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Surf Fishing 101 – Tips and Techniques

people surf fishing on the beach

Surf fishing is a popular form of fishing, with anglers flocking to the shoreline each year eager to make an exciting catch. This style of fishing requires different gear, equipped for saltwater conditions and rough waves and currents, as well as different techniques to find success.

Find everything you need to know about surf fishing, including the best gear, tips, techniques, and more.


What is Surf Fishing?

Surf fishing is the practice of fishing from the shoreline or in the surf of the ocean. Fishing in the ocean means that there is potential for larger catches compared to freshwater rivers and lakes, but also brings a whole new set of obstacles along with the opportunities.

Many anglers surf fish because it is convenient, since you don’t need a boat to cast from the shoreline. Surf fishing is often confused with or related to pier fishing; the two are similar, but not exactly the same. Generally, surf fishing includes all kinds of beach or shoreline fishing.

When surf fishing, you often have to cast long distances and face tough water conditions, which is why fishing gear is often made specifically for surf fishing: it has to be durable. Those surf fishing should always be careful when wading out into the surf, as strong currents and slippery surfaces can cause injury or allow them to get pulled out to sea.

Surf fishing is a fun and very popular form of fishing, and talented surf fishers reel in amazing catches from their favorite beaches.


What Fish Can I Catch Surf Fishing?

catching a fish on the beach

The opportunity to catch fish is huge when surf fishing: you have the whole ocean in front of you. Depending on where you’re fishing and how far out you cast, you’re likely to catch a varied range of fish. It really depneding on where you are fishing as the species change from coast to coast.

Some commonly caught fish in the surf include striped bass, red drum, bluefish, pompano, flounder, snook, mackerel, tuna – even sharks.

Again, the type of fish you’ll catch depends on various factors. Your location, the baits or lures you use, and casting distance and technique all come into play. The good news is that there are plenty of fish in the sea, so your chances of success are high.


How To Surf Fish

Surf fishing is fairly easy, but surf fishing well takes practice. You also want to be aware of any safety precautions you should take while surf fishing.

Successful surf fishing begins with the right gear; later, we’ll break down the tackle you need to surf fish. After that, you just need to know how to cast and how to reel in a fish.


Basic Surf Fishing Techniques

A major difference between surf fishing and other forms of fishing is casting. When surf fishing, you’ll need to cast further out to get past crashing waves, and cast accurately to hit an ideal spot.

Surf casting takes some practice. The most common way to do it is a classic overhand cast, with a focus on distance and control to ensure that your line goes to the right spot in the surf. To cast overhand, hold your rod at a 90 degree angle and quickly extend the pole, straightening your arm.

If you’ve never cast a fishing rod before, it will take time and practice to perfect it. Get a feel for your equipment to better control distance and aim, and always be careful when casting with sharp hooks.

casting into the surf


Drone Surf Fishing

Another way to drop your bait long distance is by using a drone. Drone fishing is a modern development in the world of fishing that uses a flying drone to fly out over the water, spot an area with fish through the drone’s camera, and drop your bait. Learn more about drone fishing or invest in one of the best drones for fishing to try out this exciting new trend.


Surf Fishing Gear

The right gear is essential for any kind of fishing. Surf fishing requires sturdier gear to withstand stronger fish and currents, as well as corrosive saltwater. Find the best surf fishing gear on Fishmasters to improve your chances of a catch and to save your gear from damage.

In general, surf fishing equipment is geared towards longer casting and must be safe to use in and around saltwater. Rods tend to be longer, reels must be strong and protected from the elements, and lures must be safe to use in saltwater. Check out our reviews for the best surf fishing gear within each category to make your next great catch from the shore.


Essential Surf Fishing Gear

These are the essentials you’ll need for surf fishing:


Other Surf Fishing Gear

While we’ve covered the basics, there is some other surf fishing gear you’ll probably need. Go through this list and make sure you have any other necessary equipment before you go surf fishing:

  • Fishing license (dependent on state/local laws)
  • Hooks
  • Weights
  • Coolers
  • Sand Spikes
  • A knife or multi-tool
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • First aid kit

rod and reel in the sand

What to Wear When Surf Fishing

You’ve purchased the main gear and you’re ready to head to the beach, but what do you wear? There isn’t any set apparel for surf fishing, although there are some considerations you’ll want to make while getting dressed.

Always dress for the weather when fishing. The temperature cools on the shoreline, with ocean winds blowing towards you. Water temperature is also a factor, as you may end up getting your feet, legs, or whole body in the surf when casting or fighting a tough fish. Check weather forecasts and dress accordingly.

Many anglers go barefoot to enjoy the sand between their toes, but it’s a safer bet to wear fishing boots or some other form of shoe. If you’re on a popular fishing beach, chances are there may be a hook in the sand somewhere. Avoid injury by wearing shoes, and ideally by wearing water and slip-resistant boots.


Surf Fishing Apparel

If you’re worried about getting wet, especially in cold waters, invest in a good pair of surf fishing waders. Waders will protect your body and any possessions on your person from getting soaked in the surf. There are plenty of options when it comes to waders, and more factors to consider than you may think. Check out our top picks for the best surf fishing waders to get the right choice for your needs.

If you’re looking to protect your feet but don’t feel the need for a full set of waders, invest in a good pair of fishing boots instead!  Depending on where you’re surf fishing, you may have to deal with more slippery rocks and other surfaces, and it’s always best to be safe. Find the best wading boots to keep your feet dry.

Not every day on the beach is sunny, but you can get sunburn even on overcast days. Protect your face from the sun and shield your eyes with a quality fishing hat. We’ve reviewed the best fishing hats on the market, so you can find the right one for your next surf fishing trip.

surf fishermen fall fishing


Prepare for Your Next Surf Fishing Trip

Whether you’re new to surf fishing or you’re an old pro, there are always new tips and tricks to try out. Some common tips include researching your location and the fish found there to get a better idea of how to cast and what bait or lures to use. You can also research other things like tides and lunar cycles, or read the surf prior to fishing.

Check out our full list of surf fishing tips to learn more.

Pull up to your local beach to go surf fishing, or plan a trip to one of the best surf fishing destinations in the world! Some locations are known for surf fishing, often due to abundant fish, trophy-sized catches, and more. Bonus: you get a beach vacation along with a surf fishing adventure. Check out the best surf fishing locations and plan your next trip.

Prepare for your next surf fishing expedition to make the most of your time on the shoreline! Fishmasters has guides to help you find the best fishing gear, tackle, apparel, and more so that you can find the right equipment for your next fishing trip.

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