Surf fishing

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Surf Fisherman

Surf fishing is land-based game fishing while standing on the shoreline or wading into the surf zone. A general term, surf fishing may or may not include casting a lure or bait, and refers to all types of shore fishing – from sandy and rocky beaches, rock jetties, or even fishing piers. The terms surfcasting or beachcasting refer more specifically to surf fishing from the beach by casting into the surf at or near the shoreline. With few exceptions, surf fishing is done in saltwater. The most common misconception about surf fishing is the idea that one must cast as far out as possible in order to reach the fish. At beaches on the west coast of the United States, and in fact, at most beaches around the world, you only really need to get your bait into knee-deep water. This is referred to as surf fishing the "skinny" (the skinny water). [1]



Surf fishing at Calshot, Hampshire Beach fishing, Stanswood Bay - - 515211.jpg
Surf fishing at Calshot, Hampshire

The basic idea of most surfcasting is to cast a bait or lure as far out into the water as is necessary to reach the target fish from the shore. This may or may not require long casting distances. Basic surf fishing can be done with a fishing rod between 7 feet and 18 feet long, with an extended butt section, equipped with a suitably-sized spinning or conventional (revolving spool) casting reel. In addition to rod and reel, the surf fisherman needs terminal tackle and bait or lure. Terminal tackle is the equipment at the far end of the line: hooks, swivels, lines and leaders.

Dedicated surfcasters usually possess an array of terminal and other tackle, with fishing rods and reels of different lengths and actions, and lures and baits of different weights and capabilities. Depending on fishing conditions and the type of fish they are trying to catch, such surfcasters tailor bait and terminal tackle to rod and reel and the size and species of fish targeted. Reels and other equipment need to be constructed so they resist the corrosive and abrasive effects of salt and sand.

Surf fishermen who use artificial lures, cast and retrieve them to entice a bite from the target species. There are hundreds of different lures effective for surf fishing, such as spoons, plugs, soft plastics and jigs. Most can be purchased from local bait and tackle shops, online tackle retailers, at fishing tackle expositions or specialized surf fishing catalogs. Most surfcasters carry with them a "surf bag" which holds a selection of lures to facilitate fast changes of lures appropriate to current fishing conditions, saving trips back to the beach or vehicle to change equipment.

Several other items of equipment are commonly used by surf fisherman and surfcasters to improve comfort, convenience, and effectiveness. Among these are waders, used to wade out into the surf to gain distance from shore when casting the bait. Full length, chest-high waders are most popular, in order to provide a measure of protection against a pounding surf that could easily swamp hip-length wading boots. In addition to the extra reach provided by wading out from shore, waders provide improved footing, protection for feet and legs from sharp bottom objects and stinging/biting fish and crustaceans, and protection from cold water temperatures. Most surf fishermen prefer integrated booted waders to stocking-foot models, which eliminates the tendency of sand and rock to find their way in between boot and wader. In areas where the bottom consists of slippery rocks or when fishing from mossy and slimy rock jetties, cleated boots or attachments are utilized to improve footing and enhance safety.

Surf fishing is done often at night to follow the nocturnal feeding habits of many target species. Many surf fishermen add items such as flashlights, headlamps, light sticks and other gear to facilitate night fishing.

When surf fishing it is also very important to try and find out how much terminal tackle you are using and need. When too much terminal tackle is used it can be dangerous for the ocean environment if broken off the main line.


Surfcasting is a casting technique which separates the surfcaster from the ordinary shore, pier, or boat fisherman. Extremely long rods are frequently employed to extend the length of the cast, while specialized, two-handed casting techniques are used to cast the lure or bait the added distances required in many cases to reach feeding inshore fish. In these casts the entire body, rather than just the arms, are utilized to deliver the cast. [2] In addition to standard two-handed casts, veteran surfcasters may also resort to the pendulum cast (derived from tournament casting contests) to achieve added distance – in some cases exceeding 700 feet.

Tournament casting is a sport in its own right, with the world record held by Danny Moeskops casting a distance of 286.63 meters (313.46 yards). [3]

Extreme Surfcasting also known as skishing is a variant of surf fishing that involves donning a wetsuit and flippers and swimming into the ocean with surfcasting pole to catch fish. Skishing was invented in Montauk, New York in 1995. The term which is a cross between "skiing "and "fishing" to describe what happens if the angler hooks a large enough fish and it tows him through the ocean like a water-skier. Without the benefit of boat or land, the fight is considered to be, by the fisherman anyway, on more equal terms. Skishers swim sometimes hundreds of yards from shore to water well over their heads, with their flippers and buoyancy of their wetsuits keeping them afloat. [4]


In Britain, surfcasting is often called beachcasting. It is a popular form of fishing which is carried out all around the coast of the British Isles. Beachcasters use very long fishing rods, usually between 12 and 16 feet. The beachcaster will stand on a beach or shoreline and cast out to sea with either a water filled float, or a lead weight weighing between 120g and 200g. Bait used in this form of fishing might include limpets, mussels, lugworm, ragworm, sandeel, mackerel strip, squid, peeler crab or razor fish. Additionally, artificial flies or even spinners may be used for species such as mackerel or bass. It is a common pastime in coastal areas of Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland and often results in the capture of large specimens of many species of fish, including: flatfish, bass, cod, whiting, pollack, black bream, dogfish, smooth hound, bull huss, rays, and tope.

