Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 10-10-23

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 10-10-23
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton

Fall like weather has finally made its presence felt along the Baldwin County coastline as a succession of cold fronts has ushered in cooler and drier air. The area is likely to continue in a deficit of rainfall at least through this fortnight with the exception of occasional storm systems that drench the area for a day or two. Our water temperatures are on the decrease too, as we typically see the Gulf cool from the upper to middle 70s this time of year. Anglers are still seeing bluefish in the surf along with some decent numbers of pompano and flounder. Early morning jack crevelle can still be found around the point near Fort Morgan, but more black and red drum should be on the prowl there, especially at night. Try topwater poppers for jacks and bull reds when they are schooling near the surface, or large spoons or paddle tail soft baits when they are not visible. Or use cut mullet or blue crabs on bottom to target red and black drum any time near the point, or along the banks of the Intercoastal Waterway along Canal Road (Hwy 180) between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. This affords for some leisurely fishing for a family or a few good friends as everyone strings out along the bank.
Fisherfolks still have at least until the end of October to try the Gulf State Park Pier before it closes in November for an indefinite period to restore access to the end octagon. The pier was breached by Hurricane Sally in September 2020 when over 200 feet of decking was knocked down by the huge pounding surf from the storm. The first phase of the repair project will be to remove the fallen debris and use that to make several underwater reefs nearby. The work is expected to continue until at least late spring, or into early summer. Let’s hope they have good weather and luck putting this popular venue back together again!
October is usually one of the better months to catch spanish mackerel from the pier. Aggregations of small LYs (three inch long young-of-the-year Scaled and False herring) around the pier often trigger feeding frenzies of mackerel, bluefish and jacks.
Traditionally anglers would freeline the small baitfish to target mackerel which sometimes exceed three pounds. But the Bubble Rigs are probably the most popular method nowadays, especially whenever sharks are a concentrated nuisance around the pier. Anglers are forced to use heavier tackle just to pull the hard fighting mackerel away from the ever hungry sharks. That kindof defeats the fun of fishing for these sporting spotted speedsters.
This may be a good time to target “whiting” (Gulf kingfish) in the shallow water around the pier when the gulf is not too rough. Schools can be spotted from up on the pier, but they are quite spooky of heavy weights striking the water nearby. Whiting which may exceed 12 inches in length (about 1/2 pound) can be easily targeted on light or even ultralight spinning tackle with pieces of shrimp and/or Fishbites. Fishbites endures on the hook much longer than ordinary shrimp when the pinfish are being pesky bait stealers. Try a #6 kahle or Tru-turn single hook with just a splitshot or two to sightcast whiting schools. They can be scrappy fighters even pulling a little drag on 4# or 6# spinning tackle. They occasionally exceed 14 inches (a pound) and are good eating when they are big enough to fillet.
Work also continues under the Perdido Pass Bridge at Alabama Point to repair the damaged boardwalk and parking lot. This second phase of that project may not be completed until at least later in November.
Meanwhile maintenance dredging will continue in Little Lagoon Pass at least until the major beach replenishment project begins off West Beach in Gulf Shores early in November.
Hopefully this work will not interfere too much with fall fishing for flounder at that site before flounder go out of season November 1st. This closure was deemed necessary by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources several years ago, along with an increase in the size limit to 14” and a reduction in the creel limit to 5 per person per day.
In recent years numbers of flounder have rebounded to the point it seems more anglers are again targeting them, especially in the fall. Fishing on bottom with bull minnows or finger mullet is a time honored traditional way to target flounder, but many angler are using soft plastic lures on weighted jigheads nowadays. This allows the angler to cover more bottom at a faster rate than with the live baits.
When available, small LYs are a great bait to use at the Lagoon or Perdido Pass. Just about every gamefish eats them, plus the ever present, ever ravenous pinfish. Hordes of these sea bream gather in the passes this time of year and make short work of any soft bait like shrimp. Even baitfish are quickly killed by the pinfish which peck out the eyes and soft belly of small baitfish. But, guess what? Pinfish are edible too! They fry up much like freshwater bream (bluegill and such), and some are even big enough to fillet.
With stronger running tides through October 24th and after October 29th, anglers would best be best served to fish early and late in the day. The NEAP tide period around October 26th affords much less change in water level unless we are experiencing some kind of storm. Otherwise look for an early morning bite with the fast falling tide, and perhaps another fish feeding window during the late afternoon, early evening when the incoming tide picks up some steam.
Otherwise near slack current around the time of low tide during the middle of the day is often not conducive to fish feeding en masse. At least the weather should be great through this period, affording for a fine time outdoors through most of this fortnight. Cooler temperatures would be more comfortable to fishermen and coo