David Thornton, who’s on the Gulf State Park Pier at Gulf Shores, Alabama, every week, year-round, has the late November pier report. “The fish at the pier are starting to slip into the transition period between fall fishing and winter fishing. The second weekend in November were both good days for pier fishing. The big schools of redfish were starting to come-in during the early morning hours, and the bull reds went on a feeding spree at night. Plenty of big bull reds were caught that weighed from 15 to 25 pounds. At one time, five-different
anglers had hooked-up to big bull reds. Usually during the course of a day’s fishing in winter at the pier, two or three schools of these huge redfish will come within casting distance of the pier. On a sunny day with clear-water conditions, you often can see the schools of redfish feeding on bait and pushing those baitfish up to the surface – sometimes from as far away as 1/2-mile. The good news is that you don’t have to be a bait specialist when the redfish come within casting distance of the pier, since they’ll take almost any bait that’s hitting the water - lures, live bait or dead bait. You can expect these redfish to gang-up at the pier, until the water gets really cold.
“The water temperature right now in mid-November is about 65 degrees, and that water temperature should stabilize, until this area has a cold front come-through the region. Throughout the rest of November, the water temperature will continue to drop slowly. Once the water temperature reaches the upper 50-degree level, the redfish schools will become larger. Usually anglers can’t catch them from the pier then, unless there’s high winds and rough water. And, your chances of catching redfish may be better after dark. Most night fishermen arrive at the pier before dark and fish until about midnight. However, some diehards fish all night long.
“The redfish aren’t the only attraction at Gulf State Park Pier this winter. Whiting are the primary fish that people target at this time of the year, and pier fishermen and anglers fishing from the beach have caught good numbers of whiting in the shallow water close to the beach. From now until Christmas, whiting will be the number-one fish anglers are catching off the pier and good numbers of them. When the water’s clear, you can see huge schools of whiting moving-along the bottom. I like to catch the whiting on light tackle, particularly spinning tackle and 4-pound test line. If you hook a 16- to 18-inch whiting on 4-pound test line, the fish may pull-off 100 feet of line, before you can stop it and start reeling. These whiting generally will weigh up to 2 pounds. I can feel the bite better by using 4-pound test line. Often when a whiting comes-up to a piece of dead shrimp, the fish will hit that dead shrimp two or three times, before the fish gets the shrimp in its mouth. I don’t set the hook, until I feel the whiting pick-up my bait and run with it. I use a No. 2 or a No. 4 fine wire hook and a piece of fresh dead shrimp about the size of my thumbnail for bait. I always peel the shrimp, before I put it on the hook. I also fish with the least amount of weight I can possibly use, from as little as two small split shots, if the water’s clear, and the whiting are close to the pier. Or, I may use as much as a 1/2-ounce of weight when the water’s dirty, and the Gulf of Mexico’s rough. On a really-rough day, I may use a 1-ounce lead.
“Three separate kinds of fish are lumped-together under the name of whiting. The whiting we catch from the pier are Gulf kingfish, which have a black tip on each of their tails and silver-and-white sides. We also catch northern kingfish that are
very similar to the shape and size as the Gulf kingfish but with striped marks on their sides. The third species we catch, which is often called the ground mullet, also has striping down the sides, but this fish has yellow on its belly. When you fry, bake or broil any of these delicious-tasting fish, you can’t tell the difference between the three types. The average catch for a half a day of fishing will be 1 to 2 dozen whiting. However, with several people putting fish in the same cooler, they may catch 50 to 100 in a day, because there’s no limit on whiting. These fish are delicious to eat, fun to catch and large numbers of them are off Alabama’s Gulf Coast in November and December, waiting to be caught.
“The white-trout bite has held up well. Anglers on the pier are also catching 1- to 2-pound croakers. Anglers caught a few Spanish mackerel during November on the pier. However, the king mackerel fishing has really slowed-down, although occasionally some are being caught. Last year, at this time, we were catching king mackerel up until the last week of November (Thanksgiving). If the water temperature will stay within the mid-60s for the next couple of weeks, then we still can catch a few king mackerel. The sheepshead are beginning to school-up at the pier, but right now more sheepshead are being caught a Perdido Pass than at the pier. We usually have a fall run of sheepshead when the fish start schooling on the sandbar. On a clear day, you often can see a school of sheepshead on the up-current side of the pier, feeding on sand fleas and shrimp. When the water slips into the low 60s, that temperature seems to trigger the sheepshead bite – generally between Thanksgiving and Christmas. When those sheepshead arrive at the pier, you can catch a good number of them. These fish won’t be as large as the spawning sheepshead we catch in the spring, but they will be 1- to 3-year-old fish that are trying to fatten-up for the winter – weighing usually 1-1/2- to 3 pounds – and biting aggressively.
“The flounder have been biting occasionally around the pier, but recently Fort Morgan has been the place to catch flounder. The good news for bank fisherman is that the pass at Little Lagoon, often called the West Pass, at Gulf Shores, has been reopened. The water from the Gulf of Mexico now can move into the Little Lagoon, and the water from Little Lagoon once again can flow out into the gulf. Numbers of mullet have been spotted inside the pass trying to get out into the gulf to spawn. Typically, when the pass is open, and current’s running in and out of the lagoon, you’ll find good numbers of redfish moving and feeding there – redfish 16-
to 20-inches long and weighing from 2 to 6 pounds. Both the Little Lagoon and Perdido Pass will produce good numbers of slot reds when current’s running through these areas.
“Most of the speckled trout have moved-up the coastal rivers now. Due to the lack of rain, there’s more salt water up the rivers than there has been this fall. The shrimp have moved-up the rivers too, and the speckled trout are following the shrimp. River fishing for the speckled trout has been really good as well. November and December is one of the best times of the year to enjoy the beauty of the beaches, the solitude of walking along the shore, the mesmerizing sound of the waves and some rod-bending action. Whether you fish by day or night, you’ll discover all this fun at the beach right now.”