Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook May 15th-29th, 2024

Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook May 15th-29th, 2024
By David “The Pierpounder” Thornton

Early May brought us the usual spring mix, including an influx of Sargassum grass and man-o-war onto the area beaches with persistent southerly winds.
That brought in more heat and humidity too, as air and water temperatures (above 80) have been more like late May. Now that we are in the last half of May the question is will be if weather and water conditions revert to historic averages, or will things continue to get warmer?
While the onshore flow has certainly brought us summer like humidity, it has yet to bring us much of the convective type of precipitation we typically start experiencing around this time of year. In fact the rainfall may be slightly below average, which is not unusual for an El Nino spring. But the effects from that phenomenon are forecast to abate as summer begins. So, we may begin seeing more build up thundershowers in the early morning along the coast, and some thunderstorms in the afternoons over the south central part of Baldwin County.
This can be locally disruptive to fishermen trying to get an early start to beat the daily heat cycle. But they do provide a refreshing seabreeze in the afternoon whenever thunderstorms build up over the inland areas from Foley to Loxley. Generally light winds and seas with fairly clear water along the beaches are the norm first thing in the morning. But the synoptic weather pattern is still active enough to bring us occasional periods when frontal boundaries still approach the coast. Then we might experience increasing southerly winds and waves, and perhaps even the occasional squall line. It also means we experience occasional influxes of Sargassum grass. And every few years we could see some type of early tropical activity, though these are usually quite weak if they do approach our area. But a precursor of what might lie ahead.
Meanwhile, anglers have enjoyed the full smorgasbord of fish species available during these warm times. Pompano have been running near seasonal high numbers recently. There have been plenty of nice sized 2 to 3 pounders (mostly breeding females), along with the usual hordes of 12 to 14 inch pompano (mostly males), along with a few undersized fish. We can expect them to remain available in the surf zone as we approach the next full moon (May 23rd). After that most pompano should be moving offshore to spawn even as more blue runners (hardtails), and ladyfish (skipjack) move in to dominate the surf bite. Expect numerous bycatch species too, including remora, catfish, rays, small sharks, and who knows what else.
Speckled trout are another species that move into the surf to spawn during the spring. Though without an excess of rain for much of this spring, more trout seem to have stayed in the backwaters of Mobile Bay, Bon Secour Bay, Perdido Bay, and the Intercoastal Waterway to spawn. Much of the back bay fishery for specks is with live shrimp or artificials at night under the lights.
While plastic imitations like D.O.A. Shrimp and even scented ones such as Gulp Shrimp often work, it is not unusual for anglers to have better luck with small plastic minnow imitations like Zoom Fluke and Tiny Fluke on a weighted jighead from 1/32 to 1/8 ounce under dock and pier lights. A stealthy presentation is key to success in this fishery, as speckled trout and redfish are often quite spooky even while feeding under the lights. White trout are a little less so, and bycatch species such as silver perch (called yellow-tail, sweet trout, or other names), and croaker seem much less spooky. At times just observing the action around a light for a short while will show a glimpse of the more desirable species deeper in the water column, or on the edge of the lighted areas.
As the length of time since the last big disturbance passes, such as fighting a fish near the light, the fish begin to act more normally. That’s the best time to reintroduce your bait or lure into the mix, instead of keeping a bait in the light all the time. I like to take a break to have a drink or eat a snack, just do it all as quietly as possible.
Fish splashing on the surface or flopping on the dock will spook the remaining fish from around the light. As does dropping a net or other gear on a wooden pier, even walking heavy footed on the pier sends vibrations through the water that alert the fish to your presence.
Along the beaches, May is usually the best wade fishing season for speckled trout. Top water fishing can be quite effective early and late in the day, during cloudy periods of the day, or even at night under a bright moon whenever the trout are feeding on the abundant baitfish. That is a great trigger to get fish into the mood to feed in the surf as is the tide phase. This fortnight begins with a NEAP tide, centering on the 17th and 18th.
Then incoming tides prevail through the morning hours of the week following, until the daily tidal progression brings the high tide into the afternoon hours the last week of the month. Tide changes and strength of tidal movement (difference between high and low water) are important factors that control baitfish movements and feeding. Thus the location and disposition of potential baitfish sets the stage for gamefish to feed at certain times and locations. Once you figure out this riddle the catching gets much easier.
This is especially true when fishing Perdido Pass, Little Lagoon Pass and the point near Fort Morgan where Mobile Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. These passes are natural focal points for all kinds of predatory fish activity including speckled trout, bluefish, spanish mackerel, ladyfish, blue runner, redfish, jack crevelle, and of course sharks. With an abundance of intermediate sized gamefish, sharks are sure to be close by and perhaps even in the midst of the action, always ready to snatch away their share.
Work continues about on schedule at the Gulf State Park Pier according to park officials quoted as saying it may reopen late this summer. Too many repairs still remain to project a specific date as yet. Replacement of the long boardwalk continues at Gulf State Park – Alabama Point East (Florida Point) too.
But work has yet to begin on the closed beach access boardwalk at Mobile Street. Fishermen and beach goers have been able to access the beaches via the sand trail just west of the closed boardwalk. Anglers there report the beach is still quite short and steep in places due to localized erosion, but the fishing has been good at times too. Look for embayments where the beach trough is wide and deep enough to allow gamefish like speckled trout to school in. Or the surrounding beach points which allow for wadefishing and locations to slurp ghost shrimp.
Action with large schooling jack crevelle started picking up recently as water temperatures topped 80 degrees. And bull redfish have been more dependable along the beaches, and near the point at Fort Morgan, especially with the afternoon/evening falling tides.