John's Journal...

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

The Three Faces of the Pier

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 other amenities.Click to enlarge

The Gulf State Park Pier can be divided into three parts – the part closest to shore, the middle of the pier and the end of the pier. At each-various section of the pier, anglers generally are fishing for different species of fish. For instance, the anglers closest to shore usually will catch whiting (ground mullet), pompano, flounder and an occasional speckled trout and redfish. Middle-of-the-pier anglers generally will be fishing for speckled trout, redfish, flounder and sheepshead. The anglers fishing the end of the pier, including the 65-five-foot-across end cap, usually will be fishing for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel or redfish in October, although cobia, sailfish and tarpon often are hooked off the end of the pier.

To make the pier even better for fishing, the Alabama Marine Resources Division has built artificial reefs to attract and hold fish close enough to the pier for anglers to catch them. “Because the artificial reefs are new, they don’t seem to be holding a large number of fish yet,” David Thornton, a longtime Pier Rat, explains. “These reefs have to build-up a growth of algae, barnacles and other marine life to not only concentrate the fish but also hold them. However, because of the artificial reefs, we believe the entire area homes more sport fish than it did before the reefs were planted. We know that as the reefs age, they will begin to hold more fish, and the numbers of fish that can be caught from the pier will continue to increase.” Click to enlarge

One of the preferred baits of the pier fishermen is LYs (alewives). At first light, when many ofthe Pier Rats arrive for a day of fishing, they begin their day by catching the LYs they’ll use for bait that day. Wetzel Woods has fished the Gulf State Park Pier since 1996. He averages fishing 3 days a week and catches his LYs using a series of small, wire loops that are all attached with a weight on the bottom and a red string running through each of the loops. “The LYs think that red string is some type of bait, and when they run at the red string to take a bite of it, they get caught in the loops,” Wetzel says. “We have a weight at the end of the loop to keep them vertical in the water column, and when we catch one or two baits, we reel-up the loops, gently remove the LYs and put the fish in a 5-gallon bucket, with holes half-way up and a screw-on lid. OncClick to enlargee we have four or more LYs in our bucket, we put the bucket on the side of the pier with a rope and then tie the rope onto the railing of the pier. I try to have 12 to 15 LYs in my live bucket before I start fishing. To have an effective LY for catching king mackerel, make sure your LY stays in your 5-gallon bucket for about 2 hours. During that time, the LY gets comfortable in the bucket and becomes accustomed to the other LYs in the bucket. When you take the LY out of the bucket, hook it through the back and cast it as far as you can from the pier, the LY suddenly realizes it’s out in the big water all alone. Then the LY becomes scared, panics and then starts to dart in different directions. The frenzied action of the LY, once it hits the big water, attracts the king mackerel and causes them to bite.

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: Specks, Reds, Sheepshead and Flounder from the Middle 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 3