Come on down, the water’s fine in the Gulf! At least, in the Gulf Shores, Alabama, area it is, and outdoor writer Lisa Metheny and I are still getting our land legs back after spending two days on a variety of boats fishing for a variety of fish in pristine Gulf Coast water. No matter what the mainstream media tells you, as of the end of May, the oil slick off the coast of Louisiana that is threatening to creep onshore and destroy the fishing industry, the tourism industry and a healthy ecosystem, remains “out there.”
We spent a lot of time “out there,” too. She was Mary Ann and I was Ginger, our code names.
Our first trip occurred bright and early in the morning at 7 a.m. on Capt. Troy Frady’s Distraction, a 41-foot Hatteras that caters to first-timers, families, kids and executives. Capt. Troy and his first mate, Lem, strive to educate and entertain, and Capt. Troy says most of his customers love the idea of catch-and-release. In fact, you’ll be reading more about Capt. Troy’s marketing strategies that just so happen to coincide with conservation here later.
We caught red snapper and amberjack and learned that resistance can be up to four times the weight of the fish!
After grabbing a most tasty seafood meal of stuffed flounder and shrimp at Wolf Bay Lodge, we headed out with salsa-dancing, bongo playing, man-of-constant-motion Keith Powell. We rocked and rolled on a 24-foot Kenner Back Bay fishing boat. Some folks call Keith the “Trout Whisperer,” but his whispering techniques that day called in a couple of sharks (!), and a mess of nice-sized redfish. Inshore fishing can land you speckled trout, redfish, white trout, croaker, flounder, black drum, tripletail, sheephead, pompano or tarpon.
Capt. Keith dropped us off for dinner at Cobalt, The Restaurant, where I enjoyed dining on blackened red snapper (catch of the day) while looking out at the Gulf from the vista afforded by a wall of windows in the dining room there. And the almond pineapple coconut bread pudding easily made it in the top five on my all-time favorite list for bread puddings of the South!
The next morning, we hung out with “Pier Rats” for a while at the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico (1,540 feet long!) and Alabama’s only public fishing pier. The King Mackerel season had recently opened, and that’s what the fellows fishing there were catching. Rates seem affordable. Only $47 for an out-of-state fishing license, and a modest pier fee of $8.
We ate breakfast dockside at Tacky Jack’s and I stuffed myself with a shrimp omelet, although the grilled shrimp over cheese grits sounded enticing.
Our last trip out really made us feel, well, like something Ginger and the Howells might have preferred to the little boat they wound up in for the TV show Gilligan’s Island. Capt. Ben Fairey’s “Necessity,” a 62-foot custom Resmondo equipped with some of the finest amenities you’ll find, charters all day or many day trips. Sleeping up to 35 anglers, this boat took us out at least 15 miles and through a storm that made Mary Ann, our shipmate Morgan Sutton (from the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau), and me a little “sick.” But, the fishing was mighty fine! In fact, so fine that Mary Ann caught a 32-inch, 22-pound amberjack. We also caught and released a mess of red snapper and a grouper.
That night, the Captain recommended that we take the amberjack over to Chef Matt Ship at the Shipp’s Harbour Grill, where he prepared some of it three ways – blackened with a Gorgonzola cream sauce, fried with a light batter and grilled with a touch of white wine, butter and mushrooms. All excellent and if you are heading to the Gulf Shores to fish and eat, make sure you take advantage of his culinary skills. There’s nothing like fresh fish caught a few hours earlier.
Would I take my family or friends to Alabama and the Gulf Shores’ area? Absolutely. You’ll be finding out why in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, if you’re looking for a family-oriented place to fish, walk the beach, relax and unwind … look for this destination. And, thanks, especially to Kim Chapman, public relations manager for the Alabama Gulf Coast CVB, and a great facilitator! ~Barbara Baird
Visit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach: http://www.gulfshores.com/
Alabama Inshore Fishing: http://www.fishingorangebeach.com/
Distraction Charters: http://distractioncharters.com/
Necessity Sportfishing Adventures: http://necessitysportfishing.com/
Wolf Bay Lodge: http://wolf-bay-lodge.com/
Cobalt, The Restaurant: http://cobaltrestaurant.net/
Tacky Jacks: http://www.tackyjacks.com/
Shipp’s Harbour Grill: http://www.sportsmanmarina.com/shipps.cfm