How to Surf Fish for Beginners

July 2, 2021

Want to pick up fishing but lack a boat for the high seas? You don’t need one! Try surf fishing instead. It’s an easy way to break into saltwater fishing, plus it takes minimal effort to head to the nearest shore and requires much less fuel than a vessel.

Ready to try your hand at surf fishing? It’s a little different from fishing from a vessel. Like fly fishing, it takes a bit more precision to cast a line. Learn how to surf fish with these beginner techniques and tricks. Plus, we provide a list of must-have gear and equipment to create the perfect surf angler setup.

Must-Have Surf Fishing Gear

As you learn how to surf fish, having the proper gear makes all the difference. Being prepared with the right rod, along with other accessories and equipment, will make your first surf fishing experience more enjoyable, bringing you back again. Here’s the surf fishing gear you need:

  • Saltwater fishing rod and reel
  • Surf fishing rigs like a fish-finder and drop
  • Marine hook and rig holder organizer
  • Casting net
  • Knife and pliers/disgorger
  • Tackle and bait
  • Bait bucket
  • Air pump
  • Extra spool of line
  • Tape measure

Aside from this basic surf fishing gear, consider other necessary clothing you would need normally, such as a rain jacket, sunscreen and a first aid kit for emergencies. Pack a personal cooler with lunch and plenty of water and a rolling cooler to bring back your catch. Of course, you’ll need a fishing license, so keep that dry in a secure, watertight case.

Learn How to Surf Cast

As you learn how to surf fish, you’ll need to adjust your cast. So how do you cast from the shore? While it all depends on factors like your location and the tides, which we’ll explore in more in-depth below, surf casting requires you to cast long and precise.

In other words, surf casting is not too different than casting from a boat, but you’ll need to be more accurate to land the bait as close to the surf as possible. To do so, cast with a basic overhand, bending your arm at a 90-degree angle and flicking the pole quickly, and straighten your arm outward to send the bait directly out into the waters ahead. Over time, you will improve and learn the exact speed and power it takes to land the bait where it needs to go.

With this basic understanding of how to surf cast, you can then practice more advanced techniques during certain weather conditions and tide, as well as use better bait for a variety of fish, such as flounder or mackerel.

Read the Beach

surf fishing

Second to knowing how to surf cast, a beginner surf angler needs to learn how to read a beach and seek out a good fishing spot. Here are some clues on what to look for so you can catch more fish.

Sandbars along the shore can offer clues on where the fish are lingering nearby. Sometimes, fish can be behind the sandbar chasing bait fish and closer to the shoreline. Sandbars change frequently, but you can locate them by seeking out where the incoming wave begins to break. Since fish can feed to either side of the sandbar and within its breaks, try casting your line in both areas of the outflow to see what you can find.

As you walk the beach, take notice of the sand, too. Areas with coarse sand and shells indicate a deeper hole nearby where fish might be. Ultimately, the beach’s shape and sand can tell you a lot, so pay attention to these details if you want to be a better surf angler.

Pay Attention to Weather and Tides

Now that you know how to read the beach to find fish, don’t forget to pay attention to the weather and the tides, which can change the behavior of fish. Download a decent fishing tide app, keep an eye on the forecast and remember this advice:

Surf fish on overcast and rainy days: Remember how we mentioned a rain jacket as part of your gear? It’s for good reason! On overcast days, your line’s shadow is practically nonexistent, which makes the bait look more realistic to fish. Just make sure to keep an eye on changing weather patterns and seek shelter in the event of a thunderstorm or high winds.

Surf fish during high tide: As the tide gets higher, more fish will come in to feed. If the tide comes in at early dawn or late dusk, even better! However, keep in mind that there are some fish that prefer low tide.

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