Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 2/22/2 3
Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Much to the delight of all, weather indicators through the foreseeable future call for continued seasonal to occasionally above seasonal temperatures. Plus with daylight hours getting a little longer each week, our water temperatures have risen a few more degrees into the middle 60s. All this is indicative that the bulk of winter weather may well be behind us, sans some late freeze in March. While that is not unheard of, once an early spring weather pattern settles in, the odds of freezing weather soon fades.
For shorebound fishing, this could mean seeing additional pompano and whiting (Gulf kingfish) active in the surfzone along with more flounder. And the sheepshead spawn (or at least part of it) could begin around the end of this lunar cycle as we approach the full moon of March on the 7th. They typically slip into an amorous mood in March once the water temperature is sustained above 65 degrees. Look for sheepshead around Perdido Pass jetty and around the Gulf State Park Pier. Best bait would be a live fiddler crab or small shrimp when fish are suspended near the hard structures (piling or rocks). But when sheepshead are schooling on the bottom a ghost shrimp on a light to medium class tackle presentation is hard to beat. If the current is running hard, try a single drop rig made of 10# to 20# fluorocarbon line. Keep the hook size modest so the sheepshead might unsuspectingly suck it into its mouth along with the bait. Any bite or bait twitch is more detectable with this setup. And slightly raising the rodtip will add enough pressure to make the sheepshead “bolt”, so it practically hooks itself.
This fortnight begins and ends with a NEAP tide period. During the week in between as we transition from February into March, the daily tidal variation will be nearly two feet some days. It may not sound like much, but in our lil corner of the world this is huge! And a lot of water moves in and out of Perdido Pass on a daily basis. This has a profound effect on fish movements and feeding patterns there and elsewhere along the coast. Inshore it means stronger currents in the Intercoastal waterway except near the time of the tide change. That occurs in the late afternoon/early evening time frame, and often makes beach fishing more conducive around that time.
Conversely, the early morning fishing period has still been slow along the beaches and at the pier while the water level is still relatively low. But through the day as more water fills into the surf zone, fish follow it in and begin to feed. Look for beach points where the shoreline curves out toward the Gulf and fish toward the transitional areas where the water depth changes abruptly. Fish like pompano, whiting, bluefish, and even redfish and black drum like to roam along the sandbar slopes in relatively deep water looking for prey items dislodged by waves breaking in the shallower areas. If the water is clear, look for the color change from light to dark green. If the surf is up, fish around the impact zone where waves break. Especially if the whitewater from breaking surf suddenly stops rolling. And look for any rip currents which move bait to waiting fish. Place your bottom rigs in these zones to be more successful, and vary the casting distance until you can locate a school or feeding zone.
Not much unlike the early March arrival of Purple Martin scouts in our region, schools of small Spanish mackerel could show up around the pass and pier too, IF the water stays relatively warm. These lean, mean mackerel are hungry after their long journey and they feast on 3 inch long bay squid in the surf zone and near shore waters. That means a small white jig, like the locally produced 5/8 ounce Looney jig is an ideal tool for catching these mackerel. Anglers can effectively cover a great deal of water with the jig, and the single hook is much safer and cheaper than the aptly named Gotcha plug, sporting two treble hooks. These popular 7/8 ounce lures cast great and perform well for mackerel, but have a bad habit of hooking a few fishermen and cost 3 to 4 times what a jig costs. Any way you sling, it is a good idea to protect your lure investment with a piece of heavy monofilament leader. About a foot or two of 40 pound clear monofilament line works fine to prevent most cut offs due to razor sharp mackerel teeth.
This is also the time of year when speckled trout tend to filter into the surf zone as they leave the warming tidal creeks and rivers. Trout will gather into pre-spawn schools through March and often feed heavily in anticipation of that. Specks like a moving current in the Lagoon Pass, and tend to feed along the sandbar drop offs during periods of low light. Wade fishing this time of year necessitates the use of waders, preferably insulated chest high ones to keep out water and chill. Trout feed primarily on small mullet and other finfish pushed around by the current. So any lure that imitates this action should work. Sinking or suspending MirrOlures and MirrOdines have long been popular for trout. Likewise, topwater lures can be quite effective at times too, especially in low light or poor water visibility.
It seems the worst of this winter weather may well be behind us. So we look forward to better fishing.
(Clockwise from top left) Jerry Graff from Presque Isle,Wisconsin brought in a appx. 34” 20 lb. red drum while surf fishing close to the Sea and Suds in Gulf shores with a pompano rig and shrimp; Larry Williams hoists this fine black drum caught by Dathan, his 10 year old son. They live in Gulf Shores and love fishing the Intercoastal Waterway.