Alabama anglers can now catch a ‘different’ kind of trout.
When talking to people on the Alabama coast, “catching trout” refers to “seatrout,” commonly called speckled trout or their white trout cousins.
Not native to Alabama, rainbow trout can’t handle sweltering Alabama summers and swift, frigid, rocky streams are hard to find in the Cotton State. Most people in Alabama probably only see rainbow trout in pools at boat shows where children can fish for them.
Therefore, most Cotton State anglers must travel long distances, especially from the coast, if they want to tempt colorful rainbows. To find rainbow trout, most Alabama anglers must head to eastern Tennessee, northern Arkansas or northern Georgia – the closest places to Alabama where people can find good fishing for rainbows.
The state of Alabama did stock rainbow trout in a few areas. The cold tailwaters of the Sipsey Fork River below the Lake Lewis Smith Dam southwest of Cullman is the only place in Alabama where anglers can catch rainbows during the hottest months. Frosty waters flowing off the bottom of the deep reservoir can maintain a trout fishery all year long.
Alabama anglers can also find seasonal rainbow trout fisheries in the spring-fed Mud Creek in Tannehill State Park near McCalla in Jefferson County. The state record rainbow, a 9-pound, 1-ounce fish, came from Mud Creek near Birmingham. Some ponds in Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison and Walker counties also offer seasonal trout fishing during the fall and winter.
Since the fall of 2019, though, the city of Gadsden added a new place where anglers can fish for rainbows in Alabama. The city began stocking the multi-hued fish into Black Creek, which runs through Noccalula Falls Park. Black Creek eventually flows into the Coosa River.
“Noccalula Falls cascades more than 90 feet into the Black Creek ravine,” described Hugh A. Stump III, executive director for Greater Gadsden Area Tourism. “It’s probably four or five miles by water from where we put the fish to the Coosa River. I haven’t heard of anybody catching trout in the lower parts of creek, so we don’t think the fish are getting down there. They seem to be holding up here at the top by the falls.”
The idea of releasing rainbow trout into Black Creek came from local fly anglers, like the members of the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club. Many members travel frequently throughout the country to pursue their favorite sport but can’t always get on the road as frequently as they would like. They wanted to create an opportunity to catch trout closer to home.
“We have a really active group of fly fishermen in Etowah County,” Stump commented. “We have many local fly-fishing enthusiasts who travel often to fish in other states. Some people thought that Black Creek might be able to hold rainbow trout, so we tried it and it worked! In November 2019, we bought about a thousand trout and released them at the falls. But it’s hard to get really close to the falls, so we had to use long tubes to get the fish in the water.”
The trout did well in the creek so, the city released more hatchery-raised rainbows in the 10- to 12-inch range in November 2020 and again in 2021. They plan to do the same every year to give local anglers and visitors additional sporting activities.
“People can start fishing Black Creek in mid-October each year,” Stump detailed. “They can fish from dawn until dusk. It’s all catch and release until the end of April. After that, people can keep up to five trout per day until late June because the water gets too warm for the trout. When the water gets too warm, the trout start dying, but we haven’t seen many dead fish. I think most get caught.”
During the catch-and-release period, try to keep all trout in the water for unhooking as long as possible. Release the fish quickly so they suffer the least possible injury and stress. When done properly, trout can survive to fight again with the same vigor. Some might live through the summer if they can find sufficient cold water.
“Local fishery biologists tend to think that the trout do not hold over the summer here because the water gets too warm, but I’ve seen pictures of people with trout in the summer,” Stump remarked. “I think a few of them might survive all year. The system has some pools down in the gorge that are shady all day long. Trout might get in that water and stay there.”
Anglers fishing Black Creek must use only fly tackle with single barbless hooks on artificial baits. They cannot use live or natural baits or lures with more than one hook. Also, anglers cannot fish for anything else except rainbow trout in these waters.
Rainbow trout eat practically anything, but mostly other fish and insects, particularly in small streams. Even a monster rainbow might suck down a midge so tiny an angler can barely see to tie it on a fly leader. Wet or dry flies work very well for trout in Black Creek. For bigger fish, throw a streamer that somewhat resembles a small baitfish.
To reach Black Creek, anglers must hike down a trail to the gorge. They should find plenty of places along the bank or on boulders where they can cast a fly rod. The best fishing for rainbow trout typically occurs closest to the falls where agitated water creates and contains more dissolved oxygen.
“The gorge is pretty deep,” Stump warned. “It’s a bit of a hike down there, but that’s part of the adventure of fishing Black Creek. It’s a very scenic place. We’re just really excited about giving people something else to do in Gadsden.”
To fish Black Creek, anglers need to buy a regular Alabama state fishing license, plus a trout permit from the city of Gadsden. Money raised from permit sales allows Gadsden to buy and release more fish each year.
“Many people in Alabama probably never saw a live rainbow trout until we put them in the creek here,” Stump opined. “Other people who fish for trout regularly are really excited to hear about another opportunity to fish for trout in Alabama. We are seeing tourists come to town, spend the night and fish. People are coming from all over the Southeast, not just Alabama, to fish for trout here. We’re selling more permits each year.”
Anglers can buy a daily trout permit or a seasonal one at the Noccalula Falls Campground office. For online purchases and more information, see www.flyfishgadsdenal.com.
While in the area, anglers tired of catching rainbow trout can try for big crappie in Weiss Lake or fish the Coosa River for giant spotted bass. Also, try Lake Logan Martin or other waters for lunker largemouths. For more information, contact Greater Gadsden Area Tourism at 256-549-0351 or 888-565-0411. Online, see www.greatergadsden.com or look up their page on Facebook.
Photos courtesy of the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club of Gadsden, AL.