Pier and Shore Fishing Forecast 9-20-23 –

Pier and Shore Fishing Forecast 9-20-23
Written by David “The Pierponder” Thornton

As fall turns into the calendar, we begin to see more fall-like conditions along the coast. Occasional frontal incursions push warm, humid subtropical air away, making the weather often pleasant for a few days at a time. Besides daylight hours being much shorter now, the drier air cools more quickly at night, allowing the mornings to feel noticeably cooler and the afternoons not quite as hot by the end of September. The Gulf may become rough behind these fronts whenever the eastern trade winds blow strongly. But hurricane season is now quickly coming to an end although we have not been completely safe from this threat for a while yet. But so far, so good!
For the better part of this two weeks, tides will be at their highest before dawn with low tides in the late afternoon or early evening. The biggest expected exception to this pattern will be after the NEAP extension on September 29. Coincidentally, this is the date of the full moon. Mornings are becoming the preferred time to fish more effectively along the Gulf shorelines unless you want to get your feet and legs wet by wading in the afternoon. This isn’t a big problem since Gulf water temperatures are still in the mid to lower 80s. These biting “marsh flies” may still be a nuisance to beachgoers and fishermen, and they just love wet, bare legs.
Shore anglers can expect more of the same from marauding schools of Jack Crevel in the surf zone, especially near Fort Morgan Point. Large pesky plugs or large spoons (2 or 3 ounces) are effective lures to get the jacks to bite. But medium to heavy spinning tackle in the 30 to 50 pound class is needed to land these brutes urgently. Most of them are quickly returned to the Gulf, even though they are edible. Anglers in that area can expect to see more “bull” redfish action in the surf as the water begins to cool. Night fishing in this area can be very successful, but it is a bit difficult in terms of where to park and walk after dark. Check the Alabama Historical Commission’s rules and note signs for the wildlife refuge near Burgoyne Road (formerly known as “The Road Without a Name”). Shark fishing is also popular and productive after dark, especially for Blacktips who are very active in the surf now.
Other surf fishing action includes the dawn action of a “snapper” sized bluefish. These 2- to 3-pound blues often feed voraciously near beaches at dawn until sunrise, when the action suddenly stops. They can be caught with a variety of lures or lures, but a 1 or 1 1/2 ounce silver spoon is ideal.
After things settle down for a while, anglers can find more traditional surf fishing for pompano, whiting, and smallmouth redfish. Most people use double diameter pompano rigs baited with chunks of shrimp and fish bites. This time of year we see a huge influx of juvenile Jack Crevelles into the surf zone to the point where they are often the dominant species except for the small minnows that feed on them. Although they are relatively small (fork length 6 to 9 inches), compared to their small size they pull just as hard as their adult counterparts. This makes it a great game for shore anglers, especially when fishing deep water with light or lightweight jigs and small jigs. Hordes of these little terrors roam beyond the reach of the cliff, attacking anything that moves. It is not unusual to see schools numbering in the dozens or even a hundred. Ultralight anglers may catch all they want from these little brawlers in just a few hours. And guess what, they also taste delicious when sliced ​​and pan-fried!
In calm, clear water, a more stealthy approach is often more successful than the heavy tackle and typical pompano set rigs. This happens when smart anglers use single drop rigs, Fishfinder rigs, and Carolina rigs because these fish can be very wary at that time. So, anglers need to get closer to them with minimal terminal tackle to get more bites. The tackle class should also be lighter, using medium, light or even ultra-light gear from 10 lbs to 4 lbs. Hook size can also be reduced, and it’s hard to beat a Kahle #6 hook in these conditions with all of these rigs.
This approach is successful for surf fishing along the coast from Fort Morgan east to Perdido Key this time of year when conditions allow. The sand structures from Perdido Key to Alabama Point East were significantly altered by the large swell event caused by Hurricane “Idalia” in late August. The existing sandy structure combined with the path of this powerful hurricane along the western Florida Peninsula may have contributed to the higher than average number of juveniles captured in this vicinity. A very interesting phenomenon for sure, and welcome to Florida fishermen displaced by the temporary closure of the road at Johnson Beach.
Anglers who frequent Perdido Pass were happy to learn that the Phase 1 portion of Seawall Park from the restaurant to the bridge reopened in mid-September. Although night lighting is not yet available, this part is now available for hunters to use during the day. Connecting all the lighting is part of the second phase of the project. Next, crews will work from under the bridge northward along the curve in the seawall. Again, depending on the weather, the entire project is scheduled to be completed later this year.
Along the seawall and further out on the West Pier, anglers have been targeting Spanish mackerel, mangrove perch and flounder with varying success. Live bait seems to out-produce bait most of the time, especially for “keeper-sized” mangrove snapper, although pinfish are unforgiving on shrimp.
Meanwhile, work on the Gulf State Park pier remains sporadic. A lot seems to depend on weather and water conditions (of course). But the availability of baitfish and the absence or abundance of sharks have a significant impact on the catch from day to day. However, anglers have been seeing some good catches of Spanish mackerel periodically. As we move into the fall, the trend should be more towards the morning meal being more active for Spanish, and then again before dark. Bubble rigs are a crowd favorite, but the sound they make tends to mostly attract smaller Spanish mackerel which are often followed by larger sharks. Anglers who use half-ounce white jigs or even small diving plugs (such as the Rapala X-Rap) seem to have fewer problems with sharks blocking their lure and scaring away potential catches.
Pier anglers near shore are seeing some trout and small redfish, but these have been very difficult. Anglers have also managed to catch a good number of small-sized flounder. At this time of year, most, if not all, of these fish are male flounder which rarely grow to a harvestable size of 14 inches. There should be plenty of ladyfish, blue runners (“hardtails”), and juvenile jack crevelle (“yellowtails”), as well as a variety of other bycatch for pier anglers during this period.

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