If you’re wondering why in the world anybody would buy a child’s snow sled to use on Alabama beaches, David Thornton, of Mobile, Ala., explains, “This is no longer a snow sled; I’ve customized it to be a beach sled.” Thornton bought three plastic snow sleds wrapped together off the Internet for less than $50. (Finding snow sleds to buy in Alabama is not an easy task). Then, he attached a cotton rope to both sides of the front of each sled and put his ice chest in the sled. On the front of the ice chest, he used two bOrange Beach Fishingungee cords to hold the board to the front of his ice chest. On the front of the boards, he cut four sections of PVC pipe and created rod holders. In front of the board and the rod holders, he put his tackle pack with all the gear he’d need for a day of surf fishing.

Thornton has learned that the snow sled slides easily across asphalt and even more easily across sand. With his snow sled holding his equipment, he can pull the sled down the beach and fish anywhere he wants to, while keeping his bait cold and fresh as well as his water and soft drinks or lunch. The ice chest also serves as a place for him to store his catch to keep it cool and fresh, until he’s ready to clean the fish.

Thornton has begun a guide service in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area to take visitors fishing in the surf, off the jetties, at West Pass, along the Intracoastal Canal and at many of the other spots where anglers can fish from the beach. “Most of our visitors to Alabama’s Gulf Coast spend at least 2-3 days or a week vacationing here,” Thornton says. “If they go out on a charter boat or a head boat and have a great day of fishing, they still have several days left to fish. Many of them are looking for additional places to fish where they can use the rods and reels they’ve brought from home. I teach them how to rig-up to catch any of the species of fish they can catch along the beaches, on the pier or at any of the other places where I know the fish roam at certain times of the year. I even can show them how to catch fish (if the fish are there) right behind their condos or close to their motels. Alabama’s Gulf Coast homes an awful lot of great bank-fishing opportunities, and we have numbers of productive places to catch fish from the bank and from the pier. Oftentimes, knowing how to rig, where to cast and what bait to use is the difference in success or failure. So, I enjoy taking families and individuals and showing them how to fish and where to fish. I use my snow sled to carry all my equipment and to help them carry their equipment.”

At this writing, Thornton is in the process of drawing-up the instructions for how to build your own surf-fishing sled. For more information, contact David Thornton at 251-458-2775 or email him at pierpounder@alabamasnaturalcoast.net. He says, “I really enjoy teaching young folks, senior citizens and other anglers how to fish from the shore and from the pier and catch fish while they’re vacationing here at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.” To go on a guided trip with Thornton or just learn how to fish for and catch plenty of whiting, white trout, ground mullet, flounder, pompano, redfish, an occasional speckled trout and the other fish that swim down the beach, contact Thornton. He also can teach you how to catch the bull reds, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, tarpon, sheepshead, black drum, speckled trout and flounder that swim beneath and around the Gulf State Park Pier.

An Awesome Snapper Season:

Orange Beach chartersRed snapper season closes July 11th, and this year’s season has been a blockbuster with plenty of red snapper caught weighing from 8 to 20+ pounds. To learn the secrets of catching big red snapper, this week we fished with Captain Grady Sowards of the party boat “Gulf Winds II,” docked at SanRoc Cay Marina. “When we pull-up to a spot, I can look at my depth finder and see the fish that are holding over a wreck or a reef,” Sowards explains. “The bigger snapper are always holding higher-up in the water than the smaller snapper. The anglers who learn to fish 30- to 50-feet off the bottom consistently will catch the biggest red snapper on any spot. The anglers who drop their baits all the way to the bottom and reel-up one or two turns on the reel from the bottom usually catch the smaller snapper. One of the problems we encounter, even though we tell the fishermen to fish high in the water, is they’ll drop their baits down to the bottom and catch the smaller snapper, when they’re not getting as many bites as the people fishing on the bottom. But, the anglers who’ve fished with us before are patient and know if they just wait and keep their baits well-off the bottom, they’ll catch the bigger fish.”

Captain Sowards gave me this tip as he was driving the boat offshore, and with 32 anglers on board, I watched to see the truth of his secret for catching big snapper. He was absolutely right. Anglers who consistently held their baits 30- to 40-feet off the bottom caught the biggest snapper. The anglers who dropped their baits all the way to the bottom caught the smaller snapper. So, if you want to catch some of the biggest snapper in any spot, take Sowards’ advice and fish higher-up in the water column. To learn more about fishing with Captain Sowards on the “Gulf Winds II,” go to www.reelsurprisecharters.com.
Orange Beach fishing
At Alabama’s Gulf Coast, the fishing’s great, the weather’s fine, and snapper season is coming to a close. To catch red snapper, you’d better come quickly to the beach. But even if you come to the Gulf of Mexico after snapper season, there’s still plenty of hard-fighting and delicious-tasting fish to catch and eat, because grouper season comes back in July 1, and in August, amberjack season will start.

The Orange Beach Fishing Association (www.orangebeachfishingassociation.com) will be glad to find you and your family a captain and a boat that fits your needs. The good news 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 or www.alabamasnaturalcoast.net. To have your fresh fish prepared at the beach, go to www.alabamasnaturalcoast.net, click on restaurants, and check the box for “Will Cook Your Catch.”