Fort Morgan's Dixey Bar Known for Bull Redfish
For those who think you have to head offshore to catch big fish, think again.
Within yards of the Alabama coastline at Fort Morgan, there is a legendary fishing spot with a name that’s often misspelled.
Dixey Bar, often misspelled Dixie, is a shallow sand bar on the east side of the Mobile Bay ship channel just off Fort Morgan. The bar is named after the clipper ship Robert H. Dixey, which disintegrated on the bar in 1860 when a hurricane caused it to break free from its anchor lines in Mobile Bay. The storm broke the wooden-hulled ship apart and 18 sailors lost their lives.
The sand bar remains today, but few know of its history. What makes Dixey Bar famous these days is the fishing, and the odds that a monster redfish, known as a bull, may be ready to crunch down on your bait.
With a depth that varies from 5 to 10 feet, Dixey Bar is what could be called a dinner table for the redfish in the area. On the west side of the bar is the Mobile ship channel, which has plenty of deeper water. On the east side is the Gulf of Mexico. Dixey Bar is about 3 miles long, but the width varies a great deal, from about 2 miles wide near Fort Morgan to on a couple of hundred yards wide as it melts into the Gulf on the south end.
When redfish are on the prowl, they move up onto the bar, searching for anything edible. That could be blue crabs, shrimp, pogies, pinfish, croakers, just to name a few.
When the bull reds are in a feeding frenzy, it really doesn’t matter. If it appears to be something edible, the redfish will hit it.
For the most part, you’ll probably want to beef up your tackle just a bit from your trout-fishing gear. But, it’s not necessary to act like you’re out to catch amberjack. Monofilament line in the 12- to 14-pound range will do just fine, as long as you don’t try to horse the fish to the boat. And be sure to check your drag before the first bait is deployed.
I’ve found that the fish seem to be in a bar-feeding mood on a falling tide. My fishing buddies and I will start near Fort Morgan and start a slow drift down the bar with our baits dragging along in Carolina-rig style with a Kahle hook, either a No. 4 or No. 2 size. A half-ounce egg sinker is pegged a couple of feet up the line, either with a split shot or a swivel.
If the bulls are on the bar, it won’t take long to get the action going. Be prepared for numerous drag-stripping runs after you set the hook. For those who prefer not to use bait and like the stick to artificial lures, don’t worry. Like I said, if the reds are feeding, they aren’t finicky. Regular lead-heads with grubs, gold spoons, stick baits or lipless crankbaits, like Rat-L-Traps, will work just fine. At times, they’ll even annihilate topwater lures, like Zara Spooks.
I remember one trip where we’d caught and released about a dozen of the bull reds that hit topwater lures. Tiring of getting the treble hooks loose from the fish, a buddy decided to remove the hooks from the Spook and that way the fish would come loose at some point during the fight. His calculations were off. A big bull grabbed his Spook, and the fight was on. However, the redfish never opened his mouth to let the bait go. After 15 minutes, the monofilament line finally gave way, and the bull red swam away with the hookless lure still in its mouth.
Alabama’s regulations put a slot limit on redfish of 16 to 26 inches with a daily bag limit of three fish. Anglers can keep one fish longer than 26 inches per day, but a bull redfish is not good table fare. Just shoot photos and toss the beautiful, bronze fish back into the shallow water on Dixey Bar.