There’s no more magical place for a youngster to grow up than the Kingdom of the Pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The ruling classes at the pier consist of the Pier Rats (the fishermen who fish the pier almost daily) and right below them are the Pier MOrange Beach Fishingice (the children in training to become Pier Rats), followed by the regulars, the sometimers, the once-a-year visitors and the tourists.

One of the most-favored and coveted positions of all at the Kingdom of the Pier is that of a Pier Mouse. A Pier Mouse is an apprenticed angler in training. Many of these Pier Mice are highly-productive and savvy fishermen, but they haven’t gained the experience, the age or the knowledge of both fishing and pier etiquette to move to the highest rank in the kingdom – that of Pier Rats.

Pier Mice often enter the Kingdom of the Pier sitting atop ice chests, running along behind the Pier Rats or coming to the pier with their families. One of the responsibilities of the pier rat ruling class is to train and teach the pier mice, until these youngsters finally become not only master fishermen but also instructors for the novice fishermen who come to the Gulf State Park Pier to learn to catch king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, flounder, redfish, whiting, ground mullet and pompano.

Pete Aguon, the unofficial mayor of the pier and the top-ranking Pier Rat, is one of the fishermen who can bestow the rank of Pier Rat to these Pier Mice in the Kingdom of the Pier. If you come to Alabama’s Gulf Coast for fall red snapper season, which continues through 12:01 am on November 22, and you decide to spend some time on the Gulf State Park Pier, you’ll more than likely see and meet some of the Pier Mice.

Some of the Pier Mice in the Kingdom of the Pier include:
  • Nathan Atwell of Loxley, Ala., who fishes the Gulf State Park PierOrange Beach Fishing every weekend and every day he’s out of school. On a recent trip to the pier, Nathan caught a 17-pound king mackerel, played the fish to the gaff and landed it with the skill of a master angler.
  • T. J. Edwards of Huntsville, Ala., who started fishing the pier this past summer. As an apprentice of Pete Aguon, he hopes to reach the status of Pier Rat in the next 2 or 3 years. But as a Pier Mouse, he still has much to learn.

In the Kingdom of the Pier, a Pier Mouse has to learn how to …
  • catch live bait from the pier, like the Pier Rats do;
  • tie hooks on the line, bait the hook and cast long pier rods without interfering with other anglers;
  • know how to follow a fish as the fish runs from one side of the pier to the other;
  • set the drag on the reel;
  • gaff king mackerel and other large fish with a 3-pronged pier gaff suspended by a rope;
  • use a large hoop net to help land flounder, speckled trout, pompano, redfish and giant bull redfish;
  • know the etiquette of the pier, which includes backing-away from the rail when another angler is fighting a fish, aid and direct other fishermen when an angler has a big fish on the rod, be friendly, courteous and helpful to the tourists and sometimeOrange Beach fishing fishermen as well as to new or younger pier mice; and
  • prove by deed, personality and character that he or she can be a congenial host, a fisherman’s aid and a well-respected member of the Kingdom of the Pier society before he or she can be granted the rank of Pier Rat.

Therefore, when you see these youngsters out on the pier, having a good time while fishing, don’t take them lightly or consider them only novice anglers. Each and every one of them is studying their craft and learning more about how to fish successfully from the pier, how to catch the fish that congregate around the pier and how to land the fish that others catch. At this wondrous place known as the Kingdom of the Pier, youngsters learn how to catch a wide variety of fishes and become master anglers (Pier Rats). Many adult anglers regret that they haven’t had the opportunity to go through the steps from Pier Mice to Pier Rats in the wonderful Kingdom of the Pier.

For more information about fishing the Gulf State Park Pier, which is open 7 days a week, 24 hours day, call 251-967-FISH (3474). For hotel, motel, restaurant and attraction information, call Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism at 800-745-SAND (7263) visit www.orangebeach.com. To get a fishing report, go to www.orangebeach.com/fishing/biting/.

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