“That gentleman over there is the chairman of the board out here on the pier,” says David Thornton, a regular fisherman on the Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, Alabama. “His name is Harley Rogers, and he’s probably put-in more time on the Gulf State Orange Beach FishingPark Pier than anyone else who fishes here. He fished the old pier before it was blown-away by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and no one really knows his age. But keep your eye on him – he’s a master at catching fish off the pier.” As I watched, Rogers, a resident of Foley, Ala., caught Spanish mackerel after Spanish mackerel with a workmanlike attitude. He never got particularly excited; he just continued catching Spanish mackerel and calling to his friend Danny Smith, also from Foley, to get the net. Both Smith and Rogers fished with live LYs (alewives), small baitfish that swam around the pilings on the pier.

“We fish for Spanish mackerel with 50-pound-test leader and a No. 3 treble hook and just free spool the LYs out off the pier,” says Smith. Rogers and Smith often will catch their limits of Spanish mackerel out on the end of the pier. Spanish mackerel generally bite right at daylight, but knowing just when they’ll bite is more guesswork than scientific knowledge. Recently, a few minutes after daylight, Rogers and Smith appeared on the pier – at 1,540 feet, the longest pier in the Gulf of Mexico – caught their live bait and went to work. When Rogers caught a fish, generally without a word being spoken, Smith would pick-up the large hoop landing net and lower it into the water, Rogers would pull the Spanish mackerel into the net, and Smith would pull the net up over the rail and onto the deck of the pier. When Smith caught a mackerel, Rogers performed the same service. Apparently, these men had been fishing togetherOrange Beach Fishing so long that they didn’t even have to talk to each other to know what to do and when. From what we witnessed, Rogers and Smith knew how to catch Spanish mackerel and were more than willing to share their secrets with other anglers on the pier.

In the early-morning hours, a few redfish also swam by the pier and were caught. Now’s the time in late October and November to catch the big bull reds that often will weigh on average 20 to 30 pounds or more and the giant king mackerel that often weigh from 18- to 40-pounds each. Flounder are being caught around the pilings, and fishermen also are catching a few speckled trout. Whiting and ground mullet are the wintertime standbys that you always can catch, regardless of the weather. One of the big advantages of fishing the Gulf State Park Pier is that something’s always biting. You’ll always meet friendly people and top-notch fishermen and enjoy a great day at the Gulf of Mexico. The water’s never too rough to go out on the pier, and for those who venture out, the catching is usually productive.

As winter approaches, the king mackerel and the redfish bite should be getting better and plenty of ground mullet, whiting, flounder and the occasional speckled trout will be avaOrange Beach Fishingilable for the catching. Plan now a trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast for the special fall weekend red snapper season that runs until 12:01 am on November 22. You also can fish during the week and catch triggerfish, amberjacks, vermilion snapper and a wide variety of other reef fish. Take one day of your trip, and go meet the folks, enjoy the fun, and catch fish on the Gulf State Park 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), or visit www.orangebeach.com. To get a fishing report, go to www.orangebeach.com/fishing/biting.