There’s great news! The new $14.8 million Gulf State Park Pier on Alabama’s Gulf Coast has
opened, earning it the title of the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama’s only pier on the Gulf. The 1,540-foot long, 20-foot wide pier boasts 2,448 feet of fishing space along its rails. Much larger than the previous pier, it can accommodate up to 30 people on the octagon-shaped end of the pier and is open 24 hours per day/7 days per week. On July 23, 2009, Governor Bob Riley cut the ribbon, officially opening the new pier at Gulf State Park to the public.
I’ve lived in Alabama most of my life. My dad, my brother and I always through the years made several trips each year to Gulf Shores to fish from the pier. One time when we fished at the pier, a man screamed “He’s got it,” as the cork on his trolley line sank beneath the waves on the end of the pier. After setting the hook, the angler’s rod bent like a question mark as the monofilament line knifed through the water, and the big king mackerel began to pull-off drag.
On another day while fishing on the pier, I saw a man take a live menhaden and cast it in front of a green shadow cruising down the beach. The instant the fish to
ok the bait, the sky filled with mirror-like scales, reflecting the colors of the rainbow, as a tarpon leapt high above the waves, seeking freedom in the air.
At night on the pier, I saw giant speckled trout weighing at least 5-7 pounds each move in and out of the beams from the pier’s lights, feeding on the baitfish. As anglers scrambled to get their baits in the water, the big trout would move to the shadows before crossing the light again in search of prey.
When I was a boy, during the winter months, we hunted ground mullet (often called whiting) from the pier. My dad and I would fish from the pier, while wearing coats and gloves, and load our cooler with these delicious-tasting bottom feeders.
But then Hurricane Ivan destroyed the pier in 2004, and one of the best saltwater-fishing hotspots in the nation vanished. Not willing to lose a great fishing resource and wanting to make pier fishing on Alabama’s Gulf Coast available to more people in the future, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources opened the new Gulf State Pa
rk Pier to welcome gulf fishermen. New features at the pier include concession area seating, indoor retail space for tackle and souvenirs, mid-pier comfort station and wheelchair-accessible rail fishing.
According to Vernon Minton, chief of Alabama’s Marine Resources Division, “We’ve also added some artificial reefs almost within casting distance of the pier to attract and hold more fish for more fishermen and to improve the fishery around the pier.”
You’ll also find flounder, sheepshead, redfish and many-other species concentrating around the pilings and the artificial reefs near the pier.
In addition to having a saltwater fishing license, the daily fishing permit for the pier is $8 for adults and children over the age of 12. For children under age 12 who want to fish while the adults watch, t
he charge is $4. The sightseeing-only fee for adults is $3. Weekly, monthly, semi-annual and annual permits are available. For more information, including a complete list of pier rules and regulations, visit the Gulf State Park section of www.alapark.com
. Or, you can call the pier at 251-967-FISH (3474).
The fish are biting year-round off Gulf State Park Pier. You’ll find live bait, fresh dead bait and artificial lures readily available, and many of the pier regulars will share information with you about what to use and how to catch fish. On your next trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, visit the Gulf State Park Pier, whether you’re sight-seeing, casual fishing or planning to spend all day and catch a lot of fish.