Pier Fish: What's Biting and How to Catch Them with David Thornton

 “What's that guy doing that I'm not?”


Whiting caught in Gulf Shores Al

“I want to be that guy,” a friend of mine on the Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama, told me, He nodded towards an angler who was catching fish every time he cast. “What's that guy doing that I'm not?”

I'm often asked this question. About 95 percent of the time, the angler who's not catching fish isn't presenting the bait so fish will take it.

Most anglers fish with hooks and line so big that fish can see them attached to the baits. If I can pick one reason why most people don't catch fish on the pier, it's because they use the wrong size line, rods, reels, and hooks. Close to the beach, 4- to 10-pound test line is best. For fish with keen eyesight like speckled trout and pompano, use 4- to 6-pound test line. For ground mullet, 6- to 10-pound test works.

For king or Spanish mackerel and redfish at the end of the pier, 15- to 20-pound test will produce the most fish. I suggest 7- to 9-foot rods with medium-fast action to see the bite, and stop the fish's charge. Don't worry about your line breaking. Someone on the pier with a net will let it down and help you.

boy with Sheepshead caught at Gulf State Pier Gulf Shores Al

Pier anglers have caught plenty of Spanish mackerel during September using bubble rigs, and the sizes are getting bigger. They're also catching bluefish up to 3 pounds, slot reds up to 3 pounds, speckled trout, sheepshead on sand fleas, larger flounder, whiting and ground mullet, as well as a few pompano and a 5-pound permit.

The regular pier dweller 50-pound cobia that stay under the pier will pop out to take baits three or four times a day and occasionally will be hooked.

For more information about the Gulf State Park Pier or surf fishing, call David Thornton at 251-458-2775. For more information about Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, visit , our easy to access fishing information pages complete with marina and charter captain listings. For any questions, call Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism's vacation-planning specialists at 1-800-745-SAND (7263). For a list of cook-your-catch restaurants, go to www.orangebeach.com/dining-nightlife/restaurants.

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