Our What’s Biting Series has returned just in time for spring. Learn the latest tips and techniques with a new post each Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: The weather’s warming-up on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, and the fishing’s heating-up. Charter-boat captains have reported nice-sized catches of both inshore and offshore species of fish already in March.

Near Shore:

Captain Dennis Treigle of FMF Charters, based out of Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach, Ala., says that since the air temperature has reached 70 degrees on Alabama’s Gulf Coast the first week of March, the inshore action haOrange Beach Fishings been coming-on strong. “We’re catching more sheepshead now than any other species of fish,” Treigle says. “The first week of March, we had a good bite of black drum and redfish. The pompano also have finally started showing-up. Captain Kathy Broughton of the ‘Kitty Wake’ charter boat came into Zeke’s Marina with a nice catch of speckled trout.”

Treigle reports that he’s been catching 1- to 8-pound sheepshead, with an average sheepshead weighing 3 pounds. “Most of our sheepshead are caught with small, live shrimp and some fiddler crabs,” Treigle reports. “We use a Carolina rig with a 3/4-ounce weight up the line, a barrel swivel below the weight, 18 inches of leader and a No. 6 hook. We fish this rig around the docks, the bridges and the rocks. We let the bait sit on the bottom. When a sheepshead takes the bait, you’ll feel a subtle bite. Don’t set the hook the first time the sheepshead bites the bait. Instead, ease your rod tip back until you feel the weight of the sheepshead, and then set the hook. The spawn will be starting here in a few weeks, and the sheepshead will get more aggressive and be easier to catch.”

At Orange Beach, if the wind and the weather become too rough out on the jetties and in the pass, fishermen can move into the back bays and find calm water and good fishing. Treigle explains that, “One day during the first week of March, 2010, when the weather was calm, we caught redfish and black drum around the jetties. But as the weather continues to warm-up and the spring fishing season goes into full swing, the redfish will move inside the pass and be caught around thOrange Beach charterse docks. When you’re fishing the docks, get close to the docks, and cast underneath them to catch the redfish. The redfish won’t be holding on the outer edges of the docks but instead on the insides of the docks. To catch the redfish, we’ll fish the same Carolina rig we used to catch the sheepshead, except we’ll be using larger, live shrimp rather than small, live shrimp for bait. We generally can get a limit of redfish and five or more nice-sized sheepsheads on a 4-hour trip.”

Treigle also reports catching pompano the first week of March. “My party caught one pompano, and Mike Peek, one of the guides at Mo Fishing Bait and Tackle Charters, based out of Orange Beach, caught three, keeper-size pompano,” Treigle says. “We use small shrimp, sand fleas or pompano jigs to catch the pompano. We rig the live bait for pompano the same way we rig it for sheepshead and redfish. When we pass a school of pompano, we usually can catch one or two. The new Conner Pompano jig in pink and white has been highly productive for catching pompano. We fish with 10-pound-test line for pompano and 16-pound-test line for sheepshead and redfish.” To contact Captain Dennis Treigle, go to www.fmfcharters.com, or call 850-221-7732, or email fmfcharters@yahoo.com.

Offshore:

Captain Charles “Chip” Day of the “Chipper’s Clipper” charter boat, based at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, reports that on most of their bottom-fishing trips right now, vermilion snapper, white snapper and triggerfish have been their primary catches. “We’ve caught a number of bigger-sized triggerfish that weigh from 5- to 8-pounds each,” Day says. “Our vermilion snapper weigh about 1 pound or more. We’re also catching nice-sized white snapper. There seems to be a number of triggerfish and vermilion snapper holOrange Beach chartersding on the more than 100 Army tanks that were sunk offshore in Alabama’s Gulf of Mexico to make artificial reefs. The white snapper are showing-up more on natural bottom than they are the tanks.”

Although red snapper season is closed, Day still expects to catch red snapper this month. “Because we’re fishing with a two-hook rig, the red snapper we catch and release on our bottom-fishing trips this month only will be about 16- to 18-inches long,” Day reports. “However, anglers still easily can catch a 10- or a 15-pound red snapper. When many offshore anglers put-down live bait to catch amberjack, they also catch an occasional big red snapper.” Red snapper season is expected to open on June 1, when amberjack season is expected to close. Then amberjack season will reopen August 1 for the remainder of the year on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

“Too, we’ve already heard reports of cobia being seen and caught off Pensacola Beach in Florida, so we expect them to show-up here at Orange Beach in the next few weeks,” Day explains. “As the weather continues to warm-up, our fishing will improve. The east wind has brought-in a lot of clear water, which will make cobia fishing really good this month.” To learn more about fishing with Captain Chip Day on the “Chipper’s Clipper,” you can contact him at (251) 981-1943 or (251) 952-8247, or check out www.chippersclipper.com.

Pan Sauté Pompano with a Lemon Buerre Blanc Sauce


Here’s a pompano recipe from the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, taken from the “Beach Appetit” cookbook that was once published by Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism.

Ingredients:
For the fish:
  • 6 ounce pompano filletOrange Beach fishing
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2-cup of flour
  • 1/2-cup of olive oil

For the sauce:
  • 1/2-cup of lemon juice
  • 1/2-cup of white wine (the alcohol will dissipate in the cooking)
  • 1 tablespoon of softened butter
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Preparation:
First, wash, and dry the pompano fillet. Season both sides with half the salt and pepper; then flour the fillet. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add fillet and sauté for 1-1/2- to 2 minutes. Turn fillet over, and cook the other side for 1 minute. Add white wine and lemon juice. Cook fillet for 1 more minute, then remove from sauce. Keep the fillet warm while finishing the sauce. Continue reducing the sauce for 1 to 2 minutes. After reduction, remove the skillet from the heat. Slowly whisk in butter, a little at the time, until the butter has emulsified into the sauce. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed with remaining salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite pasta or fresh spring vegetable blend. Put 3/4-sauce on the plate. Then place your pasta or vegetable on the plate, slightly off-center. Finish by placing the fillet halfway over the vegetable or pasta. Spoon the remaining sauce over the fillet. Decorate the edge of the plate with chopped parsley.