Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 10-19-22

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

Despite a few flies in the ointment (literally), this is pretty much the best time of year to be fishing along the north central Gulf Coast. Our options are wide open as we still have a good number of pelagic fish species around.
Though many of those are in the process of vacating the area during this fortnight as the water temperature cools through the upper to middle 70s. Certainly there are not near as many ladyfish and juvenile jack crevelle in the surfzone as in weeks past. And even pompano numbers have turned downward as many have already moved eastward through the Florida Panhandle. But there are plenty of fishing targets of opportunity for anglers willing to venture forth early or late in the day, or even in the dark. Finding some fish and conditions conducive to catching them has been quite a challenge of late, even for experienced anglers. But persistence and perseverance are keys to success, and finding a pattern of feeding fish to focus on can make even inexperienced anglers feel like a pro.
Sea grass in the surf zone is another element surf anglers have still been contending with. Rendering some beaches practically ‘unfishable’ certain days. But the cooling water should help in that respect, as will more frequent bouts of rough surf which should help clear the waters near the beaches. Overall though, set rig fishing has been pretty frustrating for most anglers.
Among the best alternative options available are mangrove snapper, even though their numbers and average size are down recently. But they remain a viable target species whenever a supply of small live baits (minnows or shrimp) can be found.
“Bull” redfish in the surf and especially near the Point at Fort Morgan are another seasonal target species that anglers have been successful with lately. Especially at night, and the rougher the better it seems. Small live baits like croakers and pinfish make ideal baits.
But most “bulls” on the beach are caught on fresh dead bait, like cut mullet and cracked crabs. These are commonly specimens much longer than the slot limit, even in excess of 40 inches and weighing 25 to 30 pounds. Definitely ‘big game’ fishing!
Flounder have been another option. And this year seems almost like ‘old times’ with catches of multiple fish from their traditional locations near passes, piers and jetties as they stage up before moving offshore to spawn next month.
In fact, the season for flounder has already closed in Florida (October 15), and will be closed in Alabama as well through the whole month of November. Not only have flounder been caught on live bait such as bull minnows, finger mullet, and live shrimp (when available), but quite a few have been landed on artificials. Soft plastic baits such as Fishbites Fight Club or Berkley Gulp Shrimp on a ½ ounce leadhead jig are quite successful, and even Egret Baits Voo-Doo Shrimp have been producing too.
The long awaited opening of the pier at Fort Morgan should provide another venue for flounder fishing along with other popular fall species such as white trout and sheepshead. Check around because the pier may be open by the time this report goes to print.
Spanish mackerel have been noticeably absent along the beaches and Gulf State Park Pier for the most part recently. But a few nice ones have been caught in the clear waters as they are fattening up for their immanent migration. Any three to five inch live baits may work when you can find them. But this time of year, spanish often respond just as well to most any of the usual lures from Bubble Rigs to ½ ounce white jigs, one ounce spoons, and 3 to 5 inch long hard plugs or diving lures.
Mid to late October was a historically a great time for catching spanish mackerel before the sharks started taking it over through the past 10 years.
Another traditional fall fishing ‘HOT spot’ has been Perdido Pass. This year however, fishing activity has been affected by the much needed dredging operation to remove shoaling in the pass. Though catches have not been totally shut down, the noise and dislodged sediments have been detrimental to catching at times. The bright spots are that the dredging is paused during the weekends, but may still be completed by the end of October. And once completed the water in the pass will be deeper, and the walk to the end of the west jetty won’t be as far a trek over the rocks 😉
Pictured: Bobby Craven landed his personal best pompano (18 inches at 2.5 pounds) from the Gulf State Park Pier; Stephen Franklin landed this huge bull redfish near the point of the Fort Morgan Peninsula, Pic by Bama Saltwater; Drake Burgett landed this ax handle spanish mackerel from the Gulf State Park Pier, Pic by Ellis “Cajun” Cattan.