What's Biting Report: Pier Fishing 411
"It's just a little slice of Americana," said David Thornton.
There are a few places along our Gulf Coast that quickly come to mind when that phrase is heard. One of them straddles two different states and is well known for a weekend celebrating
a fish. But we're talking about catching fish here not throwing them, and Thornton's talking about the Gulf State Pier.
Fishing on the pier for more than 40 years, Thornton says it's not the fishing that keeps him coming back; it's the camaraderie of the pier community. "It doesn't matter if you are a local or first time visitor; the spirit of community is what really seems to appeal to everyone on the pier." Thornton thinks everybody who comes to our area should visit the pier at least once. "Put on a broadbill hat and a pair of sunglasses, and you will be amazed at what you see." With more than a quarter mile of the structure jutting out into the gulf and lights that burn down on the water all night, everything is attracted to the pier. Plankton, bait fish, game fish, rays, and sharks all inhabit the area. It's like having a huge aquarium turned upside down for everyone to enjoy.
If you are reading this blog, you are probably interested in more than just seeing what the pier has to offer. Right now Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sheepshead, pompano, whiting, black drum, redfish, and flounder are all being caught. So with his four decades 'on the rail,' we asked Thornton to give us some of his best tips to get you ready for a trip to the pier. Take a visit to the pier before your first fishing trip and just observe what everyone else is using for tackle and bait. Then bring similar equipment with you on your next trip. Do not feel you have to go out and buy all new tackle to fish the pier. If you have a standard 7' medium action spinning rod, you can catch most anything from the pier. Smaller, lighter tackle is almost always a better choice.
Most fish caught on the pier will weigh less than five pounds, so use lighter tackle, especially smaller hooks and bait. Number four or number six hooks with small pieces of bait are a perfect match for most species of fish. There is lots of help to be had at the pier. If you hook a fish that is too big to land by yourself, chances are someone close by will be willing to lend a hand or net. A simple call out of 'need a little help here' will spring someone into action for you. I don't have forty years of experience fishing the pier, but I too have a great tip to add.