If you are fortunate enough to live by the coast or if you are going to be visiting the area, you are in a great position to try some surf fishing.
Casting your line at the edge of the ocean offers many benefits beyond some excellent fishing action. You will find that it is very relaxing and you can enjoy the beach and having your toes in the sand while at the same time, catching your dinner.
Surf fishing also gives you the opportunity to enjoy the sport and what saltwater fishing has to offer without having to spend all of your hard-earned money on getting out onto the water itself.
There is no need for you to have a boat or a way to get the ship to the shore, you simply need the right tackle and some bait in order to get started.
Common Fish Species
As is the case with fishing in almost any location, there is a wide variety of fish that may differ, depending upon the area and the time of year.
Some of the fish that you will be looking for when you are casting your line from the shore are migratory, so they are not going to be there all year. Others may be confined to a specific location.
Here are some of the more common types of fish that you will find in many areas.
If you are going to be fishing on the East Coast, you may want to try your hand at fishing for striped bass.
A mature striped bass can be up to six feet in length with the world record being 125 pounds, but they are typically in the range of four feet or slightly under. It is thought that they can live up to 30 years.
They can be found all along the Atlantic coastline, including into the Gulf of Mexico as far north as Louisiana. This type of fish also migrates between salt water and fresh water, with spawning taking place in fresh water.
Redfish (Red Drum)
Another popular fish exists from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Massachusetts is the Redfish. The Redfish (also called a redfish, a channel bass, a puppy drum, a spottail bass, or simply red, is one of the most sought after game fish by those who are angling from the shore.
A redfish that is mature will have a black spot at the base of the tail and are a slightly red color. The typical weight for a redfish is anywhere from 6 to 8 pounds on a digital fish scale.
If they are untypically large (over 27″), they are referred to as bull reds. The world record redfish was caught on Hatteras Island and was over 94 pounds in weight.
In essence, the Flounder is the general name for hundreds of different demeral or flat fish. This group includes Halibut, Plaice, Dab – pretty much every Flatfish in North America. To keep things simple, let’s stick to the fish that actually have Flounder in their name.
Most Flounders found in North America live along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The most popular ones are Summer Flounder (aka Fluke), Winter Flounder (aka American Lemon Sole), and Southern Flounder. Not to be left out, on the West Coast, you also have Starry Flounder and California Flounder.
They spend the majority of their life traveling the sea floor. Because of this their skin changes color to match their surroundings and their white underside makes them invisible from below.
Because of their bottom residing behavior, their whole head is twisted sideways. Flatfish start out round like a normal fish, but as they grow, their body starts to flatten out.
Eventually, one eye “migrates” across their head and their mouth twists to the side. The group is divided into “right-eye” or “left-eye” fish depending on which eye moves. If you hold one up and it faces right when its eyes are above its mouth, it’s right-eyed. Either way, it’s kind of freaky but to be honest, really tasty.
They typically weigh between 1 and 3 pounds, but they can reach up to eight pounds in weight.
Although most of us do not really like to think about a shark hanging out near the shoreline, they are a popular fish for those that cast their line from the beach.
You need to be prepared for the sport with the right type of gear and the knowledge of how to handle the shark when you get it to shore. Depending upon your location and what is currently in the surf, you may be catching sharks that are up to nine feet in length or longer.
This is by far my favorite fish to catch. The sheer power, fight, and acrobatic thrill from this fish will definitely captivate you from the first catch. I caught my first Tarpon in Recife Brazil and have been hooked ever since.
The Tarpon is one the most popular game fish in Florida but are found in shallow waters throughout the Atlantic Ocean and the western edge of Florida.
Tarpon are also called Silver King, Silver Sides or Sabalo (Spanish). For the most part, it is only catch and release.
It’s well known for its aggressive acrobatics on the end of a line and capable of jumping up to ten feet out of the water.
They grow to a massive size of about 8 feet, with the current IGFA world record at 286 lbs 9 oz. But most will be about 3 to 4 feet in size.
While they are edible, people rarely eat Tarpon because their flesh is filled with small, hard to clean bones. As such, most will only do a catch and release. In fact, in Florida it is only for catch and release.
