For the first time in nearly eight years, anglers are expected to have access to the big game fishing in Lower Mobile Bay again this spring when the new and improved Fort Morgan Pier opens.
The renovated pier will have L-shaped dimensions of 305 feet by 210 feet and 40 feet in width. The jetty floor will be 8 feet from the surface of the water at medium tide.
Actual construction of the pier began in July 2020, said Scott Bannon, director of Alabama’s marine resources division, but various situations caused delays.
“We immediately encountered delays due to Covid,” Bannon said. “The purchase of the sheet pile was delayed for several months. Then Hurricane Sally arrived and delayed construction. We authorized a breach of the Alabama Point facility repair contract (ADCNR / ALEA) that was damaged during the storm. It was important that law enforcement and access to search and rescue be restored. In addition, labor shortages have been very difficult for the general contractor as well as for subcontractors.
“But I think we’re on the downhill side. We anticipate completion in early March.
Bannon said the sheet pile work has been completed, along with some of the concrete caps that cover the sheet piles. Demolition work on the old retaining wall has also been completed.
Since the new pier is located on a historic site, special rules apply to the excavation of the area, which has lengthened the construction schedule.
“Under the previous pier there were barges that were considered to be of historical significance,” Bannon said. “I believe they were placed there during WWII for a temporary jetty. The fishing pier was then built around the barges. They weren’t in the exact position we thought they were, so when the contractor was ramming through sheet piles and hitting a piece of the barge, mitigating measures were needed, removing those pieces and redirecting the sheet piles.
The original pier was built with lumber and has held up considerably well throughout its 40-year lifespan, but the double whammy of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 did havoc.
“It was pretty much made unsafe and had to be closed in 2014,” Bannon said. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Alabama Historical Commission worked together to seek funding from the Deepwater Horizon Settlement Money through the NRDA (Damage Assessment natural resources). “
The total cost of the design, construction and supervision of the new pier was $ 3.2 million. ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said the reopening of the Fort Morgan Pier will fill a missing piece of outdoor recreation on the Fort Morgan Peninsula.
“I am pleased that the renovation of the Fort Morgan Pier is nearing completion,” said Commissioner Blankenship. “This project has been a long time coming. As the senior administrator of the Alabama NRDA, it was important for us at ADCNR to bring this once popular public access site back to life after many years of closure due to damage from the storms and years spent in the harsh coastal elements. It is being rebuilt in a way that should stand the test of time and storms.
“I would like to thank Rep. Steve McMillian for his unwavering support of this project and for all the good work he does in his southern district of Baldwin County. He has been a real asset to this area during its decades of public service.
Bannon said the upgraded Fort Morgan Pier will serve two purposes by providing a fishing ground and serving as a seawall for the adjacent boat launch and pond.
“We worked really hard to develop a design that we thought would withstand the majority of the weather anomalies and hurricanes that we experience here on the Alabama coast,” Bannon said. “That’s why we opted for steel sheet piles with a concrete platform. The guardrails are made of cables. It will be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. There will be ADA parking spaces, and there will be a much better parking area for all anglers. We are also planning to improve the parking lot for the boat launch. We rebuilt the boat launch there.
“The new pier is not just a fishing pier; it also protects the basin and the boat ramp. The old dike had deteriorated and allowed sedimentation to build up fairly quickly. This will help prevent some of this sedimentation.
Bannon said contractors were able to dredge sedimentation from the boat’s basin, much of which was deposited during Hurricane Sally, and use this material to fill the jetty instead of having to haul material filling by truck.
The good news for anglers is that they will soon have access to the abundant coastal species that inhabit the mouth of Mobile Bay, including the red drum (redfish), speckled trout and plaice.
“This area of the Fort Morgan Peninsula is known for plaice fishing,” Bannon said. “Later in the year, plaice migrate through this region to the Gulf of Mexico. The fish descend there anytime from October to December. This is why we implemented the closure of plaice in November, to protect the fish that will spawn. This area is a shallow sandy area that fish love.
“We have a Marine Resources inshore fishing reef nearby. We will also have rock material around the base of the jetty which will provide protection but also serve as habitat for fish. I think we’ll see the common species that people used to catch start to appear and be caught by fishermen pretty quickly.
David Thornton, known as Pier Pounder on social media, is a dedicated pier and surf fisherman on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and celebrates the reopening of Fort Morgan Pier.
“I think it’s going to really help,” Thornton said. “This is an element that has been missing for several years. The secluded nature of this pier meant that it was rarely overcrowded, but it was a popular spot for people vacationing on the peninsula. It was a nice place, especially when the Gulf beach was too rough. In summer and fall, this is a good place for plaice. And people should be catching a lot of white trout and bottom mullet and a lot of rockfish. It’s really cool to be back in the game.
Bannon said he had previously had contact with anglers who had regularly fished at the original jetty.
“I spoke to a man of about 80 who had come down when we started the initial construction,” he said. “He had fished in this area most of his life. He was very excited about the opportunity to get back to the pier and fish again. It is about giving access to people who do not have boats. We know that access to water is limited and this new jetty is an iconic structure that we want to make accessible to fishermen. It’s access that anglers haven’t had that they’re passionate about, and we’re really excited to be able to provide it to them. I feel pretty quickly that we are going to see full rooms on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“For those people who didn’t have access to water, I think it will soon become another destination like the Gulf State Park Pier.”
Before Bannon became director of the MRD, he was the head of the enforcement section and regularly patrolled the entire Gulf Coast of Alabama.
“Years ago, when I was on patrol, I recognized the same people who were fishing on the pier,” Bannon said. “It’s going to be nice to come back and see these people enjoying the fishing. “
David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered the great outdoors of Alabama for 25 years. A former outside editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.