Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook

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

Does it really seem like wintertime when the daily high temperatures are in the middle 70s? Indications are this unseasonably warm spell will continue, interrupted only occasionally by intrusions of colder continental air more commonly associated with the season. The water temperature, languishing in the upper 60s, is several degrees warmer than we typically have to begin a new year. 2021 brought many challenges to shore bound anglers, and 2022 seems to be starting on a similar track.
Historically, warmer than average winters favor better pompano fishing through the winter. Bluefish and “bull” redfish may be more active along the beaches and near the passes as well. Though Gulf kingfish (aka “whiting”), and sheepshead schools tend to be more spread out in these conditions. Even speckled trout may be found along the beaches if wet weather flushes them out of the river systems. But that doesn’t appear to be the case yet, so anything can and usually will happen.
One thing that will likely hold true to form, is that beach ghost shrimp will be the best bait a surf caster or pier fisher could ask for much of the time. Morning low tides with a north wind offer the best conditions for gathering ghost shrimp along the beach sandbars. Look for their tell-tale inch high mounds on emergent or shallow sandbars just off the beach. At a good location it shouldn’t take long to gather a few dozen. Plenty enough to fish with the remainder of the day.
Fishing could be good in nearby deeper cuts and drop-offs, especially with a strong rising tide during the afternoon. Also, on days with an onshore breeze and waves two to three feet high, which create breakers on the sandbars within casting distance from shore. Waves grinding over these bars dislodge food items for feeding fish which patrol along the shoreward side drop-off.
That is a great location for fishermen to place their set rigs in anticipation of a passing hungry fish. As well, pompano, whiting, and other drumfish may feed around points along the beach as the tide rises through the afternoon. Each day brings changes to weather and water conditions that alters where and when these fish might be feeding.
So, the savvy angler will keep looking until they find a cooperative school, and readjust during the day as conditions (like the tide) change.
Use just heavy enough gear to reach the desired spot. Often one ounce pyramid sinkers are plenty sufficient when using medium class spinning tackle in the 6 to 10 pound class.
Also, single drop rigs or even Fishfinder (aka Carolina) rigs may provide the best presentation to these fish which might be a little slow in biting your bait just because their metabolism is slower in the cool water. Fishbites and Fishgum are still viable attractants to your hook, but be sure to use the cooler water versions and don’t put too much on your hook. These fish usually do not feed ‘aggressively’, and most often seem to prefer just a “light snack” over a “heavy meal”.
Of course there will be the occasional large black or red drum or ray come marauding through your bait sprea100
and pick up one of these smaller offerings. But they too can be landed even on light tackle with a little skill, sufficient line capacity and proper patience.
Local live shrimp supplies continue to be interrupted by bad weather and other issues. Many shops supplement with shrimp imported from the Big Bend area of Florida, which may not be quite as compatible with conditions here. They stress easily, and temperature shock is the biggest problem.
Many sheepshead fishers prefer to use fiddler crabs to target their quarry. Again, supply issues may come into play. Fortunately, fiddler crabs require little care, and are quite hardy. Fishermen can buy them when available, and easily keep them for days until they get to fish. Just be certain they cannot escape captivity though, or you may have a very creepy (and stinky) problem to deal with.
Nothing much has changed at the Gulf State Park Pier as winter begins. No news has been released as to when we might expect to see construction begin to reconnect the ‘octi’ with the remaining pier. That part is still open, but not much is being caught there. The best bet seems to still be targeting the occasional sheepshead, or concentrate on croakers and whiting in the afternoon. Perdido Pass seawall and jetties should continue to provide some good fishing opportunities, mainly depending on favorable tide and water clarity conditions.
Of course live bait is always a good option, but not always available or a viable option. Medium sized silver spoons may still catch bluefish at times. Though in past years, I had better luck with plugs like Rapala X-Raps, or even topwater plugs in mild weather. But soft jerkbaits like the 4 inch Zoom Fluke on a ¼ ounce lead jighead are the most consistent producer.
They can catch bluefish, redfish and even speckled trout when they are around. Just be sure to bring plenty, as these fish often hold close to the submerged rocks near bottom. But like one ‘ole timer’ once told me about jetty fishing: “If you aren’t getting hung up once in a while, you are fishing it wrong.”
I hope this helps your winter fishing success!