Common beachcasting techniques used in Britain include the common overhead cast, the off-the-ground Cast, and the Pendulum cast. There are other techniques used in Britain, but these three techniques remain the more popular ones with the pendulum cast perhaps the most difficult to master and also the one that generally produces more yards to the cast with 250–300 yds becoming quite possible. On top of technique and equipment, streamlines rigs that can take casting strains are also used such as the clipped pennel pulley, clipped down rigs, long n low etc. The rigs are also made with strong 60 lb plus lines to take the strain of the cast. Streamlining of bait too is important. A shockleader is a stronger line attached to a lighter mainline to absorb the shock of a powerful cast. The suggested formula for shockleader selection is as calculated as follows 1 oz weight +10lb shockleader + 10lb, e.g.

Besides the equipment and the cast techniques, the other component that makes a beach caster successful is what can be called sea interpretation. There are zones, and within them certain points, where to cast the baits is more profitable than others. It depends on the conformation of the sea bed, and therefore, in order to make fishing more effective and enjoyable, we should spend a while on understanding these differences and only then start fishing. How? First of all, by observing the waves motion, in particular where they break out, because it is there where the bottom height is lower and the sea current can stir it most. This action uncovers from the sandy bed small marine beings and carry them away across channels to deeper points, where they settle in for the joy of fish. The latter, that tend to swim countercurrent, move searching for food along these channels – that can be compared in some way to our roads in a map – and approach the shore as long as the conditions allow the marine food chain to last. Although it may seem an oversimplification of the reality, it makes clear that only when a beach caster is able to master the "sense of sea" by spotting the difference among fishing zones, then will he be more likely to make memorable captures. Similarly to any other activity, it's a matter of experience, which can be acquired by getting through several failures.


As with any water sport care must be taken to participate safely in this sport. Much surf fishing is done in rough whitewater surf conditions. Powerful waves and strong undertows can cause serious injury or death if proper attention is not paid to safety.

Areas fished should be scouted in low tide conditions to note sudden drop offs or dangerous conditions hidden at high tides. Any fisherman with waders should wear a wader belt to keep waders from filling with water in the event one falls in the surf. The aforementioned cleats should be worn anywhere there are slippery rocks or shells underfoot. PFD's (personal flotation devices) should be considered especially when fishing alone in big surf or on jetties.

Since lures and hooks feature razor sharp points, care must be taken not to hook oneself or others when casting, especially when performing two-handed full power casts that require a substantial safety zone behind the surfcaster. In the event that one accidentally hooks oneself or someone else, it is a good idea to carry a quality cutting pliers capable of cutting the hooks you are fishing with.


A wide array of species can be targeted from surf and shore limited only the species of fish available in the region. On the west coast of the United States, a few of the most sought after fish include the California Corbina, the Spotfin Croaker, the Barred Surfperch, and of course, the California Halibut. Unlike the east coast, the west coast is limited when it comes to shark fishing from the surf. Commonly caught sharks include the Leopard Shark, the Soupfin Shark, and the Seven-gill Shark. [5] In the eastern coast of the United States, the striped bass is highly valued. This species can be fished from shore and ranges in weight from a few pounds to the world record 78.5 lb (35.6 kg). Fish in the 30 to 40 lb (15 kg) range are common on the mid-Atlantic U.S. coast from New York to the Carolinas. Some other available species are bluefish, redfish (red drum), black drum, tautog (blackfish), flounder (fluke), weakfish (sea trout), bonito and albacore tuna, pompano, Spanish mackerel, snook, and tarpon. Even sharks can be targeted by surf fishermen.

