List of Fish Species in Lewis Smith Lake 2023 [Updated]

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Lewis Smith Lake, Alabama
Smith Lake has 500 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 264 feet, which makes it the deepest lake in Alabama! Quintaped, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lewis Smith Lake, commonly referred to as Smith Lake, spans 21,200 acres across parts of Cullman, Walker and Winston Counties in Alabama. The lake has 500 miles of shoreline due to its three-finger shape, and it has a maximum depth of 264 feet, making it the deepest lake in Alabama.

Smith Lake is a man-made impoundment of the Sipsey Fork on the Black Warrior River in northern Alabama, and this reservoir was put into use in 1961 after the completion of the Lewis Smith Dam. The Lewis Smith Dam was a project conducted by the Alabama Power Company starting in 1957.

There was a push to create locks and dams in Alabama for years to help with the transportation of coal, so in 1954, the Alabama Power Company applied for permission with the Federal Power Commission to construct hydroelectric projects. The area where Smith Lake now lies had a very small population, but residents were still displaced from their homes and 78 graves were relocated in order to start the construction of the Lewis Smith Dam. A little under four years and 29 million dollars later, the Lewis Smith Dam was completed, and it was named after the president of the Alabama Power Company at the time, Lewis Martin Smith.

The dam was constructed with earth and rock, and it measures 2,200 feet long and 300 feet tall, making it one of the largest earthen dams in the eastern United States. Today, the Lewis Smith Dam and Lake help improve river traffic for trading, provide hydroelectric power and potable water to residents and businesses, and give Alabamians a recreational area to connect to the outdoors.

Fishing & Other Activities Available at Lewis Smith Lake

Smith Lake is surrounded by beautiful land including the William Bankhead National Forest and Sipsey Wilderness Area. Both of these areas are home to numerous species including white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, gray and fox squirrel, turkey, waterfowl, and the endangered bald eagle.

The Sipsey Wilderness Area is also known for being the home of the largest tree in Alabama, which is a 150-foot tall tulip poplar with a 26.8-foot diameter. Visitors can spot this tree during a family-friendly hike on one of the many hiking trails throughout the park. In addition to hiking, visitors can bike, picnic, or camp within the 180,000 acres of land.

At Smith Lake, visitors can enjoy a swim in the clear, deep waters, or take a boat out to view the beautiful land surrounding the lake. Fishing is also permitted in certain areas of the lake, and the park even holds a youth fishing derby in June to promote children to get outdoors. Smith Lake is a wonderful area to fish because the waters are very deep in certain areas, which allows a larger variety of fish species that can be found in the lake. Below are some of the most common fish species that can be caught or seen in Smith Lake.

List of Fish Species in Smith Lake

1) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Largemouth bass
The largest largemouth bass ever caught in Smith Lake was 26 inches long and weighed a little over 10 pounds! Alex Karasoulos / CC BY 4.0

Native to eastern North America

Largemouth bass are a great sportfish at Smith Lake, and they can be found in shallower areas of the lake that are covered by rocks. Largemouth bass have thick olive-green bodies with dark mottling along the back and speckles along the sides. This species has an average length of 13 inches and will generally weigh less than 5 pounds, although the largest largemouth bass caught in Smith Lake was a little over 10 pounds and 26.1 inches long.

Largemouth bass get their name from their mouth, which extends past the eye. Largemouths are carnivores that primarily feed on crayfish and other fishes, but they will eat less or stop eating altogether in the colder months when their metabolism slows down.

2) Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

Caught smallmouth bass
As their name suggests, smallmouth bass have smaller mouths compared to largemouth bass. Mark Eanes / CC BY 4.0

Native to eastern North America

Smallmouth bass are also a popular sportfish at Smith Lake, and they are found in similar regions of the lake as the largemouth bass. Smallmouths are an olive-green color with vertical bands on the side of the body, and they range from 12 – 18 inches in length and weigh around 1 – 4 pounds. While smallmouths look very similar to largemouth bass, the major distinction between the two is that smallmouth bass have a smaller mouth that extends to the midpoint of the eye. Despite the difference in mouth sizes, smallmouths eat a diet similar to largemouth bass.

3) Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)

Spotted bass
You’re more likely to find spotted bass in deeper waters than largemouth bass. Brandon Preston / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States

Spotted bass enjoy very clear waters, which is why Smith Lake is a perfect habitat for these fish. They will often be found in deeper water than largemouth bass in areas with rocky bottoms and steeply sloping sides. This species has an olive green back that fades to silvery sides and a light belly. Spotted bass gets their name from the rows of small dark spots that line their belly.

These fish average around 10 – 17 inches in length, and they weigh 0.5 – 3.5 pounds. The Alabama state record spotted bass, however, was caught in Smith Lake, and it weighed 8 pounds and 15 ounces. Spotted bass have a tooth patch on their tongues, which helps them eat crayfish, insects, and smaller fishes. The daily creel limit for all black bass species combined is currently 10 fish in Alabama.

4) Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)

Striped bass
Many anglers flock to Smith Lake to try and catch striped bass. This fish species thrives in the lake thanks to its deep, cold waters! inbetweenbays / CC BY 4.0

Native to the Atlantic Coast

Striped bass are anadromous fish that live in saltwater but will periodically swim to freshwater systems to spawn; however, striped bass are able to live their entire lives in freshwater, so they have been stocked in many inland lakes across North America. In the 1980s, striped bass were stocked into Smith Lake, and 60,000 fingerlings get restocked into the lake every year.

Smith Lake is well-known for its very large striped bass, and anglers will flock to the lake to try to catch a trophy fish. Striped bass thrive in Smith Lake because the lake is so deep and remains relatively cold throughout the year.

These fish have laterally compressed bodies with green or blue backs and silver iridescent sides. This species also has 6 – 9 black stripes that run horizontally across the body. Striped bass are larger fish that can grow to about 2 – 3 feet in length and weigh between 10 – 30 pounds, but the Smith Lake record is a 45-pound striped bass. This species is generally piscivorous and will hunt for other fishes at night. There is a 15-fish daily creel limit for striped bass, and in Smith Lake, it is illegal to possess more than two striped bass that exceed 22 inches in total length.

5) White bass (Morone chrysops)

White bass
You can catch a maximum of 15 white bass per day in Alabama. Nick Kamm / CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to North America

White bass prefer to be in large, open areas of Smith Lake where the turbidity is very low. These fish are a silvery white color, and they wear 6 – 8 black stripes laterally across their bodies. They have an underbite mouth, much like the largemouth bass; however, white bass are more closely related to striped bass.

White bass are a mid-sized fish, and they average about 12 – 14 inches in length and weigh around two pounds. This species is highly aggressive when it comes to feeding, and schools of white bass will hunt together for items such as gizzard shad, perch, carp, and other fish species. For white bass, the daily creel limit is 15 fish in Alabama.

6) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)

Black crappie
Male black crappies are usually larger and darker than females due to sexual dimorphism. Michael Arden / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Black crappies are relatively abundant in Smith Lake because they like the lake’s clear waters. These fish, like many panfish species, like to hide in vegetation, but there is not much vegetation in Smith Lake, so they will find rocky coverings to hide under instead.

These fish have compressed bodies and are generally a darker green on the back with dark mottling on the silvery sides. They also have 7 – 8 spines on their dorsal fins, which distinguishes them from white crappies, who have 5 – 6 spines. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, so the males tend to be larger and darker than the females. Black crappies typically grow to about 8 – 12 inches and weigh 0.25 – 1 pounds. This species is usually nocturnal, so they will hunt during the night for small fishes, crustaceans, and insects.

7) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)

Caught white crappie
In Smith Lake, there are fewer white crappies compared to black crappies, as they do better in more turbid water. Joseph McPhail / No copyright

Native to North America

White crappies are not as abundant in Smith Lake compared to black crappies because they do better in more turbid waters; however, they are still able to survive in the area. White crappies have compressed bodies that are silvery-olive on the back and silvery-white towards the belly. These fish have dark vertical bands along the sides of their bodies, and their gill covers have spines.

During breeding season, males look slightly different than females due to the males developing a dark throat. White crappies average about 9 – 10 inches long and are around 2 pounds as adults. These fish generally eat smaller fishes like minnows or shad, but they will also eat insects like mayflies. The daily creel limit for black and white crappies combined is 30 fish, and all crappies kept must be longer than nine inches.

8) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

Bluegill in hand
On average, bluegills are 7.5 inches long and weigh around half a pound. Ryan Lehning / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Bluegills are a relatively common fish in Smith Lake, and they can be found near the rocky shores of the lake or in deeper waters during the day. These fish are characterized by having disk-shaped bodies with an olive green back, an orangish-yellow belly, and a black dot at the base of the dorsal fin. Bluegills get their name from the bluish hue surrounding the gill covers.

This species averages around 7.5 inches in length and weighs around half a pound as adults. These fish have very little mouths, so they will only eat smaller prey such as zooplankton, insects, worms and snails. Bluegills are a main source of food for many larger fish such as largemouth bass, so they have adapted to be maneuverable. For instance, this species can make very quick stops by spreading out their pectoral fins.

9) Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

Longear sunfish in hand
Longear sunfish have a few distinguishing characteristics, such as the lack of a dot on their ear flap. Dominic / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Longear sunfish also like the cooler, clear waters of Smith Lake, where there is plenty of coverings to hide in. This species closely resembles other panfish, but they have a few distinguishing characteristics. One is that their orangey-red bodies are covered in light blue spots. This species also has an elongated ear flap that lacks a dot, unlike pumpkinseed sunfish. Longear sunfish also have a blue streak on the top of their mouths that other panfish do not have.

These fish average about 5 – 8 inches long and weigh around six ounces. Unlike many other sunfishes, longear sunfish like to feed near the surface of the water on aquatic insects, microcrustaceans, fish eggs, and juvenile fishes.

10) Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)

Redear sunfish
In Smith Lake, redear sunfish are usually found in shallower, warmer waters. Mark Eanes / CC BY 4.0

Native to the central and southern United States

Redear sunfish are found in Smith Lake in areas where the water is slightly warmer such as in the shallower parts of the lake. These fish have laterally compressed bodies that are usually green, gray, or olive, and they will sometimes have dark flecks and vertical lines along the length of them. Redear sunfish get their name from their black opercular (ear) flap that has a bright red border in males and an orange border for females.

This species can grow up to 12 inches long and generally weigh under two pounds. Redear sunfish are benthic feeders, and once they become adults and develop a strong jaw, they will almost exclusively feed on aquatic snails. These fish are slightly harder to catch than bluegills, but they are still willing to bite many kinds of bait, making sunfish a perfect starter fish for new anglers.

11) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Channel catfish
Channel catfish are a common species in North America and can be found near the shoreline of Smith Lake. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Channel catfish are one of the most abundant types of catfish in the United States, and they are commonly seen in lakes and rivers. This species can be found near covered areas and the shoreline of Smith Lake. Like all catfish, the channel catfish does not have scales and has barbels on the upper and lower jaw; however, the channel catfish can be distinguished by its deeply forked tail, silvery body, and overbite.

These fish grow to about 10 – 20 inches long and weigh anywhere from 2 – 10 pounds. Catfish tend to eat quite a bit of food, so they use their barbels covered in taste buds to sense their surroundings and find food like snails, fishes, snakes, frogs, insects, aquatic plants, and possibly birds.

12) Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)

Flathead catfish in hand
In Alabama, there is no daily creel limit for flathead catfish that are less than 34 inches in length. fishesoftexas / CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to North America

Flathead catfish can be found in areas of Smith Lake where there are plenty of rocky or woody coverings and deeper waters. Flathead catfish are generally bigger than channel catfish, and flatheads are a mottled brown color with a square tail and an underbite. This species, like the channel catfish, has barbs on their dorsal and pectoral fins, which are used to poke predators or humans that may have startled them.

This species usually averages 20 – 30 inches in length, and they can exceed 100 pounds. Flatheads are fierce carnivores, and they typically prey on a variety of fish species such as drum, shad, and other catfish species including their own. There is no creel limit for catfish under 34 inches in length, but only one catfish that is over 34 inches can be harvested.

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