at Demopolis
Demopolis Lake is located at the intersection between Tombigbee River and Black Warrior River. Altairisfar (Jeffrey Reed), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Demopolis Lake is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee Rivers, making this horseshoe-shaped reservoir a part of two of Alabama’s most important water networks. It is the largest impoundment along the Black Warrior-Tombigbee navigation system, stretching 48 miles (77.2 km) up the Warrior River, while also extending 53 miles (85.3 km) up the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The reservoir sprawls over an expansive 10,000-acre area with a depth of over 25 feet (7.6 m) and sits just west of the City of Demopolis in Marengo County.

There’s no shortage of entertainment on Demopolis Lake’s vast waters, and your next visit is guaranteed to be packed with unforgettable memories. Modern and primitive campgrounds are available to facilitate any camper’s desired experience, and several public hunting areas managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are accessible with necessary permits.

Nearly 8,308 acres (33.6 km2) of Demopolis Lake’s banks form the David K. Nelson (Demopolis) State Wildlife Management Area (WMA), regulated by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The WMA primarily concentrates on the conservation of avifauna. It hosts a waterfowl pond and serves as a nesting site for bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Hunting of waterfowl, big game, and small game is permitted here, though numerous licenses and permits are required.

The lake itself boasts environmental heterogeneity that provides premier fishing for largemouth bass, crappies, catfish, and drum. Fish that love fast-flowing waters occupy the main channel, while the more secretive occupants hide out in the reservoir’s adjoining pools. The lake is also the venue for Demopolis’ annual “Christmas on the River”, an extravagant holiday celebration featuring fireworks and decorated floats.

Below is a list of the top fish species at Demopolis Lake.

List of Fish Species in Demopolis Lake

1) Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)

Spotted bass in hand
Spotted bass can be found swimming in the mouths of creeks near gravelly substrates. Brandon Preston / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

The spotted bass is a member of the black basses, a subset of sunfish in the Micropterus genus. Species in this group are cosmopolitan game fish, loved for the thrilling fight they put up when hooked and for their delectable meat.

Spotted bass inhabit the deeper waters of Demopolis Lake, swimming where the main channel meanders and in the mouths of creeks near gravelly substrates. They are ambush predators, meaning that they lie in wait, hiding in underwater foliage until their next meal swims by. When prey crosses the path of an awaiting spotted bass, they launch out and use their mouths to suck up their unsuspecting victims. Like most black basses, they feast on an assortment of aquatic fauna, including fish, crayfish, amphibians, and insects, though fish make up a smaller portion of their diet when compared to other black basses.

2) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Caught largemouth bass
Mercury accumulation in the largemouth bass population at Demopolis Lake is a cause for concern. Hayes Valentine / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Central America

Largemouth bass are close relatives of spotted bass, and the two species are almost identical! Both are olive-green fish with faded white undersides, divided dorsal fins, and a thick, dark band running horizontally along the middle of their sides. As their name suggests, largemouths are bigger than spotted bass, both in the size of their bodies and the gape of their mandibles. Largemouths grow to nearly double the size of spotted bass, at 12 – 30 inches (30 – 76.2 cm) long in Alabama, whereas spotted bass usually stop growing at 17 inches (43.2 cm). Additionally, the closed jaws of a largemouth extend well beyond the posterior of the eye.

Largemouth bass are susceptible to the Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV), a widespread disease that slows growth in infected bass. The disease ultimately causes population dieoff by inflating fish’s swim bladders and preventing them from submerging underwater. Though fishing in Demopolis Lake was blighted by the virus in the ’90s and early 2000s, LMBV is a short-lived virus, and fisheries in the lake have already recovered.

Anglers have little to fear if they catch a largemouth infected by LMBV, as the disease is harmless to humans and fish are safe to consume if cooked. However, mercury accumulation in Demopolis Lake’s largemouth population is a cause for concern, and the 2022 Alabama Fish Consumption Advisories cautions against eating any largemouths caught in the lower reservoir and dam forebay.

3) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

Bluegill in hand
In Alabama, bluegills are 6 – 10 inches long on average. Wooded Creek Wanderer / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

Bluegills and other members of the Lepomis genus are collectively known as the true sunfish or bream. They are characterized by heterogeneous dorsal fins, laterally compressed bodies, and pigmented gill covers (opercula). As the name suggests, the bluegill’s operculum is painted dark blue. Bluegills in Alabama reach only 6 – 10 inches (15.2 – 25.4 cm) long but are stocky for their size.

