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How-to Surf Fish - Saltwater Fishing Basics

How-to Surf Fish - Saltwater Fishing Basics
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Top Five Surf Fishing Tips

At first, you may believe you’ll be restricted when it comes to surf fishing since you’ll be casting from dry land, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Aside from deep sea game fish, there’s a surprisingly wide variety of fish you can catch right off the shoreline, including Flounder, Rockfish and Mackerel. This makes it easy for saltwater anglers to catch good game fish without having to leave land at all, so if you’re saving up for a new boat and casting platform to get out on the water you can still get a feel for saltwater fishing and be primed for when you’re ready to go out and land even bigger strikes.

1. Surf Casting for Beginners

Surf fishing is an easy fishing method to learn, with your tactics changing depending on factors such as location, seasons, tides, weather conditions, and the type of fish you’re hoping to get on your line; but, just starting out there are simple basics that will get you started off on the right track. If you’re new to surf fishing, the first thing you need to do is understand how to surf cast. Surf casting is actually a lot like regular casting, but with more emphasis on distance and accuracy to land your bait in the surf. Generally speaking, you’ll do well with a basic overhand cast straight out. For an overhand cast, hold the rod in your hand, bend your arm up into a 90 degree angle and quickly flick out the pole, straightening your arm to launch the bait into the water. The trick to surf casting is learning the exact speed and power you need to perfect both your distance and accuracy when tossing out the line.

how to surf cast

Once you have the cast you can start to learn different tactics, such as using different bait or fishing at a different time of year, that will help you target specific fish species. For example, while shrimp will attract most species of fish, you may want to use live bait like Mullet for Flounder or Herring for Mackerel. It also helps to understand the habits of your target fish species based on the seasons, tides and weather conditions.

2. Changing Tactics: Reading the Beach

Seasoned surf anglers know how to read the beach and find the features that make a good fishing spot, but the ocean is an intimidating expanse to beginners. To increase your odds of finding fish, there are several things you can look for:

  • The sand bar is a critical component to figuring out where fish could be, letting you know whether the fish are behind it chasing bait fish, or closer to the shore. Sand bars will constantly change with the waves and passing storms, but you can locate them by determining where the waves begin to break as they come in.
  • sand bar on beach
  • Outflows, or rip currents, are breaks in the sand bar where the fish will often come to feed in the surf. Since fish may also feed to the left or right of an outflow, you may also want to try casting your line to either side of the outflow.
  • rip current red flag
  • Areas of the beach with coarse sand and shells are more likely to be near deeper holes that will hold fish, so look up and down the beach for these areas to increase your chance of getting a strike. Remember that these subtle differences can have a huge effect when it comes to surf fishing.
  • shells on beach

3. Deciding When to Go Surf Fishing: Weather and Tides

Reading the beach will become easier as you become more experienced with surf fishing, but as you learn there are a few other things to consider as well. With the changing of the weather and tides, you will also see changes in the behaviors of fish. Perfect fishing conditions are difficult to achieve, so having a general idea of when the fish should be biting can make the difference between a successful day of surf fishing and a disappointing one. Every surf angler is going to have their own opinion and experiences when it comes to the best conditions for surf fishing, but there are a few general rules of thumb most can agree with:

  • Overcast and rainy days can help minimize shadows from your line, making the bait more appealing. (Note: While rainy days may increase strikes, your safety should always come first when surf fishing. Keep an eye on the weather at all times and be prepared to seek shelter in the event of a thunderstorm or unexpected foul weather, like high winds that create dangerous waves and conditions.)
  • More fish will come in to feed during high tide, especially at dawn or dusk, as there will be more water in your fishing hole, but certain species will prefer low tide.
  • Take advantage of low tide to read the beach and locate sand banks, dips, hollows, and other structures.
fishing cloudy day

4. How to Fish from the Beach: Surf Fishing Gear

When conditions are right and you decide to head to the beach for surf fishing, make sure you are adequately prepared. For a typical surf fishing excursion on the beach, you will need the following gear:

  • Saltwater Fishing Rod and Feel
  • Cast Net
  • Tackle and Bait
  • Surf Fishing Rigs (Fish-Finder and Drop)
  • Marine Hook and Rig Holder (for tool organization)
  • Knife
  • Bait Bucket and Air Pump
  • Spare Spool of Line
  • Pliers or Disgorger
  • Tape Measure
  • Umbrella and Rain Gear
  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fishing License

5. Prepare for the Day: Pack Your Cooler

A cooler can benefit a surf fisherman in several ways:

  1. Storing food and drinks: A cooler allows you to bring along a supply of food and drinks, keeping them fresh and accessible during your fishing trip.
  2. Transporting fish: A cooler can be used to transport your catch back home or to a fish cleaning station, ensuring that it stays fresh and in good condition.
  3. Providing a surface to sit or stand on: A cooler can provide a stable and comfortable surface to sit or stand on while fishing, especially if the beach or shoreline is rocky or uneven.
  4. Keeping bait fresh: A cooler can be used to store your bait, keeping it fresh and ready to use throughout the day.
  5. Entertainment: A cooler with Bluetooth speakers can add an extra layer of convenience and entertainment for surf fishermen, allowing them to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, and make phone calls while out on the water.

Overall, a cooler can be a useful and practical accessory for surf fishermen, helping to keep food and drinks fresh, storing and transporting fish, and providing a comfortable and stable surface to sit or stand on while fishing.

6. Remember Knowledge Comes from Experience

Having proper gear will make your surf fishing experience easier and far more enjoyable, especially as you learn how to read the beach and what conditions are best for getting the strikes. Remember that knowledge comes from experience. While guides can help establish a foundation as you learn the art of surf fishing, actually casting your rod from the sands of the beach will teach you what you need to know to become a seasoned surf angler.

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