How-to Surf Fish: The Complete Guide

How-to Surf Fish: The Complete Guide

Surf fishing is a type of game fishing that takes place on the beach rather than in the water. You place your fishing poles in the sand on the beach, on the shoreline or wading in surf zones. This might seem restricting, but it’s actually quite the opposite once you know the basics and the strategies. With such a variety of fish to catch along the Ocean City, New Jersey (OCNJ) coastline, this type of fishing is a great pastime all outdoor enthusiasts should try. 

Here’s how to surf fish for beginners who are ready to explore a fun new venture.

Surf Fishing Gear

Surf fishing requires more than just a rod on the beach. You need to optimize your gear for the perfect surf fishing experience. You need the same basics that all anglers need to rig a surf fishing rod. Your checklist should include:

  • Tackle
  • Bait
  • Knife, 
  • Fishing rod
  • Spare fishing line
  • Hooks
  • First-aid kit
  • Bait bucket
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Hook organizer
  • Fish finder
  • A cast net 
  • A valid fishing license

Additional items on your checklist will help you enjoy the experience more, like a cooler box with ice, an umbrella and rain gear, sunglasses, snacks, drinks, headphones and sunscreen.

Surf Fishing Setup and Strategy

Surf Fishing Setup and Strategy

Having the right gear is important, but being prepared means more than having everything on your checklist. The ideal way to set up for surf fishing is to have two rods set up per angler. This doubles your chances of hooking a fish. Stand between the poles and keep a close eye on them, watching for any movement. You need to react quickly at the first sign of a bite.

To optimize having two poles, use a heavier rig on one rod for bait and big fish. The other pole should have a smaller rig to help you catch squid, shrimp and smaller fish species. The right choice of bait is especially useful when trying to lure specific species and sizes of fish.

Learning how to read the beach for surf fishing is a crucial part of your strategy and your setup. Reading the beach means looking for the best possible spot to cast at. There are a few things to look for:

  • The sand bar: Looking at the sand bar is one of the most useful ways to find the best surf fishing spots on the beach. A sandbar or shoal is a ridge under the water made of gravel and sand. To locate the sand bar, you must observe where the waves break. Behind the sand bar is the ideal place to cast your line — close behind it for smaller bait fish and farther behind it for bigger game fish.
  • Rip currents: Rip currents, also known as outflows, are breaks in the sand bar where fish come to feed in the surf. Try casting your lines to the left and right side of the rip currents, as fish are likely to feed from both sides. Be careful not to venture too far into the water — rip currents can be dangerous.
  • Coarse sand and shells: Look for areas on the beach where shells and coarse sand appear. They are likely going to be near deep holes where fish stay inside. Thoroughly inspect up and down the shoreline to find these areas. Small differences like this can significantly impact your success and how many fish you hook while surf fishing.

How to Cast

Surf casting and regular casting are different. The biggest difference is the length of your cast. To reach the fish behind sand bars and in the deeper parts of the surf requires a long overhead cast. The movement is easy to perfect with a little bit of practice — be sure to get the distance right by throwing a few mock casts until you’re happy.

To extend the reach of your cast, wade in the water a safe distance from the sand bar and throw your line from there. Slowly back out of the water and keep your line in place before setting the rod back in its rig on the beach. Keep changing your position if you haven’t had a bite in a while, and remember that sometimes fish are closer to the land than you might think.

Jiggle your line around every now and then to attract the attention of big fish species. This is most effective near rocks, where fish tend to swim through narrow gaps, making them an ideal place to cast. Move your line around to get their attention so they’ll be more enticed by the hook.

Best Time to Surf Fish

There is no single definitive best time to go surf fishing, but there are certain conditions that may give you the best surf fishing experience. 

There are more fish in the surf at high tide, and they are most active at dusk and dawn because there is more water to attract a diverse range of species and larger numbers. However, there are certain species that prefer low tide at the same time of day. Low tide is a great time to scout the area to find sand banks, holes and other useful structures that could indicate a fish population.

Overcast and rainy days are the best conditions for minimizing your line’s shadow, which makes your bait more enticing for the fish. Thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds are not ideal conditions to fish in, and you must prioritize your own comfort and safety when surf fishing. When waves get too large and dangerous, it’s time to stop until they subside.

You can expect to catch a wide variety of fish in the OCNJ surf, ranging in size and strength. Bluefin tuna is a tough catch that experts aim to find. Due to their evasiveness and intelligence, they are a prized catch for any surf fisher. Fluke, black seabass, striped bass, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, triggerfish and several more are yours to compete with on the stunning shores of Ocean City.

Fish, Surf and Surf Fish at Ocean City, NJ

Beautiful scenery, pristine beaches and a family-friendly focus are some of the many reasons families and anglers are so eager to return to Ocean City, New Jersey, year after year. Learning how to fish the surf is only one of the many skills you can develop here. During the day, you can read our beautiful beaches to find the best spots to fish. At night, enjoy everything else we have to offer.

Contact us to help you plan the journey you’ve been dreaming of to OCNJ.

Fish, Surf and Surf Fish at Ocean City, NJ
Previous ArticleFall Block Party and Fireworks Set for October Next ArticlePorsche Reunion, HERO Walk, Jeep Invasion and Sinatra Show Highlight the Weekend