Adam Morck of Tillmans Corner, near Mobile, Alabama, started fishing the Gulf State Park Pier at midnight with his son, Jeremiah, in May. “That’s when the speckled trout come under the lights, and you can catch them,” Morck explains. “But the main reaso
n we were there was to catch the LYs (alewives), small menhaden that we use for live bait to catch speckled trout and redfish off the end of the pier. My son and I caught one speckled trout, some white trout and some small barracuda. Several-other speckled trout were caught that weighed up to 5 pounds. In the morning, a huge school of redfish came past the pier with about 300-500 redfish in it. I caught one and released it.
“Then at about 10 am, another big school of redfish came by. One of the Pier Rats (a name and title used for and by the regular pier fishermen, many of whom fish from 1 to 7 days a week on the pier) at the end of the pier hooked-up one of those big redfish. He looked at Jeremiah and asked, ‘Son, have you ever caught a big redfish?’ Jeremiah answered, ‘No, sir.’ The Pier Rat said, ‘Would you like to catch a big one?’ and Jeremiah said, ‘Yes, sir!’ The man handed his rod to Jeremiah, who listened to me and the Pier Rat as we coached him on how to play the fish and how to work it up to the side of the pier. Then I could land the big red in the dip net that we let-down over the side of the pier. After Jeremiah had landed the fish, the Pier Rat announced, ‘Okay, son, you caught him. He’s yours.’
“This scenario that actually happened this past week is a classic example of why I would advise anyone who wants to go fishing to fish the Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, Ala. The veteran fishermen on this pier (the Pier Rats) are friendly and enjoy helping each other as well as newcomers learn to fish on the pier. Often these veteran pier anglers will pass their rods to youngsters and let the youngsters land the fish. You don’t see that kind of sportsmanship and meet that many kind people in very-many places where you go fishing.”
Later in the day, school after school of big redfish came past the pier and were caught, and most were released to fight again another day. “Those re
dfish are coming-in from offshore, and catching and eating the baitfish that are moving-in close to the pier and along the first sandbar,” Pete Aguon, one of the main Pier Rats, reports. “Once they’ve eaten, they move back offshore. I’ve seen acres and acres of redfish from the pier before, and the real key to catching a lot of them is to wait until the school is within casting distance of the pier, and have one person call the shot (tell everyone when to cast to the school). That way, we can get the most anglers hooked-up and catch the most redfish.”
When the redfish were released, instead of throwing them off the top of the pier into the water, each redfish was put in a landing net, lowered into the water and held in the landing net until it was strong enough to swim away. Aguon explains, “Although these giant fish are called bull reds, they’re actually females. Many of them are full of eggs. If we throw them off the end of the pier, there’s a risk of injuring the fish, but a greater risk of injuring the eggs that the fish carries. Therefore, we’ve found that we get much-better survival rates if we lower these fish back down to the water in the net and let them recover and swim away. I’d say 70-80% of the redfish we catch here on the pier are released, because you can only keep one per person. However, you can catch and release redfish all day.”
The pier wasn’t the only hot action at Alabama’s Gulf Coast in mid-May. Brent (Hollywood) Shaver also, known as Captain Bligh, had an inshore charter on Tuesday and caught a good number of
speckled trout. Most of the speckled-trout inshore fishermen are reporting good numbers of speckled trout, redfish and black drum being caught in the back bays, Little Lagoon and the Intercoastal Canal and on the beaches at Fort Morgan. Live shrimp, live mullet and live pinfish are the preferred baits, but soft-plastic lures, which are more convenient and easy to carry, also have produced a good number of speckled trout. Many of the bigger trout are weighing 2-4 pounds, and 5-6 pound trout are being caught regularly.
The offshore boats are also doing well. We talked to Jeff Colley, captain of the “Unreachable” charter boat out of Zeke’s Marina and the inshore boat “Killing Time.” “We had a 6-hour trip in mid-May where we caught a limit of vermilion snapper, amberjack, king mackerel and triggerfish. We released about 200 red snapper that averaged 8-12 pounds each, and we had a couple of 20 pounders in that group. Although we only stopped and fished two spots, our party was reeling-up fish the entire time. Many of the bigger snapper we hooked were breaking our lines, because we were catching them in really-shallow water, which meant the fish had plenty of room to fight and plenty of structure in which to get. We’re really anticipating a bumper crop of big snapper for the beginning of snapper season on June 1. However, what many people don’t understand is that we’re c
atching numbers of fun-fighting, good-eating fish before and after snapper season, and once our parties limit-out on reef fish, they can catch and release some of the biggest red snapper they’ll probably ever catch. Then on June 1, when snapper season opens, they’ll be able to keep a limit of those red snapper. There are so-many snapper in the Gulf of Mexico right now that a party should be able to limit-out easily on any size charter they book.”
To contact Captain Colley, call (850) 791-8722 or (251) 424-7067, or go to www.unreachablecharters.com
. To learn more about fishing the Gulf State Park Pier, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 251-948-7275. For more information about fishing guides and charter boats, lodging accommodations, restaurants and entertainment on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, call 800-745-SAND (7263), or visit www.orangebeach.com
If you’re fortunate enough to catch some redfish at Alabama’s gulf Coast, these fish will be sure to please everyone who eats them.