Your Guide to Deep Sea Fishing in Gulf Shores


Your Guide to Deep Sea Fishing in Gulf Shores

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Alabama doesn’t have a lot of coastline to work with, but what it does have is out of this world! The world-class deep sea fishing in Gulf Shores is one such example. Located at the state’s southernmost tip, Gulf Shores is the perfect place from which to plan your trip into the bountiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

An aerial shot of the Gulf Shores beach area.

Being a city overlooking the Gulf, it’s a popular tourist destination so there’s always something to do in the area. You’ll forgive us if we focus only on the angling action, but there’s so much to say about this excellent fishery. Stick around for a bit and you’ll see exactly what we mean.

Top Gulf Shores Deep Sea Fishing Catches

Thanks to the thousands of artificial reefs and clear access to offshore oil rigs, you’ll have a good shot at some of the most popular pelagics and bottom feeders in the country. Whether your plan is to bottom fish for the ever-popular Red Snapper or test your mettle and target local Billfish species, you’ll find it all here. Without further ado, let’s dig into some of the most prized deep sea species you’ll find in Gulf Shores.

Red Snapper

An angler on a sportfishing boat holds a Red Snapper he just caught bottom fishing in Gulf Shores.

It goes without saying that Red Snapper are among the Gulf’s most popular fish species. In fact, you can encounter Red Snapper just a couple of miles off the coast! While that’s normally not something we’d consider to be a proper deep sea fishing trip, they’re usually advertised as such by local fishing charter businesses. It’s by no means a bad thing, since the closer they are, the more time you can spend doing the actual fishing you came for.

Of course, the deeper you go the bigger the fish you’re bound to stumble upon. Local Red Snapper are commonly in the range of 5–20 pounds, but 30-pounders are also nothing unusual in deeper waters. These voracious eaters will jump at pretty much any bait you send their way, so no need to be picky. Some common favorites include squid, minnows, and pinfish.

Groupers

Two anglers on a fishing boat hold a Grouper they recently caught deep sea fishing in the Gulf.

Another type of bottom feeder you can target on a deep sea fishing trip is the Groupers that call these waters home. Red, Scamp, and Black Grouper are the most common varieties, among others. You can find some of them in shallower waters, but the biggest ones will be waiting in the deep blue. Seeing photos of them can’t compare to actually reeling one in yourself and being amazed at the sheer size of it!

A benefit of longer trips is that you’ll have plenty of time to bottom fish at different depths, giving you the best odds of filling up your cooler with some delicious fish. Since Groupers aren’t very picky eaters, you can use any number of different baits – such as blue runners, ballyhoo, pinfish, porgies, menhaden, or grunts. They’ll come running and you’ll need to work up a sweat before claiming your prize.

Billfish

A Blue Marlin leaps in the air after being hooked by an angler somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

In contrast to the unimposing bottom feeders we just talked about, Billfish are honest-to-god superstar swimmers. You’ll be impressed by their tenacity and flashy moves as you try and reel them in. The most popular Billfish targeted out of Gulf Shores are Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, and even the odd Swordfish if you’re lucky!

Ideally, you’ll want to go fishing sometime between June and September for the best chance of getting one of these monsters on your line. A trip to the oil rigs will take you some 60 miles offshore, depending on which spots your captain will want to use. This means you should expect to spend the entire day on the water. Fortunately, charter captains run some comfortable boats nowadays, so browse what’s on the market before committing to a longer adventure.

Tuna

A sitting angler holds a Tuna he caught on a fishing trip.

Louisiana is sometimes touted as the better option for Tuna fishing, but Gulf Shores is nothing to scoff at either! For the ultimate Tuna fishing experience, you’ll want to head out to the edge of the continental shelf that’s around 40 miles away from the coastline. There you can try your hand at trolling for Yellowfin and Blackfin Tuna.

You can target Tuna throughout most of the year, just make sure to avoid the dead of winter and you’ll be good. While trolling is the most commonly used technique, sometimes you’ll want to switch things up. For example, you can whip the Tuna into a feeding frenzy by chunking baitfish they won’t be able to resist. Another thing you can try is slow pitch jigging, where the jig has more action on the fall and is perfectly suited for the way Tuna attack their prey.

