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Surf Fisherman

Surf fishing is the sport of catching fish standing on the shoreline or wading in the surf. A general term, surf fishing may or may not include casting a lure or bait, and refers to all types of shore fishing - from sandy and rocky beaches, rock jetties, or even fishing piers. The terms surfcasting or beachcasting refer more specifically to surf fishing from the beach by casting into the surf at or near the shoreline. With few exceptions, surf fishing is done in saltwater.

Contents

Equipment

The basic idea of most surfcasting is to cast a bait or lure as far out into the water as is necessary to reach the target fish from the shore. This may or may not require long casting distances. Basic surf fishing can be done with a fishing rod between seven and twelve feet long, with an extended butt section, equipped with a suitably-sized spinning or conventional casting fishing reel. In addition to rod and reel, the surf fisherman needs terminal tackle and bait or lure. Terminal tackle is the equipment at the far end of the line: hooks, swivels, lines and leaders.

Dedicated surfcasters usually possess an array of terminal and other tackle, with fishing rods and reels of different lengths and actions, and lures and baits of different weights and capabilities. Depending on fishing conditions and the type of fish they are trying to catch, such surfcasters tailor bait and terminal tackle to rod and reel and the size and species of fish targeted. Reels and other equipment need to be constructed so they resist the corrosive and abrasive effects of salt and sand.

Surf fishermen who use artificial lures, cast and retrieve them to entice a bite from the target species. There are hundreds of different lures effective for surf fishing, such as spoons, plugs, soft plastics and jigs. Most can be purchased from local bait and tackle shops, online tackle retailers, at fishing tackle expositions or specialized surf fishing catalogs. Most surfcasters carry with them a “surf bag” which holds a selection of lures to facilitate fast changes of lures appropriate to current fishing conditions, saving trips back to the beach or vehicle to change equipment.

Several other items of equipment are commonly used by surf fisherman and surfcasters to improve comfort, convenience and effectiveness. Among these are waders, used to wade out into the surf to gain distance from shore when casting the bait. Full length, chest-high waders are most popular, in order to provide a measure of protection against a pounding surf that could easily swamp hip-length wading boots. In addition to the extra reach provided by wading out from shore, waders provide improved footing, protection for feet and legs from sharp bottom objects and stinging/biting fish and crustaceans, and protection from cold water temperatures. Most surf fishermen prefer integrated booted waders to stocking-foot models, which eliminates the tendency of sand and rock to find their way in between boot and wader. In areas where the bottom consists of slippery rocks or when fishing from mossy and slimy rock jetties, cleated boots or attachments(such as Korkers) are utilized to improve footing and enhance safety.

Surf fishing is done often at night to follow the nocturnal feeding habits of many target species. Many surf fishermen add items such as flashlights, headlamps, light sticks and other gear to facilitate night fishing.

Surfcasting

See also: Casting

Surfcasting is a casting technique which separates the surfcaster from the ordinary pier or boat fisherman. Specialized, two-handed casting techniques are used to cast the lure or bait the added distances required in many cases to reach feeding inshore fish. In these casts the entire body, rather than just the arms, are utilized to deliver the cast. In addition to standard two-handed casts, veteran surfcasters may also resort to the pendulum cast (derived from tournament casting contests) to achieve added distance - in some cases exceeding 700 feet.

Beachcasting

In Britain, surfcasting is often called beachcasting. It is a popular form of fishing which is carried out all around the coast of the British Isles. Beachcasters use very long fishing rods, usually between 12 and 16 feet. The beachcaster will stand on a beach or shoreline and cast out to sea with either a water filled float, or a lead weight weighing between 120g and 200g. Bait used in this form of fishing might include limpets, mussels, lugworm, ragworm, sandeel, mackerel strip, squid, peeler crab or razor fish. Additionally, artificial flies or even spinners may be used for species such as mackerel or bass. It is a common pastime in coastal areas of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland and often results in the capture of large specimens of many species of fish, including: flatfish, bass, cod, whiting, pollack, black bream, dogfish, smooth hound, bull huss, rays and tope.

Dangers

As with any water sport care must be taken to participate safely in this sport. Much surf fishing is done in rough whitewater surf conditions. Powerful waves and strong undertows can cause serious injury or death if proper attention is not paid to safety.

Areas fished should be scouted in low tide conditions to note sudden drop offs or dangerous conditions hidden at high tides. Any fisherman with waders should wear a wader belt to keep waders from filling with water in the event one falls in the surf. The aforementioned cleats should be worn anywhere there are slippery rocks or shells underfoot. PFD's (personal flotation devices) should be considered especially when fishing alone in big surf or on jetties.

Since lures and hooks feature razor sharp points, care must be taken not to hook oneself or others when casting, especially when performing two-handed full power casts that require a substantial safety zone behind the surfcaster. In the event that one accidentally hooks oneself or someone else, it is a good idea to carry a quality cutting pliers capable of cutting the hooks you are fishing with.

Species

A wide array of species can be targeted from surf and shore limited only the species of fish available in the region. In the eastern coast of the US, the striped bass is highly valued. This species can be fished from shore and ranges in weight from a few pounds to the world record 78.5 lb (35.6 kg). Fish in the 30 to 40 lb (15 kg) range are common on the mid-Atlantic US coast from New York to the Carolinas. Some other available species are bluefish, redfish (red drum), black drum, tautog (blackfish), flounder (fluke), weakfish (sea trout), bonita and albacore tuna, pompano, Spanish mackerel, snook and tarpon. Even sharks can be targeted by surf fishermen.

Beach buggies

Many areas allow four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles on to the beach. This allows the surf fisherman to scout and fish large stretches of shoreline. Although the term "beach buggy" may be applied to special vehicles for transportation on sand, 4x4 trucks and SUV's with deflated tires are more often used in surf fishing. Permits are usually required and need to be obtained from the appropriate state or local authorities. Most require an additional list of safety and other equipment, sometimes called Beach Permit Kits to ensure that the vehicle and its inhabitants can safely navigate the soft sand and are prepared in the event the vehicle gets stuck. Beach Buggy access can be hindered at times by beach closures, due to endangered bird species nesting. Beach buggy access is often hotly contested between environmental groups, and beach access enthusiasts. Therefore it is a good idea to check on local regulations before you attempt to drive your vehicle on the beach. Driving in restricted areas can result in serious penalties.

See also

References

  • Arra,R, Garfield, C and Bryant,N (2001) The Ultimate Guide to Surfcasting. The Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1585742998
  • Ristori, Al (2008)The Complete Book of Surf Fishing. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1602392472
  • Rosko, Milt (2004) The Surfcaster's Guide to Baits, Rigs & Lures. Burford Books. ISBN 978-1580801188
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