Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 4-2-24

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 4-2-24
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Early April is the cusp of true springtime along this stretch of the Gulf Coast. The weather is often exceedingly pleasant even though it is occasionally punctuated by cold fronts pushing through. Most of the productive fishing effort is focused on the days between fronts after northerly winds abate and waves subside allowing the water to clear. The air may still a bit chilly in the morning, but it warms up nicely in the afternoon, especially when the sun is out and the winds are light. Gulf water temperatures are typically in the mid to upper 60s in early April. That sparks a flurry of activity by fish such as pompano which are the main focus for most beach anglers. Pompano are gathering into pre-spawn schools all through the surfzone. That region, from just beyond the swash of the beach out to the longshore sandbar holds more and more pompano this time of year as the water warms this month. They are constantly searching for their usual prey items which are small invertebrates like mole crabs (called sand fleas) and beach ghost shrimp along with small clams and snails. So small pieces of shrimp or other offerings by anglers often get the fish’s attention, especially when presented with a little splash of bright color on a double drop pompano rig. The local bait shops in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer wide assortments of these popular rigs, along with bait and advice on how and where to use them.
The more productive days for pompano fishing usually have a bit of surf (from 1 to 3 feet), with winds less than 15 miles per hour, and fairly clear (green) water which allows the pompano to see their quarry. A moving tide is another valuable factor for pompano angling success, as it helps create rip currents that set up feeding stations for hungry pompano to gather. Any location where the longshore sandbar is within casting distance from shore is usually ideal, but the water and air are getting warm enough to allow bare legged anglers the option to wade and cast farther out.
Main thing is to keep adjusting the distance and presentation of your spread (two to 5 rods placed in sand spikes). Just be respectful of other anglers and aware of the presence of swimmers. It seems more people are on the beaches this year because the Gulf State Park Pier is closed for repair from damage caused by hurricane Sally in September 2020.
Work crews continue to make good progress there, with all of the 18 replacement piling being set into the bottom. But the work is just beginning to repair cracked piling on the octagon, in addition to all the railing, floor panels, electric lights, and plumbing that needs to be repaired or replaced for essentially the outer half of the pier. No official update has been provided as to a possible reopening date for the pier, but we can rest assured it will be ASAP.
Displaced fishermen will just have to use other available access to the water such as the recently reopened Seawall Park at Alabama Point on the west bank of Perdido Pass under the bridge. The east side will remain closed through April to maintain order there. Anglers on the seawall have not had much luck with sheepshead this spring, though many fishing from the west jetty have. Sheepshead spawning activity is now past peak, even as pompano are coming into their typical springtime of plenty. Plus some spanish mackerel have been caught from the jetty and a few from the seawall.
The NEAP tide period around April 7th will probably affect the bite of mackerel in the pass because the weaker moving tides do not stimulate as much feeding activity then. But the incoming tide each morning after that should bring in plenty of mackerel for seawall anglers. Gotcha plugs are always popular, but the two sets of treble hooks make them a bit dangerous too, especially for lesser experienced fishermen in more crowded situations. Single hook jigs and spoons usually work just as well, if not better when fishing for spanish mackerel because they are easier to unhook from the fish, or anything else that gets accidentally hooked.
Redfish still entertain seawall anglers, especially at night near the lighted areas. But don’t be surprised if a few speckled trout and bluefish start showing up among the catches, especially once the baitfish start gathering in the pass. Having the lights on again, and access to the area around the bridge should allow anglers access to several species as the year progresses.
Construction on the boardwalk at Mobile Street off Fort Morgan Road is still ongoing. So for the next few months access will continue to be restricted to using the Emergency Vehicle sand trail west of the current boardwalk. Just be aware beach erosion in that area sometimes leaves a beach scarp (cliff) with a dropoff as much as several feet. And the beach from the toe of the sand dunes may be quite steep, making egress with a beach cart more difficult than usual. The Project also includes improvements to the 30 vehicle parking lot to allow better drainage so rainwater will not stand for days as it now does.
Beach anglers all along the Fort Morgan Peninsula have been posting improved catches of whiting, with more pompano showing up each week as we ease into April. Look around for the beach points that allow easier casting into the longshore trough, and scout for any beach troughs in the process of opening up (getting wider and deeper). As water temperatures near 70 degrees look for more pompano and speckled trout to take advantage of these natural feeding stations.
Maintenance dredging at Little Lagoon Pass has progressed by deepening the channel closer to it’s mandated 6 foot depth. Fishing there should improve as water temps rise and more water flow is restored. Just be vigilant of drop offs and deep holes while wading in the area, especially when the water is dingy or lighting poor. The Lagoon pass is a still a good fishing spot, even though you have to pay to park there now.
Speckled trout are already active early and late in the day along the drop offs from the shallow sandbars. Lures are your best bet to target trout while avoiding bycatch like pinfish, croakers and lizardfish. Topwater lures can be quite effective before sunup and after sundown, or on cloudy days. Twitch baits like the sinking MirrOdine MR 18 the classic 52M or MR series do a great job of imitating the small fish these trout are feeding on. Waders will still be needed and the first or last light of the day is usually best time to fish there. If you are not afraid to work at it hard, there are some good fish to be caught there including speckled trout, flounder, redfish, white trout, and large croakers.