Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook May 1-15, 2024

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton

The weather pattern of late has been mostly clear skies with light winds, cooler than average temperatures, with low humidity, and near calm seas with clear water. Slightly warmer (highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s) and windier conditions are forecast through this fortnight, about typical for mid spring. Each cycle seems to run about a week or so, but the fronts are becoming progressively weaker.
From shore fishing seems to be about on track too with pompano numbers peaking in the surf zone while blue runner (hardtails), ladyfish (skipjack), bluefish, kingfish (whiting and ground mullet), speckled trout and redfish begin to move in to soon dominate the bite on the gulf beaches. Though occasional bouts of spanish mackerel and waves of flounder may move inshore to round out most of the surf fishing experience. We can expect to see more schools of large jack crevelle migrating from east to west just outside the beach sandbar, or chasing schools of mullet or any other small fish that happen in their path in the longshore trough. Schools of bull redfish have been near the point at Fort Morgan, especially on the outgoing tides. With single reds, black drum, or small sharks occasionally surprising pompano fishermen along the gulf beaches. A lot of fish are active during this period, generally considered one of the best times of year to fish in the area!
The Alabama Pomp Stomp was quite successful again this year, and the final results can be seen at Fishing Chaos under APS2. Hopefully the pompano brood collection went well too, and Marine Resources was at least close to their goal of 50 pompano. These fish will enhance the genetic stock of pompano used for breeding by Alabama Marine Resources – Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores. Several hundred thousand miniature pompano have been raised and released from the hatchery. And some really nice prizes were offered by Sam’s and CCA – Alabama to anglers who participated.
The month starts out being dominated by a NEAP tide period centered on May 4th. But the week following that will experience much higher tidal variation, maxing out with about two feet of difference May 9th through 11th. This is coincident with the darker moon phases and a New Moon May 7th. Look for pompano and whiting to linger in the surf depending on the synoptic weather condition. Water temperatures will continue to gradually increase from the low 70s through the middle 70s, as is typical for early May. This is due to higher air temperatures, more daylight hours, and a higher solar declination or angle of the sun’s path above the horizon which allows more incoming solar radiation.
As all this meteorology plays together, more pelagic fish (mackerel and jacks) migrate into our nearshore waters to feed and spawn. Even resident speckled trout are often found in the surf zone resting and feeding between spawning periods this month. They make use of beach troughs that are at least 4 feet deep at high tide, to hide from prowling predators like jack crevelle, sharks and dolphins. Also, the presence of baitfish, especially mullet milling around in these troughs is a good tip off there could be trout there too.
Anglers often like to start off relatively calm mornings by throwing topwater lures like Heddon Spook, Spook Junior, or Rapala Skitterwalk. Once the sun rises and the topwater bite falls off, try a sinking twitchbait like a MirrOlure MirrOdine MR 17 or sinking MR 18 if the fish are holding a little deeper. Later in the day you may do better by switching over to a bottom bouncing 3 inch grub on a leadhead jig, or a fake shrimp like Voodoo or D.O.A. Specks will strike a variety of lures in different situations, so experiment with the basic patterns in common colors before giving up on a likely looking spot.
There are generally more speckled trout along the beaches closer to Mobile Bay simply because it is by far a larger estuary. But note that Perdido Bay, Little Lagoon, and Big Lagoon in Perdido Key all support viable populations of trout that can be explored and exploited this month. In fact, as waters warm this month there should be more activity in the back bays around lighted docks and piers.
Even the lighted area of Perdido Pass Seawall Park has produced speckled trout at night and early morning in the past. A variety of lures will work, especially those that mimic any visibly active bait species. Of course live shrimp or small mullet are always angler favorites for garnering attention from more fish. Unfortunately, that means they attract a LOT of bycatch too, so pick your poison. Bluefish, ladyfish, pinfish, pigfish, and undersized mangrove snapper, along with other pesky bait nibblers are coming into seasonal abundance. Great thing about them though is these “sea bream” are pretty tasty too. Just scale, fillet, and fry these saltwater panfish like bluegill. Plus ladyfish make good fishcakes, and bluefish are just downright tasty when properly handled and prepared. The inland piers in Orange Beach, Little Lagoon and at Fort Morgan produce a lot of these non-target fish along with abundant croaker, silver perch, and even some white trout or other more desirable species such as trout, flounder, or slot redfish.
Spanish mackerel should remain the primary target species for a majority of seawall and jetty fishermen during this period. But with the water warming and more baitfish showing up in the pass and around the lighted area more bluefish and ladyfish will appear as bycatch. Blue runners are also frequently caught in large numbers from the west jetty and seawall this time of year. At times they may even be the most common catch. Alternative target species like speckled trout, redfish and flounder can still be found there, but will become more difficult to target using live shrimp or even bull minnows due to all the active bycatch species.
The boardwalk at the south end of Mobile Street public access is still under construction. That will likely continue at least though this month, as a completion date has yet to be announced by the National Wildlife Refuge. The beaches in that area have continued to produce pompano along with other desirable target species, and can be a good area to try for speckled trout when the Gulf is calm enough.
Work continues at the Gulf State Park Pier too, now at a faster pace since it is fully attached again. But so much work remains to do there, it is still too early to announce a reopening date. Though, while in Gulf Shores recently, ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship did sound optimistic about the pier reopening sometime later this summer. That will be well received once it happens, and should greatly lessen the angling pressure other venues have been receiving so far this year.