The Best Places for Spring Fishing in the South


Fishermen working the brooks and streams of the Appalachians, the depths of the muddy Mississippi in the nation’s heartland, the freshwater lakes across the Heart of Dixie, and the salt of the Gulf of Mexico all have their stories to tell. Three professional storytellers, accomplished outdoor writers all, share their favorite spots, remote hide-outs, and go-to outfitters here.

The Great Smoky Mountains

Jim Casada is a son of the Smokies, born and raised in the Carolinas and a permanent devotee of the delicate science of fishing with streamer and nymph and fly.

“I think the finest fishing for wild trout to be found east of the Rockies is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and that’s especially true for those will to take shank’s mare to get back of beyond,” Casada said. “Streams I would particularly recommend in the Park include Forney Creek, Eagle Creek, Bradley Fork, and the upper Oconaluftee on the North Carolina side and the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River and Little River and its tributaries in Tennessee. The region also has fine delayed harvest fishing on the Tuckaseigee and Nantahala Rivers and Big Snowbird Creek outside the Park.

Wild trout common throughout the Smokies are a living connection to the land’s ancient history.
Wild trout common throughout the Smokies are a living connection to the land’s ancient history.

“The lower section of the Nantahala River, never mind the fact that it is an aesthetic nightmare when it comes to the constant kayak and raft ‘hatch,’ holds excellent populations of wild trout. In fact, if I had to go to one stream to get a mess of trout to release to grease, it would be there.”

To find your own section of water in the Smoky Mountains, visit

The Mississippi and Lake Ouachita

Keith “Catfish” Sutton of Alexander, Arkansas has fished for everything that swims at one point or another, and has successfully written about it all. His laurels as a communicator come from bodies as varied as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Izaak Walton League of America, and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, among many others. Though his travels have taken him far from home and into some of the most exotic waters of the world, his favorite spots for spring lie near home.

“Two good ones would be the Mississippi River for giant catfish, targeting blues especially, but also big channels and flatheads,” Sutton said, “and Lake Ouachita in Arkansas for monster striped bass. Some call it the Striper Capital of the World.”

For an introduction to the techniques and tactics of chasing the biggest catfish via rod and reel, visit To get after the big stripers in Lake Ouachita, check out

The Gulf and everywhere else

John Phillips of Birmingham, Alabama has published more than 6,000 articles on and 25,000 photographs of the outdoors and won the Professional Outdoor Media Association and American Sportfishing Association’s Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award in 2012. His recommendations include destinations for crappie, catfish, and bass, as well as the smorgasbord of saltwater denizens found from shallow to deep in the Gulf.

Filets of red snapper fresh from the Gulf are one of the great treats of time at the beach.
Filets of red snapper fresh from the Gulf are one of the great treats of time at the beach.

“These are people I’ve personally fished with,” Phillips said of his recommendations. “I know they know how to treat people, how to have a good time, and find them a lot of fish to catch. This is my list of the best-of-the-best.”

  • For crappie fishing on Kentucky Lake, Phillips recommends Steve McAdams. See what McAdams has to offer at
  • For crappie on Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake, and Lay Lake in Alabama, go with Gilford “Sonny” Sipes. You can call him at 205-640-5299 or email him at [email protected].
  • To chase bass and crappie on the world-famous lake in Guntersville, Alabama, give Phillip Criss a call at 205-461-5549. Check him out online at
  • For catfish and smallmouth on Lake Pickwick and Wilson Lakes on the Tennessee River in north Alabama contact Brian Barton at 256-412-0969. Find him online at
  • For saltwater inshore fishing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast contact Sonny Schindler at 228-342-2295. Sonny is online at
  • For offshore fishing out of Biloxi contact Mike Moore at 228-257-8357 or 228-392-8645. You can email him at [email protected] or visit his website,
  • For Alabama inshore fishing contact Gary Davis at 251-942-6298, David Brown at 251-961-6246 or Jay Gunn at 251-752-8040.
  • For offshore fishing specializing in family fishing trips out of Orange Beach, Alabama, contact Troy Frady at 251-975-8111 or visit
  • For bluewater fishing out of Orange Beach, Alabama, contact Johnny Greene at 251-747-2872 or go online to
  • For party boat fishing out of Orange Beach, Alabama, contact Randy Boggs at 251-747-4171 or find him online at
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