Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak
With spring quickly approaching, it’s getting to be that time of the year when you put away most of the hunting gear and get ready to hit the water. If you’re in Florida like I am, chances are you’ll soon find yourself at the beach. The following are a few tips to keep in mind when surf fishing in the warm weather.
1. Pick your spot
Some areas of the beach provide better fishing than others. Look at the wave action and current flow to pick out the holes between the bars. These spots of deeper water tend to hold fish and are prime spots to land pompano, redfish, and whiting. Often, the slope of the shore is a dead giveaway of these holes. Try your best to spread your rods evenly to cover as much of the hole as possible.
2. Pick the time
The best time to fish from the beach is early morning and late evening. You obviously won’t be getting the world’s greatest tan during these low-light hours, but the fishing is almost always better. Low visibility underwater means high hook-up chances and the fish are more prone to feeding during these hours. In addition, tide times/changes are important to consider. Generally speaking, an incoming tide produces better fishing than a falling tide. If you have the luxury to pick the time of the day you can fish, aim to do so during an incoming tide. High wave action and currents tend to bring baitfish closer to shore and produce a better bite out of the fish.
3. Bring a chair
Though not required to catch fish, a folding chair can be a life saver. If you’re at the beach, you want to relax. But at the same time, you want to be able to watch your rods. So being able to lean back and relax while fishing is an amazing feeling. It certainly beats sitting down in the sand with having nothing to lean on. Just be sure to position the chair so that you aren’t staring directly into the sun while watching your rods.
4. Choose your bait
There are a variety of baits that work well in the surf. But I’ve found over the years that it’s tough to beat naturally occurring bait when fishing from the beach. Sand fleas (mole crabs) and other small sand crabs tend to out perform things such as cut bait, squid, or shrimp. If you’re unable to find sand fleas, fresh shrimp will probably be your best bet. I personally like to pinch off the heads and thread the hook through the body as best as possible. If bait fishing isn’t what you want to deal with at the beach, small pompano jigs and shiny lures often work well. The only disadvantage with these is that you’ll need to continuously cast if you expect to ever catch anything.
5. Watch the slack
Anyone who’s ever beach fished has had to train himself to recognize the difference between wave action that’s bending the rod and an actual strike. Keeping bait still in the water is essential in order to recognize when a fish is on. This is why so many people prefer to use pyramid weights that dig themselves into the sand. Tension on the line is what gives it away. But often times, especially with pompano, they’ll pick up the bait, and then swim toward shore. This removes all tension in the line and the rod sticks straight up in the rod holder, leaving the line slack and dragging in the water. A dead giveaway that a pompano is on the line, be sure to retrieve slack line quickly. You don’t want to lose that fish.
So as you find yourself breaking free of winter’s frigid grip and venturing to the beach for relaxation, be sure to bring a fishing rod or two with you. Given the opportunity, it’s entirely possible to relax on the beach, catch a few rays (sun rays, hopefully), and fill the cooler. Just follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a successful beach trip.