Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 11/15/23

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 11/15/23
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton

Cooler weather and water brings change of season challenges to shorebound anglers along the lower Baldwin County coast. Recent periodic cold air outbreaks have been bracketed by longer periods with moderating temperatures. But rest assured, winter is coming. Significant rains are long overdue as the area endures a sustained drought that has influenced the inshore and coastal bite with clear water and higher than average salinity. A Gulf water temperature in the low 70s is right about what we should expect for mid November. But we usually experience another cool down by the end of November with water temps dipping below 70. But it will be difficult to predict very far in advance what this El Nino phenomenon has in store for us as winter edges closer.
The much anticipated beach re-nourishment project is now underway from West Beach to Little Lagoon Pass, and back eastward from the edge of the Gulf State Park to Gulf Shores Public Beach. So far beach anglers have not reported many issues besides the localized closures of about ¼ mile at a time. Some fine fishing “holes” were filled in around the 8th Avenue access though. So far the project has had decent weather and is proceeding a little ahead of the schedule. Consult the latest updates to see what venues are currently closed off, completed, or as yet untouched.
Even Little Lagoon Pass is being dredged again, though that activity may not be 24/7 like is occurring along the beaches nearby. Historically the pass is a good location for wade fishing for speckled trout, white trout, and even slot redfish this time of year. Especially during the late afternoon/evening incoming tide on the days immediately following the NEAP. Fishing the Gulf side sandbar drop offs during the morning outgoing tide can be productive too, as long as the waves are fairly calm and the water clear. Anglers will still have to pay to park at venues in Gulf Shores until the end of November.
Hunting around for good, uncrowded beach fishing spots through the months ahead could be almost as hard as finding the fish themselves. Displaced anglers who would have utilized the now closed Gulf State Park Pier will be scrambling to find other venues to fish along the beaches and at Perdido Pass.
The Seawall Park project at Alabama Point is getting closer to completion of Phase 2 and 3. This venue will provide more public access sometime in December to help offset the pier being closed. Other open Gulf State Park/Orange Beach venue parking lots from the Pavilion to Shell Beach east of the Perdido Pass Bridge now charge $15 for full day parking. There are no longer short term parking options available at these venues. For those staying longer than a week, the best option is to buy a year pass for $100. Though veterans can still get free parking stickers from the Gulf State Park office. The only free parking is in Perdido Key State Parks (Florida), Alabama Point Seawall Park, and west of Gulf Shores off Fort Morgan Road (Mobile Street, Burgoyne Place, and the Fort Morgan Pier).
Perhaps the best spot lately has been the catch and release bull redfish and black drum fishery near the point at Fort Morgan. Actually one of the most inaccessible areas on Pleasure Island, this is one of the most dependable and productive this time of year, especially for the big gamefish.
However the bite tends to slow down as the water gets colder and more baitfish move out into the open Gulf. But at least for now the action has been fairly predictable.
The next most productive area is the jetties and seawall at Perdido Pass. Once the water temperature cools into the 60s pinfish become much less active and that opens up better fishing prospects for redfish, bluefish and sheepshead. Artificial lures like spoons, plugs and jigs may be used to target the reds and blues from the jetties. While live bait like fiddler crabs and shrimp will get the attention of sheepshead along with the other species including flounder, even though the season on them remains closed until December 1st.
The strength and timing of daily tidal current is key to finding fish feeding around the pass as the morning outgoing tide dictates when these fish are feeding best, especially in the channel along the rock jetties. When the current is strongest, fish often hunker down behind large rocks and wait in ambush as food is swept to them. This is when lures are most effective.
Once the current speed slows around mid day, fish are freer to venture around in search of food. So a light tackle presentation of drifting or free lining live shrimp with minimal weight in the slower current can be most productive.
This covers more water and gets the attention of hungry predatory fish. Of course there are still plenty of non-target species in varying abundance like pigfish, pinfish, striped burrfish, and mangrove snapper. But that is always a part of using live bait, especially live shrimp. Look for current speeds to be slower and of shorter duration around the NEAP tide November 22nd.
Beach anglers can still find whiting (Gulf and Northern kingfish) and pompano in the surfzone from Perdido Key to Fort Morgan, though some may be dodging the active beach dredging in Gulf Shores. Lately pompano fishers casting far out from the beach have been having good luck with green colored, shrimp flavored Fishbites on double drop pompano rigs.
Be prepared to experiment with different rigs, baits, and casting distances to find the feeding zone and what the pompano like from day to day. Water clarity plus the amount of sunlight play a huge role in determining what the pompano will bite on, so experimentation is key to success.
When the Gulf is calm and clear, ghost shrimp are often the best bait to entice wary pompano. That is when presenting these soft baits on a Fishfinder rig or Carolina rig often garners more bites from pompano than the conventional double drop pompano rigs. Just be sure to use Magic Thread to secure fragile baits onto the hook, and check your bait every 10 to 15 minutes. Fresh baits will get more attention from pompano along with other game fish as the water gets cooler. Even much larger “bull” redfish and black drum won’t hesitate to eat these tasty morsels. Like one old fisherman said “Elephants eat peanuts, don’t they.”
The Intercoastal Waterway offers more shoreline venues for anglers to target black drum using pieces of crab fished on the bottom. Crabs are a favorite food for black and red drum this time of year, as the small menhaden and other finfish vacate the chillier back waters in favor of the relatively warmer and deeper Gulf. The bite is not as active as last month, but still fairly dependable. Though there may be days with little to no action depending on current, water clarity, salinity and other factors. Just keep trying different spots at different times of day (or night) until you can identify a pattern.
Sheepshead, redfish and speckled trout can be caught on live shrimp in the Canal at times too. Sheepshead especially hold close to hard structures like barnacle encrusted pilings and rock rip-rap. A light presentation is key, as is patience to seek out good locations holding fish. But the rewards can be bringing home several fine eating sheepshead!