By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Anglers at Gulf State Park Pier who expressed frustration after reeling in pieces of desired fish species that had been attacked by sharks have gained some relief.
The Alabama State Parks System managers instituted a pilot program to allow a limited number of anglers to fish for sharks on the octagon end of the pier on consecutive Tuesday nights recently.
The first night was relatively slow as several sharks were hooked but only one undersized (minimum of 54 inches fork length) fish was landed. The shark was released back into the water.
The action on the second Tuesday night and the overwhelming interest of anglers and spectators prompted Parks officials to expand the shark-fishing opportunities in July. Numerous sharks were hooked last Tuesday, and a 130-pound spinner shark was hauled onto the 1,540-foot pier.
The next chances to fish for sharks on the pier will take place on the south end from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. the following morning on Sunday and Tuesday nights on July 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 24, 29 and 31. The previous shark-fishing times had been 8 p.m. to midnight. Parks officials realized anglers had a great deal of success just as the sun was setting and decided to start the fishing an hour earlier. Anglers said the sharks were causing problems at daybreak as well.
To accommodate the shark anglers, the octagon will close to routine use 30 minutes prior to these events and reopen to routine use 30 minutes following. During the events, the octagon area of the pier will be reserved for the exclusive use of participating anglers and their designated assistants. Other anglers and pier guests can use the remainder of the pier as usual.
Another adjustment by Parks officials is an increase in the number of anglers allowed and a decrease in the number of assistants. In the last session, 10 anglers were designated to fish, and they were allowed two assistants each. Anglers were also allowed to use two rods.
During the July shark-fishing events, 15 anglers will be allowed to fish per occasion with only one rod and reel per angler in use. Each angler may have one assistant. A maximum of 30 individuals will be allowed on the octagon area during each event. Anglers are encouraged to assist each other while fishing.
Anglers are required to provide their own gear. Larger reels are allowed during the shark event. Other pier rules regarding equipment will remain in effect.
The husband-wife duo of Melvin and Kayci Dixon of Gulf Shores teamed up to hook and fight the only shark landed during the second Tuesday. Kayci, who is six months pregnant, had a live bluefish for bait when she hooked the fish. She soon handed the rod and reel to her husband. Melvin fought it until other anglers and assistants were able to get snatch hooks into the shark to laboriously lift the fish over the railing and onto the pier deck.
“She fought it about five minutes and then handed the rod to me,” Melvin said. “When she first hooked up, I didn’t think he was that big. When he was way out there I didn’t think it was much and we were going to have to break him off. But when he got within 100 yards of the pier, it changed. It ended up being 70½ inches long.
“Luckily, there were some great guys out here who jumped in to get the fish over the rail. Everybody worked well together to get it. It was great team spirit.”