Offshore Fish Species in Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach, Alabama is known for its offshore and deep-sea fishing charters. The waters located just south of Alabama Gulf Coast offers some of the best reef fishing and migrator fishing in the entire gulf. Whether you are bottom fishing for reef fish or trolling for pelagic species, there is always some species that can pull on a line and give you an incredible fight.
Red Snapper is the first fish that comes to mind when you mention Orange Beach. The season is open June 1 and should remain open until mid or the first week of August. Be sure to check with your guide for exact dates. The bag limit is 2 per person and the size is 16" total length to keep. This highly publicized fish has been the staple of fishermen for the past 50 years. Until 2007, these fish were harvested to the point to where the federal government stepped in and highly regulated their harvest. The Red Snapper is the most common and the most aggressive of all the snappers that live in the gulf. They offer a great light tackle fight and their meat is good to eat. The season and bag limits are small as compared to years ago. There are other species of snapper that live in the gulf that can be harvested year-round in Orange Beach. They are the Mangrove Snapper (Black Snapper) and the Lane Snapper. Both of these fish are good to eat but you mostly catch them further offshore on larger natural reefs and big structures. Vermilion Snapper is not actually a snapper but we all call them snappers. They are the most sought after species in a time when the Red Snapper fishery is closed. You will also hear about the White Snapper. These fish are another attempt by fishermen to quinch the thirst for snappers. They are actually a Porgie and are fast becoming a fish that is targeted in order to have something to take home. All of the snappers are good to eat and are a lot of fun to catch.
Grouper is another fish species that has been recently highly regulated by the federal government and more restrictions are coming. The Gag Grouper is the most succulent of all the grouper species that live in the Gulf of Mexico. They have to be 24 inches in length to harvest. Warsaw grouper is another deep water species that offers some good eating. Red Grouper is what we call Florida's gift to Alabama. That is because until a few years ago, we did not catch many of them. They offer some good eating also and have to be 20 inches to harvest. Grouper are not commonly caught on short trips. Most of them live in deep waters of over 150 feet. In Alabama, that is usually 8 hour fishing trips or longer to even have a chance to catch them. With that being said, If you wanted a chance to catch grouper, you need to plan on a 12 hour trip or longer to have time to get far enough offshore to waters that have not seen a lot of fishing pressure.
Greater Amberjack is one of the most awesome fighting fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Even the smallest Amberjack give anglers more than a handful of fight. These fish are highly regulated by the federal government and have to be 34 inches at the fork length to harvest. Then you can only have one per person, per day. The season opens on August 1 and remains open until October 31 each year. There are a lot of undersized Amberjack on almost every large artificial reef that is close to Orange Beach that can offer a great catch and release fish for everyone to enjoy. Almaco Jacks are another species of jacks that are common in Alabama. Most of them live in deep water of over 200 feet. Again, these jacks offer a great fight but you need to plan on a 10 or 12 hour fishing trip to have a chance to catch them.
The Gray Triggerfish is another species of fish that is a wonderful food source. The season opens on March 1 and usually Closes on May 10 each year. Be sure to check with your guide to make sure the season is open when you are wanting to fish. The keeper size is now up to 15 inches at the fork in order to harvest them. This is a good thing and is showing that management of the fish stocks works. These fish will be legal next year and will offer some good fishing for all of Alabama's anglers. These fish are funny looking. They are Gray and have one extremely stiff dorsal fin or bone. The dorsal fin locks into position and can only be released by anglers when you press the second dorsal fin down that is located just behind the main fin. Hence, the trigger on the fish relaxes the fin and you can lay it down. Trigger fish also have Elephant tough hides. They are hard to clean and were considered a trash fish for years. However, some locals figured out how to clean them and they are now part of a wonderful fishery.
Bull Redfish are a great fish to catch right off the beach while trolling or sight casting, during the Winter months of November to March. Smaller ones are good to eat. Larger ones are ok. Bull Reds weigh from 12 to 30 pounds mostly. A big one would weigh close to 40 pounds.
Gulf Red Snapper
Gulf Red Snapper are a fun fish to catch while deep-sea fishing in Orange Beach. The are especially fun to catch using light tackle. The food source is good. They have a short season of usually June, July and part of August. The season is subject to change at any time. Red Snapper live up to 50 years. They can weigh as much as 52 pounds. The average size caught off of Alabama is 3 to 5 pounds. Some go over 10 to 15 pounds. Ones that are over 15 pounds are the brood stock and are about 15 years of age.
