One of the tradeoffs for being able to live in the paradise we call the Alabama Gulf Coast is we are forced to reason with hurricane season.
Anglers who love to fish the Gulf State Park Pier during the fall will hopefully only have a short delay in the fishing because of tropical weather.
When Hurricane Ivan destroyed the previous pier in 2004, the new pier was built with such conditions in mind. The new pier is bigger and wider but to deal with storms it also has removable floor panels that will let the large waves crash through the gaps to keep from destroying the pier itself.
After the storm passes and the floor panels are replaced, fishing will resume. In most cases, the fishing is phenomenal after a storm. The storm has churned up the ocean floor and created a bounty for those fish who live on crustaceans and other bottom-dwelling animals. This leads to a feeding frenzy for most species that are encountered around the pier.
Although we still remain in mostly a summer pattern because of the water temperatures, when the weather starts to cool, the Spanish mackerel and king mackerel will start their migrations back to the east as they make their way toward the wintering grounds in south Florida. The Spanish tend to hang around a little longer than the kings.
The pier anglers are targeting Spanish by using bubble rigs, Looney jigs, small alewives and Gotcha plugs. Frozen cigar minnows and live alewives caught using live bait rigs work best on the kings.
When the water temperature finally gets below 70 degrees, the fall transition begins and the fishing for numerous inshore species improves dramatically.
Fishing for whiting, redfish and flounder will really gain momentum, and pompano will likely be biting, too. Cooler weather will make the fishing even better.
Several anglers, including noted pier fisherman David Thornton, have been catching loads of slot (16 to 26 inches) redfish in the surf with a combination of chartreuse-tailed grubs and dead shrimp.
Whiting and pompano can be caught on pieces of fresh cut shrimp with a relatively small hook with light line. If you can find live bull minnows, that will be the ticket for flounder and redfish. Sand fleas, whether they come frozen from the bait shop or dig your own in the surf line, are great for redfish and pompano.
When you head out on Gulf State Park Pier, match your tackle with the targeted fish species. If you’re headed to the octagon on the end of the pier, you’re probably going to want a long, medium-heavy rod with a reel that can hold about 300 yards of 15- to 20-pound test line. If you head to the octagon in the middle or nearer the shore, downsize your tackle to your typical gear for speckled trout with a 7 ½-foot rod and reel that can hold up to 150 yards of 12-pound test line.
The great thing about the current pier is there is room for everybody to fish in some form or fashion with a length of 1,540 feet and fishing space of 2,448 feet.
Fishing and pier licenses are required on Gulf State Park Pier. Visit their website for more information.