Surf fishing is a convenient way to catch fish without needing to spend money on a boat. I can simply stand on the shore or wade out into the surf and cast my line. However, surf fishing does require some basic gear.
When I first got into surf fishing, I found that there are specific rods, reels, and other equipment that are essential to this activity. While an angler may get a few bites with any old rod, ensuring that you have these items may increase the chances of a successful day on the beach.
What Are The Basic Equipment For Surf Fishing?
To start surf fishing, there are several pieces of equipment that are necessary and a few items that help make this activity a little more comfortable. The main gear needed to start surf fishing includes:
- Surf rods
- Spinning Reels
- Lures and lines
- Surf belts
- Fishing tools
Experienced anglers may already have a few of these items. For example, some of the lures and lines that are used for other types of fishing may still work for surf fishing.
The fishing tools are also standard and suitable for any type of fishing. This may include pliers and unhooking gear.
The best rods for surf fishing should provide enough length and bend to cast far out into the surf. It is also important to have a suitable reel to match the rod.
Besides the standard fishing equipment, it is important to dress for the environment. When wading into the water, a quality pair of waders can help keep the body dry.
Along with the waders, surf anglers should wear boots or wader boots, a surf belt, and possibly a jacket – depending on the weather.
That covers the basics of the most essential surf fishing equipment. However, each of these items is available in various sizes or styles, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
To find the best equipment, it is important to know what to look for in a surf rod, spinning reel, and the other fishing gear.
Choosing the Right Surf Rods and Reels
The most important equipment for surf fishing includes the rod and reel. Typically, an 8 to 12-foot rod is recommended for fishing from the shore. In the Northeast, most anglers use between a 9 and 11-foot rod.
A longer rod allows the angler to cast further out. When surf fishing, it is often necessary to cast beyond the breaking waves. However, if the rod is too long, the angler may have difficulty controlling the rod.
Choose a rod that suits your height and comfort level. However, there are a few more details needed to find the best rod for surf fishing. These additional factors include:
- Rod power
- Rod action
- Reel seats
- Rod handles
The rod power is the strength of the rod, ranging from light to heavy. A heavier rod has more lifting power, while a lighter rod has less. Medium-heavy fishing rods provide the most versatile option, as they are right in the middle of the power range.
The rod action refers to the bend of the rod. A fast action rod bends at the tip, while a slow action rod will bend along the lower third of the rod. The faster action provides less bend, resulting in more distance when casting.
When casting far out into the surf, a fast action rod is recommended. The slow action or medium action rods are recommended for using treble hooks.
The reel seat on the fishing rod is often a metal alloy material. However, this material may corrode over time. The best rods use a graphite reel seat, which does not rust or corrode.
The handle should be long, providing enough space for two-handed casting. The handle is often made from foam or cork. The foam handles may not last as long, as foam can slowly deteriorate, while cork handles may last a lifetime.
The Most Commonly Used Lures for Surf Fishing
Unless you plan to use live bait, you will need fishing lures to attract the fish. Choosing the right lure often depends on the type of fish, water conditions, and location.
However, there are several lures that every angler should consider owning and storing in their surf belt or bag.
The gold spoon is one of the most commonly used fishing lures. The gold spoon is traditionally considered the top choice compared to other spoons, as the gold surface tends to do a great job of attracting fish.
Another useful lure is white bucktail. Bucktails come in various colors and with different flairs. However, the white color helps to reflect the light, making it more visible to fish.
The topwater lure is also a popular choice, as they help move the water and attract fish to the surface. If fishing when the fish are feeding near the surface or there is a lot of topwater activity, these lures are a must-have item.
Soft plastic flukes, or jerk bait, are versatile lures. They can be used for topwater fishing or they can be weighted for fishing just below the surface.
The Best Fishing Lines for Surf Fishing
The fishing line should match the rod and reel. When using a heavy rod, a heavy line is needed. With a medium-heavy rod, the 30 to 40-pound braided fishing line is suggested. This offers enough weight to pull larger fish out of the water. If the monofilament line is used, the 20-50 pound line is recommended.
Braided and monofilament are the most used types of fishing lines. The monofilament lines have been used since the 1950s, while the braided lines were introduced in the 1980s.
The main advantage of the monofilament lines is that they are easy to knot. When learning how to tie knots, it is easier to work with the thicker fishing line.
The braided fishing line has a smaller diameter. While this thinner line may be more difficult to knot, it also has several benefits. The braided line offers more range, as it is easier to cast a greater distance with the thinner line. The thin line also allows more lines to fit on the reel, which may be needed when surfcasting.
Stay Warm and Dry with Waders
Waders are necessary for staying dry. While it is possible to fish from the shore, surf fishing typically involves wading out into the water.