Bluegills sit in the middle of Demopolis Lake’s food chain. They are generalist predators of the tiny reservoir inhabitants that can fit in their small mouths, including invertebrates, mollusks, and zooplankton. Though bluegills travel in schools, their foraging habits are individualistic, and some fish are more likely to take risks to capture food than others.

As prey, bluegills are crucial in the diets of bigger game fish like largemouth bass. They adapt specialized self-preservation strategies depending on their location in the reservoir and the likelihood of being spotted by predators. Bluegills that inhabit dense, complex plant beds are less likely to be found by largemouth bass. Additionally, hiding bluegills dissolve their schools in the presence of a predator to avoid being seen.

4) Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

Longear sunfish in hand
Longear sunfish have a striking appearance and are relatively easy for beginners to catch. moxostoma / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

Longear sunfish get their name from their extended gill covers, which are even longer on breeding males. Though they have a broad, oval profile, longear sunfish are only about the size of your hand at 5 – 7 inches (12.7 – 17.8 cm) long. Their wide bodies converge into a narrow, elongated tail that they use to wade through the main channel of Demopolis Lake. Longear sunfish have yellow-green to yellow-orange bodies that are covered in a neon, reticulated, turquoise pattern. Pigmentation in males intensifies during the spawning season.

Longear sunfish are diurnal, meaning that they’re active during the day. They spend mornings and evenings sheltered in dark cover but emerge to the surface during the afternoon when they feed on crustaceans, young fish, fish eggs, and aquatic and terrestrial insects. Largemouth bass and shorebirds eat longears, which avoid predation by diving towards the bottom of the lake if disturbed.

Longear sunfish are a spectacular target for anglers in Demopolis simply for the opportunity to witness their stunning colors. Longears eagerly strike a mixture of artificial and natural lures, including small jigs, spoons, plastics, worms, crickets, and minnows. The ease with which they are caught makes them a superb target for inexperienced fishers.

5) Hybrid striped bass (Morone chrysops x Morone saxatilis)

Hybrid striped bass
Hybrid striped bass are a great target for winter fishing, as they maintain activity levels even when it’s cold. kourt_barber / CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to North America

Hybrid striped bass, also known as wipers, are a cross between white bass and striped bass. The traits and name of the hybrid depend on the sex of the parents. When a male white bass is crossed with a female striped bass, the resulting hybrid is called a palmetto bass. When the opposite occurs, the fish is referred to as a sunshine bass.

Hybrid striped bass are stocked in recreational waterways where temperatures are unsuited to striped bass. Thanks to the genes inherited from their white bass parents, wipers can endure warmer waters than striped bass. Surprisingly, hybrid striped bass also maintain activity levels throughout the cold season and provide excellent winter fishing.

While most hybrid species are infertile, hybrid striped bass can reproduce naturally, though this rarely occurs in the wild. The majority of wipers in Alabama are cultivated in the Marion Fish Hatchery, from which they are transferred to lakes and reservoirs statewide. Hybrid striped bass are the most widespread sports fish in Alabama, and are readily caught using artificial lures, cut chicken liver, and cut shad.

6) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Channel catfish in hand
At Demopolis Lake, there is no daily creel limit for channel catfish less than 34 inches in length. Hayes Valentine / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Channel catfish are massive, dorsoventrally-flattened fish with green-yellow flanks and white bellies. They have deeply forked tails, curved heads, protruding upper jaws, and four pairs of sensory barbels characteristic of the Ictalurid (catfish) family. In addition to its signature barbels, a channel cat uses its tastebud-covered body to detect food in turbid waters when it cannot see.

A prevailing myth about catfish is that they reside in dirty, polluted waters—but this couldn’t be farther from the truth! While channel catfish can withstand brackish water, low water clarity, and sandy or gravelly substrate, their ideal home lies in clear, freshwater habitats with muddy bottoms. During the day, channel catfish rest in holes and crevices far down in the lake’s water column, while at night they emerge to feed. They use their massive mouths to suck up anything they can find—from seeds and algae to insects and other fish.

Anglers at Demopolis Lake can enjoy nearly unrestricted catfish hunting on their fishing trip, as there is no creel limit for fish smaller than 34 inches (86.4 cm). However, anglers are only permitted to take one fish over 34 inches per day.

7) Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)

Blue catfish
The blue catfish spawning season is from April to June when water temperatures reach 70 – 75 °F. Nick Newberry / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Blue catfish are nearly indistinguishable from channel cats. The two can be differentiated by their color—blue catfish have gray-blue backs, while channel catfish are yellow with dark speckles. Additionally, the blue catfish’s anal fin is straight-edged, whereas that of the channel cat is rounded.

Though blue catfish are generally apex predators in underwater food chains, they are a choice meal for many avian predators like the bald eagle. To avoid predation, blue catfish wield sharp, retractable spines in their dorsal and pectoral fins that they use to stab pursuers. These spines eject venom into the attacker’s wound, causing severe pain.

Blue catfish spawn from April to June, when water temperatures reach 70 – 75 °F (21.1 – 23.9 °C). Males use their tails and jaws to clear debris in nesting locations and release pheromones to attract a mate. During a single spawning season, a female catfish produces an astounding 4,000 – 8,000 eggs per kilogram (~1,800 – 3600 eggs per pound) of her body weight. Once eggs are laid, males assume custody of their treasured offspring, and may even chase away females to do so!

8) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)

White crappie
Crappies caught at Demopolis Lake can only be kept if they are more than 9 inches in length. Austin R. Kelly / CC BY 4.0

Native to the eastern US

White crappies or papermouths are deep-bodied, silvery panfish that reside in the lower section of Demopolis Lake’s euphotic zone. Papermouths belong to the sunfish family, the Centrarchidae, and are one of only two species in the crappie genus. The genus name Pomoxis translates to “sharp opercle”, a title derived from the crappie’s spined gill covers. White crappies have several dark vertical bands running along their bodies that are absent in black crappies. Telling the two apart by their coloration can be a near-impossible feat during spawning season, when male white crappies transform to black, a phenomenon known as visual signaling.

When white crappies are ready to spawn, they move to shallow, backwater pools and flooded terrestrial habitats with submerged vegetation. In a single reproductive cycle, an ordinary female lays up to 15,000 eggs, though more sizeable fish produce as many as 150,000 eggs!  Due to their rapid proliferation rate, white crappies can easily overcrowd reservoirs if populations are managed improperly.

All crappies taken from Demopolis Lake must be greater than 9 inches (22.9 cm) long, and no more than 30 crappies (white or black) may be kept per day.

9) Bullhead minnow (Pimephales vigilax)

Bullhead minnow in hand
Bullhead minnows are small fish, reaching an average length of 3 inches at maturity. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to the southern US

Bullhead minnows have minuscule, spindle-shaped bodies that reach 3.1 inches (8 cm) at maturity. Their color ranges from silvery-yellow to yellow-green and a black lateral stripe lines their sides. The front margin of the translucent dorsal fin aligns with the pelvic fins, and the tail sports a black caudal spot. During spawning season, male fish sprout bump-like breeding tubercles around the mouth that are used to attract females. Bullhead minnows also brandish these hardened structures as a tactile weapon to defend their territory from other males!

Bullhead minnows are demersal, meaning that they take up residence at the bottom of the lake. They use their ventral mouths to dig through mud and suck up algae, detritus, seeds, microscopic invertebrates like water fleas, and small aquatic insects. Bullheads are hardy fish that can survive in cloudy waters with warm temperatures and low oxygen levels. In Demopolis Lake, bullheads can be found in the lotic main channel.

10) Blacktail shiner (Cyprinella venusta)

Blacktail shiner underwater
Blacktail shiners can be identified by a black spot that is situated at the base of their caudal fin. threeagoutdoors / CC BY 4.0

Native to the US

Blacktail shiners, sometimes simply referred to as blacktails, are among the largest of the satinfin shiner species, regularly stretching to over 4 inches (10.2 cm) long. Two subspecies exist in Alabama—the slender blacktail shiner, C. v. stigmaturus, and the eastern blacktail shiner, C. v. cercositgma. Contrary to the blacktail’s mostly mundane appearance, the species epithet “venusta” translates to “beautiful, like Venus”.

Blacktail shiners have slender, blue-silver bodies and yellow backs, contrasted by the single rounded black spot at the base of the caudal fin that their colloquial name is derived from. They are commonplace in Demopolis Lake, occurring in both fast-flowing channels and nearly stagnant backwaters. Blacktails spawn from June to August, when male fish attract mates by emitting growls. Females deposit eggs in the crevices of rocks in moderately flowing water, and males sometimes guard nests against predators like sunfish.

