Surf Fishing 101: Out With The Tides

If you want to start fishing, you may have an image in your mind of being aboard a boat with your family or buddies. But then you think, “Where the heck am I supposed to get a boat? Those things are expensive!”

Well, settle down! You don’t need a bunch of equipment to fulfill your dream of becoming a fisherman. For example, in the case of surf fishing, all you need is a few basic equipment and a beach. That’s why this is one of the most popular fishing techniques nowadays.

Keep the surfboard and the gnarly slang in the closet, surf fishing just means that you’re casting your line from land into the surf, or water. Of course, you can also cast from a pier, a jetty or while wading in the water. Some people prefer the term “beach fishing,” but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

If you’re ready to get started surf fishing (and if you live near a beach, why wouldn’t you be?), here’s all you need to know.

Gather the Right Equipment

Unless you want to try and snatch fish from the water with a ‘brown bear style’ (no judgment if you do!), you’ll probably need the right equipment. Thankfully, this fishing equipment isn’t too outrageous, since you won’t need a boat or a complex reel. Instead, you’ll most likely be using a fishing rod. When choosing the right fishing rod, there are two important factors that you should keep in mind: length and flexibility.

If you’re looking for a hard and fast answer to how long your rod should be, you’re in trouble. Despite the fact that everyone agrees that a longer fishing rod is necessary, there’s no consensus on the perfect size for a fishing rod for surf fishing. That’s because it usually depends on where you are fishing and which species you’re trying to catch.

On the other hand, a rod between seven and fifteen feet will generally meet your needs, as longer rods are used for casting on the shoreline. Whatever length you choose, make sure that the rod has a longer butt. It’ll provide better support for your casts.

The amount of bend you want will also depend on what kind of surf fishing you would like to do. If you’re planning on fishing from a cliff or from a pier rather than the shoreline, you may want to find a stiffer rod. That will allow you to pull the fish all the way up to you despite the long vertical distance.

Once you have a rod and reel that work for you, you’ll want to purchase the following:

  • Line: You can buy a monofilament or braided line, but a braided line tends to be thinner and stronger.
  • Sinker: You want to pick a sinker that will help your bait stay at the bottom of the seabed and near the fish. Moreover, pyramid sinkers will often work.
  • Bait: The best type of bait will typically depend on the fish you want to catch. However, shrimp or mullet are popular choices. You can always ask local fishermen or your bait shop what will set you up for the most successful catches in your area.

Work With The Tide

Do you know that Cher song “If I Can Turn Back The Tide”? (That’s how it goes, right?) When surf fishing, it’s all about the tides. For instance, you may find that you will have more success surf fishing during a period of high tides, because more fish will be there to feed.

As such, this will be great if you’re just browsing for a catch (like when your wife goes to the store just to “see what’s out there”). Also, it increases your odds of catching something.

Now, don’t get freaked out, but the tide rule isn’t as simple as it sounds. While you may want to fish during high tide, you’ll still want to scope out the area during low tide, assuming that you’ll be fishing from the actual shoreline and not from a boardwalk or jetty.

The reason for scoping out a body of water during low tide is because you can see which spots may hold better catches. Hint, hint, you can’t see through the water! You’re not Aquaman.

So, what should you even be looking for? Generally, you’ll want to pick areas with sand bars, rip currents or coarse sand and seashells. If you’re not even sure where to go, your best bet is to ask other fishermen or the employees in your local bait shop.

To get started and learn more about fishing basics, download our beginner’s guide to fishing now.

Pick the Right Time

High tides will generally help your fishing. However, a spring tide might help it even more. For those of you not yet acquainted with the Lady Moon, spring tide is the tide that occurs after a new or full moon. In other words, those are the highest tides there are.

However, in order to capitalize on spring tides, you’ll need to either obtain a tide chart or go online to chart the tides. In general, these tides only happen twice a month. Moreover, you would ideally like to pick a spring tide that happens at dawn or dusk.

There are two main reasons for choosing to fish at dawn or dusk. One, fish tend to come in during those times to feed, which means that they will be there. Two, the sun won’t be up, so your rod won’t cast a shadow to scare the fish away.

If you’re neither an early bird nor a night owl, then you should also consider fishing during days with an overcast. Just make sure that you also know what’s happening with the tides.

Learn How To Cast

If you already know how to cast, surfcasting shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment. For those of you who have never gone fishing or just want to know the specifics, we’ll go over a breakdown.

Before you cast, you’ll want to have around four or five feet of line between your weight and the top of your rod. Then, hold your line in place with your finger against the rod while you lift the bail of the reel (or, as the pro’s like to call it, “the little flippy thing that releases the line”).

With your free hand, hold the end of your rod and position it at a horizontal angle directly behind you. Finally, thrust your rod overhand toward the water, while simultaneously releasing your line.

It may take a couple of tries before you’re able to perfect your cast, but casting overhand rather than sideways will help you get the most distance. The more distance you get, the more likely you are to end up near the fish. In case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s sort of the whole point.

Still curious about casting? Download our fishing guide for beginners to learn more!