How to Surf Fish (Beginner’s Guide)

Surf fishing is a wonderful saltwater fishing activity for many experienced anglers. However, it depends on various factors such as weather conditions, tides, location, and seasons.

Surf fishing is a little bit overwhelming because it involves a massive fishing area, fishing gear is larger than that of freshwater, and some big fish can be intimidating. However, don’t worry if you know nothing about it.

In this guide, I will take you through the process in detail. I will also explain the gear you need, when to fish, and how to read the sea. Read to the end for more information.

how to surf fish
Source: Visit Exmoor

How to Surf Cast

Seasoned anglers have mastered the art of surf fishing, even using multiple rods. However, if you are a beginner, you will need these few basics on how to surf fish.

Firstly, you need to know how to surf cast. What differentiates surf casting from regular casting is its emphasis on accuracy and distance in landing your bait.

  • Hold the surf rod in your hand.
  • Bend your arm up to a 90-degree angle.
  • Flick the pole swiftly and straighten your arm as you launch the bait into the water.

To be effective, you have to master the speed and power required for perfect distance and accurate execution.

During the mid-winter, the cold water slows the metabolism of fish. At this time, it may behoove an angler to go for a tailored tackle or a lighter tackle on their fishing rod.

The downsizing makes it possible to catch less active fish.

How to Read the Beach: Where to Surf Fish

Many seasoned saltwater anglers have mastered the art of reading the beach. They know how to identify the best fishing spot. On the other hand, beginners will tend to find the ocean quite intimidating.

Reading the beach is crucial for every surf angler because fish hardly swim aimlessly. Therefore, identifying such spots increases your chances of catching fish.

Here are the things to look for:


These are underwater ridges made of gravel or sand. They are crucial locations where you could find more fish.

You can locate a sand bar by standing on the beach at low tides. As you watch the waves, identify where the wave breaks occur, that will most likely be the location of the sandbar.

If you see the waves breaking multiple times, it could be a sign that there are several sand bars. Alternatively, you can locate sandbars using online maps and photographs. However, ensure you only use the most current maps since sandbars keep on changing their location.


It’s the deeper water between the sandbar and the shoreline. It can also be the deep water that forms between two sandbars.

Troughs act as swimming highways for different fish species. It’s an ideal spot to target smaller fish species, larger fish, game fish, and other fish.

Sandbars create turbulence that pushes smaller fish into the troughs. On the other hand, the predator fish will use the trough to trap the bait fish.


Steam is the entry and exit place of water in a trough. It’s characterized by the absence of sand.

Seams are great fishing spots; they hold the greatest number of fish on the beach.


These are shallow areas of the beach that recede as they move away from the beach.

Points that extend into a trough are great fish barriers. However, your major target should be the sides of the point with deeper pools.

When to Go Surf Fishing

Another skill of reading the beach that you need to develop as you grow in experience is when to go fishing.

Fish change their behavior with changes in weather and tides. Although it’s difficult to achieve perfect fishing conditions, you need the knowledge of when to go surf fishing. This is what differentiates successful surf fishing from disappointing ones.

Surf anglers have varied opinions on the most suitable time for surf fishing. However, here are a few general rules of thumb:

  • Take advantage of rainy days; they are great at diminishing shadows from your line. Consequently, your bait in the circle hook appears more appealing to the fish.

Note: Do not overlook your safety at the expense of fishing. Be cautious of strong winds, incoming tides, and storms so you can take cover when necessary.

  • High tides bring with them much fish, mostly during dusk or dawn. Ensure your line is in water 2-3 hours before the start of high tide.
  • Another best time to surf fish is when the tide is moving. Fish depend on the currents of a moving tide to get easy food.

What You Need for Surf Fishing

Having the correct surf fishing gear is critical when you go fishing. This is because the correct gear will help handle fish of different sizes and set your fishing gear correctly.

Among the key items you need include:

  • A 6-9 inches fillet knife for cutting your frozen bait and filleting the fish you catch.
  • A pair of 6″ – 12″ pliers to help you remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. Remember, you may catch fish that are too small for your fingers or toothy fish.
  • Saltwater Fishing Rod and Feel
  • Tape Measure
  • Fishing License
  • Surf fishing tackle and bait
  • Umbrella and Rain Gear
  • First Aid Kit
  • Cast Net
  • Bait Bucket and Air Pump
  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses
  • Surf Fishing Rigs (for large cut bait)
  • Spare Spool of Line
  • Circle Hooks and fishing rig Holder
  • Fish finder rig
  • Sand spikes (if fishing with many rods)
  • Spinning reels

Surf Fishing Tips

For experienced anglers, surf fishing is simple in practice. However, Surf fishing for beginners may be a different story.

Here are some crucial surf fishing tips to help you turn your day into an action-packed fishing trip.

Tip 1: Have the Right Surf Fishing Gear

The right gear gives you a headstart in your fishing. Most importantly, ensure you have the correct spinning reel. A good spinning reel is easy to operate, and you can use it for saltwater fishing.

If you are just starting, you can opt for conventional surf fishing reels. Conventional reels are great for long distances.

The long rods are suitable for use as ready rigs or heavy pompano rigs. For the surf fishing rods, 10-12 foot rods are an excellent option that can handle almost every surf fishing situation.

Tip 2: Always Conduct a Prior Scouting Visit

Although surf fishing is equivalent to solving a puzzle, you can always swing the odds in your favor.

Make a prior visit to the beach, especially during low tide, and identify the most appropriate fishing spots. During your visit, take note of the following:

  • Rocks
  • Shellfish beds (these act as baits for bigger fish)
  • Hard ground areas
  • Obstacles that can steal fish lures

Most importantly, tag along your binoculars to observe great fish habitats, especially during the rising of tides.

Tip 3: Fish During the “Golden Hours”

Experienced surf anglers understand that early mornings and late evenings are magical. Therefore, take note of the high tides that occur during these low light hours and capitalize on them.

Fish will always have a sense of protection from predators such as sea cats during these hours. Consequently, they tend to move closer to the beach.

Tip 4: Use Live Baits

Many surf anglers prefer feeding fish with live bait, which you can buy from your local bait shop or fish yourself.

Fresh baits allow you to rig live mole crabs, mullets, and others. You will need to spare time to fish live bait such as sand fleas or squid strips as it’s effective since its movement attracts fish.

Tip 5: Consider Soft Baits with Embedded Scent

When you don’t have enough live bait, you can fill your bait bucket with soft bait as an alternative. These natural baits are easy to fish, versatile, and great.

Other fish baits, such as topwater poppers, are also available, especially along the north-central Gulf Coast. These are also ideal as durable baits for hard-to-reach bull redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and striped bass.

Tip 6: Be Persistent

As a surf angler, you double your chances of success the more you spend time fishing. Be at the beach early on time, take advantage of high tides, and be there early at dusk. Besides, always have one or more fish hooks in the water; the longer your bait remains in the water, the higher the chances of catching fish.

The bottom line is that your persistence can make all the difference.


Surf fishing is saltwater fishing that calls for certain skills to be successful. Surf fishermen need to know how to read the beach and where to fish. In addition, they require to know the appropriate time to go fishing, the right gear to carry with them, and the target species.

I hope the crucial surf fishing tips in this article help you perfect the art of surfcasting and maximize your chances. You are now ready to go ahead and cast your line.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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