Surf Fishing Guide - Surf Fishing 101
Surf Fishing Guide - Surf Fishing 101

Surf Fishing Guide

Ultimate Surf Fishing Guide – Surf Fishing 101

Ultimate Surf Fishing Guide – Surf Fishing 101 – You may have fantasies about surfing fishing and catching the perfect fish in some of nature’s most beautiful environments. But then reality sets in. It’s hard to fish the beach if you don’t know how.

It’s easy to set up along a river or pond and catch a few fish without having much fishing experience, but the surf definitely requires extra preparation and understanding. You need to do some preparation before you go out on the water.

Surf Fishing 101

It’s not enough to just take your fishing rod out. Here’s a quick overview of all you need to know about fishing the beach.

Some of the game fish you can catch from shore include striped bass, bluefish, spotted seatrout, flounder, red drum or pompano. One of the highlights of surf fishing for beginners is the chance to reel in a 30 to 40-pound striped bass from the ocean surf. This can be an extremely rewarding experience for anglers.

Tips For Beginners In Surf Fishing

  • Before you go fishing, make sure you check your state’s fishing regulations. Some states require you to have a fishing license when fishing from the shoreline or from a fishing pier.
  • Polarized sunglasses can cut through glare to help you spot fish in the water.
  • For safety, wear a wading belt to protect your chest when wearing chest waders. If you fall, a wading belt will stop water from entering your body.
  • Start with natural baits such as squid or shrimp. These baits are the most effective and work for many species of fish.
  • Place your baits in a cooler or a bucket to keep them from the sun.

Surf Fishing Gear

Surf fishing for beginners is easy to get started with just a few surf fishing rigs, some natural saltwater bait, and a surf rod and reel combo. You should choose the gear that you will use to catch the species you are targeting. For smaller species, you can use lighter gear with shorter rods. Larger species require heavier gear and a longer line.

A 7- to 9-foot long, medium heavy fishing rod may be appropriate for smaller species such as bluefish, spotted seatrout, pompano, and flounder. For sharks, red drum, and striped bass, a heavier rod is required that can cast as much as 8 ounces and has a large line capacity. These larger species require a surf rod measuring 12-15 feet in length and a saltwater spinning reel with 20-25-pound line.

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Tackle For Surf Fishing

  • To hold your fishing rod in its place, use sand spikes made from PVC that you can drive into the sand.
  • For fishing in the surf, you will want to use a fishfinder rig, two-hook bottom rig, or the popping cork rig. These rigs can help you place your baits in the area where fish are eating.
  • Keep extra egg sinkers and pyramid sinkers in your tackle box. These will hold your baits in position when fishing in strong currents.
  • Additional leader material, in 20, 30, 40 and 50-pound testweights is recommended. For large species, use heavier leader material in areas with structure such as rocky shorelines and pier pilings.
  • For species like striped bass, use circle hooks of sizes 7/0 and 8/0. You can reduce the size of your circlehook to a 2/0 or a 4/0 depending on the size and type of bait.

When To Surfish

Weather and saltwater tides play an important role in determining when is the best time to surf fish. Although fish can bite at any time of the day, it is best to go fishing when the tides are rising or falling. In the summer heat, it is best to fish in the morning or the late afternoon when the tide is moving (rising/falling). You will have the best chance to catch fish if you surf fish in winter.

Find a good spot for fishing on the beach

You will need to locate a place to put your bait when you reach the beach. Fish have a preference for where they want to be, so don’t wander aimlessly. You will have a better chance of catching fish if you know where they congregate. These areas are sandbars and troughs as well as points, seams, cover, and points. These areas can be searched before you go fishing. Search your beach using programs and apps like our Places to Boat and Fish Maps, Google Maps, Navionics, and Fishbrain. This information can also be obtained by calling your local fishing shop, since it is their business.

How to identify Sandbars

A sandbar (also known as a shoal) is an underwater ridge that is usually made of sand and gravel. To identify a sandbar, you can stand on the beach at low tide and observe the waves to determine where they break. The waves will break above a sandbar if there is one. At low tide, the top of the bar can sometimes be seen and often visible. Waves will break when waves encounter multiple bars.

Sandbars on Maps

Use online maps and photos to locate sandbars. Don’t rely on outdated information. Sandbars are made from sand and are subject to constant shifting. Sandbars can disappear or be moved from one year to the next. While most sandbars can be found within 20-30 yard of the surf, you won’t find any fish there. Instead, the sandbar will be used as a reference point for locating the deeper channel between the shore and the sandbar, known as the trough.

