Gulf Shores is a deep sea reef fishing paradise with more fish on more habitat than anywhere else in the Gulf. Alabama has the largest artificial reef program in the United States with over 17,000 artificial reefs. Not bad for a state with just a sliver of coastline.
Heading further out to the bluewater will put you in the prime spot to catch a variety of incredible pelagic species. With plenty of ledges, humps, and drops there is no shortage of ideal feeding grounds to explore searching for these fish.
Gulf Shores was a small fishing village where people lived off whatever they could catch in the backwaters. Over time with the construction of the Intracostal Waterway, a shrimp festival, and fall fishing rodeos have made Gulf Shores a national attraction. The shrimp festival alone boasts an attendance of over 200,000 people during a four-day weekend. From a humble fishing village to a top-notch vacation spot with incredible sportfishing, Gulf Shores is here to stay.
The underwater world surrounding Gulf Shores is diverse and complex with thousands of places to find fish. There’s an array of offshore structures made up of reefs, platforms, and ledges where fish come to hunt baitfish. If you head out further you hit the famous Continental Shelf where the seafloor drops a couple thousand feet opening up some of the best opportunities to catch bluewater giants. Whether bottom fishing for reef fish or trolling for open water pelagics Gulf Shores produces some of the best offshore fishing trips every year.
The offshore target species out of Gulf Shores can be broken down into two groups, reef fish and pelagic species. One fish that doesn’t seem to fit in either category is cobia, which can be found cruising solo or in a large group anywhere from just offshore to open bluewater.
There are several species of snapper living near the reefs off the coast of Gulf Shores. The most popular is the red snapper but outside of their summer season many of the other snapper species can be caught year-round.
Grouper, while not nearly as pretty are frequently found alongside snapper near the bottom of reefs. Unlike snapper, grouper have the potential to grow much larger with some species easily breaking the 100-pound mark.
Amberjack are one of the most beautiful and delicious fish that spend their time living near the reefs. They are also called reef donkeys and are widely known for being pound for pound one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea.
The smallest of the pelagic species includes mahi mahi, kingfish, and wahoo. These fish are only small when compared to the big pelagic species with all of them able to hits weights over 50 lbs fairly easily. Wahoo are the fastest fish in the ocean reaching speeds of 60 mph and despite their lighter frame, they will make your reel smoke.
Tuna are one of the most popular targets for anglers in Gulf Shores with both yellowfin and blackfin tuna feeding here for most of the year. Yellowfin can reach 400+ pounds and are a challenge for even the most avid deep sea angler. Although blackfin are considerably smaller they will still take line and taste great.
The biggest of the offshore species is the marlin which is the trophy fish many anglers come to Gulf Shores to catch. The Alabama state record for a blue marlin currently stands at over 850 pounds which is more than 4 times larger than the yellowfin record. Sailfish are common here as well and will hit bait on the bottom or lures on the surface. Whichever way you target them, they will put on an incredible fight full of long leaping runs.
When it comes to offshore fishing Gulf Shores there are no bad spots but some areas do stand above the rest.
The offshore reefs are a sure bet when it comes to bottom fishing for snapper, amberjack, or grouper. Reefs attract schools of baitfish that these fish hunt and while one reef might be dead the next might fill up the boat.
There are dozens of platforms off the coast of Alabama and provide the unique opportunity to fish for big action sportfish like yellowfin tuna at night. The lights on these oil rigs attract baitfish and rings the dinner bell for bigger fish. If fishing all night for big fish sounds like fun this might be the perfect spot for you.
Heading out all the way to the shelf will put you in the best spot for a giant fish. The massive ledge where the seafloor drops creates the perfect environment for huge marlin, tuna, and sailfish to patrol looking for food. When only the biggest fish will do head to “The Edge.”
Gulf Shores deep sea fishing is great year-round with several species always biting. The best time to go when the most species are biting is May to November when warm weather and several migrations overlap. Red snapper is usually hot throughout the summer, and the billfish and tuna will have a strong bite from May to November and sometimes into the winter months.
Winter fishing in Gulf Shores can also be great with moderate temperatures and plenty of inshore species migrating to shallower water. This is when a lot of trophy inshore fish are caught and the weather can be much more manageable.
While the deep sea fishing in Gulf Shores is exceptional, the inshore and nearshore fishing is equally as impressive.
Gulf shores offers a ton of popular inshore fish species throughout the bays, jetties, and backwaters. Flounder can be found in the bays and into the shallows. The from the flats and inlets to the jetties, redfish, and trout can be caught with the biggest fish coming in the fall and spring. While Gulf Shores is not a tarpon nursery it does see tarpon swing through each year. The tarpon that do end up in the Gulf Shores are generally large and on the move looking for food.
Nearshore fishing tends to have overlap with some of the smaller offshore fish with snapper, amberjack, and mackerel making up the majority of nearshore trips. Cobia cover a lot of water and although they can be found anywhere the best chance of catching them is in the nearshore waters. Some of the most action packed fishing in the gulf is done on nearshore fishing trips out of Gulf Shores.
This small city has come a long way since its humble beginnings and now is a top vacation destination for tourists across the country. Gulf Shores has become well known for its attraction both on and off the water from dolphin cruises to seafood restaurants. The Cotton Bayou and 5th street beaches are pristine white sand beaches with gorgeous blue water. Either spot is perfect for a day of rest and relaxation which is always great while on vacation.
For the more active crowd, there is no shortage of things to do. Gulf Shores has a pier, hiking trails, and even a zip line over the dunes if you want a different view. The appropriately named Gulf Shores Seafood has some of the best seafood in the city and is worth doing twice to make sure you try everything you wanted. For those looking to unwind or cut loose, there are plenty of bars along the Beach Boulevard and Gulf Shores Parkway that offer great drinks and some even have ocean views.
Gulf Shores has top-notch fishing and all the amenities to keep any group entertained whether it's a fishing vacation or a vacation with some fishing.