11) Silverside shiner (Notropis candidus)

Native to the US

The silverside shiner is endemic to the United States, which means it can’t be found anywhere else in the world! Established populations of this rare fish exist only in Alabama and Mississippi, where they school in the main channels of lakes during the day, but migrate to shallow waters at night. Silverside shiners tolerate clear to turbid waters and prefer sandy or gravelly substrates.

The silverside shiner belongs to the carp family, the Cyprinidae. The moniker “silverside” comes from the metallic lateral stripe that runs across this species’ body. Like other shiners, silversides are characterized by the lack of an adipose fin, a deeply forked tail, and the complete absence of a stomach! They spawn from June to August in open waters and are short-lived, with an average lifespan of only 2 – 3 years. Little is known about their reproductive and feeding biology.

12) Golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)

Golden shiners
Adult gold shiners are known for their striking, metallic gold scales. Patrick Jackson / CC BY 4.0

Native to the US

Unlike other shiners that are relatively slender, golden shiners have laterally-flattened, thickset bodies. All shiners in the United States are descendants of one common ancestor, except for the Notemigonus genus, which is believed to be more closely related to European shiners. Golden shiners are dazzling fish, and adults have brilliant, metallic gold sides that bear semblance to plates of armor. Pelvic fins are tinged bright orange or red, and a minute, fleshy keel sits between the pelvic and anal fins.

Golden shiners practice “egg dumping”, a peculiar reproductive tactic in which females lay their eggs in the nests of other fish. They usually target species in the sunfish family, such as pumpkinseeds and largemouth bass, which practice diligent parental care over any fry in their nests. Golden shiners take advantage of the sunfishes’ nurturing habits to trick them into raising their offspring.

Golden shiners are raised as baitfish because they tolerate a wide range of conditions and reproduce several times a year.

13) Northern starhead topminnow (Fundulus dispar)

Northern starhead topminnow in hand
Northern starhead topminnows are smaller than a finger and exhibit sexual dichromatism. Jared Gorrell / CC BY-NC 4.0

Native to the US

Though northern starhead topminnows are smaller than a finger, this fish is a gorgeous must-see for any freshwater enthusiast at Demopolis Lake. This species exhibits impressive sexual dichromatism, in which the pigmentation of females differs significantly from males. Male fish are covered with an intricate pattern of even, orange-dotted rows and widely spaced, vertical stripes. Dotting extends through the fan-like fins, which are tinged yellow. Females, however, are covered with fine lines running from head to tail and lack the spots and vertical stripes present in their male counterparts. The name “starhead” is a reference to a star-shaped marking on the top of the fish’s head.

Contrary to the genus name Fundulus which means “bottom”, starheads dwell in Demopolis Lake’s lentic backwater pools, where they swim through crowded herbage near the water’s surface. Removal of vegetation in their habitats has made starhead topminnows endangered in several states.

14) Blackspotted topminnow (Fundulus olivaceus)

Blackspotted topminnow underwater
Blackspotted topminnows can be found in slow-moving waters, either individually or in schools. Irvin Louque / CC BY 4.0

Native to the US

Blackspotted topminnows are an eye-catching species, with dark yellow backs and white venters separated by a broad black stripe painted along the body. Like the northern starhead, the upper half of the blackspotted topminnow’s body and fins are mottled with tiny black dots. The dorsal fin is extremely posterior and lines up with the anal fin.

Blackspotted topminnows occupy slow-moving waters, where they swim individually or in schools with their backs nearly protruding from the lake’s surface. They have small mouths and feed primarily on insects and miniature crustaceans, though they also consume algae, which passes through their digestive tracts without being metabolized.

15) Pugnose minnow (Opsopoeodus emiliae)

Pugnose minnow in hand
Pugnose minnows act as an indicator of aquatic ecosystem health as they prefer clean, clear waters. fishesoftexas / CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to North America

Pugnose minnows occupy all areas throughout Demopolis Lake, though they prefer enclosed, stagnant backwaters. They swim through aquatic greenery over muddy or silty substrates to graze on algae, insect larvae, microcrustaceans, and fish eggs. From May to July, females lay eggs on the flat undersides of rocks. Eggs are then protected by males until they hatch. Because pugnose minnows prefer clean, clear waters, their presence indicates aquatic ecosystem health.

