Editor’s Note: Why do some surf and shore fishermen along Alabama’s Gulf Coast catch more fish every time they go out than other anglers do? To find the answer to this question, we talked with Karon Aplin, a fisheries biologist for Alabama’s Marine Resources and a lady who loves to fish from the beach and the bank.
Question: Karon, where can we fish from the beach and catch more fish each time we go?
Aplin: To answer this question, I really need to know what type of fish you want to catch. Right now in late March, along the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, t
he pompano are starting to run. The best place to fish from the beach for the pompano is close to Perdido Pass. If you walk the beach, look for a rip current to fish for pompano.
Question: What’s a rip current?
Aplin: When you look from the beach out to the sand bars, the areas where you see a break in the sandbar and the current is usually running really strong, is not where you want to swim. But these places are where you do want to fish. Another good spot is on the ends of the sandbars. However, you want to cast not at the end of the sandbar, but on the outside of the sandbar, so that the current will move your bait along the bottom and around the end of the sandbar. Anywhere you find a depth change on the inside or the outside of a sandbar is where the fish will be holding.
Question: What baits do we want to use to catch pompano in the surf and from the shore?
Aplin: One of the favorite baits of the pompano are mole crabs, which are commonly called sand fleas. You can catch sand fleas in the surf right where the waves are breaking. Go to tackle shops in our area, and ask to buy a sand flea rake. Catching sand fleas is fun for the kids and provides a lot of bait for the family. Use the sand flea rake right at the edge of the water where the waves are breaking. The young
sters also can find numbers of shells as well as sand fleas with this particular rake. If you don’t want to rake your own sand fleas, you often can find them in bait shops.
You also can use pompano jigs or really-fresh dead shrimp to catch pompano. On the east side of Alabama Point, which is after you cross the bridge, is a great place to catch pompano too. On the west side of the bridge (the side closest to the main part of Orange Beach), there’s a lot of sheepshead being caught along the fishing wall and out on the jetties and underneath the bridge. Redfish are also frequently caught there. As the weather warms-up, and the baitfish move-in closer to shore, you’ll be able to catch Spanish mackerel out on the jetties. Another great place to fish from the surf is down Fort Morgan Road. You can catch redfish, black drum, whiting and pompano in that section. Once again, look for the sandbars close to the beach, and fish those rip currents (breaks in the sandbar), where the water comes through those cuts really quickly. I’ve also heard that West Pass can be a productive place to catch speckled trout, redfish and flounder. Several sandbars are right at the mouth of the pass, and the speckled trout, redfish and flounder tend to move along these sandbars and into the cuts when the tide is running in or out of Little Lagoon. On the east side of Perdido Pass, where the pass comes in contact with the state park, I’ve had really-good luck catching pompano on those beaches that lead into the pass, anywhere I can find a sandbar with a cut in it.
Another good place that gets overlooked quite a bit is Little Lagoon off of Fort Morgan Road. I’ve heard there’s some really-good wade fishing down by The Pi
nes boat ramp. I’ve been getting reports of people catching speckled trout, redfish and flounder by wading in that area. Be sure you wear some really-good wading shoes or some high-top tennis shoes, because the bottom can have trash and shells on it. You may get your feet cut-up if you don’t. The Pines are located about 12- to 14-miles down Fort Morgan Road from Highway 59. There’s a boat launch there, and you’ll see a little sign that says The Pines on the north side, which is the right-hand side as you’re going toward Fort Morgan, away from Highway 59. Out in front of Fort Morgan on the beach side, you’ll also find some good surf fishing. Once again, the key is to look for the sandbars and the breaks in the sandbars. The fish generally will hold on the deep-water side of the sandbar and take their bait as it washes around the end of the sandbar or as the bait is swept through the cuts in the sandbar called rip currents.
Wade fishing can be a lot of fun for the whole family, especially if you’ve got some youngsters who can have a good time with a sand flea rake catching fresh bait for pompano, and if you fish with pompano jigs, live shrimp, dead shrimp and plastic grubs. We have some excellent wade fishing and surf fishing at Alabama’s Gulf Coast in the spring. The places I’ve given you are regions I’ve tried or sites I’ve learned about from other anglers.