John's Journal...

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

King Mackerel, Cobia, Pompano, Flounder, Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Bull Reds and Sailfish for $8 a Day

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

“He’s going to the left!” the lady screamed, with her rod pretzeled and her line singing in the wind like a harp string. Much like a well-choreographed ballet, all the other fishermen standing against the rail at the end of the Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama, held their rods high and stepped back, giving the lady room to slide down the rail, as she chased the big king mackerel on its 100-yard run. When she came to a light pole that blocked her progress, she reached around the pole, transferred the rod from her right hand to her left and kept sliding down the rail as other anglers gave her enough room to enable her to stay close to the pier’s rail and battle the king. But just like a football player who cuts back against the grain in a misdirection move to throw off the potential tacklers, the king mackerel turned abruptly and started back from the direction from which it had just come. “He’s going to the right!” the lady sang-out, and once again, the well-choreographed routine of lifting rods high and stepping away from the rail took place as though there were an unseen general barking-out orders. “I’ve got him coming now!” the lady announced a few minutes later. Without any other words being uttered, two men with two-different rope gaffs that looked like grappling hooks went to the rail on either side of the struggling angler. When the big king mackerel finally tired and laid on its side, the man on the left made a quick upward motion with the rope that caused the gaff to penetrate the big king mackerel, so the fish could be hauled up 25 feet and brought high over the rail and onto the deck of the pier. Click to enlarge

Any other time I’ve been on other piers and a king mackerel has been hooked, what has followed has been a train wreck of angry words and upset fishermen as the king mackerel tangles lines, and the fishermen have to try to maneuver around the other anglers on the end of the pier. But this didn’t happen at the pier. Instead, everyone was excited for the lady who’d hooked the king mackerel. If a line got crossed, either the lady or one of the Pier Rats – what regulars who fish at the pier several times a week call themselves – passed the rod over, under or around, to allow the lady with the king mackerel to continue her battle, making the fighting and the landing of the king as smooth as a volunteer fire department putting out a house fire in the country. I never Click to enlargehad seen so much cooperation from other anglers when a big fish was on the line or seen other fishermen making allowances for someone with a big fish on her line. But as I’ve learned, the Pier Rats at the Gulf State Park Pier know the etiquette of pier fishing. They all work together to help the angler who has a fish on his or her line successfully fight the fish and land it.

But king mackerel weren’t the only fish caught on the pier, while I was there. I saw cobia, pompano, flounder, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and bull reds all brought onto the deck by anglers from all over the country. There’s definitely no better fishing for the $8 price of a daily fishing permit to be found anywhere in the country than you’ll find at Gulf Shores, Ala., on the Gulf State Park Pier.

The new 1,540-foot-long and 20-foot-wide pier, a marvel of modern engineering, boasts 2,448 feet of fishing space along its rails, making it twice as big as the old pier. It also can hold more fishermen comfortably than any other pier on the Gulf Coast. The pier features concession-area seating, indoor retail space for tackle and souvenirs, a mid-pier comfort station and wheelchair-accessible rail fishing. The pier has been wildly popular with anglers since its opening. As Travis Hartsell of Greenville, Ala., says, “I’ve only missed two weekends since the pier opened. On October 3rd, 2009, I hooked a sailfish off the end of the pier. The fish took a cigar minnow and made two jumps. After the second jump, it broke off. This was the second sailfish hooked off the end of the pier in the only 3 weeks.”

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: Watch Those Pier Mice Fish

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 1