There’s never been a better time to fish the waters of the Alabama Gulf Coast. With unseasonably warm Gulf waters and an unmatched system of natural and artificial reefs, 2012 promises to offer sport fishermen and women an abundance of spectacular catches.
The Alabama Gulf has long been considered the red snapper capital of the world, and that has never been more true than this year, according to Tom Steber, president of the Orange Beach Charter Fishing Association.
Since 2004, Orange Beach has been home to the Red Snapper World Championship fishing tournament, which is the largest of its kind in the world. Proceeds from the championship have built more than 1,000 concrete reefs, constituting $1 million in investment.
“There’s 10 times more snapper than there ever was,” Steber says. “And most of it is because of the reef systems that [the state has] built. Alabama has the largest permitted reef zone in the world.” The reefs, which can be anything from an 8-foot concrete pyramid to sunken ships and oil rigs, support a vast array of life — and there are literally thousands of the structures off the shores of Alabama. “They’ve created this huge mecca,” said Steber, who is also the managing director at Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach.
Reef fish like red snapper, amberjack, grouper, trigger and vermilion thrive near hard structures, drawing bigger fish such as King mackerel, Spanish Mackerel and Wahoo from further up the food chain. According to Steber, the King mackerel are biting early this year due to a mild winter leading to warmer waters. “The fishing is so plentiful that these captains can guarantee any day, any time you want to go fishing you can go out with light tackle and catch as many fish as you want and have an absolute ball,” he said.
One of the most popular spots is a 7-mile-long trolling alley less than 10 miles south of Orange Beach built with old voting machines near the Allen Reef, a World War II liberty ship sunk as an artificial reef. As the voting machines deteriorated, they were replaced by 90 concrete pyramids.
As any captain on the Gulf Coast can tell you, those reefs aren’t going anywhere, and neither is the stellar fishing they create all across the Alabama Gulf Coast. And there’s no better time than the summer of 2012 to enjoy it.
By MICHAEL DUMAS for ASMC – Orange Beach, Alabama