Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
The first half of July offers shore-bound anglers a host of options as our summer pattern becomes fully established. Water temperatures have been a few degrees below average, but should rise into the middle 80s over the coming weeks. Most often, this time of year, early morning fishing is most successful. It’s usually most comfortable too, unless a thunder shower is pressing in on your location.
Be wary of lightning, and always be aware of your surroundings for other hazards like stingrays and jellyfish. Ladyfish, bluefish, speckled trout and spanish mackerel are the most common actively feeding species at this time. Anglers plugging along the shoreline at daybreak are most likely to encounter them while throwing topwater lures prior to sunup, if the gulf conditions are calm enough.
When it is rough, or after sunup, casting sinking plugs, jigs, one ounce silver spoons often get plenty of bites from these same hungry fish in the surf zone. Look for any rip currents or sand bar drop offs that allow the predatory fish to ambush baitfish. Relatively deep water is anything over three or four feet, but once the sun rises the fish seek even deeper water.
The persistent presences of seaweed in the form of June Grass, Sargassum and even “beach straw” have plagued surf and pier anglers alike for weeks now. Fishing anywhere from Perdido Key to Fort Morgan Point and beyond has been hindered or even eliminated entirely at times.
Even Perdido Pass and Little Lagoon Pass have been deemed unfishable too many days recently.
It turned out the tropical storm did not really help the situation much either. In fact the windy conditions and abundant rainfall may have only exasperated things. The conditions are quite fluid though, and tend to change from day to day at any location, especially with a shift in wind direction or speed, or even a strong change of tide level.
July begins in a NEAP tide phase, but tidal fluctuation increases to maximum soon after the 5th. Scout around and look for shallower points along the beach where winds and tides sweep away most of the seaweed to allow unfettered fishing.
Overall, fishing conditions should improve soon.
Pier fishing has really taken a hit lately from all the seaweed and dingy water. Some fish have been caught of course, small spadefish, ladyfish, blue runner, bluefish, redfish, flounder and even some pompano. But spanish mackerel have been conspicuously absent. Hopefully, that will soon change as we are in a dark moon phase, plus the winds should lighten up to more of a land breeze / sea breeze pattern.
Early July is historically THE month for tarpon to be sighted and hooked from the Gulf State Park Pier. That will be pretty difficult on the shortened pier, but there will likely be some anglers who cannot resist the opportunity to at least try. After all, there have been a good number of bull redfish and even jack crevelle caught from the abbreviated pier already this year.
Bottom fishing in the surfzone can still be productive too. There are some pompano around, as well as fair numbers of slot-sized redfish and whiting in the surf. Ladyfish, bluefish and spanish mackerel might be in the mix too. So keeping a rod rigged and ready to cast a spoon or bubble rig to fish striking on the surface is a good idea.
Otherwise, vary your presentation distances to find out what fish may be feeding within your casting range. Try pieces of shrimp or sandfleas with Fishbites for pompano from just off the beach, out to the longshore sandbar (IF you can reach it). Use another long rod with pieces of cut bait to target bluefish and redfish. Though incidental hookups with catfish, rays and small sharks may result instead. There are plenty of options and room some distance away from the more heavily used venues, and that may give you more fishing time.
Fishing from the Alabama Point seawall and jetty at Perdido Pass should improve after the seaweed situation is more favorable. Once the baitfish get in the pass on the incoming tide, the gamefish will soon follow. Spanish mackerel are the most popular target species, with bluefish and ladyfish being common by-catch. They all readily strike live bait like shrimp or sardines (LYs), which can be caught with a 3/8 inch mesh castnet, a small sabiki rig or red ribbon rig. They also hit a variety of spoons, jigs and small plugs. Mangrove snapper and redfish should be available even more often, and can be caught on live or dead bait at times. Remember though, mangrove snapper are considered reef fish in Alabama, and require a $10 Reef Fishing Permit to retain. Know the regulations wherever you fish!
Pictured: Grant Arnold with one of the pompano he caught on a jig from the Gulf State Park Pier; Small scaled sardines (called LYs) can be caught from the Alabama Point seawall to use for live bait.
Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook