A couple hours' drive east of Smith Lake, another vast Alabama impoundment also supports a stripe fishery. Unlike Smith, however, Weiss Lake has never earned a wide-ranging reputation as striper water. A reservoir on the Coosa River, Weiss is far better known for its world-class crappie fishing than for stripers or any other sportfish.
Although Smith and Weiss lakes are both noteworthy striper lakes, and they are located in the same general part of the state, the two reservoirs couldn't be more different. In addition to being completely different in character, these two lakes support striper fisheries that are quite dissimilar.
SMITH LAKE impounds 20,120 acres in the hills of Walker, Winston and Cullman counties, with its acreage spread among several long lake and river arms. Deep water abounds throughout the reservoir, with depths of 200-plus feet not uncommon. The water is clear compared to most Alabama lakes, but not quite as clear as it was only a few years ago. Fertility has increased with more development around the lake and in other parts of its watershed.
Abundant deep water is a boon to the stripers, which find thermal refuge well below the surface during the hottest days of summer
Smith Lake gets stocked with only Gulf-strain saltwater stripes, which grow faster than Atlantic-strain fish. Smith was first stocked in the early 1980s and was the test lake for the Gulf strain. Today, Alabama uses only the Gulf fish, largely because they are more tolerant of warmer waters than are Atlantic-strain fish.
Smith Lake is stocked with 40,000 to 65,000 stripers per year. The target stocking rate is one fish per acre. However, the specific number is determined annually based on the density and makeup of the lake's threadfin and gizzard shad populations.
Weiss Lake has almost nothing in common with Smith Lake. While a couple of major tributaries flow from mountainous areas, Weiss' shoreline is generally gently sloped and has an abundance of shallow water. It is also highly fertile, and its waters are often stained. Weiss Lake impounds the Coosa River in the northeastern corner of Alabama. A small portion of its 30,000-plus acres spills over into Georgia.
Sometimes called "The Crappie Capital of the World," Weiss is obviously better known for its crappie population, which indeed serves up very good fishing. Many anglers don't even know that Weiss Lake has stripers in it, yet it actually offers very good fishing for the species. Some local anglers know a lot about the striper fishery, and the lake has gotten increasingly popular with area fishermen from Alabama and Georgia alike over the past few years.
Unlike Smith Lake, Weiss does not produce a lot of trophy fish. Stripers in the 3- to 7-pound range dominate the population, according to Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (DWFF) data. Quality fish of 15 to 20 pounds do show up from time to time, but real giants are almost unheard of.