The genus name Opsopoeodus means “teeth for dainty feeding”, describing the many pharyngeal teeth that line a pugnose’s esophagus. Opsopoeodus is a monotypic genus, with the pugnose minnow serving as the only species representative of the group. The species was once transferred to the genus Notropis in 1972 but was promptly reassigned to its original taxonomic placement in 1973 based on chromosomal analysis.

16) Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense)

Threadfin shad in hand
Many large fish species feed on threadfin shad in Demopolis Lake. Nick Loveland / No copyright

Native to the US and Central America

Threadfin shad are schooling bottom-feeders that inhabit depths no greater than 5 feet (1.5 m) below the surface. They can withstand vast fluctuations in salinity but are intolerant of extreme temperature changes. For this reason, threadfins experience dieoff in the winter when temperatures decline below 42.8 °F (6 °C).

Threadfins are crucial forage for the many sports fish that live in Demopolis Lake and contribute immeasurably to the preservation of local recreational fisheries. They are a scrumptious meal for nearly all large fish in the reservoir, including largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, crappies, sunfish, and catfish! Threadfin shad are native to the southern United States but have been stocked across the country to provide sustenance in fishing hotspots and aquaculture ponds.

17) Brook silverside (Labidesthes sicculus)

Brook silverside underwater
Brook silversides are slim fish that live for only a year and a half! moxostoma / CC BY 4.0

Native to the US

The brook silverside is a slim, streamlined fish with a wide, pointed mouth and tall, sickle-shaped dorsal and anal fins that are sometimes stained bright yellow. Their bodies are entirely translucent, except for a silver lateral streak that runs from behind the operculum to the base of the tail fin.

Brook silversides prefer clear, warm conditions and congregate in quiet euphotic waters such as the temporary pools formed adjacent to the lake during flooding. They are skittish if disturbed, sometimes even jumping out of the water if they’re frightened! Female silversides lay eggs from mid-spring to summer over gravelly substrate or plants. Eggs have filamentous projections that help them stick to objects in the lake. Brook silversides are a short-lived species, with a lifespan of only one and a half years.

18) Western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)

Western mosquitofish in water
Unlike other fish species, western mosquitofish give birth to live young! Millie Basden / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America and Central America

Western mosquitofish are in the Poeciliidae family and are relatives of guppies and swordtails. Mosquitofish are a marvel among Demopolis Lake’s residents because they give birth to live young! Unlike other fish which lay eggs to be externally fertilized by males, fertilization in western mosquitofish occurs internally in a process known as vivipary.

Mosquito larvae and pupae constitute most of the western mosquitofish’s diet. In one day, these ravenous creatures can eat from 42 – 167% of their body weight. Furthermore, mosquitofish survive in incredibly adverse conditions that would be detrimental to most freshwater fish, including waters utilized for waste treatment and poorly oxygenated areas. For these reasons, the western mosquitofish has been introduced worldwide as a biocontrol agent in reducing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. While this strategy has been exceedingly effective in controlling mosquito proliferation, non-target native insects and small fish in introduced areas have become threatened, as the western mosquitofish also utilizes them as food.

19) American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

Person holding American paddlefish
American paddlefish are threatened and cannot be harvested or killed at Demopolis Lake. heteromyid / CC BY-NC 4.0

Native to North America and Mexico

The American paddlefish, also known as the spoonbill, is a shark-like fish defined by its unmistakable bill that resembles the blade of an oar. This colossal species comes from prehistoric times and is the only living species of paddlefish left on Earth. Paddlefish are sometimes called “living fossils” because of the extent to which they have maintained the features of their ancestors observed in fossil records.

The size of a paddlefish’s body varies depending on its ecosystem, and fish found in lakes tend to be larger than those found in rivers. Though Demopolis Lake is a land-locked reservoir, its characteristics are riverine because it lies along the Black Warrior and Tombigbee waterways. Paddlefish in Demopolis are therefore on the smaller side, averaging around only 2.7 – 3.1 feet (0.8 – 0.9 m).

Paddlefish are valued for their meat and caviar, and they are farmed across Europe and Asia. Despite this, American paddlefish are listed on the IUCN Red List as threatened. Harvesting or killing paddlefish from Demopolis Lake is prohibited.

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