How to Surf Fish: Surf Fishing Tips for Beginners

Although many saltwater anglers enjoy fishing from a boat or pier, you can have just as much fun—and catch just as many fish—while fishing from the beach. But surf fishing presents a few unique challenges that you’ll need to learn to overcome to have success. If you’re just getting started, here’s how to surf fish. We’ll provide some key surf fishing tips for beginners, discussing the basic techniques, the fish you can catch from the shore, and the gear you’ll need. 

Surf Fishing Rod 

You’ll rarely need to cast more than 40 to 50 yards from the shore when fishing from the bank of a freshwater lake or river. When surf fishing, the best action is further out. You’ll often need to cast 60-100 yards when fishing from the beach. This is because you typically want to cast beyond the breaking waves, where hungry fish often congregate and feed.

This means you’ll need a rod specifically designed to help you make long casts with heavy weights. Most surf fishing rods are between 8 and 16 feet in length, and they have extended butt sections that allow you to use both hands while casting. Medium-powered surf rods will usually suit most beginners, but be sure to select one with a relatively fast action, as this will make it easier to pull the weight off the bottom when setting the hook.

Surf Fishing Reel

You can use a spinning reel or a casting reel to surf fish, although novices will usually find a spinning reel is easier to use. Conversely, experienced anglers will find that a casting reel allows for better casting accuracy. Regardless of which style you choose, its important to select a high-capacity reel that can hold at least 200 to 300 yards of line.

Always be sure to use a reel designed for saltwater use, as freshwater reels will corrode over time if used for surf fishing!

Fishing Line & Terminal Tackle

In addition to an appropriate rod and reel, you’ll also need an assortment of other items when fishing from the beach. Some of the most important things you’ll need include:

  • Braided fishing line in the 10- to 25-pound-test range. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines can also work, but braid stretches very little. This makes it easier to detect strikes and set the hook. And for a given strength, braided lines will be thinner than their monofilament or fluorocarbon counterparts.
  • Several lead sinkers, ranging from 2 to 8 ounces. Pyramid-style sinkers are often excellent at keeping your bait stationary in the currents, but cylindrical weights are less likely to become snagged in rocks and other obstacles.
  • A 6- to 8-foot-long shock leader to prevent your line from snapping. Because of the immense forces put on the line during a typical shore cast, you’ll want to incorporate a bit of monofilament shock leader in your rig. The monofilament will stretch slightly during the cast, thereby preventing broken lines.
  • Two or three pre-tied leaders. You can make your own leaders using 10- to 25-pound-test fluorocarbon line and several circle hooks, but it is easier for beginners to just purchase ready-to-use leaders.
  • An assortment of swivels. Swivels should be used to prevent your line from twisting. Some swivels come with clips that make it very easy to switch rigs while you’re fishing.

Other Useful Equipment

In addition to your rod, reel and terminal tackle, you’ll also want to bring a pair of line cutters and a set of needle nose pliers or a hook remover. A filet knife is also important if you plan to clean the fish you catch before going home.

You can use a tackle box or bag to make it easier to carry all of your equipment to the beach and keep it organized. Some anglers prefer using a rolling beach cart to carry their gear down to the water. Tackle boxes are typically easier to carry, but beach carts make it easier to haul heavy or large items, including bait wells, coolers, and OK maybe a beach chair too.

Dress For The Sport

On the beach, there’s little to protect you from exposure to the sun. It’s important to wear the appropriate apparel. Bone On Sportswear has you covered with a wide range of fishing hats and technical fishing clothing. Stay comfortable, stay protected, and get on the fish. Find what you need:

Picking Your Spot

When learning how to surf fish, casting randomly from the beach will seldom prove successful. The ocean is big, and fish typically congregate in small patches of water. It will take some time for you to learn how to spot the best places that are most likely to hold fish. These tips will help you get started:

  • Target areas near reefs, humps, depressions, rocks or grass, as well as breaks in sandbars, which allow the water to flow back out to sea.
  • Scan the shoreline during low tides to locate promising locations.
  • Look for places where the surface currents appear to change abruptly. This is often a sign of submerged structure where fish like to gather.

Bait Selection

Although some surf fishers use spoons, plugs and other artificial lures, most beginners will have better success with live or cut bait. Different baits will work best for different target species, but white shrimp, squid, mullet, crabs and bloodworms are among the most popular options. Most bait shops will be happy to explain the best options for catching the local fish. You can even catch your own bait from the shore in many cases with a cast net.

Surf Fishing Species

Inshore waters often hold celebrated gamefish including tarpon, bonefish, redfish or sharks. Grouper, sea trout, snook, Spanish mackerel and striped bass are also commonly caught from the shore.

There are typically a dozen or more species you can target on a given beach, which adds a bit of mystery and excitement to surf fishing. The species available will vary from one location to the next, so it’s wise to speak with locals or visit a bait and tackle shop to find out what fish you’re likely to catch.

Rules & Regulations

Be sure to investigate the local laws and surf fishing regulations before heading to the beach. Most states will require that you obtain a fishing license to fish from the shore, although some provide licenses to resident anglers for free.

It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the other regulations in effect. For example, some states will limit the number of rods you can use or implement tackle regulations, which may prohibit some types of hooks. It’s also important to review the creel and size limits in place, as well as any seasonal restrictions.

Gear Up With Bone On

Their can be a bit of a learning curve for surf fishing beginners, but those who start with the proper equipment and select a good location should enjoy plenty of success.

For all of your fishing apparel needs, shop Bone On Sportswear today. Gear up and get out on the water! Those fish aren’t going to catch themselves.