Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton
Our typical summer-like weather pattern remains entrenched along the coast with pretty much a chance of rain any day or night. At least that keeps air temperatures from reaching triple digits, even though it feels that way at times in this tropical humidity. The wind is generally more tolerable (and welcome) this time of year, barring any brisk breezes that spring up in the vicinity of thundershowers. Plus we are entering the period of hurricane season when our attention reaches farther out into the Atlantic. Though rare, occasional July hurricanes have crossed our shores throughout history. But with the exception of occasional tropical waves or storms we should continue to see more great weather with lots of bright summer sunshine that keeps the Gulf and back bay waters in the middle to upper 80s.
Consequently such warm water fuels rapid growth in sealife. Many spring spawning forage fish species like Scaled and False herring (locally called “LYs”) are already an inch or so long now. They will continue to develop about an inch per month, providing sustenance for other species in the meantime. Anglers can cash in on this feeding activity with small silver spoons and jigs in the ¼ to ½ ounce sizes on light or even ultralight tackle (8 to 4 pound class). Ladyfish (called “skipjack”), and a variety of other small jack species take advantage of this rich food source. Providing in turn near limitless amusement to fishermen along the calm gulf beaches, as well as passes and back waters like Little Lagoon and Perdido and Mobile Bay.
Stronger incoming tides will prevail during the early daylight hours at the beginning and end of this fortnight, coincident with the Full moon (on the 13th) and the New moon (on the 28th). The NEAP tide period around the 19th will provide much less general water movement but that is often a favorable period for anglers to concentrate on the passes. Of course night fishing for “white” and spotted seatrout and slot-sized redfish around ‘quiet’ dock and pier lights can be quite productive this time of year, as well as more comfortable. Live shrimp or minnows are practically a ‘slam dunk’ to produce fish, and a great way to keep kids interested and awake. But three inch long artificials are often just as good or even better, because you can cover more water with them. Soft plastic lures like D.O.A. Shrimp, Zoom Fluke or Tiny Fluke, and small hard lures like Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow or Rapala X-Rap (#8) work great on light tackle even near structure, though a few may be sacrificed for the cause.
Morning incoming tides might be especially productive for Spanish mackerel, bluefish and such from the pier, seawall or jetty. Look for large scale bait movements at dawn to signal feeding activity into the morning. Thee are currently LOTS of herring schooling around the Gulf State Park Pier. So many in fact, that the annual die-off is occurring en masse. The outgoing tide during the afternoon/evening hours tends to favor action for ladyfish, bluefish and redfish. Larger spoons (1 to 2 ounces) and medium sized plugs (like #10 or #12 X-Rap) will work best for these larger predators, especially in low light conditions or ‘dingy’ water.
Some ‘keeper’ mangrove snapper are hanging around the Gulf State Park Pier, Little Lagoon Pass, Perdido Pass seawall and Alabama Point (west) jetty now. Just be sure you have the $10 Reef Fish Endorsement license to legally target or retain them in Alabama. Also, regulations state “anglers must use non-stainless steel circle hooks when fishing for, retaining, possessing or landing gulf reef fish when using natural bait.”
The list of “reef fish” includes mangrove snapper, even when caught from land, pier , jetty or inland waters. Best bait for mangroves is live shrimp (small) or minnows (bull or finger mullet) fished on a small circle hook with just enough weight to keep it within reach of the snapper school. Bycatch of a variety of species from jacks and bluefish to flounder often result.
bbSurf fishers are still finding occasional pompano, and a few more “whiting” (Gulf kingfish). But the calm, clear Gulf waters have been more conducive for speckled trout or spanish mackerel and bluefish caught on lures (spoons and plugs) cast from the beach or wade fishing. Some fisherman looking for even bigger sportfish throw larger plugs or swimbaits for bull redfish, sharks, and jack crevalle in the surf around Fort Morgan and Perdido Pass jetties. These brutes are also available from the State Pier, as well as hard fighting tarpon and fast-running king mackerel. Several nice king mackerel have been landed from the pier already this month, and dozens more sacrificed to the ‘shark gods’ that prowl around it. These aren’t just our standard 4 to 7 foot Blacktips and Spinner sharks, or even the slightly larger Sandbar or Bull sharks. With the annual LY die-off and turtle nesting season occurring, there have been a lot of large Tiger sharks active in the surfzone and just beyond. In fact, Captain Ritchie Russel (known as “the shark whisperer”) reports his charters have caught over 20 of these double digit feet long behemoths within a mile of shore!
This should make for an interesting Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo later this month, with the shark category returning to that event.