Alabama’s Fishing Regulations and Catch Limits for 2024

As an avid angler looking to fish in Alabama’s abundant waters in 2024, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date on the latest fishing regulations and catch limits. Adhering to these rules not only ensures a successful and enjoyable fishing trip but also helps preserve Alabama’s diverse aquatic ecosystems for generations to come.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Alabama’s fishing license requirements, size and creel limits, seasons, and special regulations for both freshwater and saltwater fishing in 2024.

Fishing License Requirements

A valid Alabama fishing license is required for anglers 16 and older to fish in public waters. You can purchase licenses online from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or from approved license agents like sporting goods stores and bait shops.

Licenses are valid from September 1 to August 31 the following year. Alabama offers annual and short-term licenses for both residents and non-residents:

  • Annual Freshwater Fishing License (Resident): $14.05
  • Annual Saltwater Fishing License (Resident): $23.50
  • 7-Day Trip Freshwater License (Non-Resident): $29.65
  • 7-Day Trip Saltwater License (Non-Resident): $32.75

Some exceptions apply:

  • Alabama residents 65 or older are exempt from needing a fishing license
  • Residents on active military duty home on leave can fish without a license
  • Residents fishing in their county of residence with a pole and line on Alabama’s Free Fishing Day (usually in June) don’t need a license

It’s important to note that additional permits or licenses may be required for certain activities, such as fishing in Wildlife Management Areas, participating in fishing tournaments, or harvesting certain species like trout or speckled hind. Always check the Outdoor Alabama website for the most up-to-date information on license requirements and fees.

Freshwater Fishing Regulations

Alabama boasts an incredible diversity of freshwater fishing opportunities, from the mighty Tennessee River in the north to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in the south. Whether you’re targeting largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, or bream, it’s essential to know the statewide and water-specific regulations to ensure a legal and sustainable fishing experience.

Statewide Freshwater Regulations

  • No closed season: You can fish for freshwater game fish year-round in Alabama
  • Rod and reel limits: On certain reservoirs, you can’t fish with more than 3 rods and reels per person
  • Trotlines, snag lines, and snare lines must have tags with the owner’s name and address, fishing license number, or phone number

Size and Creel Limits for Popular Freshwater Fish

SpeciesDaily LimitSize Limit
Black Bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, shoal bass)10 in combination12″ minimum on most waters*
Crappie309″ minimum on most waters**
Catfish (blue, channel, flathead)120No size limit
Bream (sunfish)50No size limit

Some waters like Guntersville and Harris Reservoirs have special size restrictions for black bass
Weiss Lake has a 10″ minimum length limit for crappie

It’s crucial to measure your catch accurately to ensure compliance with size limits. Fish should be measured with their mouth closed and tail lobes pressed together, from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail. If a fish doesn’t meet the minimum length requirement, release it immediately to help maintain healthy populations.

Special Regulations for Specific Waters

Always check for special regulations posted at access points, as some waters have rules that differ from statewide regulations:

  • On the Sipsey Fork from Lewis Smith Dam to the Mulberry Fork confluence, you can only fish with 2 rods or reels per person
  • The Chattahoochee River and its impoundments have special creel limits in reciprocal waters
  • On Lewis Smith Reservoir, you can’t keep more than 2 saltwater striped bass over 22″

Before heading out, consult the Outdoor Alabama website for a complete list of special regulations by water body. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, so do your due diligence to avoid potential fines and help protect Alabama’s freshwater fisheries.

Saltwater Fishing Regulations

With over 600 miles of tidal shoreline and world-class saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama is a premier destination for anglers seeking inshore and offshore adventures. However, many popular saltwater species are subject to seasons, size limits, and bag limits to ensure sustainable harvests and healthy fish stocks.

Seasons and Closures for Popular Saltwater Fish

Some popular saltwater species have seasonal closures to protect populations:

  • Red Snapper: Alabama state and federal waters opened to private and state-licensed charter anglers on May 26, 2023 for 4-day weekends (Friday-Monday) and closed October 17 when the quota was reached
  • Greater Amberjack: Recreational season was open August 1-24, 2023
  • Gray Triggerfish: Recreational season opens March 1, 2024 and remains open until the annual catch limit is met

To stay informed about in-season closures and reopenings, sign up for email updates from the Alabama Marine Resources Division or follow their social media channels. You can also check the NOAA Fisheries website for federal season information.

Size and Creel Limits for Key Saltwater Species

SpeciesDaily Bag LimitSize Limit
Spotted Seatrout6 per person (1 allowed over 22″)15-22″ total length slot limit
Red Drum3 per person (1 allowed over 26″)16-26″ total length slot limit
Flounder5 per person14″ minimum total length
King Mackerel3 per person24″ minimum fork length
Cobia1 per person up to 2 per vessel36″ minimum fork length

Reef fish like red snapper, gag grouper, and gray snapper also have specific size and bag limits. Always check the Outdoor Alabama website for the most current regulations before fishing.

When measuring saltwater fish, use total length for most species (from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail) and fork length for mackerels and cobia (from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail). If a fish doesn’t meet the minimum size, release it immediately with as little harm as possible.

Shark Fishing Regulations

Alabama follows federal rules for prohibited shark species. For allowable sharks:

  • Atlantic Sharpnose and Bonnethead: No size limit, 1 per person daily
  • Other species: 54″ minimum fork length, 1 per person daily

If you catch a prohibited shark species, release it immediately without removing it from the water. Use circle hooks and cut the leader close to the hook to maximize the shark’s chances of survival.

General Fishing Regulations

Some general rules apply statewide:

  • You can’t transport more than one day’s creel limit of fish away from where they were caught
  • You can’t fillet fish or remove their heads on public waters, unless being immediately eaten
  • It’s illegal to release live baitfish into public waters
  • The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries offers angler recognition programs for trophy-sized fish

Stay Informed and Fish Responsibly

Fishing regulations may change year to year based on the latest scientific data and management strategies. Always check the Outdoor Alabama website for the most current information before wetting a line.

Other helpful regulation resources include:

  • The Fish Rules App for quick, on-the-go access to rules
  • NOAA Fisheries for federal fishing rules in Gulf waters
  • Local bait and tackle shops for area-specific updates

By staying informed and complying with Alabama’s fishing regulations, anglers play a vital role in conserving the state’s incredible fisheries for current and future generations to enjoy. So get your fishing license, know before you go, and get ready to make lasting memories fishing Alabama’s abundant waters!

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