Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 7/12/23

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook 7/12/23
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
One of the weather anomalies we often experience during an “El Nino” summer here along the Alabama coast is a persistent westerly wind flow. This pattern of light to occasionally moderate westerly winds is interrupted by occasional periods of scattered thunder showers and appears likely to continue through most of this fortnight, at least.
It also creates gyres or spiraling currents just off the coast which may lead to upwelling events. Upwelling brings relatively cooler, deep water from beyond the continental shelf to the surface and occasionally onto the shoreline.
This fickle phenomenon of a daily change of 10 degrees in water temperature (from the upper 70s to the upper 80s) has been recorded recently by the ARCOS station in Perdido Pass, as the tide starts coming in each morning. Such an event affects fish movements and feeding cycles, challenging angler success as much as the daily differences of cloud cover, wave height, tide phase and other conditions might. Another characteristic of these coastal vortexes can be a lessening of dissolved oxygen in the cooler water. This cannot be seen, but it may render the water fishless at times until conditions change more to the liking of the fish at your location.
As if that weren’t enough, keep in mind July is prime time for jellyfish blooms. Numbers of stinging jellyfish (called sea nettles) have been on the rise, so anglers, waders and especially folks swimming should be vigilant. If you are stung by a sea nettle, immediate attention can lessen the pain and duration of the irritation. Scrape off any jelly clinging to the skin with a piece of plastic like the edge of a credit card. Then treat the area with a commercial remedy or make a poultice with a warm, wet cloth and baking soda to ease the sting. Some folks are more reactive to jellyfish stings than others, and small children may be affected most severely. Be vigilant and prepared as jellyfish numbers increase through the summer.
At least the light winds and slight seas have allowed the water in the Gulf to clear overall leading to periodic good catches from the Gulf State Park Pier. Spadefish have still been one of the most dependable catches from the pier in the vicinity of the mid platform and just to the north of it. Fish for these striped sea bream with light tackle if you can see schools a few feet down. Otherwise, fish just deep enough so your bait disappears as it slowly floats down in the water column. Light spinning tackle in the 6 to 10 pound line class is an ideal setup to target spadefish. And just a small piece of cut shrimp, squid or Fishbites, no more than fingernail sized on a #8 or #6 single hook is just the right right size to fit in their small mouth. Most of these spadefish are hand sized or a little bigger (less than a pound), with occasional plate-sized ones that may weigh several pounds. But they get twice that size offshore, and all are good eating!
There have been some nice sized speckled trout schooling in the shallow water near the beach, though they only rarely seem to bite well. Still, the gator sized six pound trout are quite a temptation for anglers putting live shrimp in front of them in hopes one might decide to bite. Some are also caught on live baitfish like small mullet, or the LYs found around the pier at times.
It is quite rare to catch a speckled trout from the pier on a lure, but over at Little Lagoon Pass, or along the beaches of the Fort Morgan peninsula that is the mode most trout are caught with. Try a top water lure early in the morning, or on cloudy days which offer low light conditions.
Sometimes they even strike topwaters after a thundershower. Try a suspending twitch bait or a soft minnow imitation or grub on a weighted jighead whenever the trout may be near the bottom. There is a still a lot of bycatch with lures which may include ladyfish, bluefish, spanish mackerel, small jacks, redfish and even flounder.
Conditions did align for an epic morning of fishing July 3rd from the nub at the Gulf State Park Park Pier when anglers experienced a pretty good mackerel bite. There were several kings landed (up to 30 pounds), along with some nice sized spanish mackerel, and even dolphinfish (mahi-mahi). Though not a common catch from the pier, they do occasionally show up when conditions are just right. At least the sharks gave them a break long enough for some nice fish to be landed.
The west jetty at Perdido Pass (Alabama Point) is still accessible to avid fishermen akin to mountain goats, where spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish are often hooked on lures. Spoons and jigs work great, as do Gotcha plugs and other shiny lures. The seawall repair continues from The Gulf restaurant to under the Perdido Pass bridge, but the area north of the bridge is still open to anglers. Fsherfolk will have to deal with a prolonged NEAP tide period July 22-24.
Beach fishing has been hit-or-miss for pompano, as we would expect for mid July. There have been some nice sized pompano caught recently in amongst many undersized ones, along with whiting (Gulf kingfish) and various by-catch species. Most anglers are still using double drop pompano rigs with shrimp and Fishbites, but the water has been so calm and clear lately that naked single drop rigs, Carolina rigs, or even jigging may be more fruitful. Plus there are throngs of swimmers to deal with in the waters around the developed beaches and even the smaller access venues. So, fishing early and late in the day, or better yet, fishing the undeveloped beaches of the Gulf State Park or National Wildlife Refuge may be the best option of all to be successful.
Besides the limited big-game options on the Pier, jack crevelle have been caught from shore near Fort Morgan at the Point. And medium sized sharks (mostly Blacktips) are viable sport fish in the area as well along with some ginormous stingrays this time of year. So, even though it is the hottest and most crowded time of year, there are still plenty of from-shore fishing options along the lower Baldwin County Coast!