How To Spot Dangerous Rip Currents while Surf Fishing Near Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

One of the most popular things to do in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores is to go surf fishing. Most anglers like to cast their bait way out beyond the second sand bar in hopes of catching a fish. For years, anglers have caught Speckled Trout, Flounder, Bull Redfish, Bluefish, Pompano, Ground Mullet, Croaker, Cobia, Catfish and Whiting. For the unsuspecting first timer, there is a danger for anglers to get caught in a Rip Current. Some people call it the Undertow!

Rip currents are formed as ocean waves move from deeper water into shallow water and they break near or on the shoreline. The larger the waves, the more likely the formation of strong rip currents. The more water that moves toward shore, there is an equal but opposite force of the water that has to move away from shore. The area along the Alabama Shoreline is easy to spot as long as you know what to look for.  If you are a fisherman, knowing how to spot these areas can be very productive and at the same time, very dangerous for those who are unsuspecting the water moving their feet right out from underneath them.

Alabama Gulf Coast Rip Currents typically form from Fort Morgan to Orange Beach in areas where the second sand bar have low spots. In rough water, you can’t really see these low spots. However, on clear water days, you can see the lighter color of the sand beneath the water surface and can locate the darker spots where the water appears to be deeper or the low spot of the second sand bar is. Typically, low areas in the second sand bar stays in the same area and does not move much. However, if we have really rough surf for a few days, the water currents can shift these low areas east or west. They could potentially remove them altogether.

Surviving Rip Currents while Surf Fishing in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

  • The first thing to do before surf fishing, is to identify where Rip Currents are located on the beach.

  • You will want to cast your fishing bait out beyond the second sand bar, but not directly in the outgoing surf. If you have a short fishing pole, you can use the rip current to drag your bait out, but you better have a lot of line and a heavy lead to hold your bait in place. Fish tend to hang around the edy’s that are formed near the low area near the second sand bar, waiting on a meal to be flushed by them.

  • Never surf fish alone or near the outgoing water. Remember, Rip Currents are movements of outgoing water. Surf water will move fishermen sideways as the current moves toward the rip, thus moving back out to sea.

  • If you must fish in rough surf, please fish where someone is watching you. Preferably, fish where there is a lifeguard station nearby.

  • If while fishing, and you get caught in a rip current, remain calm. Don’t panic. You are in for a ride offshore. Drop your fishing pole and let it go. Fishing gear causes unnecessary drag and can keep you from surviving. Swim sideways, not against the current and you can swim out of the strongest current.

  • If you are unable to swim out of the current, yell, scream or get someones attention so they can help you get back to shore. You should also wave your hands high in the air while you tread water.

For more information about rip currents, please visit the noaa website and search rip currents.  Rip Current Photos taken by Dr. Wendy Carey of Delaware Sea Grant.