The original version of this article was written and published by the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Converntion and Visitor’s Bureau. The original copy can be viewed by visiting www.GulfShores.com.
Artificial reef draws diverse marine life to local fishing spot
GULF SHORES AND ORANGE BEACH, ALA. – 7-5-2012 -Sometimes fishing is not all about catching “the big one.” For fishermen like Bob Miller, the fishing experience at the Gulf State Park Pier is just as much about the people and the place.
“I just love it out here – mostly because of all the friendly folks,” said Miller, a Gulf Shores retiree who has been fishing at least four times a week since the pier opened in 2009. “There’s a good group of people who fish out here on a regular basis. I just enjoy being out here and being part of it – plus, catch fish every now and then.”
With a backdrop of white sand beaches and turquoise Gulf Coast waters, faithful locals like Miller and the guests who venture onto the Gulf State Park Pier each day are welcomed into the community that has developed over fish tales and long hours in the Alabama sun.
“I go by ‘Fin Chaser’ on the pier,” Miller said. His friendly demeanor aside, it is obvious that Miller, with a sun-weathered complexion and a cart loaded with fishing gear in tow, is a man you could stop to borrow from his wealth of fishing expertise.
Miller also uses his nickname on the forum gulfshorespierfishing.com. Pier frequenters created the site as place to talk about what is biting, post photos of their latest catch and discuss “anything and everything fishing related.”
“It’s good fishing. We don’t have a boat, so the pier’s the perfect spot,” said Cody Searcy, a Gulf Shores resident who fishes at the pier weekly. Searcy had just helped a fellow fisherman bring in a large stingray over the wood railing of the pier.
“Everyone here tries to help each other out and work with each other,” Searcy said.
As important as the sense of community is to life at the pier, the fishermen will tell you that it would not have developed if the pier were not such a great place to catch fish.
James Coley of Williamson, Ga. spent an afternoon fishing with his 10-year-old son on the pier during their first vacation to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Ala.
“We’ve only been here ten minutes, and there have already been some nice fish that people are bringing in – like this woman over here,” said Coley, chuckling as he pointed to a woman reeling in a fish on a doubled-over pole. “There’s lots of activity happening here on the pier. Looks like it’s pretty productive fishing.”
Anglers’ success fishing on the pier is due in part to the artificial reef system that was placed around the pier shortly before it opened in 2009, said Kevin Anson, Alabama Marine Resources marine biologist and state artificial reef coordinator.
Twelve limestone reef pyramids are located within a 300-foot no-boating zone around the pier. One of the pilings was constructed of material from the old pier that was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
“We saw the benefit of putting some additional material around the pier to create habitat for various species of marine life for those anglers that utilize the pier,” Anson said. “Having the reefs a short distance away provides additional habitat to bring more fish in.”
Along with the stingray that Searcy helped reel in, anglers catch a large variety of marine life. Some of the species that are commonly caught on the pier include king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cobia, flounder, speckled trout and various snapper varieties. Saltwater fishing licenses and daily permits can be purchased on the pier, and information about seasonal regulations for certain fish are also available.
The heaviest fish Miller has reeled in on the pier was a 28-pound king mackerel. “I think the biggest one caught on the pier was 47 or 48 pounds,” Miller said.
The pier is open 24 hours a day, and at 1,540 feet in length, one of the largest piers in the Gulf of Mexico has plenty of room to accommodate the people who are drawn back daily, as well as the visitors who arrive to experience the pier for the first time.
As the pier manager, Teresa Carlisle takes in every dynamic of pier life. “Fisherman start coming out at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, and it stays busy until dinnertime,” Carlisle said.
Many of the people on the pier each day have never held a fishing rod before, and Carlisle said she appreciates the way the locals interact with the visitors. “They’ll talk to you and they’re always willing to help. I’ve even seen them teach people how to clean a fish.”
During the summer, a group of young teenagers spends nearly every day at the pier. “We call them our kids,” Carlisle said. “Everyone watches out for them and it’s a safe place for them to be.”
She also said that although fishing is the pier’s main draw, many people come to the pier just to watch the sunset and get a front row seat to see many of the Gulf’s marine species.
“You get people from every walk of life,” Carlisle said. “It’s just a close-knit community.”
More information about Gulf State Park or fishing regulations is available at www.alapark.com/GulfState.
For more information on this release, please contact:
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
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