List of Fish Species in Mitchell Lake, Alabama 2023 [Updated]

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List of Common Mitchell Lake Fish Species [Updated]

Coosa River
Mitchell Lake is a beautiful, almost Y-shaped, impoundment on the Coosa River near Clanton, Alabama. John Lambert, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mitchell Lake is located near Clanton, Alabama, and is a beautiful impoundment on the Coosa River that spans 5,850 acres. This lake has almost a Y-shaped structure with long narrow branches, giving the lake 147 miles of shoreline. The lake was created after the construction of the Mitchell Dam, which started in 1921 and was completed in 1923. The Mitchell Dam was Alabama Power Company’s second hydroelectric plant, and it was an early stage of a larger project the Alabama Power Company was working on to help transform the Coosa River. The dam was named after James Mitchell, a former Alabama Power Company President that helped rescue the Alabama Power Company when it was struggling in its early years.

The gravity concrete dam currently stands 106 feet and spans 1,277 feet in length, and there are four generators at the plant that are capable of generating up to 170,000 kilowatts of power. While the main purpose of Mitchell Lake and Dam is to provide hydroelectric power for Alabama, the generators are not turned on unless there is a peak in demand for electricity. Regardless, Mitchell Lake will always be a great recreation area for visitors and provides many different types of wildlife with a home.

Mitchell Lake has been a popular vacation and day-trip location for years. For those that visit, there are vacation houses, inns, and hotels around the area to stay at. There are also plenty of campgrounds for those who prefer to be more connected to the outdoors. There are many recreational activities to do when visiting Mitchell Lake including swimming, boating, and fishing, the latter being one of the most popular activities to do at the lake.

When Mitchell Dam was constructed, much of the leftover material was left in the dam, which now serves as habitat structure that helps many different fish species thrive. Below are some of the most common fish species that can be found in Mitchell Lake.

List of Fish Species in Mitchell Lake

1) Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)

Person holding spotted bass
Spotted bass eat crayfish, insects, and smaller fish with the help of a tooth patch on their tongue. Yann Kemper / No copyright

Native to the USA

Spotted bass are a very popular sporting species in Mitchell Lake, and these fish really enjoy the very clear waters of the lake. They will often be found deeper 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 get 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. Spotted bass also have a tooth patch on their tongues, which helps them eat crayfish, insects, and smaller fishes.

2) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass are usually about 15 – 18 inches in length. Patrick Jackson / CC BY 4.0

Native to eastern North America

Largemouth bass are another highly popular sport fish in Mitchell Lake, and they can be found in areas with rocky or vegetated coverings. Largemouth bass get their name from their mouth, which extends past the eye, unlike smallmouth bass. Largemouth bass have olive-green bodies with dark mottling along the back and speckles along the sides. This species typically grows to about 15 – 18 inches long, although the largest largemouth ever recorded was 22 pounds and 4 ounces.

Largemouths are carnivores that primarily feed on crayfish but will also eat other fishes and insects. The daily creel limit for all black bass species combined in Alabama is 10 fish, and only five of these fish can be smallmouth bass.

3) Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)

Caught striped bass
Striped bass have silver iridescent sides and 6 – 9 dark, horizontal stripes. Al Kordesch / No copyright

Native to eastern North America

Striped bass are not always easily found in Mitchell Lake, but they can be seen in waters that are cool, clear, and deep throughout the Coosa River. Striped bass have bodies that are laterally compressed with green or blue backs and silver iridescent sides. These fish also have 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, although they can get larger in impoundments of the Coosa River. This species is generally piscivorous and will hunt for other fishes at night.

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

Hybrid striped bass
In Alabama, a maximum of 15 striped and hybrid striped bass can be caught per day. treehugger571 / CC BY 4.0

Not native to any area

Hybrid striped bass, also known as wipers, are crosses between striped bass and white bass, and they are produced in hatcheries in order to be stocked in bodies of water like Mitchell Lake. These fish prefer waters similar to that of true striped bass in areas that are cool, clear, and deep. Striped bass hybrids have bodies that are laterally compressed and are silver in color with broken dark horizontal lines. This hybrid also has an arched back, much like white bass, in addition to two tongue patches, which they inherit from the striped bass.

Striped bass hybrids grow very rapidly, and they can reach 18 – 20 pounds by eight years of age. These fish travel in schools, and will hunt for items such as shad, minnows, crustaceans, and insects. The daily creel limit for striped bass and hybrid striped bass is 15 fish in Alabama.

5) Walleye (Sander vitreus)

Walleye in hand
Walleyes are sensitive to light due to the reflective layer in their eyes, which means that they usually hunt at night. Owen Strickland / No copyright

Native to North America

Walleye are sometimes stocked in Mitchell Lake, and they will typically be found in deeper waters near the dam. This species has a brownish-green body that fades to a cream belly complete with dark horizontal lines, and they average about 11 pounds.

