Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Here we are in early September when it certainly still feels like summer in lower Alabama. Thank goodness we dodged the double barrel tropical bullet from tropical storm Marco and hurricane Laura. But the waves topped near 12 feet, and sustained over 6 feet for several days thereafter which caused a bit of beach erosion in some places. Now that the water has calmed down and cleared some, these locations have the potential to become great fishing spots.
Along the beach look for the tell-tale sandy scarps and landward curves in the beach that signify a nearby trough. There are usually points and sandbars surrounding these beach troughs which attract bait and fish as well. The steep slope on the beach side of a near shore sandbar is about the closest thing to ‘structure’ fish will find along the otherwise featureless beaches. Schooling fish (like ladyfish, bluefish and even speckled trout) will use the shallow edges of sandbars to trap baitfish. And the shoreward slope provides a respite from waves and currents for whiting, redfish and flounder. So don’t overlook giving these a try, as they are within easy casting or wading distance from shore.
Depending on the level of the water, these ‘holes’ may hold anything from baitfish and blue crabs to flounder, whiting, ground mullet, ladyfish, bluefish, redfish, speckled trout and even pompano. Just be prepared to try different lures and baits and move around a bit to find the best pattern each day.
The strongest tidal movement of this fortnight will be between September 9-16. This should bode well for excellent beach fishing opportunities as the visible moon wanes through the period. Coincidentally, high tides in the morning and low tides in the evening will provide predictably dependable fishing patterns on a day to day basis through what has the potential to be a relatively stable weather pattern with light to moderate winds and seas. Watch out for thunderstorms though!
Most beach anglers either set fish, with bait (usually cut shrimp) fished on the bottom. Or they throw lures (spoons, plugs or jigs) to target the variety of free roaming gamefish. Casting ½ to 1 ounce silver spoons in the surf is a great way to locate schooling fish such as ladyfish, bluefish or spanish mackerel. Occasionally they even catch speckled, redfish and flounder. A typical cast and retrieve routine is a great way to cover a lot of water to find fish, or pinpoint a good feeding location. Keep in mind a few of these species have sharp teeth (mackerel & bluefish) or rough mouths (ladyfish), so a foot or two long shock leader of 30# to 50# clear monofilament will help prevent getting your lure cut off. It is no fun to repeatedly loose $3 to $6 lures!
Topwater lures (like Skitterwalk or Heddon Spook) are a great way to target hungry fish in the surf when the waves are calm. But the action is early and usually short-lived, ending once the sun peeks over the horizon or clouds. But it sure can be fun for and hour or so with numerous visible strikes. And it may be productive for speckled trout, bluefish, etc. After that initial flurry, anglers can turn to slow-sinking or suspending hard baits (like MirrOlure, Unfair, etc.). The same fish that chased the topwater lures often move into slightly deeper water a little farther from shore for the next couple of hours.
By mid to late morning, most gamefish have moved into the longshore trough where the light is not as bright and they are relatively safe from predators. They can still be caught using jigs which can sink to the bottom. ½ to ¾ ounce leadhead jigs are relatively inexpensive standard fish finding lures. Some (like Looney Jigs) have been locally produced and catching fish along the Alabama coast for decades. The lure can be worked fast for mackerel, bluefish, and jacks. Or dragged along the bottom with a strip of fresh cut fish or Fishbites for flounder and redfish. In lieu of that later setup, a 3” or 4” Gulp shrimp fished on a naked jighead along the bottom works just about as well.
A relative newcomer lure to the Alabama Gulf Coast is the Goofy jig or Silly Willie jig setup. This is actually a brightly colored weighted ‘banana jig’ (½ to ¾ ounce) coupled with a 1 ½ inch long bait quill (fly) by tying a large loop knot. When cast, the jig sinks faster than the unweighted fly and they separate to each end of the loop. As the jig is ‘crawled’ along the bottom the fly hops up above it creating the illusion of a beach ghost shrimp chasing a smaller ghost shrimp. Fish attracted to the action often strike the tiny fly as well as the larger jig. This rig works well in clear water to target pompano. But also catches a lot of ladyfish, juvenile jack crevalle, whiting, redfish, etc.
When fishing is slow, the jig may be tipped with a 1 inch long strip of Fishbites, or a piece of cut shrimp. Often the problem with using shrimp this time of year is the plethora of small ‘bait stealers’ (pinfish, tiny pompano, whiting and small jacks). Fishbites is a good way to get around that because it stays on the hook so well and leaves a scent trail as it slowly dissolves in the warm water.
