Surf fishing is another angling discipline that presents challenges, but, those who brave the rough water shores walk away with a catch of a lifetime. Knowing when the conditions are right for surf fishing is a trial in itself. When determining the ample time for surf fishing, look at three areas; weather, tide, and fish behaviors. From here, it’s a matter of ensuring that you have the right gear and technique for ease of fishing.

Surf fishing propositions anglers with the best time to target fish, based on high or low tide. Large species caught from the shoreline include red drums, sharks, and striped bass. With smaller and more common surf-fished species being sea trout, sheepshead, pompano, croakers, and various varieties of perch. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place, with this guide on how to surf fish. Below is a breakdown of the best way to surf cast, and surf fish rigs for both large and small species.

How to Surf Cast for the Novice

One of the fundamentals of surf fishing is surf casting. This technique focuses on the distance of the cast from the beach into the water.

Material Needed For Surf Casting

  • Baited and lined saltwater rod and reel combination
  • Sand spike

How to Surf Cast

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Step One: The Setup

Ensure that your line is prepped and baited to go. If you are uncertain how to prepare your line for surf casting, take a look at the small and large species set-ups below.

Step Two: The Form 

Stand near the water’s edge with your eyes on the target location of the water. To form an overhead cast, bring your arms with rod in hand overhead at about a 90° angle. Given the length of the rod used in surf casting, try not to dip it into the sand.

Step Three: The Cast

With all your might and eyes focused on where to land your line, heave your line forward into the water. Now, that you have mastered surf casting; the most basic maneuver for this type of angling. On an additional note, don’t be afraid to wade in the water and cast. If you need a break, draw out some line and pop your rod into a sand spike, and watch the rod tip.

How To Surf Fish for Large Species

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Material Needed for a Three-Way Swivel Rig

  • Surf rod or medium-heavy to heavy action rod and saltwater reel
  • Surf fishing line (25 lbs braided)
  • Cut or frozen bait (mullet, squid, or shrimp) 
  • Pyramid sinker (4 oz or similar)
  • Three-way swivel (regular three-way)
  • Duo lock swivel
  • 7/0 or 8/0 circle hooks for larger species 
  • Foam float (optional)

How to Set Up a Three-Way Swivel for Large Species

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Step One: Three-way Swivel

From a spooled rod, pull out some line and attach the three-way swivel. Try to utilize a good saltwater knot to withstand being tossed around in the current.

Step Two: The Pyramid Sinker

On an absent eyelet of the three-way swivel, feed the duo lock swivel on. Before closing the swivel, attach the pyramid sinker.

Step Three: Hook and Bait

On the last free point of the three-way swivel, take a length of the line of 16 to 24 inches and tie it onto the swivel. At the tag end, tie onto a hook of your preferred size, using a strong knot. When placing on bait, pieces of two inches will work best.

Step Four: Setting up Bottom Feeders

If sharks are not to your fancy, and you instead prefer saltwater catfish or crabs, there is an extra step to take to prepare your rig. In Step Three, place a two-inch foam float on your line before tying it on your hook. The theory here is the bait will be brought over or at eye level to any bottom dwellers, enticing them to strike.

How to Surf Fish For Small Species

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Materials Needed for a Double Hook Drop Shot

  • Saltwater rod and reel
  • Fishing line (25 lbs braided)
  • 2/0 or 3/0 circle hooks
  • Teardrop sinker
  • Three-way T-turn swivel
  • Live bait or small cut bait (Shads, shrimp, or mullet)

Bottom Rig or Double Hook Drop Shot for Small Species

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Step One: Swivel and Hook One

From the fishing rod, pull out a bit of line and tie on the first three-way swivel. On the 90° eyelet, tie on a length of the fishing line about a foot long or desired length. To finish off this step, tie on the first circle hook.

Step Two: Swivel to Swivel

From the free eyelet of the three-way swivel, tie on another length of fishing line. This will be at minimum a foot in length but can be longer. With the tag end tie on another three-way swivel.

Step Three: Repeat

Repeat Step One, commencing at the 90° eyelet and finishing with a circle hook.

Step Four: Sinker

Take a length of fishing line that is 12 to 18 inches, or to preference. Tie onto the free eyelet of the three-way swivel. At the free end of the fishing line, tie on the teardrop sinker. And, voilà, you have set up the double hook drop shot or bottom rig, depending on what region you’re from. When the time comes to set your line, feed on some live bait or smaller chunks of cut bait no bigger than an inch.

The Last Word 

The rigs recommended are among the most common rigs used in surf fishing. It shouldn’t go without saying that using artificial baits is just as effective as an alternative method. Of these, topwater torpedo lures, grubs, and curly tail jigs and spoons, especially silver spoons, work well. As noted, the hardest thing about surf fishing is determining the best time to go fishing, and it does take a little understanding. Otherwise, with this guide on how to surf fish, you have the knowledge now, and it’s a matter of taking the time to put it into practice.