Beach fishing the Trough

The slough is also called a trough. It is the deeper water between the shoreline (or sandbar) and the sandbar. The trough is located between 20-30 yards from the sandbar. If it’s closer, the trough can be found between 10-20 yards away. The trough is the place where you’ll target your fish. All species of fish use troughs as a way to travel along the channel in search for their prey. The tide changes, and the sandbar causes turbulence which pushes small baitfish into the deep trough.

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Fish Activity in the Trough

Fish smaller than 3ft are likely to be found in the white wash, just past the wave break. This is not the sandbar but the slope that it falls down. Predator fish will use the trough as a trap to catch and corral baitfish for their food if there is a school of them. You can fish the best areas around a sandbar near the entryways (or cut), and points. Because these are the best places for fish to be ensnared, seams and points are often called “the spot on spot”. They are the most productive spots on the sandbar and trough.

Beach Seams and Points.

A seam is also known as a cut. It allows water to flow into and out of the trough. This is often indicated by the absence or minimal amount of sand on a sandybar. It will be obvious that waves do not break over the seam , even though they can break over it. Because it is home to the most fish on the beach, a seam is a great place to fish. Traffic flows through the seam, condensing it. Also, be aware of points. Points are the area at the end of the beach that protrudes (like a point).

The primary target is the points

As they move away from the shore, they tend to recede. The rest of the coastline, which is deeper and faster, has the opposite effect. Fish will benefit from a point that extends into the trough if it is a barrier. You should target points that form deeper pools, also known as pockets. However, you shouldn’t aim at the point itself, because it is too shallow. You should walk the beach, and also search online for other types. Sandbars and troughs can be the most difficult to locate, while structures like rocks, jetties and bridges will be easier to locate.

Go out during low tide

You’ve probably fished lakes and ponds before. The flags indicate where you want your line to go. There are many signals. Look out for brush, stumps and shady areas. Fishing in the surf is difficult because all you can see are waves. It’s impossible to tell where fish are hiding from you by simply looking.

You can only really know where the fish are by going out at low tide to assess the situation before you actually go out. Look at the banks and gullies in the sand. These are the channels that the fish use to keep out of the surf.

These are some things to be aware of when low tide is approaching:

  • You will find gullies and banks of sand.
  • You will notice differences in the bed. A large area of mud is often surrounded by sand and could indicate that fish are nesting there.
  • Be aware of any weedy areas hidden by the surf. These areas can be used as money banks when the tide goes up.
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You want to know where the fish are hiding, but also pay attention to obstructions that could make it difficult to cast your bait.

You have two options: either make a mental note or draw a diagram of everything between the two ends of the beach. However, things will change dramatically once the tide returns in.

Pay attention to the waves

Although it may sound easy to draw a map of everything so you can fish exactly where you want, it will feel almost like you spent too much time. The surf will be completely different when you go out at high tide.

You should also pay attention to how the tide affects the seabed. Although they may all look the same, you will notice subtle differences when waves bounce off of an underwater rock or break faster when there’s an underwater sea-bank.

Combining this observation with your drawings will give you a good idea of where to cast.

Fish at the Right Times

Every person I’ve ever met recommends fishing at dawn and dusk to catch low and high tides. The tides are shifting and fish are more active during these times. The exact time this happens depends on where you live and what time of year it is.

Instead of focusing your attention on a particular time, focus on the sun. The universal answer to all fishing problems is to fish at both sunup and sunset. This strategy is the easiest to master, and you don’t need to think as hard about timing.

Surf Fishing Baits: Best Baits For Surf Fishing

You have many options when it comes to baiting surf fish. Here are the top recommendations from experts for what to use.

Sand Crabs

Redfish, whiting and pompano are great for blackfish, redfish, striped bass, blackfish, or black drum.


Bluefish, striped bass and redfish are all great choices


It is great for rockfish and striped bass, flounders, whitings, blackfish, surf perch, and whitings


It’s great for all things


Ideal for redfish, sea trout and bluefish

Best Surf Fishing Lures

Experts recommend that you use live bait for surf fishing. But what if you don’t have enough time? These lures should always be on hand just in case.

  • Metal Spoons
  • Lead-Head Plastic Jigs

Bluefish, trout and striped bass will be able to catch these lures by slow-medium retrieval.

Surf Fishing 101 – Final Words

This is it. You should now be able to identify where and when to fish for surf. How far you can cast your line, what kind of rod you need, what baits and lures you should use.

You should not wait to get some experience. Surf fishing is 100x more difficult than still-water fishing due to the habits and learning curve we have from fishing lakes and ponds all day.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.