Mahi Mahi

An angler stands while holding a Mahi Mahi freshly caught in the Gulf.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the colorful Mahi Mahi. These striking creatures are a common offshore catch that’s popular with beginners and experienced anglers alike. They’re hard fighters, delicious to eat, and much more accessible than some other species on our list. You don’t need to go far to find them, but the really big ones gather at the offshore oil rigs. More than worth the trip if you ask us!

As for seasonality, a spring/summer trip is your best shot, but you can still find plenty of Mahi Mahi up until November. These fast swimmers usually weigh between 15-30 pounds during adulthood. So if you reel in a 40-pounder or bigger—congratulations, you’ve got yourself a trophy catch!

How can I go deep sea fishing in Gulf Shores?

Now that you know what’s out there and have your eyes set on the prize, let’s talk shop. Fishing on a charter boat means you’ll have a professional to help with all parts of the trip, but it’s always good to be familiar with the essentials. Depending on what you’re hoping to reel in, you’ll be using one (or more) of the following fishing techniques:

Trolling

Two rods on the back of a sportfishing boat trolling for pelagic fish.

When most people think about fishing in the deep blue waters of the Gulf, they’ll probably conjure up an image of a fast-moving vessel with a half-dozen lines zipping through the water. That’s as close as it comes to trolling in a nutshell. Because of its fast pace and the fact you can go after a lot of popular species, trolling is the most common way to go deep sea fishing in the Gulf.

By having the bait running behind the boat, the aim is to make it seem an attractive target to any would-be predators in the water. The speed of your bait should depend on the species you’re hoping to catch, with bigger fish like Tuna or Billfish going after faster prey than, say, Amberjack or Kingfish. Leave the specifics to your captain, but get ready to reel in that monster when the rod starts bending.

Bottom Fishing

Anglers on a sportfishing boat from Gulf Shores bottom fishing with a large oil rig behind them.

Compared to trolling, bottom fishing is much less about speed and more about persistence and planning. Since the boat won’t be moving while your lines are in the water, picking a good spot becomes crucial. Fishing out of Gulf Shores, this will usually involve offshore oil rigs or other artificial reefs where a lot of different fish species like to stay.

As the name suggests, you’ll be placing your bait close to the seafloor and keeping it there until a hungry fish comes over, hoping to have a bite to eat. Like you’d expect, this is an excellent technique for bottom feeders like Groupers and Snappers. If your main aim is to fill up the cooler, book a day of bottom fishing—you won’t regret it!

Deep Dropping

A closeup shot of an electric reel used for deep dropping.

Simply put, deep dropping is just bottom fishing in very deep waters. But unlike bottom fishing, it requires some specific equipment if you want to be any good at it. Compared to closer shallow reefs, fishing at depths of over 600 feet is a whole different kettle of fish, literally. Unless you want to spend 20 minutes reeling in a line to change bait, you’ll need to use electric reels. Some anglers will still prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, it’s all a matter of preference.

While there’s a lot of overlap with regular bottom fishing when it comes to the species you can target, they get a lot bigger the deeper you go. As an added bonus, deep dropping is a good way to go after some prestige prizes, like Swordfish. Getting far enough offshore to reach these depths will take time, so be prepared to spend a good chunk of it on what promises to be a trip of a lifetime.

Gulf Shores Deep Sea Fishing Regulations

The great thing about fishing with a licensed charter captain is that you don’t need to worry about paperwork—all the necessary fishing licenses are provided by the charter operator. On the other hand, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the local fishing regulations so you don’t miss out on the species you’re hoping to catch.

For example, there’s a strictly regulated season for fishing Red Snapper in federal waters. It changes every year but usually tends to cover parts of June and July. Other restrictions also apply for the likes of Amberjack, Groupers, and some other species. Check out the Alabama DCNR website for more info.

Deep Sea Fishing in Gulf Shores: Nothing Quite Like It

An aerial shot showing Gulf Shores and parts of Orange Beach, Alabama.

The phrase “Small town, big beach” is the perfect way to describe Gulf Shore in a nutshell. We would only add “deep blue water” to round out what makes it so appealing to such a big number of anglers year after year. Whether you’re in the market for a delicious meal or are aiming for a new personal best, you’ll have an unforgettable time deep sea fishing out of Gulf Shores.

Ever been to Gulf Shores on a deep sea trip? What was it like? Feel free to share some tips or just brag about your finest catch in the comments below!

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