Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Surf Fishing Basics : Part 1

In celebration of the recent launch of , I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit some of the basic principles of surf fishing. It is immensely confusing to new fishermen and women , especially if they hit the beach and see 12 foot rods being used. It is possible to ease into the sport , so let's look at some basic gear requirements first.
  • Rods and Reels:

It takes a certain amount of practice to cast a 12 foot rod with accuracy and consistency , so start smaller. You can find smaller surf combos in the 8-9 foot range that will be much easier to cast at first , but will still be able to handle the occasional big fish. Look for a catfish or surf combo , with a bigger reel. These can be found at Wal Mart , BassPro , and most tackle stores. These are mainly Medium Heavy (MH) rods rated for 1-4 ounces of weight , and up to 20 pound line. This setup will become your go to rod for lighter duty surf fishing , so it is worth spending a few more dollars to get a nicer rod and reel. I recommend using a spinning reel unless you have lots of experience with baitcasters , as a 4 ounce sinker will cause backlashes unless you know how to cast. A spinning reel that will hold 150-200 yards of 17 or 20 pound test line is perfect for an 8-9 foot rod.
  • Line:

Fishing line for surf or pier fishing is heavier than what most people are familiar with. It can be either braided line or monofilament , but in certain places braid is frowned upon. On piers and at crowded fishing beaches , high visibility 17 or 20 pound monofilament is probably the most commonly used line here on the East Coast of the U.S. , but you can get by with just about any type of 17-20 pound test line. Anything lighter will necessitate the use of Shock Leaders , and anything heavier will severely limit the line capacity of your reel. Braided line is popular in some places , and most people will use 50 or 60 pound braid. There are drawbacks to using braid , just as there are with mono , but it does have it's advantages. Just make sure braid is acceptable where you plan to fish before you spend the extra money. Mono is welcome everywhere.
  • Rigs:

Rigging is my specialty. I know all manner of rigs for targeting specific fish , and I tie my own in most cases. Different rigs are required if you want to target specific fish , but there is only one that you should concern yourself with when first starting out in the surf. Unless you are good with knots , and have the patience to learn at least one new knot , I recommend that you buy rigs for your first trip. They are usually inexpensive , and they are a staple at every beach tackle shop and pier house I have ever been in.

The most basic rig you will use is a two hook bottom rig. It is without a doubt the best surf rig you can start with , and probably the most commonly used. Every surf fisherman will use this rig , or some variation of it , at some point. They are made by several companies , tons of local businesses , and even at home by frugal fishermen. In the picture below , you'll notice a few things : it's a short piece of wire with two twisted loops for attaching hooks , a swivel or loop to attach your main line to , and a swivel and snap on the end to attach a sinker. Some tackle shops sell these with hooks and sinkers already in place , but bigger stores usually carry them plain to allow you to choose how you want them rigged.
A Basic 2 Hook Bottom Rig , or Old Dominion Rig
To use this rig , you will need : snelled hooks (size 2 or 3 long shank is a good starter size) , and a sinker. It's best to tie the rig to your main line first using a reliable knot like the Palomar Knot , then add the sinker (2-3 ounces for most situations) , followed by the hooks. If you've bought a rig with the hooks already attached  , I recommend using an Improved Cinch Knot , but use whatever you are comfortable with.

  • Sinkers :

If you are familiar with freshwater fishing , you'll be a little surprised by the large lead weights used in the surf for pan fish. The heavier line , the big rigs , and the waves all make it necessary to beef up your weight. If the ocean is relatively calm , 2-3 ounces is all you should need , but i have used as much as 8-10 ounces when targeting big species with a 12 foot rod. Starting out , all you should need is a handful of 2 , 3 , and 4 ounce sinkers. They come in several different styles , and most anglers will eventually find a favorite. In the picture below , you'll see a sample of 3 common East Coast standbys.

Welcome to Surf Fishing for Beginners' new home , ! I've been dragging my feet on this one for so long , but now I finally have a shiny new domain. It has a nice ring to it , I think.

I'm really excited to get back to writing on this site , and making more how to's for those that want to break into Surf Fishing. There's a simple joy in standing on the beach and catching fish , and I've always enjoyed helping others experience it for the first time.

Most of what you'll see here is specifically from my experiences on the East Coast of the U.S. , but a lot of the same basic principles apply world wide , so give it a try!

For now , check the archives to the right for the older articles that cover the basics. There is a lot of useful info in there!

I'll be back soon with more articles , but until then you can always find my newest articles on

Tight Lines!

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Rant About Beachgoers!

I'm usually not much of a ranter , so this may not be full of the kind of righteous indignation expected of a full blown rant. However , I was very close to going into a maniacal rage last week on the beach in front of groups of young children , expectant mothers , and elderly octogenarians with tender sensibilities. Let me explain.

Increasingly , fishermen (like me!) are being pushed off of the beaches. We aren't allowed to fish on many lifeguarded beaches , as those areas are meant to be safe for the types of people listed above. I can accept that. Compounding the problem , fishermen pay more usage fees than other beachgoers in the form of licenses and driving permits. I can accept that , too. Add that to the areas closed for turtles and birds , and you have fishermen crammed into so called " Joint Use " areas , where swimming , fishing  , and other forms of recreation are all allowed. It's unfortunate , but again , I can accept that.

What I can't accept is the sheer number of people that show absolutely no respect for people fishing on the beach. People constantly walk into your lines , or allow their dogs or children on skimboards to otherwise molest them. It's not my fault when a pair of star crossed lovers walking hand in hand up the beach are so consumed with gazing lovingly into each others eyes that they blunder into my line and drag my rig 5 yards up the beach. But every damn time someone gets tangled in my line , they look at me like I set some sort of diabolical trap to ensnare them. I honestly believe that most of these people would step into open manholes , or walk through wet cement , if given a chance.

Then you have the Touchy McFeely's of the world , who , through an overabundance of nerve endings , stop immediately upon contact with the line. These guys and gals make a very pronounced display of looking left and right to find where the mysterious barrier to their passage originates from , only to act shocked and appalled that the fishing line is indeed coming from the rod of the fisherman a mere 10 feet away. Then the McFeely's grab the line and with a mighty heave lift it over their heads , to allow themselves and any others in their party to go under it. This is not okay. When you grab my line and lift it , it usually causes my rig to break free and move , which is undesirable. Keep your booger hooks off of my line!

Probably the worst offenders , in my opinion , are those who bumble into the line , thrash about in an effort to untangle themselves , then turn and deliberately give you a shrug of the shoulders in an attempt to convey a " Sorry , what can ya do? ". Again , let me reinforce that I am not at fault just because you have no awareness of your surroundings. If you can't see a 12 ft. surf rod in a sand spike perched at the tide line , with a large , angry man sitting beside it , you may want to seek professional help. Or at the very least , join a support group for people who touch wet paint.

It's not all bad , though. I do have to admit that about one out of twenty people will actually show a hint of respect and either cross under my line near the sand spike or completely walk around me! These people give me hope for sun lovers everywhere , and are the main reason I don't go around stomping through sand castles , knifing beach balls , and putting fish guts in soccer moms' beach bags.

My point is , show us the same respect we show you. I don't set up my sand spikes where you and your family members are swimming and playing , so please don't decide it's a good idea to swim and play where I'm fishing.

Have a great week !

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Topwater Lures for Surf Fishing

Rebel Wind Cheater
The Rebel Wind Cheater.
Pencil Popper

A Big Popper.

Bomber Long A

A Cotton Cordell Red Fin.