by Mike Thompson
The price of progress often has Mother Nature paying the ultimate price . However , a man-made structure constructed in Mobile Bay not only enhances the local economy , but also provides anglers with wonderful fishing opportunities in spring and summer .
Construction of Gaillard Island was started back in 1979 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers for a ship channel to connect Mobile Bay and Theodore Industrial Park . The channel was made deep to accommodate large ships bringing in and hauling out large shipments of goods from the small Theodore port as well as an intended Navy port .
Construction of the island was very controversial at first , mainly from concerns of environmentalists about the island ’ s impact on Mobile Bay . Many years later the island is considered a smashing success with these same environmentalists because of the huge population of nesting sea birds using the island . The number one success story is the brown pelican . Other bird species seen often on the island are skimmers , terns , egrets , herons and ducks .
Gaillard Island was constructed in a triangular shape with tall berms on its edges . These edges were fortified by limestone boulders to protect the island from erosion . The island ’ s interior is basically a bowl . The island is used to hold dredge spoil taken from maintenance on nearby channels . Even though triangular in shape , Gaillard is often called the ‘ Donut Island .’
Besides the benefits to nature , Gaillard Island has become a very popular fishing destination for local anglers . The island holds various fish year round , but spring and fall seem to produce best . Spring Start Up
After a cold , rainy winter , Mobile anglers are anxious to hit the water in search of their favorite saltwater species . While some of those species have been available during winter in deeper rivers and holes , some anglers are ready for shallow water action and more aggressive fish . Water temperatures play a factor , so finding a scenario in your favor can be a challenge in early spring .
Some south Alabama anglers turn their attention to Gaillard Island in spring to find some subtle water temperature change that will jump start the speckled trout fishing of Mobile Bay . While many fishermen will head south to the oyster shell reefs of Mississippi Sound looking to take advantage of the sun ’ s warming effect of the shell bottom , Gaillard Island ’ s rocks will also be receiving the radiating effects of the sun , bringing up water temps close to them . This cozy arrangement has trout cruising close to the rocks in spring . Anglers in the know will be targeting Gaillard ’ s rocky shoreline during the spring warm up .
There are very few live shrimp available in the month of April . Because of this , anglers will use a variety of artificial baits to tempt the trout . Hard plugs cast up next to the rocks and slowly retrieved with a twitch and pause action will result in nice catches of fish when water conditions are right .
Another lure selection is the soft plastic grub . Some of the favorite models are Saltwater Assasins , Cocahoe Minnows and the old faithful Sparkle Beetle . The soft plastic grubs should be cast short of the rocks and allowed to go to the bottom . Get too close to the rocks and you risk hanging your grubs up in the rip-rap .
When fishing along the bottom you may encounter some of the tasty flounder that are known to hang around the island and its sandy bottom . The chances for roaming redfish are also improved using the soft plastic grubs .
The technique of the retrieve varies according to water temperature . When waters are cool in early spring , you should move the soft plastics slowly along the bottom . When water temps start to rise into the mid-seventies , you should employ a faster retrieve , including twitches of the lure . Pro Pointers
Bobby McElroy , of Mobile , has been fishing Gaillard Island for over 20-years . McElroy is a professional charter captain and is often seen at Gaillard in spring . Gaillard Island holds a special place in McElroy ’ s heart . He caught his personal best speckled trout ( 9.65 lbs .) at the island on a topwater plug during a morning ’ s sunrise .
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Triangular Gaillard Island , made from dredge spoil and limestone boulders , has been a success for both fishermen and seabirds that nest on the island . Capt . Bobby McElroy shows off a limit of Gaillard Island speckled trout . Photo by author .
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