Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Few things are guaranteed in life, but the weather being HOT in mid August along the coast is one of them. The hottest of days start out with little or no thundershower activity along the coast. Soon the rising sun turns the temperature up to ‘broil’ by mid morning. Then we slowly simmer for the rest of the day.
When high pressure is parked overhead we can expect very little relief from seabreezes because the sinking air does not allow much thunderstorm activity to form inland either. Our water temperature will languish in the middle to occasionally upper 80s. This is at the upper limit of tolerance for some local fish species. Natural die-offs of Scaled and False sardines (LYs) may continue along the beaches. And we may even see some young Gulf menhaden (pogies) expire in the canals and back bays from temporary oxygen deprivation due to the extreme heat. But that’s just a baitfish’s life along the north central Gulf Coast. We need to stay hydrated, under a wide brimmed hat, and behind sunglasses.
Hopefully, the respite we have experienced with the tropical weather this past month will continue. But the tropics are beginning to stir again as we enter the busier ‘Cape Verde’ portion of the season. It usually takes about a week for these systems to cross the tropical Atlantic Ocean. And another week for them to transit the Caribbean Sea to even get into the Gulf of Mexico. In the meantime, there is plenty of time to sweat, watch the weather, prepare, plan, and fish until anything might arrive.
Fishing action has been about standard summer mode recently. The June Grass is abating in many locations. But still persists in some spots, like the west side of Alabama Point jetty at Perdido Pass. Though east of there to Johnson Beach, the water has been mostly clear providing spotty early morning action with ladyfish (skipjack), blue runner (hardtail), bluefish, and even spanish mackerel. Gulf and Northern kingfish (whiting and ground mullet) are a distinct possibility for those bottom fishing near shore with small pieces of shrimp fished near the beach on light tackle.
Farther out near the longshore sandbar an occasional pompano may happen by. Inside the pass, along the seawall, action has been limited as much due to the immense boating traffic on weekends as to the condition of the water. But some spanish mackerel have been caught there, along with occasional redfish, ladyfish, blue runner, bluefish, many undersized mangrove snapper, and hordes of ravenous pigfish and pinfish.
Another variable to keep in mind while planning your fishing trips is the tides will be NEAP (August 12-13). Then they will run stronger the following week as we approach the full moon (August 22nd).
Most of the beaches to the west (along Fort Morgan peninsula) are clear of June Grass now. And catches of pompano (even limits) have been reported there along with whiting, bluefish, speckled trout, blue runner, redfish, ladyfish, and the ever present hardhead catfish.
Try topwater plugs or poppers before sunup for blues and trout. Then switch to suspending twitchbaits, jerkbaits, or spoons afterwards. Pompano are usually caught with bottom rigs baited with shrimp and Fishbites or Fishgum. It can be a grind, with culling through a lot of bycatch species. But it often results in a pompano payoff!
The Gulf State Park Pier has presented patrons a mixed bag of target species this summer like speckled trout, slot redfish, spanish mackerel and even a few pompano. Typically, most of the action has been with ladyfish, blue runner and small spadefish, of which there seems to be no shortage this summer.
There is no shortage of sharks to chase any of these fish either. During the previous fortnight, there were a couple of days when king mackerel were around the pier in good numbers. By estimations, about two dozen were hooked, but only two or three made it to the pier intact (using very heavy tackle). Sharks took the rest. A sad testimony to the same pier that produced a hundred or more king mackerel a day for a week just 10 years ago. The current shark situation is simply intolerable for most pier anglers, who really want something to be done to remedy the rampant resident shark predation of their catches!
Hot as it is, anglers still have a multitude of fishing options available the next couple of weeks. Beat the heat by fishing early or late in the day. Hope you catch a cooling breeze and some fish for dinner.
Pictured: HD Swanson shows off two fat pompano and Kayla Brown a nice sized bluefish caught in the surf on the Ft. Morgan peninsula.
Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook