Shore & Pier Report: Nov. 2013

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ater temperatures descend like stair steps throughout the month of November as successive cold fronts usher in cooler and cooler air. But fishing opportunities still abound for shore bound anglers who ignore other distractions and brace against the cold and wind in continued pursuit of the species available. The bull redfish run is THE quintessential autumn activity at spots like Fort Morgan Point, Alabama Point, Dauphin Island’s east and west end and points, Cedar Point Pier and at the end of the Gulf State Park Pier through the entire month.

Patient bottom fishing with fresh cut mullet or pogies (Atlantic menhaden) is the traditional way to go. But baiting up with a live finger mullet, pinfish, croaker or other hand-sized baits is almost guaranteed to garner a strike from marauding redfish, jack crevelle or sharks that often prowl the near shore waters. Long rods (often over 10’) and large spinning or conventional reels holding over 250 yards of 20#-30# mono or braid are standard equipment for these dedicated anglers looking for that “big pull”.

On the beach, multiple rods are often set in a ‘picket line’ as improvised PVC rodholders are pushed into the sand at intervals down the beach around a likely looking spot near a point or bar cut. These patient anglers often pass the time between bites using their lighter spinning tackle as a miniature bottom rig to fish for their bait (pinfish and croaker) or even catch whiting / groundmullet, ‘puppy’ (small black) drum and even pompano that often lurk in nearby shallow water. Many days have incoming tides in the late afternoon into the evening and these smaller yet feisty and very tasty fish usually venture into shallow ‘beach holes’ right along the shore at some point during the rising tide.

Anywhere the water is even just a few feet deep (literally at the angler’s feet) can offer some great fishing opportunities for exceptional light and even ultralight tackle using standard Carolina rigged pieces of fresh shrimp or ghost shrimp on the bottom. And in calm water, ¼ and 1/8 ounce jigs tipped with pieces of fresh shrimp or even the artificial 2” Gulp Shrimp in ‘New Penny’ or ‘Molting’ colors work well at times. The presentation is on the bottom and the retrieve is just fast enough to keep slack out of the line to detect any bites. Occasionally a late season flounder or stray bull redfish or black drum will pounce on the offering, so pleasant ‘surprises’ are not too uncommon.

In contrast, a much more recently evolving fishing activity is the late ‘fall run’ of king mackerel from the Gulf State Park Pier. Since 2009 it seems a combination of the longer pier into much deeper waters coupled with relatively mild autumn water temperatures has allowed king mackerel to be caught from the pier as late as Thanksgiving week (last year). For the most part these diehard pier anglers were ‘snobbling’ frozen cigar minnows as few of the large live baits (like LYs) are available once the water temperature gets below 70 degrees. But on mild days some kings still venture by, and they are understandably hungry and ‘supercharged’ by the cool oxygen rich water.

Most of the fall pier anglers are concentrating on the intermittent schools of bullreds that pass by, or are occupied elsewhere on the pier in pursuit of whiting, pompano, croakers, black drum, flounder, and sheepshead or even the occasional speckled trout. Spanish mackerel are caught less and less frequently throughout the month as the water gets cooler and natural baitfishes become increasingly scarce around the pier. But bluefish schools often take up residence near or even under the pier and will often attack offerings intended for other fish species. Fat fall bluefish (often weighing up to 3#) are exceptionally aggressive and hungry after spawning and are common catches from the pier and Perdido Pass jetties throughout this month and into the winter. They will hit a variety of lures including hard baits like Mirrolure, Yozuri and Bomber. But they usually respond even better to a well presented ½ ounce white jig or even the soft plastics like Fin-s and Saltwater Assassin bounced off the bottom.

Often maligned as table fare, bluefish are really delicious when properly prepared, especially fresh with most or all of the ‘red meat’ trimmed away. Slathering the fillets with a light coating of olive oil or mayonnaise and a little sprinkle of salt & pepper or Cavender’s Greek Seasonings and pan-fried in a non-stick pan is a delicious way to enjoy these hard fighting fall fish especially when you get tired of all that turkey ;-)