Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saltwater Fishing for the First Time

This article was originally published as a guest article by me on one of the previous incarnations of OwlJones.com . I think it's worthy of a place here on Surf Fishing for beginners as well.

I find that many freshwater anglers are intimidated by the idea of fishing in the ocean. Like most types of fishing , it is only as complicated as you make it. If you've ever fished for bass or catfish you probably have just about everything you need to get started catching fish from a pier here on the East Coast.

One of my favorite fish to catch from a pier is the Norfolk Spot. They are a smaller cousin of the Red Drum and are considered by many to be spirited fighters as well as excellent table fare. A seven foot medium heavy bass rod with a large reel is more than capable of handling two or even three spots at a time. Some of the " Catfish Combo " rods and reels sold at the big box retailers will also work quite well.

The biggest differences between fresh and saltwater fishing are the types of rigs and sinkers used. To hold your bait in place it is often necessary to use three ounce or larger pyramid sinkers. Because of this , it is a good idea to use 17-20 pound line and often a 40-50 pound shock leader. The shock leader really isn't needed for spot fishing because the surf is normally relatively calm during a spot run and 2 ounce sinkers will be fine. You will need a rig though. Most saltwater fisherman use simple two hook bottom fishing rigs that are widely available at tackle shops near the coast. An even better option would be to tie your own out of 30 pound monofilament.

After you're rigged and ready to go , it's time to bait up. For bottom feeding fish like the spot there are several effective baits. Live or imitation bloodworms are an excellent choice , but they are expensive. Other good choices would be small pieces of fresh shrimp , sand fleas and cut bait. During a big run of spots it's also possible to catch them on familiar freshwater baits like nightcrawlers and red wigglers , though personally I've never caught more than a few on these.

When you are ready to go , pay the admission fee to get onto the pier ( no license required ) and pick out a good looking location. My favorite place is behind the inner sand bar. You can locate the inner bar by watching where the larger waves begin to break as they come in. I like to set up 10 to 15 feet behind the bar when I can , but definitely get out past it.

Casting with the heavier weights used in the surf can be difficult for beginners. I always cast underhanded from a pier  , but overhand casts will work. Just remember to cast gently or the sinker can break your line. You don't have to cast far to catch fish from a pier and can often catch them by simply dropping your rig straight down.

Another great thing about saltwater fishing is that you never know exactly what you'll catch. The same rig and bait can produce several different species of fish , depending on what is around on any given day. Summer Flounder , Northern Kingfish , Atlantic Croakers and Florida Pompanos are just a few of the species that can be caught from a pier. You can find out more about them here.

Be prepared for fast paced action when fishing from a pier. When a big school of fish comes through people will start catching fish two and three at a time. Sounds fun , huh?
Tight Lines!


  1. Great instructions and tips!

    And reading this just made me realize.... I have never fished from a pier. It's always been on the surf or from the rocks at the Inlet. Hhmmm...I may need to add this to my bucket list

  2. @LB....I didn't know anyone was even reading this :) Pier fishing can be spectacular at certain times of year , it's a lot better than most people realize.

    I can recommend one good time and place with a pretty good amount of certainty. You should try to fish a run of Spots between VA Beach and the OBX in September or October. I've seen 3 and 4 fish at a time during big Spot runs in the fall.

    The humble Spot is also one of the best tasting fish that swims.

  3. I keep my good eye on both your blogs, haha.

    I certainly need to expand my fishing...I have an uncle that lives in VA Beach. I should hit him up and try out your spot sometime. Rambob hasn't been bitten yet by the surf fishing bug. He doesn't care for it...YET. I am still working on him.

    Oh yeah....I left you an "award" at my blog. Hopefully it will drive more visitors (and followers)to your blog!

  4. I am going to the Outer Banks end of August and i have all the gear. Any good tips i should know its my first time surf/pier fishing........

  5. I am going to the Outer Banks at the end of August. First time surf/pier fishing.I have all the gear i need.Just wanted to know if you have any tips you can give me.

    1. Brian ,

      I'd be happy to help out via email. I've fished on the OBX for years and I can fill you in on the what , when and how.

      August is a good month to go - you should be able to catch limits of Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish from almost any pier and also plenty of spot , croaker , pompano , and maybe a few flounder.

      Email me at forthefish2010 (at) hotmail.com and we can go into more specifics.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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