When most people who have never visited Alabama envision the state they see cotton fields, rural black belt towns or industrial cities like Birmingham. Almost certainly, sandy beaches aren’t what they think of.
Yes, Alabama has a coastline. It’s only 32 miles on the Gulf of Mexico, but it would be difficult to find a more beautiful beach anywhere in the world. The sand is a white quartz, washed down from the Appalachian mountains. It didn’t get here overnight — it took hundreds of thousands of years to build the coastline with beautiful white sand that glistens in the sunlight and crunches under bare feet.
Many of our visitors happily spend their entire vacations relaxing on their patios, watching the waves break, or sitting in a beach chair reading a book while their children build sandcastles. But those who want more action than that will not be disappointed. The fishing on the Alabama Gulf Coast is great.
How many places can you catch saltwater fish on one side of the road and freshwater fish on the other? You can in Gulf Shores.
The three freshwater lakes in Gulf State Park have speckled trout, bass, bluegills and catfish. Catch some of those fish in the morning and in the afternoon walk across Perdido Beach Boulevard and fish in the surf for whiting, bluefish, pompano, Spanish mackerel and dozens of other saltwater species. (You might even hook into a shark)
Or you can fish from the longest pier on the Gulf Coast, Gulf State Park Pier, and catch even bigger fish like king mackerel or cobia. Gulf State Park encompasses both sides of the highway, and if privacy is what you want there is plenty of room to spread your blanket or pitch your tent during even the busy tourist season (the summer months in Gulf Shores.)
While I love Gulf State Park, my favorite place to fish is Little Lagoon Pass on West Beach. On hot summer days I like to wade into the shallow water to stay cool while I’m waiting on white trout or flounder.
Flounder fishing is even better in the lagoon in the fall and early winter when the fish move from the shallow water of the lagoon to the deeper water in the Gulf of Mexico. While fishing for flounder, occasionally a big redfish will bend my rod and put up a bigger fight than I am expecting.
If I want a change of scenery, a five minute walk puts me on the Gulf. On days when the surf is calm, I usually cast my line as far out as I can and then sit on the beach to wait for something to take my bait. On days when the surf is rough, I wade into the water a short way, and cast my rod into the waves. Sometimes I can even see the fish in the waves before they bite.
The color of the water in the Gulf can change from one day to the next. My favorite time to fish from the beach is when the water is clear blue and calm. It feels like paradise on days like that when the pompano, my favorite saltwater fish for both catching and eating, are biting.
Lagoon Pass is also a great place for casting a net for mullet or catching crabs. Catching crabs is something anyone can do, even very young children. Casting a net for mullet takes a little practice, but you should get good enough to catch a few fish fairly quickly, provided the mullet are running, which is often.
If you really enjoy fishing, it would be very enjoyable to hire a fishing guide to take you into the backwaters of Terry Cove or Wolfe Bay in Orange Beach. A good guide will almost guarantee you that you will catch something, and when the fish are really biting the guide will put you in the middle of the action.
If you like fishing, even a little bit, book a deep sea fishing trip. You can book a trip for as little as six hours from one of the many Orange Beach marinas, and you can be in the Gulf within twenty minutes from most of the marinas. Another hour will put you on reefs where you can enjoy some of the best red snapper fishing in the world. Other fish you have a good chance of catching are triggerfish, vermilion snapper, white snapper, amberjack, redfish, and grouper.
If you really like to fish and want the experience of a lifetime, book an overnight deep sea fishing trip. This would be your opportunity to go after big game fish– the really big ones like yellowfin tuna which can weigh more than a hundred pounds. Or maybe you want to go after big billfish like sailfish or blue marlin. Blue Marlin can weigh up to 600 pounds. How would you like to fight one even a quarter that size?
Fishing on the Alabama Gulf Coast is something everyone, both young and old, experienced and inexperienced, can enjoy.
On a week-long vacation, you can use a different method and target a different fish on each day of the week. Fishing can be your entire vacation or just a fun part of it.
Come down and go fishing!
Written by Bill Coleman – Gulf Shores, Alabama