Surf fishing is the saltwater equivalent of fishing from the shore of a freshwater lake or the bank of a river. It is a method of fishing that provides access to a wide variety of fish species, often in close proximity to home. For many people, it is the most convenient or only place to pursue their hobby, especially if they dont own or have access to a boat.
Surf fishing is popular and widely practiced along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts of the United States. Throughout the year, anglers will be found on beaches along the oceans, harbors and bays of the United States. They can be found in urban areas and in from areas and from north to south and east to west. It seems particularly popular in areas such as the Carolinas, Florida and California.
Why People Surf Fish
There are a number of reasons why people find surf fishing to be a good alternative to other types of fishing. One important reason is that, because many beaches are owned and managed by public government agencies, there is good public access to these areas. Another factor that brings anglers to the surf is the fact that there is no need to own a boat to catch fish. This saves money and time, particularly in the areas of boat maintenance and travel. Some fishermen do not like to fish from a boat, preferring to keep their feet on relatively solid ground.
Some anglers choose to surf from the shore because they feel there is greater social contact and camaraderie among fishermen who congregate on the beach and better opportunities for enjoying the surrounding sights and sounds of the surf. For many, it is a more peaceful fishing environment. Still others are simply attracted by the challenge presented by conditions that seems to give every advantage to the prey, rather than to the angler.
When People Surf Fish
Without a few exceptions, surf fishing is possible at any time, night or day, throughout the year, regardless of weather. However, the majority of surf fishing is conducted around sunrise and sunset from spring through autumn. While many experienced surf fishermen claim that overcast days are best, it is likely the greatest number of fishermen descend on the beaches on warm, sunny days, particularly weekends. Most knowledgeable surf anglers seek times just before high tide, especially when that occurs in the morning around dawn.
While species availability varies from region to region and season to season, surf fishing usually gives anglers access to a large selection of fish. Casting from shore can bring in species ranging from more numerous small fish to large trophy fish.
Many surf fishermen go to the shore to catch small fish up to 5 or 10 pounds, perhaps just enough for a nice dinner. Small fish such as white perch, northern puffer, Atlantic croaker, sheepshead and pompano can be found along the Atlantic coast. Sand trout, spot and whiting can be found along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Mackerel, guitarfish, bonito and flounder are common catches on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
More experienced surf anglers may try to increase the challenge by seeking larger sport fish, though most also provide good table fare. Species in the 10 to 100 pound range include bluefish along the Atlantic Ocean. Red drum can be found in both the Atlantic and Gulf regions. Flounder and white sea bass are caught along the Pacific coast. Striped bass, barracuda and yellowfin tuna can be found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
This list is by no means exhaustive. These are the most common and popular species sought and taken by surf fishermen. However, the only limitation on what species could be brought in on any given day are the habitat and forage requirements of individual species. If the coastal environment in area supports the basic needs of a given species, it is likely you will be able to find that fish at some time during the year.
Equipment and Casting
Generally, tackle selection for surf fishing is a matter of personal choice and fishing objectives. On any given beach, you are likely to find light, medium and heavy tackle. In some instances, the conditions of the surf will determine what kind of tackle is selected. The distance necessary to cast bait to productive areas will also influence the type of tackle chosen. Those casting long distances with heavy bait will usually use longer rods such as a 13-foot model. However, it is not uncommon for anglers to have success with 6 and 8-foot rods.
Because of wave action, it is usually necessary to use a heavy sinker up to 4 to 6 ounces or more to ensure that bait holds to the bottom. Wave action also determines line weight. Most commonly, anglers use 15- to 30-pound line, though the range can be quite large, especially on the heavier side.
In most surf fishing situations, the key to the success is casting distance. Therefore it is important that anglers learn appropriate casting techniques that allow one to cast far out to the water. It is not uncommon to need to cast from 50 to 150 yards. More experienced surf fishermen are capable of casting 250 yards or more.