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Best Surf Fishing Reels

Best Surf Fishing Reels 2021 – [Buyer’s Guide]

Choosing the best surf fishing reel means matching your reel to a rod with the correct power rating and action will allow you to make pin point casts out beyond the crashing surf.

Most anglers will choose a spinning setup but for really long distance casting a baitcast or conventional reel can be the better option particularly if you are using very heavy rigs.

If you are just stating out with surf casting then I would advise a spinning reel as baitcast/conventional reels do have a steeper learning curve than a spinning reel.

A spinning reel will also cast lighter weights easier than a conventional reel assuming you have it spooled correctly with the right line.

What Size Reel for Surf Fishing?

A 5000 or 6000 is the best size reel for surf fishing assuming you are not targeting very large species like shark from the shore.

If you are fishing very light setups from the beach then your performance may be better on a size 4000, but this would be for very light tackle fishing.

Just because you might be targeting smaller species does not mean that a larger species won’t take your bait and having a decent sized reel with a larger spool is the safer option.

Best Surf Fishing Reels

1. Penn Spinfisher VI

Penn have a well earned reputation for building some of the best reels for surf casting.

The Spinfisher VI builds on a strong heritage as the sixth and newest update in it’s Spinfisher line of reels

Penn is so sure of the Spinfisher VI’s ability to resist salt water that they say it doesn’t need to be washed in fresh water after usage.

I’m not sure about you, but I’d still rinse any reel as a precaution.

Penn’s build quality has become legendary, and they have almost written the book on how big saltwater fishing reels should be designed.

The Spinfisher VI differs from the V in that it has better CNC gear technology and IPX5 sealing.

The IPX rating is a standard that defines a product’s water proof and water resistant characteristics.

In contrast, the more costly Penn Slammer III mentioned below has an IPX6 rating.

The 2500 to 5500 have an automated bail trip, which means that after casting, you just spin the handle and the bail flips back into place, while the 6500 and above have a manual bail closure only.

The true draw of the Spinfisher is its HT-100 carbon fiber drag, which is protected by a fully sealed spool and stays silky smooth under strain even after extended usage.

There are also several bail-less models available.

The best surf casting reel for the money hands down!

2. Daiwa Saltist

The Daiwa Saltist is one of the most popular salt water reels and you’ll see them used in various sizes for just about any style of fishing.

They are used extensively in the smaller sizes for casting off of piers and jetties.

As a surf fishing reel they are great for light to medium sized setups and due to their fast retrieve can haul in line quickly when needed.

Because of how nicely the Saltist is constructed, the lesser sizes are a bit hefty for all-day casting.

Daiwa has put a lot of effort into making the Saltist as resistant to the corrosive effects of salt water as possible. Once salt water seeps into the housing and bearings of a reel, it will damage it; always clean your reels in fresh water as quickly as possible after usage.

With the exception of the watertight Carbon ATD Drag, the Saltist is almost entirely made of metal. There are no expensive or unusual materials used, just sound engineering and very tight tolerances.

The eight main bearings and one anti-reverse bearing are constructed of a corrosion-resistant stainless steel.

When it comes to surf casting, a 5000 or 6500 is the way to go since you get a lot of line capacity coupled with a significant increase in retrieve rate when compared to the smaller models in the range.

3. PENN Squall II Star Drag Conventional Fishing Reel

If you are looking for a conventional baitcast reel for surf casting then one of the best reels to use as a beginner is the Penn Squall II Star Drag.

Star drag reels do not have a level-wind system in place that you will find on larger reels that are more geared towards trolling and jigging.

The removal of the level wind system means that there is less friction running on the spool as you are casting.

Ideally you want the spool to completely disengage from all the internal gears when casting, this is often referred to as free spooling.

A free running spool will give you the very best casting performance.

There is a learning curve with no level wind reels as you need to lay the line down in an even manner with your thumb as you retrieve. The better you get at this over time the easier the line will run off the spool when you cast.

Like most conventional beach casting reels with the Penn Squall II you will need to tweak and adjust the drag initially to get the very best performance.

If you are new to conventional reels then you should spend a full day tweaking your set so that you have the best settings for the size of weights you will be throwing.

The Squall II has a graphite frame to save on weight unlike the larger Fathom that has an all metal design.

Graphite does not suffer from corrosion in saltwater as metal frames do although they will not be quite as strong as an all metal design, for most surf casters this is not an issue.

The Squall Star Drag employs six shielded stainless steel ball bearings that are protected from saltwater infiltration and intended to resist saltwater corrosion if they do get wet.

To prevent the spool from reversing under pressure, a single anti-reverse bearing is utilized, which is backed up by a quiet ratchet mechanism that employs a conventional dog.

The Squall Star Drag’s magnetic braking mechanism is adjusted through a dial, which is preferred than a slider since it reduces the possibility of seawater infiltration. This is only available on the models 12 and 15.

Penn’s Versa-Drag system is made of extremely durable carbon fiber and provides a very smooth drag. The HT-100 drag washers on these reels give between 15 and 20 pounds of drag. The HT-100 drag washers have been proven to resist pulling 100 miles of line from the reel, which is a lot of line.

A great conventional surf casting reel for beginners.

4. Penn Slammer III

The Slammer III is the third model in Penn’s highly popular Slammer series of saltwater spinning reels. It is designed with corrosion resistance in mind.

The Slammer III is the third model in Penn’s highly popular Slammer series of saltwater spinning reels. It is designed with corrosion resistance in mind.

Penn has gone to considerable lengths in terms of construction, design, and material selection when it comes to the Slammer’s components.

These reels are designed for both hard surf casting and bigger heavy spinning rigs on offshore charter vessels targeting larger species.

These reels, which range in size from 3500 to a whopping 10500, feature large spools for storing a lot of line and an extremely strong drag mechanism.

The size 10500 is the largest in the series, with a whopping 60 lbs of maximum drag force, which is extremely enormous for an open face reel.

They have 6 stainless steel ball bearings, CNC machined internal solid brass gears, a very strong low flex reel housing/body, and an IPX6 sealing system that keeps virtually any seawater out.

The big versions have a 4.2:1 gear ratio, whereas the smaller ones have a 6.2:1 ratio.

If you’re searching for a tough spinning reel for shark fishing, the Pen Slammer III is the reel for you.

5. Shimano Ultegra XTD Surf Reel

The Ultegra XTD from Shimano is a purpose built spinning reel for long distance surf casting.

These make a great entry level surf reel and as they come with two spools a very versatile one too.

You could run two different surf rods with this reel one for heavier work and one for lighter.

For the price they are not as well sealed as some of the higher end offerings from Penn above so make sure that you do not dunk them in the water or if you do make sure to rinse it thoroughly and regularly clean and service it.

It also comes with a spare spool and spool shims that allow you to add lighter line to the spool without having to load it up with double the amount of line.

The shims make the center of the spool wider allowing you to use the spare spool for lighter surf setups, yet you still get the advantage of the extra wide spool casting performance.

So as an example you can run one spool with 40lb line and the other with 20lb which should cover most surf fishing scenario’s.

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Surf Fishing for Pompano

Surf Fishing for Pompano

Pompano are one of the most sought-after species of saltwater fish that surf fishing anglers love to catch. These relatively small game fish come into the shallow waters near the beach in droves each year at certain times that are referred to as the ‘pompano run.’

They are considered to be among the best tasting fish in the ocean by many and can be caught with relative ease when they are in season.

Experienced surf fishing anglers know that pompano are pound-for-pound one of the strongest fish in the ocean. They have a reputation for putting up some of the hardest fights of any small to medium-sized fish that you can catch in the surf.

In this article, we will discuss pompano and what strategies and tactics anglers should use to catch this unique species in the surf.

Best Time to Catch Pompano in the Surf

Pompano are known as a migratory fish that only come near the shoreline when the water conditions and temperatures are just right.

Pompano will make their way through the Caribbean Islands during the late winter or early spring months and eventually work their way up into the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coastline.

Every movement that the pompano makes is determined by the water temperature. These fish move when the water is more favorable to them and will settle in an area for a short amount of time before moving on.

For the most part, pompano will look for waters that are about 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit as this is the most comfortable for them.

They are also able to find adequate amounts of food in these warmer waters and their diet depends on the many different types of small crabs, sand fleas, and other crustaceans in a given area.

You can usually time the pompano run by keeping track of what the water temperature will be in a certain area.

If you follow fishing reports for certain regions from the Carribean up to the southeastern United States coastline, you’ll see that the pompano will slowly work their way up to their eventual destination, which is along the southern half of the Atlantic coast, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.

They will hang out specifically in tropical waters during the cold winter months as this area is much more comfortable for them to stay in.

The best months for most of the southeastern United States are usually around late March, April and into May.

They will also be moving from north to south in the fall, when there is another pompano run along coastal areas of the eastern United States and the Gulf states.

When discussing the best time of day to catch pompano, the same strategies and tactics that are applied to other fish species will be helpful. Most anglers have the best success surf fishing for pompano just after sunrise or before sunset.

Also Read: Surf fishing at Night

These fish will cruise around the surf in search of their next meal and ambush their prey before they can burrow down into the sand.

Another very pivotal factor that will determine pompano activity is the tide. These fish will use the rising or falling tides to hunt for their food, which can be found in the small stretches of beach that are subject to the rising tide.

In fact, pompano are known to swim up very shallow, almost to the shoreline of any beach as they repeatedly try to corner sand fleas, crabs and other creatures.

Pompano are more active when the surf is higher and a bit more rough than usual. This is because the harder-hitting waves help to expose small creatures that are easy prey for these fish.

Also Read: Best Tide for Surf Fishing

As the rising tide rushes in and catches some small crabs and other hard-shelled or soft-shelled species, pompano like to take full advantage of the opportunity and hunt in this rushing tide along the beach.

Best Locations for Catching Pompano in the Surf

Having success when surf fishing for pompano depends on a number of factors that can quickly change. Pompano are known for being a very finicky fish, meaning they will only try to eat certain types of prey at specific times.