Tarpon’s preferred water temperature is in the 74-88 degrees Fahrenheit range.
Tackle for Surf Fishing
It is essential for you to have the right type of tackle if you are going to be casting from the shore.
Yes, it is possible to use traditional spinning rods, but more than likely, you are going to run into something which would cause damage to the rod or tackle if you do so.
Most surf rods are going to be anywhere from 12 up to 15 feet in length. The guides on the rod are going to be much larger than on a typical rod, which makes it possible for you to cast long distances.
With the right type of weight on the end of the line, it may be possible for you to cast up to 300 feet from the shoreline. It is also crucial for you to consider the reel that you are using when you are casting from the shore.
There are saltwater spinning reels which are specific to this purpose and can handle the pressure that a big fish is going to put on the line. The line itself should be in the 20–25-pound range, which would be suitable for most fish that can be caught from the shore.
If you go with a lighter line, you may have a problem with it snapping during the cast, and any larger line would use up too much of the reel. You will need some serious weight on the end of the line if you want to do any long-distance casting.
Leave your Lakeside tackle box at home; you will need a pyramid sinker that is in the neighborhood of six ounces. These sinkers are designed for surf casting because they help to keep the line stationary rather than allowing it to travel with the current down the beach and run the risk of tangling other lines.
Sand spikes are pipes which are made from PVC and are embedded in the sand. These can be set up to hold your rod while you are waiting for the next fish to bite.
A wide variety of hooks are available for surf casting, and it would be to your benefit to speak to some local anglers or those that run the local bait shop to see what is best for the area.
If you’re going to be fishing for smaller fish that are close to the shore, you might want to take a second rod that is smaller in length. You can enjoy the action of using a smaller rod closer to shore while your larger rod is taking care of the big one that may be swimming by.
Bait for Surf Fishing
You would probably be surprised with the number of types of bait that are available for surf casting. It is best if you ask some questions of those in the local area to determine what the best bait is for use when fishing from the shore.
Common types of bait that are used in many areas include squid, frozen shrimp, crabs, and small fish. It may also be possible to use whole, large fish, such as bonito if you are going to be fishing for shark. This is something that is typically reserved for those that are experienced with surf casting.
It’s a good idea to carry some artificial bait with you as well. Artificial bait is also going to be different, depending upon the area that you are fishing. Topwater plugs are a common type of artificial bait, as are spoons which can be used to provoke the fish into striking.
If you find a local bait shop, I’m sure that they would be happy to discuss some of the lures that are popular in the area. Of course, they would also be more than happy to equip you with those lures and anything else that you may need for a great day on the sand.
Surf Fishing Techniques
If you are going to be successful with surf fishing, you need to find where the fish are congregating. It may seem odd that they would hang in any particular area, but most of them do tend to stay in the regions that provide plenty of food and cover.
Of course, unlike stream or lake fishing, the areas that are going to produce well when angling from the shore of the ocean tend to migrate. Yes, there will be some areas that typically provide fish on a consistent basis, but that being said, there are always going to be changes due to tides, weather conditions, and other factors. One of the best ways for you to find an area where fish may be plentiful is to look at the color of the water.
A deep cut in the water, which would allow currents (and food) to move in the area, can typically be recognized by a deeper color. You should also look for sandbars that may be offshore, as fish may be between the shore and those areas. Any breaks in the surf line will also tend to display where the cuts (and the fish) may be.
Birds can also help to give you some direction as to where the fishing action may be best. Seabirds, such as seagulls and pelicans will follow the baitfish, and you can see them diving for those fish as well.
The baitfish may also be making a disturbance which is visible on top of the water. If you are able to find this type of action with baitfish, it is likely that the larger, predator fish will also be in the area. Unfortunately, baitfish are usually on the move, and the action may be temporary, but while it is available, it can be a lot of fun.
Finally, don’t be afraid to look at where the locals are fishing. If you see a spot where a handful of locals have set up their poles for the day, it is likely that you are looking at a great spot to fish.
It may not be the best idea for you to intrude on their space while they are there on that day, but make sure that you remember the area for fishing on a future date. They may already have done the initial footwork of finding a great region to fish, and you can benefit if you take advantage of it.