To catch bigger fish, the angler needs to be able to cast past the breaking waves, which may require getting further out.
Waders are waterproof trousers that are worn over pants to keep the wearer dry. There are three main types of waders – Breathable waders, Neoprene waders, and Nylon/PVC waders.
There are three different style options – hip waders, waist-high waders, and chest waders.
The hip waders are designed for shallow waters that are no deeper than knee height.
For surf fishing, anglers will most likely need either the waist-high waders or the chest waders.
The waist-high waders should only be worn in waters up to the middle of the thigh. While anglers cannot go as deep with the waist-high waders compared to the chest waders, they are less restrictive.
However, the chest waders do provide the most coverage. With chest waders, it is possible to wade into the waist-deep water without getting wet.
Along with the type of waders, there are additional features to consider. The top waders may also have reinforced knees for added durability or handwarmer pockets for keeping the hands warm.
Anglers must also choose between boot-foot and stocking-foot waders. The boot-foot waders include built-in boots. This creates a complete seal to protect against water getting in through the cuffs or boots.
The stocking-foot waders are often used with wader boots and feature a built-in bootie. With the stocking-foot waders, anglers can purchase separate boots and tighten the laces for a custom fit.
Check my battled tested waders that I’ve personally used.
Top Features of a Quality Surf Belt
Some waders come with a belt which serves the purpose of keeping the water from getting inside the waders. A low-quality belt may not do as good of a job keeping the angler dry.
One of the main features of a quality surf belt is a sturdy buckle. The belt should feel secure when the buckle is closed. Some belts even include a Velcro strip in case the buckle does get unbuckled.
Most surf belts are constructed from 2″ heavy-duty nylon webbing material. A thick surf belt is more likely to hold up to repeated use. In fact, stiffer surf belt is recommended.
When tools and other gear are added to the belt, the weight can cause the belt to slip, even when secured with a sturdy buckle. A thick surf belt helps keep all the stuff you add in place instead of sagging.
Some belts are also equipped with loops. These loops may provide a way to secure the backside of the surf bag, which is another useful piece of equipment for storing extra gear.
Carabiner clips or D-rings can be used to secure the bag if the belt does not have loops.
While these belts provide a simple way to store fishing tools, the belt is useless if the tools are dropped in the water. One way to protect against lost tools is to secure them with lanyards attached to the belt.
It should also be mentioned that many anglers make the mistake of tucking their jacket into their waders and then securing the belt over the waders.
If water gets into the jacket, it can easily get inside the waders. The jacket should be worn over the waders. The belt is then secured around the waist over the jacket and waders.
Essential Surf Fishing Tools
There are a variety of useful tools that every fisherman should consider packing. The most used items include pliers and other unhooking gear.
A flashlight is another useful tool, especially when fishing at night or in low-light conditions. When wading into the water, it is easy to get disoriented without adequate lighting. A flashlight ensures that you can find the shore.
Casting tape is another item that is easy to overlook. The casting tape may be wrapped around the main casting finger to prevent blisters.
Most of these items can be stored in the surf belt or clipped to the belt with carabiner clips. Some anglers also bring a shoulder bag for storing items that cannot fit on the surf belt.
When Is the Best Time to Go Surf Fishing?
Anglers may catch fish from the shore at any time of the day or night. However, there are times when fish are more likely to be active near the shore.
Many of the bigger fish spend most of their time in deeper waters. When there is a strong current, debris and sediment get disturbed, which attracts smaller fish. These smaller fish then attract the bigger catches and bring them to the shore.
The strongest currents tend to occur during peak tide when the high or low tide is in the middle or rolling towards or away from the shore. Along with a strong current, a strong storm can also help bring sediment to the surface.
Other suitable times for surf fishing include just before dawn or dusk. More on the best time to go surf fishing.
What Type of Fish Can You Catch While Surf Fishing?
The type of fish that you can catch depends on the region and how far out you cast your line. However, you can typically catch just about anything that is readily available in your region. Check this article to see what kind of fish you can catch when surf fishing.
One of the most popular fish to search for while surf fishing is the striped bass. You may also fish for surf perch, redfish, bluefish, flounder, mackerel, and even sharks.
Do You Need a Fishing License for Surf Fishing?
Yes, you need a fishing license. While each state has its own regulations for fishing, they all require a license or permit for fishing. However, there are exceptions to this, which always makes it a good idea to review the local laws to avoid any fines.
There are several pieces of equipment that every angler should own for surf fishing. The surf rods, reels, lures, and lines are essential. There are also various tools that are useful, including pliers, flashlights, and casting tape. Besides these items, a surf belt and waders are needed when wading out into the shore.