Walleye get their name from their big, glassy pupils; their eyes look like this due to a reflective layer on the inner eye called the tapetum lucidum, which helps walleye see prey in times of low visibility. This layer makes walleye sensitive to bright light, however, so they often hunt for their prey, like fishes and mudpuppies, at dusk or night.

6) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)

Black crappie
Black crappies have more spines on their dorsal fins compared to white crappies. Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Black crappies are relatively common in Mitchell Lake because they enjoy still, clear waters. Black crappies have compressed bodies that are 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, which 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 lbs. These fish are able to see relatively well in the dark, so they will generally hunt during the night or early morning for small fish, crustaceans, and insects.

7) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)

Caught white crappie
A maximum of 30 crappies can be caught each day in Alabama. Cody Delano / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

White crappies are less abundant at Mitchell Lake compared to black crappies because they do better in more turbid waters, so the best chances of finding these fish are in vegetated areas near windier shorelines. This species has 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 because the males develop 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 current daily creel limit for crappies is 30 fish in Alabama, and all crappie kept must be greater than nine inches in length.

8) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

Bluegill underwater
As juveniles, bluegills tend to stay in the shallower, vegetated areas of Mitchell Lake. Jeff Clark / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Bluegills are a common sunfish in North America, and they can be found in shallow, vegetated areas of lakes as juveniles, but adults will tend to be 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 eat smaller prey such as zooplankton, insects, worms, and snails. Bluegills are a main source of food for many larger fish species 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) Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)

Redear sunfish in hand
Adult redear sunfish have very strong jaws and almost exclusively feed on aquatic snails. Mark Eanes / CC BY 4.0

Native to the central and southern United States

Redear sunfish are found in Mitchell Lake in areas where the water is warmer and has a moderate amount of cover. 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) flaps that have 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 compared to bluegills, but they are still willing to bite many kinds of bait, which makes this sunfish a great starter fish for new anglers.

10) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Caught channel catfish
Channel catfish can usually be found near the shoreline of Mitchell Lake and weigh 2 – 10 lbs on average. 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 rivers and lakes like Mitchell Lake. This species will most likely be found near covered areas and the shoreline of Mitchell 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.

11) Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)

Caught blue catfish
Blue catfish have jaws lined with tiny teeth which help them to eat fish, worms, crustaceans, and insects. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to the US

Blue catfish are a close relative of channel catfish, and they are the most abundant catfish species in Mitchell Lake. Blue catfish have a blueish-gray back that fades to a white belly, and they possess no spots, unlike channel catfish.

These fish generally range between 20 – 60 inches in length and have an average weight of around 20 – 50 pounds; however, they can easily reach 100 or more pounds if they are older. Blue catfish have jaws lined with tiny teeth that help them eat just about anything they can catch including insects, fish, worms, and crustaceans.

12) Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)

Flathead catfish in hand
There is no daily creel limit for catfish (including flathead catfish) that are less than 34 inches long in Alabama. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Flathead catfish can be found in areas of Mitchell 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 currently no creel limit on any catfish below 34 inches in length in Alabama, but only one catfish that exceeds 34 inches can be taken.

13) Gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum)

Gizzard shad
Gizzard shad are a very beneficial species in lakes and other bodies of water as they help to control plankton populations. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Gizzard shad are a very common prey species that can be found near the shorelines of Mitchell Lake where there are higher winds and turbidity. This species has silvery blue backs that fade to white sides, and they average between 6 – 8 inches long and 1 – 8 ounces in weight. These fish also have a long final ray on the dorsal fin that resembles a whip.

Gizzard shad get their name from their unique muscular stomach that acts almost like a bird gizzard, which breaks down plant matter and phytoplankton that the fish filter feed on from the water column. This species is very important for the health of many ecosystems including Mitchell Lake because they help control plankton populations, and they are a prey item for many other fish species including crappies, white bass, and black bass.

14) Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense)

Threadfin shad
Threadfin shad have deeply forked fins that are usually yellow in color. Joseph McPhail / No copyright

Native to the southeastern US

Threadfin shad is a prey species commonly found in Mitchell Lake, and they are mainly found in shallower waters where the temperature is warmer. These fish have a silvery-blue back that fades to whiteish sides and belly. Their fins, especially their deeply forked caudal fins, are usually tinted yellow, and their chins have black speckles.

Threadfin shad look very similar to gizzard shad, but a major difference is that the threadfin shad’s upper jaw does not project beyond the lower jaw, unlike the gizzard shad. Threadfin shad are also smaller than gizzard shad, as adult threadfin shad grow to about 2 – 3 inches in length and weigh about one ounce. Threadfin shad almost exclusively eat zooplankton and phytoplankton, which they either filter feed through their gill rakers or hunt individually.

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