Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Though we are still technically in spring, conditions for shore and pier fishing have recently changed to an early summer pattern. Rough and dingy water seem like distant memories now with the Gulf being so calm and clear.
Plus, the water temperature has finally reached 80 degrees. And that slow warming trend should slowly continue throughout this month.
The flies in the ointment for shorebound anglers seem to be finding hungry fish during the mid day period, and dealing with an outbreak of June grass. That is the local name for a fine filamentous green algae which intermittently invades the surfzone during the summer months. These often occur after a prolonged period of rough surf which releases a lot of nutrients into the water column near shore.
Though harmless, this suspended “green slime” is easily trapped on fishing line and lures, causing untold miseries for anglers. Until it clears out, the only remedy is to try a different location, or time, as the masses of green goo slowly creep along the shoreline. The situation may be exasperated by slighter tides expected during and around the NEAP tide period June 4th and 5th.
The June grass has even affected fishing recently from the Gulf State Park Pier, though the problem usually decreases farther from shore. Of course the sharks don’t seem to care much, but popular target species like spanish mackerel, pompano, speckled trout and even spadefish have been relatively scarce around the pier lately.
We can expect that to change for the better though, as we move into the new moon period during the coming fortnight. The amount of moonlight can have a profound effect on all shallow water fishing when that water is calm and clear, as has been the case. Even a slight increase in clouds, wind and waves should help get fishing back on track. Meanwhile, ladyfish (skipjack), and blue runners (hardtails) should be around the pier in sufficient numbers to entertain those so inclined. And intermittent incursions by jack crevelle and “bull” redfish will really get things stirred up!
With the current limited fishing options available on the shortened pier, savvy anglers would take one of three approaches. Light tackle (4 to 10 pound class spinning rigs) to target baitfish, spadefish, even whiting near the beach, or to throw small jigs for spanish mackerel, pompano, ladyfish and blue runner. Or to freeline live shrimp for speckled trout or spanish mackerel. Medium tackle (12 to 20 pound class) for throwing bubble rigs, Gotcha plugs, or fishing for pompano.
And heavy tackle (30 to 65 pound class spinning rigs on 8 to 10 foot rods) for casting large jigs or plugs, or drifting live baits for bull redfish, jack crevelle, etc. There should be something available to please just about everyone in the course of each day. But patience and kindness are essential ingredients for a good time on the pier!
Surf casting with set rigs to target pompano is still quite viable. But their numbers have vastly diminished in the surf zone since the May full moon and spawn. There will be increasing numbers of ‘bycatch’ for these anglers of ladyfish, blue runner, bluefish, stingrays, small sharks, etc.
Those intent on catching pompano would do much better wadefishing the shallow beach points and casting to the deeper troughs with jigs like the Goofy jig or Silly willy rig. These consist of a brightly painted ½ or ¾ ounce banana jig with an unweighted fly tied on a 10 inch loop knot made of 10 to 20 pound clear fluorocarbon leader. By methodically working the edges around the points, an angler can cover a lot more water in search of hungry pompano. Bring spare components though, as ladyfish and spanish mackerel will take their toll on the thin leader material. But this method is very often successful.
Also worth the effort, is waking up very early to greet the dawn while plugging the shoreline for speckled trout. With the calm water and waning moon, anglers should get into position to cast topwater plugs even before the eastern sky turns color, for what many call “the magic hour.” That’s when hordes of hungry trout invade the shallow surf zone in search of an early meal. The action can be fast and furious for about an hour, until the sun breaches the horizon. Then, like a switch being thrown, they suddenly disappear. You might catch a few more by wading into the water and casting sinking or suspending lures like MirrOdines or even Zoom flukes on a ¼ ounce jig head.
But for the most part, this is a very early bite. Though they may binge again late in the afternoon as the tide is falling. Locate a nice rip current near the beach sandbar and work lures there until it is too dark to see. If it is a good spot, the trout should return for a late snack!
So many options and so little time. 😉
Pictured: The early morning speckled trout bite on the beach has been very good for prepared anglers like Dusty Hayes of Orange Beach.