What's Biting: Gulf State Park Fishing Report
After Hurricane Ivan slammed into Alabama in 2004, the Gulf State Park Pier was decimated. In 2009, the premier fishing and educational pier on the northern Gulf Coast re-opened just yards from the old pier’s rubble and has become a destination for visitors and locals alike.
While some folks in the Florida Panhandle claim they’ve built a pier a few feet longer than Gulf State Park Pier’s 1,540 feet, it’s doubtful any pier around can match the 2,448 feet of fishing space along the rails at the pier in Gulf Shores.
Gulf State Park Pier offers a variety of fishing experience from the regulars to families that are attracted to the beach by the sugar-white sand.
Not only does the pier offer families a different venue and experience, if the fish are biting, it could result in the main course for dinner.
As everyone in the U.S. can attest, this year has not followed normal weather patterns. An epic deluge dumped 20 inches of rain along the Alabama coast and Florida Panhandle, which has delayed some of the regular fish movements along the coast.
“We should be in full swing with king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and other pelagics as soon as this tannic water moves out,” said John Giannini of J&M Tackle, a dedicated pier fisherman. “Hopefully, this fresh water will get out of here, and we will start seeing runs of kings, Spanish, bluefish, pompano, redfish, and whiting.”
Those who haven’t done much fishing from Gulf Coast piers will make the mistake of oversizing their fishing tackle, according to Giannini.
“All you need is your typical bass tackle, either spinning or baitcasting,” he said. “A lot of people will think that when they come down that they need a big rod and reel for saltwater fishing. That is not the case. Any reel that can hold 150 yards of 12-pound monofilament line will catch the majority of the fish out there on the pier, like pompano, flounder, whiting, sheepshead, trout, and small redfish.”
Giannini said the pelagic species like Spanish, skipjacks, bluefish, and hardtails will take topwater lures like Gotcha plugs and Looney Jigs. Many of the pier fishermen will use a leader, like 40-pound mono or light Sevenstrand wire leader, if the toothy fish are biting through the main monofilament line. Anglers with braided line should always use a mono or fluorocarbon leader because the fish near the pier can be extremely line shy.
“Fishing for the majority of the fish like Spanish and the smaller species will be from about 100 feet past the first octagon on the pier, where the bathrooms are, back to the surf,” Giannini said. “That’s where the best fishing is. There will be some Spanish caught on the end, but the best fishing for Spanish is from the second sandbar out to about 100 feet past the first octagon.”
For those visiting the pier for the first time, Giannini recommends taking a little while to get familiar with the surroundings and check out what the other anglers are doing before they make their first cast.
“The biggest tip is to be courteous, ask questions, cast straight, and not over somebody else’s line,” he said. “People on the pier are willing to assist those who are courteous and ask for help.”
If your outing is successful, there will be enough fish for dinner. If you have kitchen facilities where you’re staying, you can cook them up. But, if you’re too tired or don’t have a kitchen, there are a variety of restaurants in the area that offer the “hook and cook” option – you hook ‘em and they’ll cook ‘em.
If the fish aren’t biting, Gulf State Park Pier is a wonderful place to experience the Gulf Coast ecosystem filled with birds and marine creatures. A variety of learning tools are available as you explore the pier.