6 Practical Surf Fishing Tips for Beginners

Perhaps luring your bait while standing on a shoreline is the easiest way to fish. However, it may not be the most profitable way if you don’t know how to manipulate the circumstances to be in your favor.

Surf fishing doesn’t only revolve around the best bait and the right casting techniques. There are many aspects you should take into account before hitting the surf. To begin with, how to select the best area for fishing? In what way does the tide affect the quantity of the fish in this area? Which fishing rig is suitable for the type of catch you want?

All of these questions should be taken into consideration to increase your yield and enjoy the sport as much as you can. Continue reading to find out more about surf fishing tactics and approaches. 

1. Choose the Right Spot

Before you grab your tackles and head to the shore, it’s important to pay the coast a prior visit to inspect the area for the perfect spot for fish gatherings. Try to schedule these visits at times when the tide is low, which will enable you to see through the water. 

Keep in mind that fish usually congregate in deep areas where food is plenty, or near rocky areas where small baitfish and crustaceans commonly dwell. For example:

  • Jetties or breakwaters: any structure extending in the sea can act as a good shelter for different kinds of fish. Try casting your bait on both sides of the jetty or the breakwater and in various depths until you find the spots rich in game fish.
  • Holes or gutters: those can easily be detected by dark areas in the water. Also, look for coarse sand and shells on the beach. They usually mean that you’re near deeper holes where fish most likely hang around.
  • Rip currents: strong waves create sandbars abundant in foodstuff during strong currents. Therefore, seek out water outflows and rip currents to increase your chances of lucky casts.

Pro-tip: set out to assess the beach from a high altitude. This will give you a better view of deeper holes and the direction of the current. Moreover, consider using polaroid sunglasses to reduce the glare and get a better image of what is actually there along the water surface.

2. Read the Water

Water movements and waves can be useful indicators as to where you can cast your bait. Generally speaking, smooth water implies a greater depth, while breaking water indicates the presence of a shallow surface.

While deeper surfaces are preferred for their rich fish capacity, that doesn’t mean you should turn away the moment you see rough water.

Sometimes fish seek their food in shallow choppy water. For one thing, rough water can provide a cover for their movements. For another, waves stir up food and debris from the ground, which lures the fish to the area.

More importantly, remember that water changes its shape and actions throughout the day. That’s why it’s always beneficial to move around and try casting your bait in different areas until you get some bites.

3. Inspect the Weather

The sea level varies depending on the wind and atmospheric pressure. To put it simply, high atmospheric pressure is associated with lower water levels because air pressure exerts a force against the surface of the sea, which causes water movements.

Also, light wind breezes represent no problem for anglers. However, If the wind’s speed increases significantly, this will negatively affect the fishing process, especially if it’s onshore wind.

Many anglers consider offshore wind a blessing since it helps in longer casts. Yet, it actually calms the water and brushes the fish away since they seek deeper water.

To sum it up, the most suitable conditions for angling are when the wind is offshore, and its speed is below ten knots, along with a considerably low atmospheric pressure.

4. Tide and Timing

Understanding the tide saves you from wasting much time on the shore with no yield. The highest are spring tides, which are formed when the sun, the moon, and the Earth are in a straight line. In other words, it occurs during the new moon and full moon seasons.

Times, when spring tide occurs, are perfect for casting your bait, considering the amount of fish that are lured to come out. It stems from the fact that high water levels and strong currents spur the water to grab food sources from rocks and shores, in addition to stirring them up, which draws the fish to the spot.

Another reason is that at the time of spring tides, fish begin their mating cycle, which leaves the water with plenty of food for game fish. Hence, this is the best chance for you to interfere.

More precisely, many pro anglers recommend setting your baits two hours before or two hours after slack tide, which is the time when the tide isn’t moving back or forth. They believe that slack tides aren’t the best since there is no current at that time.

Furthermore, since big fish tend to hunt near the surface when darkness falls, it’s better to match your fishing times with dusk and dawn.

5. Choose the Most Suitable Shore Rig

Rigs come in different designs to suit different purposes. Whether you’re aiming for surface hunting or deep fishing, choosing the right shore rig is crucial for casting your bait perfectly.

In general, a proper fishing rig should enable long casts and hold tight to the bait while presenting it in a natural way. Yet, you should choose the rig according to the type of fish and the technique you’re using. Here are some of the most commonly used shore rigs:

Fish-Finder Rig

This distinctive type of rigs is usually brought into use for two reasons. First, since the bait line slides up and down the mainline, fish-finder rigs allow the bait to swim freely and in a natural way. This comes in handy when fish carry the bait for a while before actually swallowing.

Note that the average for the leader in this type of rigs is 20-24 inches, which is quite long and gives more space for fish maneuvers before biting.

Second, they accommodate large baits and offer little resistance when the fish bite. That makes it suitable for hunting large predatory fish with sharp eyesight like striped bass and redfish.

High/low Rig

High/low rigs differ in that they have their hooks set up above the weight, not below it, like in the case of fish-finder rigs.

These have their pros and cons. On the one hand, high/low rigs allow you to set two hooked baits at once so that you can fish in different depths without using an additional rod. On the other hand, they use a fixed weight.

Unlike fish-finder rigs, which give a more natural feeling to the bait, you have to set your hook quickly or risk losing the fish the moment it feels the unnatural tension from the weight. 

Mostly, they are a great option for small fish, like small stripers and bluefish.

Fireball Rig

Fireball rigs were created with the concept of raising the bait a little above the bottom to be in good view for the fish while saving it from being eaten by bottom crabs.

This was possible by attaching styrofoam floating balls right before the hooks to keep it hovering.

Also, the colorful floating balls make these rigs the best choice for cloudy days, as the vibrant colors of the rig attract fish like snappers, trouts, and bluefish.

6. Don’t Overdo It

Long casting is considered an appealing skill in the eyes of newbies. However, surf fishing doesn’t necessarily require casting to a far distance. Contrary to popular belief, this won’t increase your chances of catching more fish.

Many species like kingfish, flounder, and spots tend to feed closer to crashing waves. Thus, casting super long casts won’t help you catch them.

Moreover, as a novice angler, it’s better to forget about long casts and try to learn accurate surfcasting. 

Start by mastering the overhand cast and let things come naturally after that. Make it your goal to excel in tossing the line with the perfect speed and control so that it’s possible to cast to the same place several times.

The overhand cast is simply a technique where you hold the rod in your hand while bending your arm to a 90-degree angle. Next, flick out the pole quickly and straighten your arm to throw the line and launch the bait.

Bottom Line

Surf fishing isn’t as hard as expected. Nevertheless, it requires some knowledge and experience so you can stay ahead of the game. Hopefully, these tips would help you yield some good haul while enjoying your time.