Editor’s Note: Don Pate of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a Spanish mackerel fisherman who fishes the Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama, regularlOrange Beach chartersy, caught a 40-pound-plus king mackerel off the end of the pier in October, 2009. With large numbers of Spanish mackerel invading the Upper Gulf Coast in the fall, Pate regularly catches his limit of mackerel. This week, he’ll share his secrets for catching those hard-fighting, delicious-eating Spanish mackerel.

Pate’s favorite bait for mackerel is alewives, known locally as LYs, small baitfish that can be caught from the pier. When Pate can’t catch LYs, he’ll use Spanish mackerel bellies. “I use a piece of the silver, shiny belly of a Spanish mackerel I’ve caught as bait for other Spanish mackerel,” Pate says. “I like a No. 6 treble hook and 2 feet of 15-pound-test wire leader on 8-pound-test line. I prefer lighter line, because it allows my bait to sink more naturally and is easier to cast on windy days. This light, 8-pound-test line really gives me an advantage, especially when the water’s clear. The Spanish mackerel can’t see this line as well as they can the 10- or the 20-pound-test line that most pier fishermen use.

“As my bait hits the water and begins to fall, I shake my rod tip about every 10 seconds to make the bait jiggOrange Beach fishingle, and the flash off that mackerel belly causes the bait to look like a live baitfish. If the wind’s blowing, I may put a small slip sinker or shot lead up the line to help me cast into or through the wind.” In one day of fishing on the pier, Pate caught 12 Spanish mackerel, throwing-back the small ones and keeping or giving-away the larger ones.

Another advantage of fishing or sightseeing at the Gulf State Park Pier is most of the regulars who fish the pier, known as “pier rats,” often will give away their surplus of catches to tourists or other anglers on the pier. “There’s no way we can keep and eat all the fish we catch daily from the Gulf State Park Pier,” says Pete Aguon, the unofficial mayor of the pier. “So, when anyone out on the pier wants or needs fish to eat, many of us are more than happy to give them some of our catches.”

Go to Alabama’s Gulf Coast for the special fall red-snapper season that started October 1 and runs until 12:01 am on November 22. Plan a trip to the Gulf State Park PieOrange Beach fishingr to load-up on mackerel or any of the other species of fish you can catch from the pier this fall.

For more information on fishing guides and charter boats, lodging accommodations, restaurants and entertainment on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, call Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism at 800-745-SAND (7263), or visit www.orangebeach.com. You also can get a fishing report three times each week by visiting the “What’s Biting?” column at www.orangebeach.com/fishing/biting/. To have your catch cooked at a local restaurant and enjoy delicious side dishes, check-out /dining-nightlife/restaurants/.