Surf Fishing Tips For Beginners

When you think of fishing in the ocean, you probably think of boats with four outboards flying out into the horizon to chase Marlin. Well, I’m here to tell you there’s a whole other world of ocean fishing out there that can be just as good if not better than deep-sea fishing.

Besides marlin and other deep-sea game fish, you can catch just about everything else from surf fishing. In fact, you might be able to catch more species of fish from the surf than you would deep sea. The size of the fish might be slightly smaller, but you would be surprised by the sheer quantity of fish you can catch.

So, below we’re going to talk more in-depth about surf fishing and how you can go out there and catch them successfully. Each of the strategies we have listed below is going to be different. Ensure that they will work with your style of fishing before heading out and using them.

The Basics

If you’ve never surf fished before, this will be the most important part of this article. We will give you a quick overview of what you need to have and what you should be doing to give yourself the best opportunity to catch fish.

How to Cast

surf fishing how to cast

If you’ve cast a rod before, then the good news is that this will come quickly and easily to you. There is not much if any difference between surfcasting or casting in a lake or a river. The biggest difference is the emphasis on distance and accuracy. You’ll need to cast far out to ensure you’re hitting the spots where the fish might be.

The basic overhand cast will be the one you will use. Your weight and lure will most likely be heavier than what you may be used to when casting for bass or other species. The trick is to learn the power and speed needed to land your bait exactly where you need it. It may take some practice, but it is quickly learned. 

Read the Beach

It can be intimidating to beginners when it comes to reading the water and the beach. After all, the ocean is a huge place, so where can you start looking? First off, you should be looking for sandbars, outflows, and rip currents, areas where coarse sand is present.

Sandbars attract baitfish, which will, in turn, attract the game fish. So, casting just beyond or onto a sandbar is a good spot to start. You can locate these by seeing where waves are beginning to break. That’s where you should be casting.

Outflows, rip currents, or sandbar breaks are great spots for feeding fish. So, when you locate one, be sure that you cast to the sides as well as in the outflow. This ensures you cover all of the spots and that any fish in the area will see your bait.

If you find a spot with coarse sand, you are likely near a deep hole that will hold fish. It’s a very subtle difference. You need to keep a sharp eye so you don’t miss these small clues. It can make all the difference in a day of fishing.

Most of the time, the best chance you’ll have is fishing the incoming tide. Check tide charts before coming out, so you know when to give yourself the best opportunity to catch fish. Also, be mindful of holidays and weekends. Mid-morning can bring crowds, and that could ruin fishing.

If you’re having trouble reading the beach, then locating locals and observing them is a great way to find good spots. See where they set up and how far out their lines are in the water. You can set up near them, but not next to them. It’s important not to crowd people while fishing. 

Striking up a conversation with them is a great way to also get some more info. 

When to go fishing

when to go surf fishing

Besides reading the water, you also have to be able to know when the fishing is going to be best. You can usually tell by checking the weather as well as the changing of the tides. A small change such as a little wind or the tide going out could dramatically change the fishing. It’s important to get out there as often as possible to learn the behavior of the fish during these different conditions. 

It’s near impossible to find perfect conditions, so always be ready for something to be a little bit off or different each time you go out. 

On overcast or rainy days, it will help decrease the shadow of your line in the water, which is a huge advantage for you. This should hopefully result in more fish caught since they won’t be as spooky. Ensure you keep an eye out for storms. Your safety is the most important thing. 

More fish will come in to feed at high tide. So, if you want a general time to go, then high tide will be the best bet. That being said, some species prefer to feed at low tide. It all depends on what the fish you’re looking for prefer.

During low tide, you can observe the beach and walk out further and look at the banks and dips. This will help you when the tide comes back in, and you can locate exactly where dips and currents are located in sand bars.

Gear Needed

spinning reel surf fishing

For a normal day, you will need a couple of different items. Keep in mind that during bad weather, this list of items may grow or even shrink. You need to figure out what is going to work best for you when fishing in bad weather.

You’re going to, of course, need a rod and reel. A medium or a medium-heavy rod is going to work best. If you want to go after larger fish, then you will need a heavy rod. Medium and medium-heavy are a great catch-all and can be used for many different types of fish and fishing styles.

For rod length, you will need something long that can throw lures and bait far out in the surf. Look for something in the 12-15-foot range. For line, use 20-25-pound test. This should be strong enough to handle most fish that you’ll be catching. For securing the rods, you can use a sand spike. These allow you to have multiple hooks in the water, allowing you the ability to sit back and watch each rod for strikes.

For weights, you should be using a pyramid sinker. The point digs itself into the sand and does not move when the current pushes it around. This way, you do not cross your lines. Live or cut bait work great. Shrimp, crab, or other small fish rigged up under a bobber will always work.

However, if you want to use lures, then soft plastics and spoons will be your go-to. Soft plastic lures could be any pattern you wish. They make baitfish, crab, shrimp, or creature imitations. All will work, you’ll just need to experiment to figure out which works best on your water. On clear and calm days, you could even rig up a topwater lure. 

Next, you’ll need pliers. These are for removing hooks from a toothy fish’s mouth or just general repair on gear. You’ll also need some sort of bait bucket with an air pump if using live bait. If you plan on catching your own bait, then a cast net is the way to go.

Rain gear and sunscreen are great to always have on hand. You never know when a rainstorm will just pop up. A tape measure is also crucial. This lets you know how big your catch is so you can keep it.

If you are fishing on a beach that allows vehicles, then having a four-wheel drive is a must. Deflate your tires down to 24 PSI before driving onto the beach. This allows the tires to grip the sand better. Then, once you’re done fishing, drive carefully and slowly to the nearest gas station to refill the air. 


Surf fishing is a great way to get out and enjoy the beach and the great outdoors. It doesn’t cost much besides gear and a license, making this much cheaper than going out in a boat and spending money on fuel and the boat itself.

It’s also an efficient way to catch fish. The sheer number of species you can catch from the surf is surprising, and the quantity of fish you can catch is also incredible. 

So, use the guide above to help you get started on your surf fishing adventures. Use the tips and tactics above as a baseline and then develop them over time into your own style of fishing. 

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