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How to Surf Fish: A Comprehensive Saltwater Fishing Guide

Kyle W by Kyle W Updated on April 23, 2021. In

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There’s no denying that surf fishing can evoke daydreams of you catching fish in one of nature’s most incredible environments until the grim reality sets in. It dawns on you that fishing the beach can be an uphill task, and if it’s your first time, it’s downright impossible to have success without adequate knowledge and research.

Setting up along a pond or river and catching a few fish without much experience is child’s play. However, the surf is a different ballgame that demands extra understanding and preparation. Moreover, it calls for conducting your due diligence ahead of time to ensure you’re as prepared as possible when you hit the water. With that being said, here’s a rundown on how to surf fish.

People Fishing On the Seashore

1. Surfcasting for Novices

Surf fishing is a straightforward activity to learn, with your tactics changing, based on various external factors such as the type of fish you want to bait, tides, location, weather conditions, and seasons. However, when you’re a beginner, a few simple fundamentals will steer you on the right path to becoming a pro.

For starters, it’s important to understand how to surf cast. While surfcasting is closely similar to regular casting, it focuses more on accuracy coupled with distance to land your bait in the surf.

Typically, a generic overhand cast straight out will get the job done. It entails holding the rod in your hand, bending your arm to form a 90-degree angle, and hastily flicking out the pole, then straightening your arm to immerse the bait into the water.

The key to surfcasting is learning the precise power and speed required to perfect not only your accuracy but also distance upon tossing out the line.

Once you have the cast, it’s time to master the various tactics, ranging from fishing at different times of the year to using varying bait, all of which will aid in targeting certain fish species. For instance, shrimp lures in most fish species.

However, you may want to switch things up a little with live bait such as Mullet for Flounder and Herring to lure in Mackerel. Surfcasting gives you insight into the habits of your target species of fish depending on the weather conditions, seasons, and tides.

2. Changing Tactics: Learning the Beach

A seasoned surf angler has mastered the art of analyzing the beach and discovering features that make an excellent fishing spot. Contrarily, to beginners, the ocean is an intimidating expanse, to say the least. Therefore, to elevate your likelihood of finding fish, here’s a breakdown of things you should keep an eye out for.

  • The Sandbar: It’s a crucial component to figuring out where fish could be. Sandbars inform you whether the fish are nearer to the shore or hunting baitfish behind them. While sandbars are always changing with the passing storms and waves, you can spot them by determining the point at which the waves start breaking as they come in.
  • Rip currents or Outflows: These are breaks in the sandbar where the fish typically come to feed in the surf. Given that the fish may also feed to the right or left of an outflow, it’s in your best interest to cast your line to both sides.
  • Certain Spots: Areas of the beach that are loaded with shells and coarse sand are typically located next to deeper holes that house a multitude of fish. Therefore, comb through the beach for these areas to boost your likelihood of getting a strike. Keep in mind that these subtle differences can have a significant impact on surf fishing.
  • The Waves: As bulletproof as it sounds to make a diagram of everything, it can shed light on knowing precisely where to fish. When you go out during high tide, drawing it up will feel like a complete waste of time as the surf will look entirely different. What’s more, the tide may even alter the surrounding seabed, so it’s crucial to keep a close on the waves’ movement.

To the unfamiliar eye, they appear the same. However, a closer look will unveil a few minor differences as the waves bounce off an underwater rock, breaking faster and harder in the presence of an underwater sea bank. Upon combining this observation with your drawings, you’ll get a good feeling of where you should cast.

3. Knowing When To Surf Fish: The Weather and Tides

Analyzing the beach will get easier as you gain more experience in surf fishing. With the changing tides and weather, you’ll notice changes in the behavior of fish. Achieving perfect fishing conditions can be an uphill battle, which is why an overview of when the fish should be biting is the make-or-break between a disappointing say of surf fishing and a fruitful one.

While every surf angler has varying experiences and opinions regarding the most ideal conditions for surf fishing, below are few rules of thumb that most consent to.

  • Rainy days and overcast can make all the difference in diminishing shadows from your line to make the bait look more alluring. It’s worth noting that, although rainy days boost strikes, your safety should always be a top priority. Keep a close eye on the weather and make arrangements to seek shelter in the unfortunate occurrence of unpredicted foul weather such as thunderstorms and high winds that trigger dangerous waves and conditions.
  • Surf fishing at dusk and dawn when the tide is high is the most ideal. That’s when the tides shift, and the fish are most active. An abundance of fish will come to feed during the high tide because of increased water. However, particular species will gravitate towards low tide. Of course, the precise time of day this occurs differs based on the time of the year and your location.
  • It’s easier to analyze the beach and spot hollows, sandbanks, dips, and other structures.

Man in Hat Fishing

Best Surf Fishing Gear

It’s a no-brainer that having the right type of equipment outlined below is a crucial component in how to surf fish. Yes, it can vary from the setup you’re accustomed to at the river, pond, or lake.

  • Saltwater Fishing Rod: Stacking the rod length coupled with ideal weight will determine how far you can cast. Therefore, if you can’t cast past the breaking waves, then you’re out of business. While surf rods range from 9 to 14 feet, the bigger the rod, the further the cast. Nonetheless, consider your ability and comfort.
  • Rain gear
  • Pocket flashlight
  • Knife
  • Extra spool of line
  • Tackle Box (to keep your surf fishing equipment organized)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Air Pump and Bait Bucket
  • Baits: The most ideal options for surf fishing are ragworms, squid, shrimp, sand crabs, and mullet
  • Lures: Your best bet is a metal spoon or lead-head plastic jigs
  • Sinkers such as coin, pyramid, wedge, and sputnik
  • Cast net
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Marine rig holder and hook

To Wrap It Up

Having ideal gear is crucial for a more thrilling and easier surf fishing experience, particularly as you get acquainted with analyzing the beach along with the most suitable conditions for getting the strikes.

Most importantly, keep in mind that knowledge stems from experience. Although guides can help build a foundation as you learn the ropes of how to surf fish, physically casting your rod from the beach sands will give you the practice you require to become a pro surf angler.

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