“We’re running our winter special right now,” says Captain Randy Boggs of Reel Surprise Charters, based out of SanRoc Cay in Orange Beach, Alabama. “We’re offering party-boat trips where an angler can bottom fish for $65 for a 6-hour trip. The weather’s been unbelievably beautiful, the water’s been clear, and the fish catching has been fantastic. Right now, we’re catching a good grade of vermilion snapper,Orange Beach Fishing white snapper, lane snapper, triggerfish and many of the other bottom feeders. Because there are so-many red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, right now we’re catching quite a few big red snapper that we have to release until red snapper season arrives in June. Also, we’ll often put-out a line out to catch king mackerel and Spanish mackerel up high in the water column. For anglers who want to get a jump on the saltwater-fishing season, and start fishing before Spring Break starts, now’s the time to come to Orange Beach to enjoy a very-productive day of fishing at a very-inexpensive price. Right now, I’m packing-up the boat with bait, tackle and fishermen and heading out to the Gulf of Mexico. If you want an opportunity to get over those mid-winter blues, come on down to Orange Beach, and we’ll show you how.”

To contact Captain Randy Boggs, you can email Reel Surprise Charters at info@reelsurprisecharters.com, visit www.reelsurprisecharters.com, or call 251-981-7173 or 1-800-806-7889.

Pier Report with David Thornton:

Another of the best bargains on Alabama’s Gulf Coast in February and March is fishing the Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores, Ala. According to pier regular, David Thornton, “We’ve really had an unusual year on the pier this winter, because the area never has had a prolonged cold spell. The water has stayed in the low 60’s, so we’ve had pompano being caught all winter long. They’re still being caught. Another surprise is that we’ve had Spanish mackerel caught off the pier all winter long. I don’t ever remember us catching Spanish mackerel in January, but we did catch them this January, and we’re continuing to catch them. The mackerel are taking small flies and jigs and other really-small lures. We’re also catching bonita, which is highly unusual for this time of the year, on the days when the Gulf is rough, and there’s a lot of wind. The whiting bite has been really-good. The black drum are due to come in, and some of them will really be big. When one of the Pier Rats (the nickname given to anglers who fish almost every day on the pier all year long) hook one of those big black drum and see a tourist or a new fisherman on the pier, he or she often will say, ‘Have you ever caught a big fish?’ And, most of them will answer, ‘No,’ and the Pier Rat will pass the rod to the newbie and let the new angler have the thrill of reeling-in a big fish. That’s one of the reasons that I like to fish the Gulf State Park PieOrange Beach Chartersr so much. The good fishermen on the pier frequently give tourists and new fishermen opportunities to reel-in a big fish and make a new friend at the same time.

“Too, some bluefish are being caught now, and we’re right at the beginning of the sheepshead spawn. Good numbers of sheepshead have been coming-in, and the number of sheepshead caught off the pier will continue to increase, peaking around the first full moon in March. I’ve heard reports of sheepshead even being caught in the surf. That’s the good news about fishing the Gulf State Park Pier; we have good, inexpensive fishing all-year-long, and there’s a wide variety of fish to catch almost every day. So, if you’re coming to the Gulf Coast early this year, plan to make a pier fishing trip a part of your Alabama Gulf Coast experience.

For more information on the Alabama State Park Pier, call 251- 948-7275 or visit www.alapark.com/GulfState/Gulf%20State%20Park%20Pier/.

The Orange Beach Fishing Association  will be glad to find you and your family a captain and a boat that fits your needs. The good nOrange Beach Fishingews is that you don’t have to leave your wife and children at home when you visit Alabama’s Gulf Coast. There’s plenty to do and see. For accommodation and restaurant recommendations, contact Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism at 800-745-SAND, or visit www.orangebeach.com. To have your fresh fish prepared at the beach, go to www.alabamasnaturalcoast.net, click on restaurants, and check box for “Will Cook Your Catch.

Griddled Mackerel with Courgette (Zucchini) and Bean Salad

If you choose to cook your mackerel catch, you’ll really enjoy this healthy and delicious recipe from world-renowned chef, Jamie Oliver.

3 courgettes (zucchini)

1 can (400 grams or 3-1/2- to 4 cups) blackeyed beans, drained

1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped

Small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked and chopped

4 fresh mackerel fillets

Extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 lemon, halved

Place a griddle pan (a flat pan with a handle that many-different manufacturers make) on high heat to get it smoking hot. Using a speed peeler, slice your zucchini lengthways into lovely thin ribbons. (Of course, you can slice by hand). Griddle your zucchini slices until softened and lightly charred. You can do this in batches, if your pan's not big enough to hold them all in one go. As they are so thin, don't worry about turning them over. Place in a bowl, and add the drained beans, the chili pepper and mint. Rub your mackerel fillets with some extra-virgin olive oil, and then season with salt and pepper. Griddle them, skin-side down, for 3 minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. Turn them over, and cook for another 2 minutes. Dress the zucchini and beans with the juice of 1/2-lemon, a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Toss to coat everything in the dressing. Serve the mackerel fillets with a pile of the salad and a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the top.