Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Most anyone recently walking the sandy white beaches of Perdido Key or Baldwin County would ponder what is going on in those mysterious green waters lapping at the shore. The sheer number of anglers surf fishing has been exceeded only by the multiple numbers of rods staked out in rodholders, and fortunately, the great numbers of pompano migrating along the coast.
The annual spring ritual of pompano to flood the surfzone all long the Emerald Coast is in effect prior to their upcoming spawn in the coming weeks. By the next full moon (later this month), most will be gone. In fact savvy pompano anglers have already reported a slight drop in the average size of the pompano they have been landing in the past week or so.
That has been the trend ever since Jason Motes landed his 6 pound 14.6 ounce Alabama record tying ‘pompa-saurus’ on April 18 (Google mulletwrapper for the story). It seems the water level in the Gulf may have dropped a bit after that fish was removed. But still plenty of legal sized pompano continue to be landed all along the north central Gulf coast. Be aware of the size and creel limits for the beach you are fishing from, as Alabama and Florida regulations differ a good bit.
We are at the height of the period most surf anglers wait all year for. And the pompano have not disappointed, even as many new anglers have been introduced to the art of pompano fishing. Many have already checked them off their bucket list, and may have even partaken in the delights of eating these hard-fighting fish. They can be baked, broiled, smoked, pan seared, or used to make ceviche or sashimi. Many local restaurants offer ‘catch and cook’ options to customers who bring their own fillets.
Not to be overlooked is the plethora of incidental species landed by these fishermen using the popular double dropper rigs baited with pieces of dead shrimp, tipped with Fishbites or Fishgum. Everything from hand sized spadefish weighing a few ounces, to arms length cownose rays exceeding 30 pounds have been caught lately with this method.
Well, only some of those bigger fish have actually been put on the beach. Often to the delight of a large audience, and relief of the exhausted angler.
Blue runners, locally called “hardtails” have made their appearance recently, and their numbers increase almost daily. Their cousins the ladyfish (locally called “skipjack”) will soon follow as the water temperature climbs from the low 70s through the mid 70s during the upcoming fortnight. By the end of this month, these jack species will replace pompano as the predominant surf zone species. Though edible in their own right, and lacking no fighting ability for their size, these jacks have a much different diet from pompano, and do not share the same delectable firm, white flesh of pompano.
Other from-shore anglers at the Gulf State Park Pier, Alabama Point jetty and seawall have also been catching some pompano. Most by free lining live shrimp on light tackle.
Though spanish mackerel are getting a lot more attention now, as the larger female mackerel in the plus three pound range have been showing up. These can also be caught drifting live shrimp, though a heavy monofilament leader (40 or 50 pound test) is recommended to prevent most cutoffs from those sharp mackerel teeth. More mackerel are caught using lures though. Gotcha plugs are popular because they are effective, but the two swinging treble can be dangerous. As are the ever popular Bubble rigs and Rapala X-raps. So for safety sake, the pier asks mackerel anglers to refrain from overhand casting while mackerel fishing.
The water has warmed enough for the schools of scaled sardine and false herring (locally called “LYs”) to hold around the pier. These plankton eating baitfish are primarily attracted to the pier as refuge from the larger predatory fish like mackerel, bluefish, jacks and red drum. In fact there have been several recent ‘blitzes’ when hundreds of these large red drum and jack crevelle would erupt to the surface in pursuit of the LYs. Anglers with large jigs, spoons and plugs with heavy line and rods have landed quite a few bull reds from the nub. That’s how fishermen refer the 105 feet open south of the middle platform. There’s not a lot of fishing room, but anglers have made the best of it!
Pictured: Comparing bull reds caught during a ‘blitz’ near the pier recently; A large school of jack crevelle and bull redfish feeding on the surface near the pier
(Photos by video blogger Bama Beach Bum)Most anyone recently walking the sandy white beaches of Perdido Key or Baldwin County would ponder what is going on in those mysterious green waters lapping at the shore. The sheer number of anglers surf fishing has been exceeded only by the multiple numbers of rods staked out in rodholders, and fortunately, the great numbers of pompano migrating along the coast.
The annual spring ritual of pompano to flood the surfzone all long the Emerald Coast is in effect prior to their upcoming spawn in the coming weeks. By the next full moon (later this month), most will be gone. In fact savvy pompano anglers have already reported a slight drop in the average size of the pompano they have been landing in the past week or so.
That has been the trend ever since Jason Motes landed his 6 pound 14.6 ounce Alabama record tying ‘pompa-saurus’ on April 18 (Google mulletwrapper for the story). It seems the water level in the Gulf may have dropped a bit after that fish was removed. But still plenty of legal sized pompano continue to be landed all along the north central Gulf coast. Be aware of the size and creel limits for the beach you are fishing from, as Alabama and Florida regulations differ a good bit.
We are at the height of the period most surf anglers wait all year for. And the pompano have not disappointed, even as many new anglers have been introduced to the art of pompano fishing. Many have already checked them off their bucket list, and may have even partaken in the delights of eating these hard-fighting fish. They can be baked, broiled, smoked, pan seared, or used to make ceviche or sashimi. Many local restaurants offer ‘catch and cook’ options to customers who bring their own fillets.
Not to be overlooked is the plethora of incidental species landed by these fishermen using the popular double dropper rigs baited with pieces of dead shrimp, tipped with Fishbites or Fishgum. Everything from hand sized spadefish weighing a few ounces, to arms length cownose rays exceeding 30 pounds have been caught lately with this method.
Well, only some of those bigger fish have actually been put on the beach. Often to the delight of a large audience, and relief of the exhausted angler.
Blue runners, locally called “hardtails” have made their appearance recently, and their numbers increase almost daily. Their cousins the ladyfish (locally called “skipjack”) will soon follow as the water temperature climbs from the low 70s through the mid 70s during the upcoming fortnight. By the end of this month, these jack species will replace pompano as the predominant surf zone species. Though edible in their own right, and lacking no fighting ability for their size, these jacks have a much different diet from pompano, and do not share the same delectable firm, white flesh of pompano.
Other from-shore anglers at the Gulf State Park Pier, Alabama Point jetty and seawall have also been catching some pompano. Most by free lining live shrimp on light tackle.
Though spanish mackerel are getting a lot more attention now, as the larger female mackerel in the plus three pound range have been showing up. These can also be caught drifting live shrimp, though a heavy monofilament leader (40 or 50 pound test) is recommended to prevent most cutoffs from those sharp mackerel teeth. More mackerel are caught using lures though. Gotcha plugs are popular because they are effective, but the two swinging treble can be dangerous. As are the ever popular Bubble rigs and Rapala X-raps. So for safety sake, the pier asks mackerel anglers to refrain from overhand casting while mackerel fishing.
The water has warmed enough for the schools of scaled sardine and false herring (locally called “LYs”) to hold around the pier. These plankton eating baitfish are primarily attracted to the pier as refuge from the larger predatory fish like mackerel, bluefish, jacks and red drum. In fact there have been several recent ‘blitzes’ when hundreds of these large red drum and jack crevelle would erupt to the surface in pursuit of the LYs. Anglers with large jigs, spoons and plugs with heavy line and rods have landed quite a few bull reds from the nub. That’s how fishermen refer the 105 feet open south of the middle platform. There’s not a lot of fishing room, but anglers have made the best of it!
Pictured: Comparing bull reds caught during a ‘blitz’ near the pier recently; A large school of jack crevelle and bull redfish feeding on the surface near the pier
(Photos by video blogger Bama Beach Bum)

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