How To Fish In The Surf (Ultimate guide)

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Fishing in the surf can be a daunting prospect. The waves crashing into the beach or onto the rocks, it’s enough to turn even experienced anglers around. But by learning How To Fish In The Surf, using the right equipment, the right bait, and a few tips and techniques, surf fishing can and is a great experience.


How To Fish In The Surf And Catch More


If you love your surf fishing, how about stepping it up a bit and trying using lures? For a great selection of lures for surf fishing check out my post at Surf Fishing Lures Guaranteed to Catch More Fish


How to fish in the surf?


The simple answer is to have the right equipment. A good surf fishing rod is the difference between getting out to the fish, and not getting past the breakers. A good rod doesn’t have to be that expensive. You will find quite a few good-quality surf rods at reasonable prices, which is what you need if you are just starting.

Below, I have answered some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to surf fishing.




  1. What is a surf fishing rod?
  2. Is surf fishing dangerous?
  3. What is the best time to surf fish?
  4. How do you improve surf fishing?
  5. How far out should I cast?
  6. Should I use Braid, Mono, or Fluorocarbon?
  7. A few last tips



What is a surf fishing rod?


A surfcasting rod is a type of fishing rod designed to be fished from the beach or rocks.
These rods can be anything from 7ft to 18ft, but any medium to medium-hard rod between 7ft and 10ft is all you need to start. I would recommend getting a combo to start, rather than trying to pair them up yourself.


Is surf fishing dangerous?


If you are fishing off a beach, then the risk is quite low. You always have a solid place to stand, just be careful of small drop-offs just at the water line that maybe you can’t see. It can be extremely dangerous when fishing from the rocks if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. Always keep one eye on the water.

Every year, thousands of people have washed off rocks while fishing. Unfortunately, some of these don’t make it back to shore. The main reason this happens is because of rouge waves These can happen at any time, so keep your eyes on the water, and always fish with a friend.


Rock Fishing


What is the best time to surf fish?


Surf fishing, like any fishing, is best done at dawn and dusk. This isn’t the only time you will catch fish but increases your chances. These aren’t the only factors, however. The change of tide is always a good time to fish, whether it is high to low or vice versa. Combine this with dawn or dusk, and you are almost guaranteed to catch fish.

If you are targeting Salmon, Taylor, Herring, or Whiting, early morning till about 10 am is your best chance. If you target fish like mulloway and sharks, dusk is your best choice.


How do you improve surf fishing?


This question is a bit harder to answer. Having the right gear helps, but if you don’t have a bit of knowledge the best gear in the world won’t help. Talk to locals, they are your best sauce of information. Failing that, you can try a few of these.


1. Harden Up Baits


Using soft baits such as pilchards or mules is great for larger fish like a tailor, mulloway, salmon, or gummy sharks because they are so oily. Unfortunately, these baits don’t take long to be stripped by small picking fish such as whiting or herring.

Using salted baits is one way to get around these problems. Pilchards can be salted by yourself or many places sell them pre-salted. Another option is to try using ghost cotton. This thin, white cotton should be available at your local tackle store.

Ghost cotton can be wrapped around the bait a few times to hold it together and to keep it tighter on the hook, in turn strengthening your bait.


2. Pick Your Spots


A bit of research or even some reconnaissance of the beach you’re going to fish from a can, and will greatly increase the likelihood of finding fish when you put a line in the water

Checking a beach at low tide or on a calm day can help reveal how the beach currents behave, where the gutters, holes, rocks, or reefs are, and where you should fish. If planning a night fishing session, visit the beach during the day to identify likely spots.

Once found, pick your car park and then work out how far to travel from your car to your spot.


Locating Fish


3. Get some goodPolarized glasses


This might seem like a given, but it’s not something people think about as much when fishing from the beach. If you can identify any gutters or holes along the beach you’re fishing, you will increase your chances of catching good fish.

