ARCHIVES - Good Times on the Bon Secour

Posted on December 06, 2019


Alabama’s Bon Secour River is a hidden gem that keeps on getting better. Text and Photos by Ed Mashburn

           When it comes to scenery, Alabama’s Bon Secour River just about has it all. Bucolic shrimp boats line weathered wooden docks as the tide flows gently toward Mobile Bay. Dolphins roll in the channel, gulls and terns scream and circle overhead, and the sharp cry of an osprey greets the morning.

            When it comes to fishing, the river offers an equally wide assortment of offerings. Pin a live shrimp to a hook and lob it gently into the tea-colored water and there is no telling what might come coming. There is a very good chance that the shrimp will never make it to the bottom as the line comes tight and a massive boil precludes a solid V wake heading into the open waters of the channel. At this point, it is impossible to tell what sort of fish had just dined on the shrimp. It could be a copper and gold Redfish, a black and white striped Sheepshead or a yellow-mouthed gator Speck Trout.

             When fishing the Bon Secour River, anything is possible and that is one of the best things about a fishing spot that is a favorite for many Alabamians today and has been a draw for people in the region for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Native Americans have lived along the shores of Bon Secour River for time unknown, and European folks have been here since the early 1600s. In fact, the name Bon Secour comes from the early French Settlers’ term for “good anchorage.” 


             The Bon Secour River offers easy to access for small craft to get into prime fishing water. The river itself is quite short, starting and ending in southern Baldwin County and running less than 10 miles. From Highway 59 --- the main north/south road from I-10 to the Alabama beaches --- the river is less than five miles down County Road 10 to some good launch ramps and some very good fishing.

             Since the river offers shelter in even windy conditions, it is a small craft angler’s paradise. In fact, it is practically tailor-made for kayak fishing. The river has good tidal movement, tannin-colored water, lots if forage judging from the number of commercial and recreational shrimp boats, and a whole lot of hurricane-killed docks and other structure which offer shelter and food to massive numbers of game fish. 

            Humans aren’t the only ones attracted to this quiet corner of the water. All kinds of birds, from eagles to hummingbirds, visit the area, as do dolphins and otters that are eager to share in its bounty. It is a nature-lover’s dream.

Even though Bon Secour is not a big river, some very big fish have taken up residence here.

In the course of exploring this waterway, I have run into more than a few red and black drum that I simply could not wrestle back to the boat. My personal best speckled trout --- almost 7 pounds --- came from a secret spot on the river.

            Robert Dobson, a local angler with a lot of experience on the river, has become something of a legend in the Mobile Bay area for his expertise. He’s forgotten more about fishing Bon Secour than most people will ever know.

            “I’ve caught reds to 30 inches plus, and lots of specks over 20 inches,” he says. “Reds in the 14- to 18-inch range are always reliable, as are specks from 12 to 18 inches.”

In the cooler months, the Bon Secour also welcomes an influx of sheepshead, some of which run 7 pounds and larger. Given the amount of debris and structure in the river it is almost impossible to get those larger specimens away from line cutting barnacles in time. All arounds that same structure and off the area’s plentiful oyster beds are also prime targets for working live minnows down on the bottom for some very good flounder fishing.

Just about any time the weather will allow, anglers can expect to catch good fish in the Bon Secour, but colder weather generally signals that it is time to target speckled trout.

“I like the fall and winter best for trout on the river,” says Dobson. “Live shrimp under a popping cork is a sure-fire tactic, although soft plastics on a jig head are a good alternative if live bait isn’t an option. When conditions are just right, topwater plugs can be very productive, and there is no more exciting way to fish.”

When truly cold air settles into the region, fish of all kinds will find the deepest water available and the Bon Secour offers several spots where the current has scoured holes almost 20 feet deep. The deep holes are most common where the river makes a sharp bend, and some of them have springs in the bottom which actually provide warmer water and thus become a magnet for all fish and other wildlife.

A live shrimp or soft plastic worked on the bottom are effective in this scenario as long as the angler slows everything down to a slow twitch. Cold trout are not nearly as voracious feeders as summer-time trout. And don’t expect a jarring thump on the line --- a subtle tap is about all the warning you will get that a trot has taken the bait.


The Bon Secour River is a great place to fish, but anglers will soon have even better opportunities thanks to the combined efforts of the Alabama Department of Marine Resources and the Coastal Conservation Association. The massive 34-acre Bayou Cour Reef is nearing completion in Mobile Bay in close proximity to the mouth of the Bon Secour River

“We anticipate the new reef to be a good place for speckled trout and redfish,” said Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship. “It is being built on an old relic oyster reef, and the water will be five feet deep over the outside ring of limestone and somewhat deeper inside the ring. The reef should be totally finished by the first of next year.”

The reed will be the largest permitted inshore reed in Alabama waters, to date. Nearby reefs include the Fish River Reef and the Shellbank Reef, which have provided excellent finfish habitat and sport fishing opportunities. The $163,000 project is being made possible with funds from the Marine Resource Division, a $55,000 donation from the CCA Building Conservation Habitat Program, and through donations from other sources, including CCA Alabama’s license tag program. The initial phase of the project, a rip-rap circle to contain limestone and oyster shells in the main reef, was begun by MRD in June 2011. CCA’s donations will be used to complete the first phase of the project.

            “CCA Alabama has been a part of building inshore reefs and enhancing fishing habitat in Alabama’s waters since the state chapter was founded in 1982 and we’re very pleased and excited to be a part of this project,” said Travis Taylor, executive director of CCA Alabama. It’s one of those projects that will continue to draw attention to CCA and the whole region. 

            Anglers will be able to put in at the usual ramps in Bon Secour River and the motor or paddle a mile or less into Mobile Bay to fish the new reef. “We are thrilled to partner with MRD to build yet another inshore reef in Alabama waters,” said CCA Alabama Chairman Edwin Lamberth said. “Projects like this allow recreational anglers to give something directly back to the resource. We expect the reef will become a highly productive and popular destination for inshore anglers, we certainly expect it to be a benefit to the economies of the surrounding communities.”

             Life has always been good on the Bon Secour for anglers, and with the new Bayou Cour reef, it will be even better.