When it comes to a family/fishing vacation, the best of both worlds is difficult to find. In proximity there would have to be the potential to catch quality fish, enjoy top-notch entertainment, fine dining, delicious treats, family involvement and museums that will inspire you to read a book, watch a movie or sing a song. I have found such a place.
Last week, my daughter Jourdan and I traveled to Tuscumbia, Alabama and checked in to the Cold Water Inn. I’ve stayed in cheap cabins and nice hotels, but this goes down as my all-time favorite. Good complimentary breakfast and an evening “Happy Hour” with beer, wine and soda.
Wednesday afternoon found us at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Museum one of two studios the Swampers accompanied many stars on hit records like the Rolling Stones, Lynard Skynard, Paul Simon and Aretha Franklin who found “The” sound in this little studio.
Thursday morning, we toured Ivy Green, the estate where Helen Keller was born and raised. After this visit you will want to watch “The Miracle Worker” movie.
Construction workers were installing a white marble statue of Helen Keller along a pathway on the property. Either the marble or the carving was donated. Of significance to Jourdan was the scrap from the carving was used to make heart-shaped necklaces. There are but a few and the marbling was a little different in each one. This rare piece will be treasured for its uniqueness and as a reminder of the good time we shared.
Fishing guide Brian Barton was waiting for us at a ramp about two miles south of the Wilson Dam on Pickwick Reservoir. A cold front brought a blue bird day and that usually computes to a tough bite. “All I want is for Jourdan to catch a five-pound smallmouth,” I told Barton.
Jourdan landed a couple of smallmouth in the five-pound class, plus three stripers and some smaller bass. I got smoked. We were drifting minnows and I was making the mistake of setting the hook when I felt the hit. I caught one three-pounder but missed five by not letting them take the bait.
Barton knows of three smallmouth weighing over eight pounds being caught this spring. A year ago a 9.1 pounder was weighed and released. “The future of this fishery looks bright. We have good numbers of big bass and a lot of smaller fish, as well.
Locals report the fishing on Pickwick to be the best they’ve seen in 10 years. Brian told us of two anglers who, on the first Saturday in March, caught over 160 lbs. of bass. Their top five weighed over 33 lbs. the tournament limit was anchored by a 7.4 lb. largemouth. The other four were smallmouths.
Ironically, you don’t need a topo map for this 46,100 acre, 67 mile long lake just fish a short
stretch below the Wilson Dam. The lock is on the north side of the dam, embraced by a narrow strip of land that protects a pool of water from the current, then there is a point of land that shoots out from the dam lastly followed by the water below the turbines. During flooding, the TVA lets a lot of water through the dam. The fish move out of the current and into this stillwater area. The big bag of fish were reportedly caught on tandem, willow-leaf spinnerbaits.
This spring, the lake has produced four tournament limits heavier than 30 pounds. In one of those contest, a 27 lb. bag failed to earn a check.
Brian Barton said, “The best months for smallmouths are March, April, October and November.”
Early December can be good too, but Brian is deer hunting by then. Find Brian Barton on Face
Book or call 256-412-0969. Barton will guide your for big catfish too. This dam area gave up an 89-pounder in a catfish tournament, this spring.
Obviously, there are plenty of fish to be found in other sections of the lake, especially big crappie.
There are so many places to fish in the “Shoals” area. Wilson Lake is another 15,500 acres. About 20 miles south of Florence there are four more reservoirs called Bear Creek Lakes: Cedar Creek, Bear, Little Bear and Upper Bear. Barton likes to fish Cedar Creek for crappie.
Big crappie were weighed at a Crappie USA tournament on Pickwick/Wilson, this spring. Seven fish weighing 13.20 lbs. won. Big fish weighed 3.08 lbs. with 10 crappie exceeding two pounds.
There are many good restaurants in the “Shoals” area. We ate at Ricatoni’s in Florence and then walked down the street to hear some country and rock at the Flo Bama Bar. The lead guitar played the hot lick of “Free Bird” with the instrument behind his head.
Most unique is the Rattlesnake Saloon billed as “The water hole under the rock.” You ride in the back of a pickup truck or walk across a field to a Native American rock bluff shelter. The Rustler Burger is touted as one of the “100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die.”
My daughter and I had planned on going, but it rained. We had a good steak at George’s Steak Pit, Sheffield, Alabama.
We also liked Champy’s Fried Chicken, Muscle Shoals; get the hot tamales appetizer.
Perhaps, the most fun was recording solos and a duet with Jourdan at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. This is a must visit.
Our final stop was the new Indian Mound and Museum. The mound is 43 feet high. The amount of work and time to create such a structure is incredible.
The museum features a large collection of ancient tools, pottery, jewelry, pipes and spears from Paleo to Native American.
The Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau folks will send brochures, help plan your
visit and give you discount coupons for tickets-800-344-0783, www.ColbertCountyTourism.org.