Spanish Mackerel are one of the smallest in the family. Spanish usually migrate through Alabama waters beginning in March and April of each year. Most of them are wiped out by gill netters who put out hundreds of yards of monofilament nets to kill them every spring. Gill netters can only operate at night time so people can't see what they are killing in their nets. It is an atrocity that should be stopped. Alabama is the last state to allow gill nets. The state has made an effort to buy gill netters out recently. Spanish Mackere are a mild eating fish. Most of them are 1 to 3 pounds in size. They stick around Alabama waters until the end of October or until the water cools off. For years, chain buffet restaurants across the country have offered them on their menu as grilled mackerel. They are quite tasty. A 4 hour trolling trip is a good trip to catch them.
King Mackerel are the largest of the family. Kings average 7 to 8 pounds with some growing to over 30 pounds. King Mackerel in Orange Beach are caught mostly during the Summer months. When water temperatures hit 75 degrees, these larger fish move closer to shore and can be caught on fishing trips as short as 4 hours. The King Mackerel stay around usually through October of each year before moving back offshore. There is plenty of bait fish in close to shore during hot days of summer that make King Mackerel almost a sure catch.
Little Tunny or Bonito
Little Tunny or Bonito are a wonderful fighting fish that are caught from April to November while trolling fishing. The food quality is not good but the fight is awesome. Bonita weigh from 5 to 12 pounds on average. The are a blast to catch on light tackle or a fly rod.
Wahoo are considered to be one of the fastest fish in the ocean. They are caught further offshore on full day trips or longer. They are caught while trolling in deep or what we call blue water. They are great to eat. Wahoo weigh from 15 to 125 pounds. The average size is about 30 pounds.
Barracuda are a fun fish to catch while fishing some of the oil rigs or larger artificial reefs. Food quality in the northern gulf is good. They are caught while trolling or live bait fishing. Barracuda weigh from 12 to 20 pounds on average. Some are larger. They are a fierce predator.
Red Grouper are what we call Louisiana's gift to Alabama. These grouper are fun to catch on a full day charter. They live in deep water and usually eat live bait or large cut bait. The food quality is good. A good sized Red Grouper is 5 to 8 pounds. We have caught them over 20 pounds in the past.
Gag Grouper is a wonderful fish to catch on full day charters in Orange Beach. You have to fish deeper waters to have a chance to catch them, most of the time. They are an excellent food source and have white, flaky meat. Gag Grouper weigh on average 8 to 12 pounds. We do catch them upwards of 45 pounds sometimes.
Bull Dolphin or what some people call Mahi-Mahi are caught on full day or longer fishing charters. We catch them on weed lines or debris floating in the Gulf. They are a predator fish that grows quickly. They have are an excellent food source. Dolpin weigh between 1 to 5 pounds for schoolies or chicken dolphins we call them. Bull Dolphin weigh on average 15 to 30 pounds. Some weigh as much as 75 pounds.
Greater Amberjack are what we call locally, a Sea Donkey. They fight like crazy. The can be caught on short trips or full day trips or longer. Most of the Amberjack that are located close to shore are not legal to catch. You need to plan on a full day trip to be able to catch legal sized fish. The food source is good. Legal sized Amberjack weigh on average, 15 to 20 pounds. We do catch some that weigh 40 to 75 pounds. 125 pounds is a monster.
Bull Sharks are the ultimate predator. They live in the shallows near the beach, in bays and in freshwater rivers. Most of the ones we catch are further offshore on artificial reefs. Food quality is poor. They weigh on average, 150 to 500 pounds. They will eat you if you get near one. They are a lot of fun to catch and release.
Blackfin Tuna are a wonderful fish to catch while offshore fishing. Most of them are caught while jigging fishing near the offshore oil platforms. It takes an overnight charter to have time to get out to where they live. Most of them are caught at night, under the lights of the oil rigs. Blackfin are good to eat but not near as good as the Yellowfin. Most of them weigh between 8 and 15 pounds. Some go over 20 pounds.
Lane Snapper are a beautiful fish that can be caught year round in Orange Beach. The average size is 12 to 16 inches. They are a lot of fun to catch while bottom fishing. These fish mostly live on natural bottom. We do catch some of them on larger, older artificial reefs.
Mangrove Snapper are also called Black Snapper. They range from 14 to 22 inches. The state of Alabama record is just over 15 pounds. Most of these fish are smart. The can be caught on larger, older, concrete and other artificial reefs offshore. They are also found inshore under bridges and near piers. They are fun to catch while chumming fishing and they swim to the surface around the boat.
Vermilion Snapper are also called Beeliners. They are one of the fish species you can target year round. This one weighs about 4 pounds and is what we call Magnums. The average Vermilion size is from 10 to 14 inches. You can catch them two at a time when fishing with cut squid.