Head to the Surf When the Weather Cools this Fall
When the summer heat finally loses its grip on the Alabama Gulf Coast, it will be time to head to the sugar sand beaches in search of some of the best-eating fish the coastal waters have to offer.
When that first front of the year blankets the coast with cooler air, the whiting and pompano start biting better in the surf. Just a few degrees drop in water temperature will trigger the feeding frenzy.
Pompano can be caught in the surf on pompano jigs or natural bait, like peeled shrimp, sand fleas and ghost shrimp.
Bait shops will fresh-dead shrimp and likely will have frozen sand fleas. Anglers will have to catch their own ghost shrimp with a suction pump, available at the bait shops, in the sand at the surf line.
Use a small hook, like a No. 6 Kahle or a small No. 8 circle hook, when you’re fishing for pompano or whiting.
For pompano, some anglers are casting pompano jigs in the surf, but sometimes the fish prefer some kind of natural bait.
If the water is clear, blind-casting pompano jigs can pay off with a limit pretty quickly. If the water is a little murky, that additional scent from the natural bait will help the fish locate the bait. Peeled shrimp, ghost shrimp and sand fleas are the preferred baits for pompano. Many anglers use a chunk of Fish Bites on the end of the hook for further enticement and it helps keep the natural bait on the hook.
Most bait shops will have plenty of shrimp, as well as frozen sand fleas. Anglers have to catch their own ghost shrimp with a suction pump in the sand at the surf line. The bait shops will have the pumps needed.
For those who just prefer the tranquility of the surf and want to catch a pompano or two, take a little piece of fresh dead shrimp and bury the hook in it. Make sure the hook is hidden because pompano can be finicky. Then cast the bait in the dark water next to the first sandbar. Put your fishing rod in the rod holder. Sit back and relax. If you’re using a small circle hook, the pompano will hook itself, all you have to do is reel it in.
The pompano length limit is 12 inches, and the daily creel limit is three fish per person.
If you find the whiting, go with bits of shrimp and a small hook. Some anglers use two-hook rigs on a three-way swivel for the pyramid weight. Use the smallest pyramid weight you can get by without being swept around by the current. There is no size or bag limit for whiting, which rarely get larger than two pounds. A single-hook rig can also be used and sometimes works better for the pompano.
October is always a great month for catching big redfish off the front beach, not to mention flounder.
The catch those big reds in the surf, most anglers use either cut mullet or live pinfish for bait. However, these bull reds can stress your tackle so be prepared for a fight with larger equipment and a 20-pound test line
For flounder, the early angler gets the flatfish. Casting a minnow-imitation jig into the surf in the breaking dawn will often yield flounder.
Alabama has two flounder species but they fall under the same regulations, which is a daily creel limit of five fish with a minimum size of 14 inches total length. Just remember that flounder season is closed the entire month of November to protect the spawning fish.
The Southern flounder gets much larger than the Gulf flounder, which has more variation in color than the Southern flounder. You could catch either while fishing the surf.
Whichever species you prefer, Alabama’s beautiful beaches are filled with fishing action in the fall. Don’t miss out. Plan a fall fishing trip now.