Ask any Alabamian what they think of Gulf Shores, and they’ll tell you, “Small town, big beach.” This motto has become a nickname for the seaside town, which stretches 23 miles across the Gulf Coast from Orange Beach to Fort Morgan. With less than 10,000 inhabitants, Gulf Shores fishing punches more than above its weight!
The southernmost settlement of Alabama, this charming town is the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. But fishing in Gulf Shores offers more than just big game action. From Mobile Bay and the Little Lagoon, across the 17,000 artificial reefs within reach from shore, there’s plenty to keep you on your toes. So without further ado, let’s find out what’s what.
What kind of fish can I find in Gulf Shores?
When thinking about a Gulf Shores fishing trip, the first thing on every angler’s mind is, naturally, the fish. The list of creatures that you can target while casting your line here is almost endless. But we’ve drawn up a shortlist of some of the town’s most popular catches.
We’ll start our journey inshore, where you can find some of the most prized shallow water game fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Redfish are sought after in all bays, flats, and mangroves around the Gulf, and Alabama’s coastline is no different.
In fact, you can find some of the best Redfish action in the Gulf here. Hit the Little Lagoon, Mobile Bay, and Perdido Bay year-round and get your hands on trophy “Bull” Reds and some delicious smaller fish. The best action is in spring through fall, but you can even come in winter when the offshore season quietens down. In short, you can always get your fill of exciting and delicious fish.
Another Gulf favorite, the Speckled Trout is a delicacy in Alabama. Come fishing inshore out of Gulf Shores and get your hands on these tasty creatures whenever – much like Redfish.
While they share the same seasonality as their neighbor, they’re also a more common catch come the colder months, with winter Specks earning quite a reputation for themselves here. Hit the same bodies of water as when targeting Redfish, and you’ll come across these beauties in large schools. There’s the additional chance of landing Pompano, Sheepshead, Black Drum, and Flounder when the season is right.
Gulf Shores fishing is pretty much synonymous with Red Snapper fishing. When the federal season hits, the race is on! Both state and federal governments have strict seasons, so you’ll only be able to target this prized creature in summer. Make sure to book your Gulf Shores fishing adventure early to avoid disappointment.
Thankfully, this isn’t the only kind of Snapper you can catch here. The US’s largest artificial reef system is within touching distance from shore, and it attracts plenty of tough-fighting and delicious creatures year-round. Go after Lane, Mangrove, Vermillion, and many other Snapper species and you’re sure to fill up on fish for dinner whenever you come.
Cobia and Amberjack
Staying with the theme of reef fishing, and alongside Snappers, you’ll also find some other Gulf of Mexico favorites. While it may seem harsh to lump two sought-after creatures together, they swim in the same waters, and we couldn’t pick one over the other to make the cut!
Both of these creatures grow to incredible sizes in the Gulf, making the most of the nutrients available to them along the artificial reefs. They make their way from the Florida Keys around the Gulf and back throughout the summer, meaning you can target them from spring through fall, adding another dimension to your nearshore Gulf Shores fishing trip.
Often overlooked in favor of the stronger fish that they share the waters with, Kingfish certainly don’t go unnoticed in Gulf Shores. Along with their Spanish relative, they make up the nearshore trolling scene in the Gulf of Mexico, providing plenty of action and lots of rewards for dinner.
Like most nearshore, migratory fish here, summer is the peak time to catch them. Go after them as they make their way around the Gulf and you can combine your bottom fishing on the reefs with a spot of trolling to maximize your gains. Combine your Mackerel fishing trip with the chance to hunt some Groupers, and you’re sure in for a treat.
Big Game Fish
Serious anglers will always relish the chance to spend as much time as possible on the water, and you’ll need to do just that if you want to land a trophy catch in the Gulf. The waters don’t get too deep until about 60 miles offshore, with the big game action kicking in even further out towards the oil rigs.
Spend anywhere from 24 hours to a few days on the water offshore, and you could come into contact with some of the world’s most sought-after fish. Yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Sailfish, and Blue and White Marlin call the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico home, meaning that a Gulf Shores deep sea fishing adventure will provide you with a memorable angling experience.
How to Go Fishing in Gulf Shores
So you know what you want to catch, but now it comes down to finding the best way for you to get the most out of your Gulf Shores fishing adventure. This section will give you the low-down on the most effective means to catch fish depending on your experience level, budget, and desires.
Gulf Shores Pier Fishing
Whether inshore or towards the reefs of the Gulf, there’s a pier for your needs. The town itself and nearby Orange Beach are full of these walkways stretching out into the water, giving avid anglers the chance to set up camp for the day. Target anything from Catfish to Redfish, to Snappers!
For a moderate price (usually no more than $10 a day), you can sit and take advantage of what’s biting beneath, surrounded by like-minded anglers. In fact, pier fishing here is so popular that regular fishermen have developed a habit of shuffling around each other to help one another and make sure that lines don’t tangle. You may want to keep an eye out to learn some tips before you get on!
Gulf Shores Surf Fishing
From Fort Morgan to Perdido Pass, there’s miles and miles of shoreline just calling out your name. In fact, some of the most productive fishing spots in Gulf Shores can be found from shore. Hit the beaches, marshes, or even the boardwalk, and cast your line to catch some of Alabama’s favorite fish.
Some of the best spots to target include the brackish waters around the mouth of the bays, where some of the bigger creatures come close to shore. Meanwhile, some anglers prefer to focus their attention on the Big and Little Lagoons, where a whole range of inshore fish can be caught. Wherever you go, don’t forget to purchase a fishing license before casting your line!
Gulf Shores Kayak Fishing
If you’re looking to combine the benefits of fishing on your own with the chance of getting out on the heart of some of the numerous bodies of water out of Gulf Shores, then kayak fishing may be for you. Rent or bring your own vessel, or follow a guide and you could reach some of the spots that other anglers can’t.
