John's Journal...

Fantastic Pier Fishing for Numerous Species on the Gulf of Mexico at Gulf Shores, Alabama, for $8 a Day

Watch Those Pier Mice Fish

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: After the destruction of the old Gulf State Park Pier at Gulf Shores, Alabama, by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Alabama’s pier anglers eagerly awaited the development of the new pier. In July, 2009, the new 1/4-mile-long Gulf State Park Pier opened. For $8 for a daily fishing permit (children under 12 accompanied by a paying customer fish for free), anglers can enjoy 2,448 feet of fishing space along the pier’s rails, as well as the pier’s Click to enlargeother amenities.

A big, burly man stood next to the rail of the Gulf State Park Pier, holding a 7-foot spinning rod with a big spinning reel and his line cast out as far from the pier as he could throw it. Suddenly, a king mackerel hit, and as the drag began to scream, John Gianinni, one of the owners of J&M Tackle (800-483-7069; in Orange Beach, Ala., passed the rod to his son Hunter. Hunter’s one of the Pier Mice, part of the Pier Rat family. All the regulars who fish the pier call themselves Pier Rats, and many of them bring their children with them. But don’t let their sizes fool you. Most of these youngsters are better fishermen than most of the people on the pier. They know pier etiquette and how to hook a fish, fight a fish and get out of the way when someone else is moving down the rail with a fish on the line. They also know what to do when a fish hits the deck. These young anglers make a day to the pier well worth the trip.

I watched Hunter Gianinni take the rod from his dad and fight a big king mackerel like a pro. And, amazingly, the adults on the pier give him the freedom of the rail to move in the direction the big king was running but also cheered him on, encouraging him to fight the fish. When Hunter wore the king mackerel down, a man with a gaff was there to help land his fish. “The pier has a great, family-oriented environment,” John Gianinni emphasizes. “You can bring your family out here and there are no alcoholic beverages permitted on the pier. Chuck Kelly is the pier manager and functions also as the Pier Police, keeping everyone in line and not permitting disorderly conduct. I enjoy bringing my family to the pier.” Click to enlarge

Many anglers purchase their fishing equipment atClick to enlarge John Gianinni’s tackle store, J&M Tackle. When asked what type of tackle a fisherman needs to fish off the Gianinni, John says, “Bass or catfishing tackle are appropriate for inshore fish, like flounder, whiting, redfish and speckled trout. On the end of the pier, you can catch Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and bluefish. To catch king mackerel, you must have heavier tackle, including a large spinning reel that will hold 200 yards of 20-pound-test line. If you’re planning to fish for king mackerel off the pier, don’t buy the cheapest $30 or $40 combination spinning rod and reel you can find. Plan to spend at least $70 to $80 for a decent salt-water spinning outfit. Tie on the most-tiny barrel swivel you can find, and then attach a 20-inch-long piece of 30-pound-test multi-strand wire and a No. 2 treble hook. The lighter you keep your terminal tackle, the better your odds for catching king mackerel. The pier mackerel are leader-shy fish, so don’t try to use heavier leader than 30-pound test. We bait with live LYs (alewives) caught off the pier or dead, frozen cigar minnows.

“Two types of equipment are used to land fish off the pier. For Spanish mackerel, flounder, speckled trout, bluefish, whiting, redfish or any fish weighing under 12 to 15 pounds, you need to use a landing net that costs around $30 to $40. The landing net is on a long piece of rope and has a weight in the bottom. Then angler can swim his catch over the top of the net and pull the net up and over the rail of the pier. A landing net like this is a good piece of equipment to have when you’re fishing inshore at the pier.”

However, a rope gaff will be required to land the larger fish caught by anglers fishing from the end of the pier. “There always are plenty of people with gaffs out here on the pier,” Gianinni mentions, “and they’re always happy to help.” Gianinni has fished both the new and the old piers for 30 years, yet he’s never owned a gaff because there’s always someone on the pier who has one and is glad to help land your fish.

For more information on the Gulf State Park Pier, call (251) 967-FISH (3474), or visit Check out and type ‘pier’ in the search box to read articles on fishing the new pier and much-more information, including pier-fishing tactics. For motel reservations and restaurant suggestions, contact Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-745-SAND (7263), or email, or visit An affordable motel that offers a pool and a workout room is the Microtel Inn. Call (251) 967-3000, or visit

Tomorrow: The Three Faces of the Pier

Check back each day this week for more about "Fantastic Pier Fishing for Numerous Species on the Gulf of Mexico at Gulf Shores, Alabama, for $8 a Day"

Day 1: King Mackerel, Cobia, Pompano, Flounder, Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Bull Reds and Sailfish for $8 a Day
Day 2: Watch Those Pier Mice Fish
Day 3: The Three Faces of the Pier
Day 4: Specks, Reds, Sheepshead and Flounder from the Middle of the Pier
Day 5: Day or Night, Fishing and Eating Is At Its Best on the Alabama State Park Pier


Entry 530, Day 2