From shore fishing has been shaping up marvelously this month with the influx of some cooler, drier air. But the weather pattern has been two steps forward and one step back with periods of summer-like warm temperatures lingering. This has resulted in the water temperature lagging a few degrees higher than the lower 70s it is more typically this time of year. But it sure looks like these most recent fronts will bring the air and water temp down to more seasonable levels.
Some of the most positive news on the fishing front has been the first sheepshead of the fall season being caught from the seawall at Alabama Point. As the inshore waters cool down, sheepshead will move toward the Gulf. They often stage around Perdido Pass as well as other hard structures (rocks and piling) in the lower bays and in the Intercoastal Waterway. Small live shrimp are always a favorite bait for tasty sheepshead. But fiddler crabs may work better now to get through the hordes of ravenous pinfish and grunts. These can be especially pesky along the seawall at Perdido Pass and the jetties until the water cools down some more.
Many of the most successful anglers use minimal tackle setups to target sheepshead. Medium class spinning tackle in the 10 to 12 pound class is more than a match for most sheepshead which average two to 4 pounds in weight. Still a landing net on a rope, or a long handle will help you from loosing the ones you do hook. They have excellent eyesight and are usually very tackle wary. So keep the terminal gear to a minimum. Many anglers simply tie on a small hook (single, kahle or treble) and add a splitshot or two depending on wind and current.
Sheepshead aren’t particularly fond of swimming in a strong current, so at those times it may be more advantageous to fishermen to concentrate their efforts in the quiet corners of the pass or behind current breaks. The NEAP tide period centering on November 22nd and 23rd will provide the least current for anglers to contend with. But those days can be tricky as the tide vacillates back and forth. Any wind over about 10 miles per hour can influence the tidal flow, especially on these days. So anglers should pay close attention to the details of predicted tide flow and wind speed/direction to be more successful.
Days with more tidal change, or with moderate surf may better serve anglers on the Gulf beaches. Surf fishing along the coast seems to be getting better with each passing front. Most anglers are targeting pompano which have re-surged in numbers since the storms. The recent calm periods between fronts have allowed the beach sandbars to rebuild and some very ‘fishy’ troughs and points are developing along the beaches. These troughs old timers would call holes are just a few feet deeper than the surrounding areas of sea bottom. But they provide respites for whiting, pompano, and drum to rest from the waves and find food. Waves breaking over the shallow sandbars may dislodge potential prey items for the fish which seem to always be hungry in anticipation of winter.
The great thing about these near shore sand structures is they are within reach of even light gear. Just about any 6 ½ to 7 foot 6 to 10 pound class spinning tackle is suitable for this close in fishing. Even ultra-light tackle may be employed to have more fun and detect more bites from these wary mini-game fish. Standard terminal gear would be a Fishfinder Rig (Carolina rig). That is a 12 inch mono leader with a #6 or #4 kahle hook. The weight would vary upon conditions of wave height and wind speed and direction. But typically a ¼ to one ounce egg sinker is sufficient. Bait would be a small fresh dead shrimp, or pieces of larger shrimp cut in pieces about an inch long. Sandfleas, ghost shrimp or pieces of cut crab may be even more effective at times when the fish may be warier. Whiting (Gulf kingcroaker) are the primary fish caught with this method, though pompano are the intended quarry. Red and black drum, along with other by-catch like permit may show up as well.