fisherman holding fishing rod at the shore

Surf Fishing Tips for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide to Catching the Big One

Have you ever been standing on the beach and wondered what fish you might catch if you threw in a line?

I was in that exact situation three months ago.

Since then, I’ve asked around, done some research, tried and failed, and finally come up with a few surf fishing tips for beginners that would have really helped me get it right the first time.

man fishing in sea in sunset

What Gear do I Need for Surf Fishing?

Before you go running for the beach, make sure you’ve got all the gear you need.

First off, have you got a license?

A big fine wouldn’t add much to the experience, so make sure you’re up to date with your local rules and regulations and have all the right paperwork.

Other than that, you’ll need a few other essentials to get started.

All the different choices out there can make it look complicated.

But it’s not.

You only need five or six pieces of equipment and you can get out there.

To make things nice and easy, I came up with this list:

  • A rod – Get a long one. And by long, I mean about 9 to 15 feet long. This will feel a lot longer than your usual freshwater rods which are normally 6 to 8 feet, but a longer rod will help you get your cast out over the waves to the sweet spot. This sometimes means casting up to 100 meters, so get one with a good fast action. To help with the long cast, I would also recommend getting a saltwater rod with an extended butt which means you can cast using both hands.
  • High-capacity saltwater spinning reel – Saltwater is really tough on equipment, so get a good reel designed for the sea. If you use a freshwater reel, it will rust in no time. But don’t worry, good doesn’t mean expensive. You can pick up a good saltwater reel for pretty cheap.
  • Fishing line – When it comes to fishing line, think big! The fish in the sea are a lot bigger than fish in lakes and streams, so get a 15-25-pound-test line. You’ll want about 200-300 meters of line.
  • Sinkers – Get a dozen lead sinkers between 2 and 8 ounces. They can be in the form of a pyramid or cylinder.
  • Lures – Your choice of lures will depend on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing for. Go ask at the local bait shop. They’ll have a wealth of knowledge on the best lures to use.
  • Shock leaders – Adding a 6 to 8 foot monofilament shock leader to your rig will let it stretch. This will help it withstand the force put on the line from such a long cast.
  • Sand spikes – When you’re surf fishing, you’ll most likely be waiting a while, so get a 3-foot-long pipe sharpened at one end. This is to stick in the sand so it can hold your rod for you.

fisherman holding fishing rod at the shore

What Else Should I Bring Surf Fishing?

Once you’ve got those essentials, you’re ready to start fishing.

But here are a few more beach fishing tips for beginners that I picked up early on from watching the other, more experienced fishers out there.

Everyone likes to share their fishing knowledge, and these are a few of my favorite tips.

Bring a knife. You’ll be biting fishing line all day otherwise, so if you want to spare your teeth, bring a pocketknife. Get one that’s sharp and try to keep it out of the sea and sand. Make sure you clean the blade after a day’s fishing.

You’ll also want to add a cooler to your list and a couple of ice packs. This will help keep your catch cool while you keep fishing for the rest of the day.

And last, but definitely not least, bring a cart to haul your gear.

It might not seem like much, but once you’ve hiked a mile across a beach with all your gear, you’ll wish you had a cart to transport it all back again. I got a two-wheeled cart and a few bungee cords and I’ve never regretted it.

Where’s the Best Place to Fish From the Beach?

Not sure where to go?

Your best bet is to keep an eye out for other anglers.

If you see a few people fishing one area, that’s probably a good place to start.

But remember, don’t crowd another angler. I’d say give it at minimum over 300 feet (about hundred meters) between you and the next fisher just to be sure.

When it comes to choosing a spot, it helps to think like the fish you’re trying to catch.

Fish want to exert as little energy as possible while eating as much as they can. This means they’ll most likely be in the water just where the waves are beginning to form.

You don’t want to cast into breaking waves. Fish don’t like whitewater.

man sitting in a chair and fishing in sea

What’s the Best Bait for Beach Fishing?

If you don’t want to use live bait, you can start out using a lure.

Using lures for surf fishing might not be as effective as live or cut bait, but I found it a lot easier to begin with.

It gave me a chance to improve my cast and learn where to stand and things like that. When it came to choosing lures I used spoons first, but I’ve also tried plugs and jigs.

When you’ve got your technique down, you can move onto using live or cut bait. You can pick these up at your local bait store, or catch them yourself using a bait net. Depending on where you’re fishing, the bait will change, but there are some surefire baits you can go with.

Squid, white shrimp or mullet are always popular.

But there’s also crab, sand fleas, clams, and bloodworms. Or, if you’re trying to catch the big ones, you can try using whole mullets or stingrays

What Type of Fish Will I Catch Surf Fishing?

The fish you reel in will depend on where you’re fishing.

Dozens of species of fish live in these waters and you can probably bet on coming across mackerel, bass, sea trout, grouper, and snook.

If you’re lucky, you might catch redfish, bonefish, tarpon, and even sharks.

The tide, the time of day you fish, the weather and the season will all affect what kind of fish you catch.

The more experience you have, the better you’ll get at reading the signs and making your moves accordingly, so the best way to learn is to try everything and keep an eye on what works.

Expert Tips for Surf Fishing

There’s nothing like experience to really know what you need to have the ultimate surf fishing experience.

To help a beginner like myself, I got together some of the best tips for surf fishing from some of the pros:

  • Use more than one rod – You can fish for different species if you use more than one fishing rod. Get one larger and one smaller to cover the biggest range. Just be sure to check your local area’s rules and regulations to see how many rods you’re allowed to use.
  • Use the waves to bring in your fish – You don’t need to fight hard to bring in a fish when you’re surf fishing. Take advantage of Mother Nature’s help and let the waves help you bring in your catch.
  • Bring a chair – Like any other form of fishing, time is one of the biggest factors with surf fishing successfully, and chances are you’ll be watching a lot of waves in the meantime. So grab a chair, sit back, relax and enjoy it.
  • Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen – This one’s key. If you’re going to be out there all day then definitely make sure you bring protection from the sun. There’s rarely any natural shade on the beach and being exposed to the sun all day without protection can lead to some pretty brutal consequences. So, please, cover up!

Give it a Go

If you follow these surf fishing tips for beginners then, in no time, your rod will be bending down to the water and you’ll feel the heavy weight of a big one on the end of the line.

Then all you have to do is give it a yank to embed the hook and, remembering to use those waves, easily reel in your prize.

And remember, just like every other style of fishing, it’s the experience that counts, so get out there and give it a go.

When you do, make sure you let us know in the comment section where you can share your experience of surf fishing.

Good luck out there. Let us know what you catch!