A good pair of Polarized Sunglasses will help you identify likely spots to fish like gutters, reefs, weedy outcrops, where the edge of dirty water lines, or even a river mouth. They can also help you spot schools of fish like salmon or baitfish.

Some of the best-polarized sunglasses I have found are made by Cosa Del Mar. Head over to my post at Costa Del Mar Men Blackfin 580p Round Sunglasses: Review  To see my review on these great sunglasses.

If these don’t take your fancy, I have done some research and found the best for all budgets. You can see my findings at Polarized Sunglasses (The Best 10 For All Budgets)


4. Learn some good rigs and knots


You might have done all the work, found a great spot, got some good gear, and hardened your baits up, but if you don’t use the right rig, you won’t catch anything. Take the time to learn a few good ones for surf fishing.

While you’re at it, brush up on your knots, as a good knot can mean the difference between having a feed to fish for dinner, and just feeding the fish yourself. To learn some great knots and rigs Check out my posts on The Best Fishing Knots And How To Tie Them, and Surf Fishing Rigs That Will Catch More Fish.


How far out should I cast?


Most people think that the further you cast, the more chance you have of catching a good fish. This can’t be further from the truth. The fish you are chance could be at your feet in a gutter just offshore. This is why you need to know your spot (Tip 2) and have some good polarized sunglasses (Tip 3)

As fish tend to congregate around structures and drop-offs, you need to find these locations to better your chances. These locations can sometimes be quite close to the shoreline, or they can be at the back of your fishing location.


Should I use Braid, Mono, or Fluorocarbon?


First, you need to understand the characteristics of each line type.




Braid has no stretch, which does make setting the sinker difficult in large or heavy wave actions, this can also increase the chance of being snapped off if you receive a heavy hit from a fish. The less abrasive nature means you are more likely to be snapped off on rocks or reefs. On the positive side, the line itself is more sensitive to smaller bites, isn’t impacted by large waves, and will increase your casting distance.




Monofilament lines can circumvent these problems but in return, you can lose bite sensitivity and casting distance. Also, while the flexibility of mono will allow for some give through the impact of a wave, its larger diameter, can create issues. Due to the larger diameter, the line tends to catch more of the wave impact as well as currents. Mono is more abrasive than braid and will give you a better chance when taken into rock and reef.




Fluorocarbon gives you the best of both worlds. It has very little stretch, but enough to allow you to set the sinker properly. That bit of stretch comes in handy when receiving hard hits from big fish, with it less likely to break than braid.

This line has great abrasive qualities and will survive that run into the rocks or reef. Being of a thinner diameter than mono, you get greater casting distance and aren’t as affected by waved as much.

All of my beach and surf outfits have been changed to fluro line, and the difference is remarkable. My catch rate has gone up significantly. I can’t believe it took me this long to make the change.

For a comprehensive guide to the differences between these two, check out my post Is Fluorocarbon Better Than Monofilament?’


Fishing line


A few last tips


  • Always clean your gear afterward. Saltwater and metal don’t mix.
  • Don’t use half-dead bait. The fresher the bait is and the better it looks to you, the better it will look to the fish.
  • Use a good quality line when surf fishing.
  • Learn more about swell and wave activity to understand it betters especially if fishing off rocks.
  • If you’re having trouble getting distance, try changing your line, rig ( try a slider bait), and sinker type ( impact sinkers are great)
  • A bit of plastic pipe pushed into the sand is a great rod holder
  • Watch for bird activity to indicate the presence of baitfish


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To Wrap Up


Throughout this post, I have given you plenty of great advice to get you started. If you would like to dive even deeper into the wonderful world of fishing in the surf check out Surf Fishing – The quick start guild to this exciting sport.

Well, I hope you have learned a few things while reading this that will hopefully increase your chances of catching fish next time you go surfing or fishing. Remember, be safe out there. Waves, swell and currents can be very dangerous, so always fish with a friend. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. As Always

Tight Lines

Tony, Creator of Geet Reel Fishin

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