Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Even though the NOAA National Weather Service seasonal outlook calls for ‘above average temperatures’ and ‘below average rainfall’, the Alabama gulf coast version of winter recently arrived with a week long period of below average air temperatures. This may well bring the water temperature down into the lower 60s range we ordinarily experience in late January. Of course even precise measurements vary a bit, and shallow water cools off much faster than deeper water. Official locations for monitoring coastal water temperature are either still out of commission, or are far from the Baldwin coast beaches. And keep in mind the waters of the surfzone and back bays can at times be 10 degrees cooler than those reported just a few miles offshore. Deeper water takes much longer to cool off because it cools from the top down. Fish know this instinctively, and often respond to cooling water by moving to deeper (warmer) locations where the temperature is nearer their ‘comfort zone’. Not unlike snowbirds migrating southward to escape more severe winter weather. LOL!
A rapid cool-down in the water (more than 5 degrees) can put fish (and other cold-blooded) sealife into thermal shock. This makes them ‘sluggish’, usually keeping them from feeding for a couple of days until conditions moderate and they adjust. Fishermen trying their luck during these colder-than-average periods should remain mindful of that and seek out any advantages nature might afford them. Look for deeper pockets of water near the shore within casting distance. Try to fish later in the day as the incoming tide may bring in warmer water (slightly). Plus the sun can warm the shallow waters of the surf zone enough to tip the balance to encourage pompano, whiting, red and black drum to feed during the last few hours of daylight. The times of rising tides in late January shift slightly earlier in the day, and the amount of daylight is now noticeably longer. These factors are often better for afternoon beach anglers to take advantage of more favorable (and comfortable) fishing conditions.
Perdido Pass has historically provided this scenario on a large scale in mid winter. It is usually the focal point of wintertime fishing activity, especially around the NEAP tide periods (January 17th through 21st in this fortnight). But recently reported catches of pompano, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, bluefish and even permit may well be affected by cooler water and the commencement of dredging activities in the pass. Every few years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has to dredge the pass to maintain the channel and remove excessive shoaling. Especially after a significant storm event such as hurricane Sally. Tens of thousands of cubic yards of sand must be removed from the channel and placed on the west side of the pass where the natural littoral process can spread it farther westward, replenishing those gulf beaches and sandbars. But this work intermittently interferes with from-shore fishermen in two ways. Active construction zones on shore may deny entry or egress to the jetties. Plus the dredging activity and spoil placement can affect water clarity (temporarily) as fine sediments trapped deep in the sand are stirred up and redistributed by winds and currents. Just another piece of the puzzle for anglers to decide when and where to fish, and for what. Plus, finding live bait can issue for the baitshops.
Fortunately, the public beach accesses from Fort Morgan to Perdido Key still provide miles of surf angling opportunities for pompano, whiting, bluefish, black and red drum. Recently folks got stirred up about the Gulf State Park finally getting around to installing pay-to-park kiosks at the rest of their beach parking venues (see page 18 story). Winter weather gives us anglers plenty enough challenges to catching fish already.
Work to reopen the portion of the Gulf State Park Pier still attached to land is slated to be completed sometime in February. Anglers are hopeful and anxious the weather cooperates. So we may soon utilize one of the most popular venues on the coast. Good luck fishing!
Pictured: Robin Martin of Orange Beach with a beautiful pompano; our own David Thornton with a keeper sheepshead.
Even though the NOAA National Weather Service seasonal outlook calls for ‘above average temperatures’ and ‘below average rainfall’, the Alabama gulf coast version of winter recently arrived with a week long period of below average air temperatures. This may well bring the water temperature down into the lower 60s range we ordinarily experience in late January. Of course even precise measurements vary a bit, and shallow water cools off much faster than deeper water. Official locations for monitoring coastal water temperature are either still out of commission, or are far from the Baldwin coast beaches. And keep in mind the waters of the surfzone and back bays can at times be 10 degrees cooler than those reported just a few miles offshore. Deeper water takes much longer to cool off because it cools from the top down. Fish know this instinctively, and often respond to cooling water by moving to deeper (warmer) locations where the temperature is nearer their ‘comfort zone’. Not unlike snowbirds migrating southward to escape more severe winter weather. LOL!
A rapid cool-down in the water (more than 5 degrees) can put fish (and other cold-blooded) sealife into thermal shock. This makes them ‘sluggish’, usually keeping them from feeding for a couple of days until conditions moderate and they adjust. Fishermen trying their luck during these colder-than-average periods should remain mindful of that and seek out any advantages nature might afford them. Look for deeper pockets of water near the shore within casting distance. Try to fish later in the day as the incoming tide may bring in warmer water (slightly). Plus the sun can warm the shallow waters of the surf zone enough to tip the balance to encourage pompano, whiting, red and black drum to feed during the last few hours of daylight. The times of rising tides in late January shift slightly earlier in the day, and the amount of daylight is now noticeably longer. These factors are often better for afternoon beach anglers to take advantage of more favorable (and comfortable) fishing conditions.
Perdido Pass has historically provided this scenario on a large scale in mid winter. It is usually the focal point of wintertime fishing activity, especially around the NEAP tide periods (January 17th through 21st in this fortnight). But recently reported catches of pompano, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, bluefish and even permit may well be affected by cooler water and the commencement of dredging activities in the pass. Every few years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has to dredge the pass to maintain the channel and remove excessive shoaling. Especially after a significant storm event such as hurricane Sally. Tens of thousands of cubic yards of sand must be removed from the channel and placed on the west side of the pass where the natural littoral process can spread it farther westward, replenishing those gulf beaches and sandbars. But this work intermittently interferes with from-shore fishermen in two ways. Active construction zones on shore may deny entry or egress to the jetties. Plus the dredging activity and spoil placement can affect water clarity (temporarily) as fine sediments trapped deep in the sand are stirred up and redistributed by winds and currents. Just another piece of the puzzle for anglers to decide when and where to fish, and for what. Plus, finding live bait can issue for the baitshops.
Fortunately, the public beach accesses from Fort Morgan to Perdido Key still provide miles of surf angling opportunities for pompano, whiting, bluefish, black and red drum. Recently folks got stirred up about the Gulf State Park finally getting around to installing pay-to-park kiosks at the rest of their beach parking venues (see page 18 story). Winter weather gives us anglers plenty enough challenges to catching fish already.
Work to reopen the portion of the Gulf State Park Pier still attached to land is slated to be completed sometime in February. Anglers are hopeful and anxious the weather cooperates. So we may soon utilize one of the most popular venues on the coast. Good luck fishing!
Pictured: Robin Martin of Orange Beach with a beautiful pompano; our own David Thornton with a keeper sheepshead.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!