Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook March 20, 2023

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook March 20, 2023
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton

Spring has sprung loose along the lower Baldwin Coast does not just refer to the hordes of Spring Breakers descending upon the beaches and fishing venues. Most of the time our weather has been seasonably pleasant, especially when we experience several sunny days with light winds. But there are still intermittent cool snaps that put us back in jackets for a couple of mornings. Still that hasn’t prevented the Gulf water temperature from flirting with 65 degrees recently. Not quite warm enough to bring in Spanish mackerel in numbers yet, but plenty comfortable for sheepshead to commence their annual spawning rituals. So far most of that action has been centered around the southern tip of the west jetty at Perdido Pass, but don’t be surprised if more show up along the seawall through the coming fortnight too.
The next NEAP tide period centers on March 24th coincidental to the full moon. That usually triggers the spawn to commencing for sheepshead as the days following the NEAP usually have a midday high tide. The water has been mostly clear recently as we have lacked any really severe storms that create extremely rough surf and turbid water as we saw too much of last month. This tends to work in fisher-men’s favor and can expect the temperature of shallow waters to rise above 65 and stay there by the end of this month.
Since the Gulf State Park Pier remains closed, most fishing activity seems to have been centering around the recently opened Seawall Park under the Perdido Pass Bridge and north along the curve. A fine place to fish, but catching has not equaled effort. More success has been found near the south end of the west jetty, and on nearby beaches. The sandy area underneath the east end of the bridge in Gulf State Park’s Alabama Point East will remain closed through next month to discourage teenage shenanigans there. But the good news is, fishing along the Gulf beach near the east jetty and along the beach all the way east of the Shell Parking lot has been pretty good to surf casters already this month. Some pompano and fair numbers of whiting have been caught there, mostly on pompano rigs and shrimp. The mild weather has allowed some sandbars to develop along that stretch that are inviting places for these fish to feed. A little research along that stretch of beach should reveal the more advantageous spots to set up your surf casting equipment.
Be aware with warmer water more people on the beach during Spring Break will be swimming, and that means they will be packed densest near the beach access points. Anglers are less likely to encounter less interference from swimmers the farther from these access points they decide to travel.
The same goes for the beaches in Orange Beach, Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, and off Fort Morgan Road. If you have to resort to using public access to get to the Gulf, try to walk a way to find less crowded beaches, with a nice sandbar you can cast to where pompano, whiting, redfish and drum may be waiting.
Progress continues as weather has allowed at the Gulf State Park Pier, with the most notable feature being the number of piling set so far, and remaining to be set in order to reconnect the whole pier. Giant waves from Hurricane Sally in September 2020 tore a 205 foot breach in the just renovated pier north of the octagon at the end. Red tape delayed the start of the repair project until November 2023, and uncooperative winter weather has hampered the pace of repairs. Mainly driving new 90 foot long pilings through the debris now buried beneath 8 feet or so of soft sand on the bottom. Still crews from MD Thomas have now managed to place four of the seven sets of piling. The liftboat RAM XIX joined the effort and has helped the pace of progress. Meanwhile work is ongoing in the parking lot at the pier where crews are preparing hundreds of 6 foot by 6 foot ipe (pronounced ee-pay) wood deck panels to expedite the process once all the piling are set in place. Still plenty of other work remains including placement of new piling caps and span girders. Plus concrete repair work on an undetermined number of damaged pilings, new railing, electric and water lines, and get the elevator on the octagon running. So it is still too early to tell how long it will be before the pier reopens. Hopefully late this summer according to early estimates.

Access to the beach at Mobile Street off Fort Morgan Road is still restricted for the next few months while the boardwalk is being replaced. Though surf anglers may access the beach by 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.
Maintenance dredging at Little Lagoon Pass continues to make headway by deepening the channel closer to it’s mandated 6 foot depth. Fishing there should improve as more water flow is restored, but be vigilant of drop offs and deep holes while wading in the area, especially when the water is dingy. And keep an eye out for the kids! But the pass is a historically good fishing spot, even though you have to pay to fish there now. Speckled trout are already active early and late in the day along the drop off 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 id usually best, but if you are not afraid to work at it hard, there are some good fish to be caught.