Getting Started with Surf Fishing

Surf fishing is a great way to enjoy beach scenes while pursuing seafood. This introductory guide covers the basics of gear, techniques, locations and safety for newcomers to successfully start surf fishing.

Selecting Tackle

A lightweight surf rod 6-7 feet with medium-heavy strength handles waves well. Reels should hold 150-250 yards of 10-20 lb. braided line.

Additional Gear

Include needle-nose pliers, a grooming hook for bait, a wading staff or gloves for rocky spots.

Choosing Bait

Worms, fresh or frozen shrimp, sand fleas and lures like spoons or jigs suit common surf targets. Buy local baits there to match regional fish diets.

Baiting Techniques

Thread bait onto hooks leading away from the barb to avoid bait loss and secure lures quickly to swivel snaps.

Selecting Locations

Find points, jetties or sandy flats near structure for ambush predators when researching surf spots.

Working with Conditions

Consider tide schedules avoiding rip tides and cast into offshore bars when surf is small.

Casting in the Surf

Whip line overhead 10-20 feet past waves’ break to sink bait beyond their range before reeling it back in.

Presenting Bait Naturally

Match your retrieval rhythm to the water’s motion keeping line taut avoiding tangles.

Combating Seaweed

Some beaches require clipping seaweed off line or using dividers before each cast. Removing it delicately prevents scale loss.

Tidying Knots Between Fish

Check swivels, re-tie lines that appear worn before new deployments.

Filleting and Cleaning Catch

Bring a cooler, gloves, knife and fillet fish neatly back at your vehicle being legal size dependent on local regulations.

Boat Ramp Etiquette

Avoid busy boat ramp areas when cleaning to prevent interfering launching/loading vessels.

Safety Considerations

Watch for rip currents, shore break, jellyfish. Dress for cold/wet and sun protection. Tell others your plans in case of injury.

Common Surf Species

Pacific CoastAtlantic Coast
Surf perchBluefish
Barred surfperchStriped bass
Yellowfin croakerRed drum
California halibutFlounder

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a fishing license?

Yes, in most places. Research your local regulations for surf fishing licenses and catch limits.

What is the best tide stage?

Either an incoming or outgoing tide can work, depending on conditions and targeted species’ behaviors.

When is the best time of day?

Dawn, dusk and night are usually most productive as many fish feed actively around low-light periods.


Surf fishing introduces anglers to beach scenes while pursuing finfish. Beginners can enjoy modest success picking accessible inshore species with basic gear, tackle and knowledge of surf structure, conditions and proper handling practices.

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