Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 6/14/23

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 6/14/23
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton

Our weather sure does exhibit a near tropical summertime pattern long before the Solstice occurs June 21st. Warm humid mornings with lows in the lower 70s are the norm, along with a fair chance of thundershowers near the coast around sunrise each day. Light breezes allow the heat to quickly build over the land once the sun gets higher during the morning. Then temperatures near 90 spark off thundershowers over inland central Baldwin County as seabreezes from the Gulf and Mobile Bay collide. That boundary usually pushes farther inland and northward through the afternoon while the atmosphere remains more stable near the beaches as long as the wind blows in from the Gulf. But of course nearly anything is possible now that Hurricane Season has begun.
Fishing, or rather catching has slipped into a summer pattern as well for anglers ‘in the know’ on the Gulf State Park Pier. Most concentrate on Spanish mackerel and spadefish whenever they are biting. All through June, spadefish are a great target species for kids and grownups of all ages. They are easy targets, fun to catch, and taste great according to Tom Duncan, who fishes at the pier several mornings each week. Tom likes to use a small piece of fresh-dead shrimp on a hand-tied double drop rig, usually with a 1/2 oz weight at the bottom. “It’s sometimes more weight, sometimes less, depending on the wind and the current.” Tom says. He has been using two size 2 Gamakatsu circle hooks, which have been working pretty well on the small mouth of the spadefish.
There have not been as many speckled trout or pompano around the shallow end of the pier since the June full moon has passed. But pier patrons on “the nub” have seen some good times when schools of Spanish mackerel occasionally came through. Bluefish along with plenty of ladyfish have been landed intermittently too. Most have been caught on small jigs, bubble rigs, spoons or plugs, and even small live baitfish or live shrimp. As has been the trend, keeping hooked fish away from the abundance of sharks is a challenge in of itself. So “over tackling” with medium heavy rods and 20 pound braid is the best way to keep your fish away from sharks. Jack crevelle and “bull” redfish are another reason to “tackle up” on the pier this month. Plus tarpon should soon begin their annual parade past the pier.
It was recently announced that FEMA approved the $13 million bid for repairs to the Gulf State Park Pier. The southern octagon has been marooned from the rest of the pier since September 2020 when Hurricane “Sally” knocked out five piling sets. The work is scheduled to commence later this year.
Repair work and re-striping will keep part of the Perdido Pass Seawall Park closed from the bridge to the Gulf Restaurant for a couple of months. But elsewhere around the pass anglers have still been catching good numbers of ladyfish, blue runner, and bluefish, with occasional spanish mackerel. Incoming tides are still the best whenever the boat traffic is not too hectic.
Meanwhile anglers along the beaches need to fish early or late in the day to avoid throngs of swimmers. In many locations where and when the beach is crowded, it is simply not safe to fish at those times. Only secluded spots, near the end of a long walk offer fishermen refuge from the crowds during the day. Of course the best fishing action occurs during the first few and last few hours of daylight anyway. Plus the air and water have gotten hot enough that it is better to avoid the heat of mid day. That is coincidentally the time when the incoming tide goes slack. Even during the NEAP tide period around June 25th, the highest water of the day is still centered around noon. Fishermen have also been trying to avoid scattered patches of sea grass and bryozoan which have meandered ashore in the light winds and currents. That situation changes constantly as the masses of “seaweed” are pushed about in the surf zone as conditions change each day.
Another potential hazard anglers should watch for is stingrays lying on the bottom in the surf zone. They are in shallow water to give birth, which provides them some protection from marauding sharks, their primary predators. Stingrays are usually quite docile, yet very wary of humans approaching them. They can react quite quickly when threatened though. Yielding the stiff spine at the base of their tail like a rapier. So maintaining a mutually respectful distance is the safest way to observe them. Lightning is another hazard for fishermen to be aware of because they are commonly out on the beach early in the morning when thundershowers are more likely to be building near shore. Relocating a few miles down the beach to a different venue will usually get you away from active lightning areas. There are even phone apps which can warn you if lightning is within a dangerously close distance.
And remember summer time is jellyfish time. Each year is unique as to what species of jellies are present along with their density, which varies from tide to tide. Swimmers and fishermen should maintain a watchful eye for stinging nettles in the water or even wrapped around fishing lines. On the pier, be cautious leaning against the railing, as there may be pieces of jellyfish tentacles stuck to it. Their sting is painful especially for children, and can ruin your day just by contacting one on bare skin. There are some commercial products that work well to help ease the sting, but it still hurts for a while.
Pompano are still available, though in only a fraction of their spring abundance. Look for them on calm mornings feeding just off the beaches where receding waves and rip currents wash mole crabs (“sandfleas”) back into deeper water troughs. Sandfleas make great bait for pompano and whiting on a single dropper rig and light tackle. Still, many anglers find using pieces of fresh dead shrimp easier and almost as effective. These fish are quite line-shy and even spook from shadows or brightly clad figures on the beach. When pompano fishing from the beach, I like to wear a long-sleeve performance shirt with a neutral background color so my outline blends better with the beach or sky. It works well for wadefishing too.
Speckled trout are still available at first light in the surf on topwater and subsurface lures. Look for trout in the beach trough between the toe of the sand out to the beach sandbar in three to six feet of water. You might also encounter the hard fighting jack crevelle. These huge 15 to 25 pound jacks travel in schools along sandbars looking for mullet or other baitfish. They respond well to a big, noisy surface popper five to seven inches long. The tackle needs to have plenty of backbone to subdue the jack without prolonged stress on the fish or the angler. So, a medium heavy 8 or 9 foot rood with a reel that holds a couple of hundred yards of 40 pound braided line will do the job. They can be landed on lighter tackle, but a prolonged battle is detrimental to both the fish and fisherman.