List of Common Neely Henry Lake Fish Species [Updated]
Located near Gadsden, Alabama, Neely Henry Lake is an 11,200-acre impoundment of the Coosa River. Prior to colonization, the lower Coosa River was ruled by a Native American named Chief Tascaluza. When the Spanish came to the area in 1540 to look for areas to conquer, they left behind disease and chaos in the Native American tribe that resided in the lower Coosa River. By the time the British and French came to the area to look for opportunities to trade and colonize in the late 1600s, the Native Americans had diminished in number. This made colonizing the land relatively easy for Europeans after some battles, treaties, and trading with the Native Americans.
For decades after, towns were built all along the Coosa River, and industrialization became a significant game-changer for the Coosa River. First, steamboats popped up along the Coosa River that transported goods and people between Rome, Georgia, and Gadsden, Alabama. Once railroads became implemented, steamboats were no longer needed to transport goods, and thoughts of developing the Coosa River began to emerge.
After multiple projects of constructing dams along the Coosa River, one of the last dams built by the Alabama Power Company was completed in 1966. The Neely Henry Dam is a gravity concrete and earth-filled dam that spans 605 feet in length and is 104 feet tall. Today, Neely Henry Lake still serves as a periodic source of hydroelectricity to Alabama, but it is also a well-liked recreational area for Alabamians.
Sandwiched between Weiss Lake and Logan Martin Lake, Neely Henry Lake has a few different outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors. One popular area to visit at the lake is the James D. Martin Wildlife Park, which borders Neely Henry Lake and provides a walkway to stroll and look at many different bird species that frequent the area. Visitors are also able to fish on boats or in spots along the 339 miles of shoreline of the lake.
Fishing is a very popular activity at Neely Henry Lake because the waters are overall very clear and calm, but there are also lots of woody and rocky coverings and more turbid areas that help harbor many different fish species. Below are some of the fish species that can commonly be found in Neely Henry Lake.
List of Fish Species in Neely Henry Lake
1) Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
Spotted bass are one of the most popular sporting species in Neely Henry Lake, and these fish really enjoy the 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 are another highly popular sport fish in Neely Henry 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. Currently, Auburn University is conducting a study on the population structure of spotted and largemouth bass, and they released 800 bass into Neely Henry Lake. If one of these tagged bass are caught, it should be reported to the researchers, and a reward will be given.
3) White bass (Morone chrysops)
White bass can be found in Neely Henry Lake where the water has a slight current. 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 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. There is currently a 15-fish daily creel limit for white bass in Alabama.
4) Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)
Striped bass are sometimes found in Neely Henry Lake, and 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.
5) Hybrid striped bass (Morone saxatilis x Morone chrysops)
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 Neely Henry 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.
6) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
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 Neely Henry Lake. This species will most likely be found near covered areas and the shoreline of the 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.
7) Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)
Blue catfish are a close relative of channel catfish, and they are a very abundant catfish species in Neely Henry 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.
8) Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)
Flathead catfish can be found in areas of Neely Henry 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.
9) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
Black crappies are relatively common in Neely Henry 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.
10) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
White crappies are less abundant at Neely Henry 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 will look slightly different than females because the males will 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.
11) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Bluegills are a common sunfish in Neely Henry Lake, 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 small 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.
12) Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
Redear sunfish are found in Neely Henry 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.
13) Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)
Freshwater drum, also known as sheepshead, is a fish that will most likely be found in the shallow, muddy waters of Neely Henry Lake. This species gets its name from the drumming or croaking noise males can make with a specific muscle in their body to attract mates.
Freshwater drum are characterized by their silver bodies with a lateral line that extends all the way through their caudal fin. They also have a steeply sloping body that gives them the appearance of a humpback. This species averages about 10 – 14 inches long and will usually weigh up to five pounds. Drum have large teeth that help them eat a variety of prey at the bottom of the lake including snails, insects, small fish, and invasive zebra mussels.
14) Gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum)
Gizzard shad are a very common prey species that can be found near the shorelines of Neely Henry Lake where there are higher winds and turbidity. This species has a silvery-blue back that fades 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 Neely Henry 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.
15) Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense)
Threadfin shad is a prey species commonly found in Neely Henry Lake, and they are mainly seen in shallower waters where the temperature is warmer. These fish have a silvery-blue back that fades to whitish 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.