We usually can catch 20 to 30 fish in 4 hours of fishing, here on Alabama’s
Gulf Coast in the wintertime. I run an inshore charter out of Orange Beach Marina. On pretty days, we fish the back bays around Perdido Pass and from Perdido Pass down to the Florida state line. If our region has wind that makes the bays too rough to fish, we’ll fish the Intracoastal Canal. So, even in rain, sleet and snow, we can go fishing. We’re primarily catching redfish, speckled trout, black drum, sheepshead and an occasional pompano.
On calm days,
we catch pompano around Perdido Pass by fishing pompano jigs in either chartreuse or pink or live bait like shrimp and mole crabs. If we’re fishing live bait, we use a 1/2-ounce egg sinker up the main line, generally 12-pound test. We’ll tie a barrel swivel at the end of the main line. On the other end of the barrel swivel, we’ll tie about 14 inches of 20-pound-test line and a No. 1 J hook. The pompano we’re catching are good-sized, weighing from 1-1/2- to 5-pounds each, and we’ll usually catch four or five during a 4-hour trip.
We’re finding our speckled trout in the Intracoastal Canal. We use exclusively live shrimp when we’re fishing live bait for specks. We’ll either free-line the shrimp by casting a shrimp out and letting it swim free on slack line or suspend the shrimp under a popping cork, pop the cork, let it sit still and then pop the cork again. I’m also fishing Mirr-O-Lures, artificial lures we’ve used for years. We fish
for trout with 10-pound-test line. Here in mid-February, we’re having our best luck in 10 to 15 feet of water, but as the water warms up, the trout will be moving into the sandy banks and grass beds.
Anglers are catching redfish (red drum) and black drum around bridges, docks and any type of structure in the water. February redfish generally are slot-sized reds, weighing from 2 to 6 pounds. The black drum are about the same size, but the bigger black drum should be moving-in any day now. Last year, we caught black drum that weighed up to 20 pounds. What most people don’t realize is that the black drum are just as tasty as the redfish.
We’re catching sheepshead fairly regularly right now in the 1- to 3-pound range. However, in the next couple of weeks, the sheepshead really should move-in, because they’ll be coming-in to spawn. And, you can catch them around any type of structure on the beach in the back bays and especially around the jetties at Perdido Pass. Live shrimp and fiddler crabs will be your most-productive baits, and I suggest you fish with a 12-pound main line with a 20-pound-test monofilament leader. If a hard current’s running, I’ll use a 1/2-ounce egg sinker up the main line and above the barrel swivel. But, if there’s not much current, I’ll put a small split-shot on the line. Although the sheepshead spawn usually takes place in March and April, since we’ve had such a mild winter, I expect the sheepshead to come-in early. Sheepshead don’t keep-up with calendars, and they can’t read. All they know is when the water temperature warms-up, the time for them to spawn has arrived. If Gulf Coast has an early spring, which from all indications we should, those sheepshead may show-up at any time. When the sheepshead run starts, we’ll average catching 30 or 40 a day of 2 to 4 pounders.
Fishing the end of February, you can expect to catch a mixed bag, usually with speckled trout and redfish the dominant species and pompano, black drum an
d sheepshead being the bonus fish. Because Alabama’s Gulf Coast has so-much protected water, as well as a mild winter, we’ve had very-few days we haven’t been able to go fishing.
The Orange Beach Fishing Association
will be glad to find you and your family a captain and a boat that fits your needs. The good news is that you don’t have to leave your wife and children at home when you visit Alabama’s Gulf Coast. There’s plenty to do and see. For accommodation and restaurant recommendations, contact Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism at 800-745-SAND, or visit www.orangebeach.com
. To have your fresh fish prepared at the beach, go to www.orangebeach.com, click on restaurants
, and check box for “Will Cook Your Catch.”