I have had the pleasure to drop a line in waters around the world, but my visit to the Alabama Gulf Shores and Orange Beach delivered a menagerie of fish and fishing options in just one visit that truly impressed me. I connected with my friend Kay Maghan and my hosts with the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism to see for myself why anglers love this area.
Let’s start with the fish. During my deep-sea trip withReel Surprise Charters, we traveled more than 20 miles out into the Gulf fishing at a depth of 115-feet. Our bait of choice was cut squid which we dropped to the bottom at each location.
In the six-hour trip, I pulled up many large triggerfish and white snapper. Also pulled into the boat from other anglers were large red snapper (not yet in season to keep), grouper, amberjack and a host of other deep water fish. I was amazed at the wide variety of fish that we caught in a single location. All fish that were legal to keep to eat were put into the cooler – the rest were thrown back.
Wanting to try my hand at night fishing in the bay, I connected with Captain Ralph Young of Fishin’ Dixie Inshore Fishing. Captain Young chartered our evening trip in the St. John Waterway where we were targeting speckled trout. We focused on locations near docks with underwater lighting. Those are perfect spots for fish to hide in the shadows, yet have first dibs at passing food in the light.
Using shrimp as bait (hooking near the tail so they swim in the light) we cast our 20-pound test line into the shadows and let the current carry our bait across the lit area. Within the first minute, a fish hit my line and I land a beautiful 17-inch speckled trout.
Throughout the evening, we pulled in more speckled trout (which have rather vicious front fangs, by the way), redfish and even a stingray. When midnight approached, catfish were the only species hitting, which meant it was time to pack up and head for home. Captain Young says once the catfish start biting, your chances of landing anything else are slim because conditions have changed.
Night fishing requires a perfect balance of current, water temperature and location. The calm current was on our side and the 79-degree water was ideal for feeding. The third critical element is where a reputable and proven captain comes in. Captain Young has been fishing these waters for many years and knows the feeding patterns of specific species so he can get clients right to the prime spots.
Next, I targeted Offshore fishing with Intercostal Safaris which operates one of the most unique charter options I have ever seen. While the company offers traditional private fishing charters for offshore and saltwater bow fishing, they also hold federal permits to offer duck hunting, wild hog hunting and multiple combination trips of hunting and fishing in the same outing.
The day of our scheduled trip, theweather did not cooperate, but Intercoastal Safaris owner, Stephen Lee, arranged a backup option that was impressive. We stayed inshore to target redfish.
This trip with Intercostal Safaris was truly unique because not only were the guides expertly in-tune with the nuances of the intercoastal waterway, but the trip was a complete education about what we were fishing for, why were targeting specific species in the locations that we stop, what we were using for bait and why.
I am impressed with the education that comes along with the trip, and it is not by accident. The company prides itself on teaching you to fish – not just taking you to fish, so you can expect information before, during and after your guided trip.
With a few black snapper and a rogue stingray at our first stop, Captain Aaron Abbott moved us to a spot sure to be teeming with redfish at the Perdido Pass Bridge. Once we dropped our lines into the water, it was Game On!
One giant redfish after another took our shrimp bait and put up fights. It was exciting action after a slow start to the day. The ice chest could barely hold our catch, and luck was on our side. The drama in the boat culminated with a monster redfish that hooked onto my line and struggled with me as I tried to wrestle it out from under the boat. In one final straw, the enormous fish switched directions and instantly shattered my rod into three parts.Desperate, Captain Aaron and I started grabbing the line, hoping as a last ditch effort we could land the fish, but it didn’t happen.
Intercostal Safaris owner, Stephen Lee just happened to be rolling on it. Check it out!
Talk about a dramatic end to an incredible few days of fishing! So, what did we do with our catch? Kay and I enjoyed delicious fresh seafood meals.
Many restaurants in the area prepare Hook & Cook meals, which is just what it sounds like – you hook it and they cook it. Kay and I took our load of redfish and black snapper to Shipp’s Harbour Grill where they prepared it for us gourmet-style and presented it on a platter complete with sides of green beans and mashed potatoes.
The triggerfish that we caught deep-sea fishing we took to the Flora-Bama Yacht Club with friends (we had a LOT of fish!) where they prepared our meals Mediterranean style, fried and baked.
If fishing from the boat is not for you, head to the Gulf Shores State Park Pier, where the local anglers hangout. You can rent tackle for the day. I spent a day there just watching the scene unfold accented by pelicans competing for incoming fish and the occasional shark beaching the water.
During my visit to the Gulf Shores, I was able to try three kinds of fishing in four days and I look forward to trying bow fishing the next time I am in the area. I am so impressed at the wide variety of fish to catch and charters to book depending on your interest and skill level.
When I wasn’t fishing, I enjoyed strolling the stark white sand beaches at sunrise watching fishing unfold nature’s way. For more information on visiting the Alabama Gulf Shore & Orange Beach Area, contact GulfShores.com.