Powering yourself with just a paddle, you’ll make sure not to scare the fish, as may happen with an engine, as you get up close and personal with the fish. Maneuvering may be difficult as you cast your line, but the calm waters of the lakes and lagoons inshore are a great place to start. Whatever your ability, there’s a kayak fishing opportunity for you stretching all the way to Alabama Point.
Gulf Shores Party Boat Fishing
From the solitude of kayak fishing to the madness that is party boat fishing! If you like the company of others, then party boats catering to up to 80 people are a great way to explore the rich waters of southern Alabama.
A cheaper alternative to a charter, these vessels may charge additionally for fuel and bait, but will still take you to the reefs and inshore waters to target Alabama’s top fish. Families and first-timers are welcome, as there will usually be a few mates on hand to give you some help.
Meanwhile, avid anglers can get out on the water without breaking the bank. Beware, though, so many lines in the water can scare the fish, so you may not reap such great rewards.
Gulf Shores Fishing Charters
If you’ve got the money to spare, then there’s no kind of fishing that compares to charter fishing. Yes, it’s expensive, but you really do get what you pay for. Whether in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, there are plenty of professional guides waiting to take you out for an unforgettable fishing experience.
There are inshore, nearshore, and offshore charters, all ready to tailor to your individual needs. Let your captain know your skill level before you hop aboard, and you’ll get everything you want, as you follow whatever’s biting to target a range of fish unimaginable in any other way.
Gulf Shores Fishing Spots
Whichever way you decide to discover the riches of Alabama’s saltwater fishery, there’s still plenty of hidden gems to discover. From secluded spots on the shore to the best piers, all the way to the oil rigs offshore, these waters are full of prime fishing spots. Here are some of our top picks:
- Little Lagoon: Just to the north of Gulf Shores, this sheltered body of water offers some of the best inshore fishing. Cast from shore, from a kayak, or from a smaller boat, and get your fish on.
- Dixey Bar: This sand bar between the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay is one of the best spots to target inshore fish along with Mackerel, Amberjack, and more. Not only that, but the views are incredible!
- Gulf State Park Pier: Stretching over 1,500 feet into the water, this is Gulf Shores’ prime fishing pier. Here, you’ll find anglers dancing around each other as they try to keep a Bluefish, Mackerel, or even Tarpon on the end of their line.
- Cotton Bayou Public Pier: This may not be the most famous of Orange Beach’s fishing piers, but it’s probably the best for inshore fishing on the bayou. Fish from the pier or beneath it for the best results.
- The Artificial Reefs: With over 17,000 reefs to choose from, it was impossible to come up with just one spot. Local anglers explore them all on a regular basis, as it depends who’s biting where.
- Oil Rigs: Again, there are thousands of prime fishing spots out in the Gulf, but head over 60 miles out from Gulf Shores, and you’re sure to find some feeding big game creatures who are eager to take the bait.
When to Go Fishing in Gulf Shores
Fishing is a 365-day-a-year business on Alabama’s Gulf coast, with plenty of fish biting year-round. However, if you want to get the most out of your trip, then summer is your best bet. Anglers from all over the country and even the world flock to Gulf Shores when the weather is hot, with nearshore, offshore, and inshore fishing peaking at the same time.
If you want to beat the crowds, however, September is your best bet. The waters are still warm enough to attract a range of exciting fish in the deep, and inshore fishing is just as hot. We’ll also let you in on a secret – September actually promises the best weather too. From June through August, you may have to dodge the showers to find time to go off, but fall is much drier in Alabama!
While peak season runs from May through September, you’re sure to have a treat whenever you come. Go after winter Speckled Trout, Redfish, Pompano, and Sheepshead even in the colder months, and get yourself a warming treat.
Gulf Shores Tournament Fishing
Of course, no fishing hotspot can be taken seriously unless they make the most of their fisheries. Alabamians certainly do that, with Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offering up some world-class competitive fishing. Peak season brings with it plenty of tournament action. Come and test your skills against other top anglers in any of the following competitions:
- Gulf Coast Slam: During April and May, this competition kicks off the fishing season in Gulf Shores, with inshore, nearshore, and offshore contests.
- Orange Beach Billfish Classic: The showpiece event in Gulf Shores’ neighboring town takes advantage of the start of the big game bite in May.
- Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf: Known as the “Greatest Show in Sportfishing,” this Billfish contest is famed all over the world and takes place in July.
- Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo: Also taking place in July, this is about more than just competing, with plenty of entertainment on the side, too.
We’re almost done with our guide to Gulf Shores fishing, but there are just a couple of things to remember before you cast your line into this world-class fishery.
First of all, you’ll want to make sure you’re fishing legally. Therefore, you’ll want to know if you need a license or not. Fortunately, fishing aboard a charter or from a licensed pier will mean that you don’t need a license. However, if you’re heading out on your own, you’ll want to get a fishing license – and that goes for everyone between the ages of 16 and 65. Luckily for you, we’ve prepared a helpful guide to let you know how you can get yours.
Secondly, we’ve already talked a little bit about the closed seasons of some fish, but this is a vital thing to keep your eye on. Alabama has relatively liberal fishing seasons, giving you the chance to take home some delicious fish whenever you want. However, there are some rules that will be punished heavily if broken. Keep up to date with all the latest information here.
And You’re Good to Go!
Now you know everything you need to prepare for your Gulf Shores fishing expedition. Get ready for an incredible adventure, as you discover one of the world’s greatest fisheries. Settle in for the experience of a lifetime, and you’ll never look at fishing the same again!
Have you ever been fishing in Gulf Shores? How was it? Think we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments below!