Here we are in early September when it certainly still feels like summer in lower Alabama. Thank goodness we dodged the double barrel tropical bullet from tropical storm Marco and hurricane Laura. But the waves topped near 12 feet, and sustained over 6 feet for several days thereafter which caused a bit of beach erosion in some places. Now that the water has calmed down and cleared some, these locations have the potential to become great fishing spots.
Along the beach look for the tell-tale sandy scarps and landward curves in the beach that signify a nearby trough. There are usually points and sandbars surrounding these beach troughs which attract bait and fish as well. The steep slope on the beach side of a near shore sandbar is about the closest thing to ‘structure’ fish will find along the otherwise featureless beaches. Schooling fish (like ladyfish, bluefish and even speckled trout) will use the shallow edges of sandbars to trap baitfish. And the shoreward slope provides a respite from waves and currents for whiting, redfish and flounder. So don’t overlook giving these a try, as they are within easy casting or wading distance from shore.
Depending on the level of the water, these ‘holes’ may hold anything from baitfish and blue crabs to flounder, whiting, ground mullet, ladyfish, bluefish, redfish, speckled trout and even pompano. Just be prepared to try different lures and baits and move around a bit to find the best pattern each day.
The strongest tidal movement of this fortnight will be between September 9-16. This should bode well for excellent beach fishing opportunities as the visible moon wanes through the period. Coincidentally, high tides in the morning and low tides in the evening will provide predictably dependable fishing patterns on a day to day basis through what has the potential to be a relatively stable weather pattern with light to moderate winds and seas. Watch out for thunderstorms though!
Most beach anglers either set fish, with bait (usually cut shrimp) fished on the bottom. Or they throw lures (spoons, plugs or jigs) to target the variety of free roaming gamefish. Casting ½ to 1 ounce silver spoons in the surf is a great way to locate schooling fish such as ladyfish, bluefish or spanish mackerel. Occasionally they even catch speckled, redfish and flounder. A typical cast and retrieve routine is a great way to cover a lot of water to find fish, or pinpoint a good feeding location. Keep in mind a few of these species have sharp teeth (mackerel & bluefish) or rough mouths (ladyfish), so a foot or two long shock leader of 30# to 50# clear monofilament will help prevent getting your lure cut off. It is no fun to repeatedly loose $3 to $6 lures!
Topwater lures (like Skitterwalk or Heddon Spook) are a great way to target hungry fish in the surf when the waves are calm. But the action is early and usually short-lived, ending once the sun peeks over the horizon or clouds. But it sure can be fun for and hour or so with numerous visible strikes. And it may be productive for speckled trout, bluefish, etc. After that initial flurry, anglers can turn to slow-sinking or suspending hard baits (like MirrOlure, Unfair, etc.). The same fish that chased the topwater lures often move into slightly deeper water a little farther from shore for the next couple of hours.
By mid to late morning, most gamefish have moved into the longshore trough where the light is not as bright and they are relatively safe from predators. They can still be caught using jigs which can sink to the bottom. ½ to ¾ ounce leadhead jigs are relatively inexpensive standard fish finding lures. Some (like Looney Jigs) have been locally produced and catching fish along the Alabama coast for decades. The lure can be worked fast for mackerel, bluefish, and jacks. Or dragged along the bottom with a strip of fresh cut fish or Fishbites for flounder and redfish. In lieu of that later setup, a 3” or 4” Gulp shrimp fished on a naked jighead along the bottom works just about as well.
A relative newcomer lure to the Alabama Gulf Coast is the Goofy jig or Silly Willie jig setup. This is actually a brightly colored weighted ‘banana jig’ (½ to ¾ ounce) coupled with a 1 ½ inch long bait quill (fly) by tying a large loop knot. When cast, the jig sinks faster than the unweighted fly and they separate to each end of the loop. As the jig is ‘crawled’ along the bottom the fly hops up above it creating the illusion of a beach ghost shrimp chasing a smaller ghost shrimp. Fish attracted to the action often strike the tiny fly as well as the larger jig. This rig works well in clear water to target pompano. But also catches a lot of ladyfish, juvenile jack crevalle, whiting, redfish, etc.
When fishing is slow, the jig may be tipped with a 1 inch long strip of Fishbites, or a piece of cut shrimp. Often the problem with using shrimp this time of year is the plethora of small ‘bait stealers’ (pinfish, tiny pompano, whiting and small jacks). Fishbites is a good way to get around that because it stays on the hook so well and leaves a scent trail as it slowly dissolves in the warm water.

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