Saltwater fishing can be an exhilarating and awarding experience. With so many varieties of fish that can come out of the sea, the mystery of what could be on the other line adds to the allure. However, if you’re new to saltwater fishing it can be a bit nerve-racking, with fish that could have jagged teeth, spines, and even toxins. Nonetheless, if it’s your first time, or you need a refresher, here is our basic how-to guide to saltwater fishing.

What You’ll Need

  • Saltwater rod
  • Saltwater reel
  • Gaff
  • Landing net
  • Bait (live or artificial)
  • long needle-nose pliers
  • Lip grippers
  • Saltwater knife

Step-by-Step Guide to Saltwater Fishing

man fishing on seaside

Image credit: Austin Neill via Unsplash

Step 1. Before putting your line in the water

Before casting your line, make sure you comply with local fishing laws. Many regions, different bodies of water, or even species such as trout require their own license. These are normally inexpensive and can be purchased through the local government.

Step 2. Check the forecast

Not necessarily checking your local weather, but more so the tide report. Why is this important? The tide directly impacts the movement of the water and where fish will be located. When the tide is higher or has a current, the fish will be closer inland. On the other hand, when the tide is low, the fish will be further from shore.

Step 3. The rod and reel set-up

selective focus photography of man holding fishing rod

Image Credit: Cagatay Demir via Unsplash

The size of the rod will vary depending on how you plan to fish. For instance, surf fishing will need a rod of 8-10 ft, whereas if you plan on fishing from a pier a 6-9 ft rod will suffice. Generally, a 7 ft rod is a good starting place for saltwater fishing. Next comes the reel, for beginners, it’s best to go for a spinning reel over a conventional reel. There are many videos on how to select the right reel for yourself.

Step 4. Line, hook, and sinker

When selecting a line, opt for a monofilament test line between 15 and 25 lbs. Monofilament line is preferred for beginners because it’s easier to knot, is abrasion resistant, and it has elastic-like properties when compared to fluorocarbon line. Nevertheless, if you’re fishing in current or high tide, attach an egg sinker onto your line. Finally, tie off your fish line with a hook using the uni knot method.

Step 5. Live bait or artificial bait?

When selecting bait, a good place to start is to ask yourself what do the fish eat naturally? Are they eating worms, are they eating shads or sand fleas? The rule of thumb is when it’s clear out, opt for artificial lures like hard baits or spoons. Alternatively, when the water is murky or post-storm, try the live baits. But it’s always good to have both on hands, just in case they’re being finicky eaters. Once you’ve decided what bait to use, cast your line and wait.

 Step 6. Fish on!

You felt a tug and reeled in your line. Thus,  the fish in your sight, now what? Secure your rod and grab your gaff, hooking the fish either in the gills or upper lip (whichever is easier if the fish is fighting back.) Once at an arms-length, scoop it into the net. Take the needle-nose pliers and remove the lure or hook from its body. As such, if you are practicing catch and release, take the lip grippers and attach them to the corresponding body part. Snap a photo for bragging rights and place the fish back into the water. Cast the line and repeat.

Keeping Your Catch

fish bucket

Image credit: Alexandra Torro via Unsplash

Alas, if you plan on keeping your catch, it’s best to have a saltwater knife on hand. A standard fillet knife will work as well, but you must rinse the saltwater off of it to prevent corrosion. Aside from that, each way to fillet a fish will depend on the species. Beforehand, ensure the fish is dispatched. A basic fish cleaning will start with gutting the inside organs and then the separation of the meat from the carcass. More importantly, fish within your allotment, making sure any species that are kept are of the appropriate species, gender, and size.

Calling It a Day

There you have it, our beginner’s guide to saltwater fishing. If it’s your first time, or you’re in the need of a refresher, this guide will help you to get those first nibbles. In North America alone, there are more than 800 saltwater species of fish. Although, the time of day and position of the tide may affect where and what will end up on your line. Lastly, the ocean and all its great mysteries offer some of the best fishing.