From North Carolina south the redfish (red drum) is one of the most targeted fish by surf anglers. Fishermen use rods 10 to 13 feet to cast to drum using baits like cut mullet, bunker (cut menhaden, or pogies as Carolina anglers call them), and cut bait from spot, croaker, or bluefish. Red drum hit a bait aggressively and are a much beloved surf fishing species. The overfished status of this fish for many years due to the blackened redfish craze of the 1980s led to strict recreational size and creel limits, however, so surf anglers must learn the local rules. [6]

Beach buggies

Many areas allow four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles on to the beach. This allows the surf fisherman to scout and fish large stretches of shoreline. Although the term "beach buggy" may be applied to special vehicles for transportation on sand, 4x4 trucks and SUV's with deflated tires are more often used in surf fishing. Permits are usually required and need to be obtained from the appropriate state or local authorities. Most require an additional list of safety and other equipment, sometimes called Beach Permit Kits to ensure that the vehicle and its inhabitants can safely navigate the soft sand and are prepared in the event the vehicle gets stuck. Beach Buggy access can be hindered at times by beach closures, due to endangered bird species nesting. Beach buggy access is often hotly contested between environmental groups, and beach access enthusiasts. Therefore, it is a good idea to check on local regulations before you attempt to drive your vehicle on the beach. Driving in restricted areas can result in serious penalties.

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fishing rod</span> Fishing tool

A fishing rod is a long, thin rod used by anglers to catch fish by manipulating a line ending in a hook. At its most basic form, a fishing rod is a straight rigid stick/pole with a line attached to one end ; however, modern rods are usually elastic and generally have the line stored in a reel mounted at the rod handle, which is hand-cranked and controls the line retrieval, as well as numerous line-restricting rings that distribute bending stress along the rod and help dampening down/prevent line whipping and entanglement. To better entice fish, baits or lures are dressed onto the one or more hooks attached to the line, and a bite indicator is used, some of which might be incorporated as part of the rod itself.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fishing reel</span> Hand-cranked spool used in angling to wind and stow fishing line

A fishing reel is a hand-cranked reel used in angling to wind and stow fishing line, typically mounted onto a fishing rod, but may also be used to retrieve a tethered arrow when bowfishing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fly fishing</span> Method of angling

Fly fishing is an angling method that uses a light-weight lure—called an artificial fly—to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. The light weight requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting. The flies may resemble natural invertebrates, bait-fish, or other food organisms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Angling</span> Fishing technique

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fisherman</span> Person who takes fish and sells or trade it

A fisher or fisherman is someone who captures fish and other animals from a body of water, or gathers shellfish.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Big-game fishing</span> Offshore sportfishing targeting large fish such as tuna or marlin

Big-game fishing, also known as offshore sportfishing, offshore gamefishing or blue-water fishing, is a form of recreational fishing targeting large game fish, usually on a large body of water such as a sea or ocean.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Recreational fishing</span> Fishing as a hobby

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fishing lure</span> Object to attract fish

A fishing lure is a broad type of artificial angling baits that are replicas designed to mimic real prey animals and attract the attention of predatory fish, using appearances, flashy colors, bright reflections, movements, vibrations and/or loud noises to appeal to the fish's predation instinct and entice it into striking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Casting (fishing)</span> The act of launching fishing tackles into water

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Recreational boat fishing</span> Recreational fishing on water vessels

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to fishing:

Land-based game fishing is a form of big-game sport fishing in which anglers attempt to catch oceanic game fish from shore rather than from ocean-going boats. The locations for such activities are generally rock platforms, though wharfs, jetties and beaches are also common. Some species such as sharks can be targeted in shallow littoral water, however most other species prefer deeper pelagic water, and this limits the areas where these types can be fished from the shore. Tackle used is usually comparable to that used on boats, but some differences are necessary, such as changes in rod length. Different tackle is used according to location and species targeted.

Skishing is a variant on saltwater shorefishing that involves wearing a buoyant wetsuit and swimming out from shore with flippers to fish with rod and reel, often using live eels. It is practiced as a means of getting further out to sea in order to increase the chances of catching a fish and can be dangerous. The term skishing is a portmanteau of water-skiing and fishing because when hooked the stripers pull the angler through the water. Skishing has been described as extreme surfcasting.

Kite fishing, a fishing technique. It involves a kite from which a drop line hangs, attached to a lure or bait. The kite is flown over the surface of a body of water, and the bait floats near the waterline until taken by a fish. The kite then drops immediately, signaling to the fisherman that the bait has been taken, and the fish can then be hauled in. Kites can provide boatless fishermen access to waters that would otherwise be available only to boats. Similarly, for boat owners, kites provide a way to fish in areas where it is not safe to navigate - such as shallows or coral reef.


  1. "Surf Fishing in So Cal- All About Surf Fishing San Diego". Surf Fishing in So Cal. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  2. "ABC of Surf Fishing" Popular Mechanics, June 1952, pp. 159–162, drawing of surf casting p. 162.
  3. "Danny Moeskops the absolute number 1 in SURFCASTING". Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  4. Rhoads, Christopher (July 26, 2010). "Swimming With The Fishes: Angler's Tangle Over 'Skishing'". The Wall Street Journal.
  5. "Surf Fishing in So Cal- All About Surf Fishing San Diego". Surf Fishing in So Cal. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  6. Jeffrey Weeks, Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas ISBN   978-1-4637-7822-4