News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Rebuilding pier at Gulf Park makes this angler happy

Some of my greatest outdoor adventures happened while fishing at the Gulf State Park pier in Gulf Shores.

I have enough memories from that pier to fill a big book. But the memory-making came to a crashing halt when I saw the destruction to the pier left by Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. My home away from home was gone, and I had no idea if it ever would come back.

Recently, I found out the pier is making a comeback. Rebuilding begins next month.

The old pier was 14 feet wide and 875 feet long. Louisiana angler Ellis ďCajunĒ Cattan and I measured it often when filling fishing reels with line. We felt that 875 feet of line would be plenty to handle a 40-pound king mackerel or even a 100-pound tarpon.

Well, the new pier is slated to be 20 feet wide and 1,512 feet long.

That distance is absolutely incredible, as it will take the pier out past the second sandbar where there are big fish like cobia (also known as ling), king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, tarpon, bonita, jack crevalle, hammerhead shark, sand shark and the ever-dreaded bull shark.

As great as the fishing was at 875 feet, I canít even imagine how big some of the fish might be that are caught on the new pier. I would like to be there on opening day to find out for myself.

One of the greatest stories Iíve ever told happened many summers ago.

The conditions were perfect for catching huge king mackerel. When I say huge, Iím talking about catching kings 25-pounds-plus.

Starting at dawn, we had caught several kings that weighed as much as 20 pounds but no monster fish.

But, around lunchtime, the story took an interesting turn.

A man walks out to the end of the pier with a small closed-face spincast reel attached to what I would describe as a 4-foot Mickey Mouse rod. He had a small, rather new-looking tackle box, and for bait he brought a box of redworms. Thatís right — redworms for bait in salt water.

We couldnít help but giggle and talk to the man a little. We found out he was a doctor in Tennessee.

All of us got together and helped the man.

We told him that a big fish would turn his rod-and-reel into splinters. Also, we informed him that a redworm would not fare well in salt water. Cajun brought a spare king rod that was 9 feet long with a steel leader and hook already attached. I got out my special live-bait rig and caught him bait to use.

I offered to make a long cast to where the big king mackerel were, but he declined. He wanted to do that part himself.

When he was trying to make a long cast, the bait, king rig and everything else flew straight down at a fast speed. When told to reel it up and try again, he said it was fine just where it was.

All of us were thinking how we went to this much trouble to help the guy out, and now he wasnít going to get even a bite with the bait swimming around the piling of the pier where only small fish swim and hide.

The next thing we knew, line was screaming off his reel, and we grabbed the rod to keep it from going over the pier rails. The doctor grabbed the rod-and-reel himself and listened as we coached his every move. We kept thinking how we had to get this fish in to make a complete, hilarious story.

After a good 10- to 15-minute battle, we could see a giant king mackerel swimming rather recklessly toward the pier. We figured the king would have been tired after the fight, but somehow it found new energy.

It wasnít long before we found out why the big king had found a fresh burst of energy. Behind the fish was about a 7-foot bull shark that was coming in for the kill. We quickly turned the reel to free-spool so the king could travel any direction as fast as it wanted to.

The scheme worked, and soon after, the doctor was having his picture taken with a 50-pound king mackerel that he caught while fishing straight down from the end of the pier.

I had to leave at that point, but I heard there was more adventure in the story. When gaffed in the water, the point caught the mackerel perfectly in the mouth causing minor injury and the doctor wanted to let the fish go.

That was sort of unheard of around the pier, but his wishes were granted, and the monster king swam away unharmed.

The pier should be ready in about 15 months.

Sincerely, I canít wait for the next adventure to happen so I will have another gigantic fish story to tell others about my home away from home.

They canít build it fast enough to suit me.

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Paul Stackhouse
Paul Stackhouse

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