They are continuously moving to other areas depending on whether the water along a particular stretch of beach has the right salinity level, pH balance, and many other factors.

Pompano usually visit the same locations at the same relative time each year, due to their migratory behavior. If the local anglers already know when to predict that the pompano will show up in their given area, you can usually rest assured that this information will be correct, or very close to the specific time and place where you can catch pompano.

Once the water temperature reaches about 70 degrees in a given area, you can bet that it won’t be long before pompano show up in huge numbers.

They will often pick a location clean of certain types of food and will usually move on to a new location where the food source is relatively plentiful.

Pompano will usually remain around the coastline in the surf or very close to the shore along most beaches. They prefer hanging out in or very close to certain types of structure along the beach if there is any.

These types of structure can be anything from a pile of rocks to a steep ledge where the depth changes very rapidly.

If the water temperature gets too hot for them, they might temporarily retreat to the deeper waters near the shore, but won’t usually remain there for very long as their main food sources are closer to the beach.

Also Read: Surf Fishing for Redfish

You’ll almost always find pompano along sandy sea bottoms where there is little or no seaweed or other vegetation. They will roam around an area in a small pack or school, looking for exposed shellfish or other creatures along the bottom that could serve as an easy meal for these fish.

Casting your surf bait along the sandy bottom instead of very close to any sort of structure is likely to be your best bet for catching pompano that are actively hunting and searching for their next meal.

Also Read: Are Pompano Good to Eat?

If you can find sandbars along the beach, you can usually bet that there will be pompano somewhere in the vicinity. This is due to the fact that they will aggressively hunt the small shellfish, crabs and other creatures that live along these sand bars. You also don’t have to worry about casting your line out to a significant distance to catch pompano.

They will most often be found within about 60 feet of any shoreline or shallow sand bar area. Pompano will usually hang around these sand bars and wait for the waves to pound against the sand to expose the small creatures that make up most of their diet.

Best Rigs to Catch Pompano in the Surf

Catching pompano involves using the same basic surf fishing setup you might normally go with for just about any other fish. You can get away with using light tackle and fishing line in some cases, but your choice of bait and hooks is very simple when it comes to catching pompano in the surf.

You’ll want to use a 1/0 circle hook for any type of bait you use when pompano fishing. This is due to the simple fact that their mouths are relatively small and they won’t be able to get larger-sized hooks inside their mouths. If you’re using a 3/0 or 4/0 size circle hook, you will likely miss a majority of the bites you get as the pompano will usually just pull the bait off the hook.

It’s also very important to use a pyramid sinker that will burrow down into the sand and keep your bait in place. These sinkers can range in sizes from a 1 ounce to about a 4 ounce pyramid sinker.

Be sure to secure your rod with a sand spike or rod holder as these fish will aggressively strike and are known to pull a rod out to sea very quickly if the angler is not paying close attention.

Also Read: Best Surf Fishing Rods

It’s best to rig up a few different rods at certain distances from the shore and have them all set up to catch any pompano schools that run into the area.

If you do happen to catch one pompano on a rod, be aware of your other rigs as these fish run in schools. This means when you catch one, you’re likely to catch a few others in short succession.


Pompano fishing can be one of the most exciting species to catch in the surf. On a good day, it’s not uncommon to catch your limit of pompano in just a couple hours.

Also Read: Permit vs Pompano

You can expect them to fight vigorously and they make for excellent table fare. The key to catching pompano from the surf is knowing when these fish will be making their way through your neck of the woods.

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Best Tide for Surf Fishing

Best Tide for Surf Fishing

The success of any surf fishing trip is almost always decided by the state of the tide at the particular time when you are fishing.

Regardless of the bait, tackle or tactics you use, it can be rendered ineffective if the tide is not at a suitable level or is shifting in a way that fish don’t like.

The most experienced surf anglers know that most of the different game fish species rely on the changing levels of the surf or its intensity to give them the chance to ambush certain prey.

According to most surf fishing anglers, high tide is usually considered to be the best for just about any species as they will use the heightened water level to devour sand fleas and many other types of small bait fish that are caught unaware by predators.

By waiting on this tide, you’ll greatly increase your chances of success when fishing for virtually any saltwater game fish species.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the best tide for surf fishing and help explain why certain times of the day or even the seasons out of the year can have quite a bit of bearing on whether you will successfully catch the fish you’re after.

Understanding Tide Movement

The key to grasping just when you’ll need to time your next surf fishing trip depends on a number of factors that you should pay close attention to. The tide shifts four times per day across the span of the Earth.

This shift is caused by the sun and moon, but is actually stronger when the moon is near due to the fact that the moon is much closer and its gravitational pull affects the water’s of the oceans to a slight degree that makes the tides rise and fall.

The tide will be low on both sides of the Earth that are farther away from the moon. The moon will actually pull on the Earth’s gravitational field to such a degree that the shape of this pull appears much like an oval surrounding the Earth with the longest end pointing straight towards the moon.

This basically means that at any given time, there are actually two high tides on the Earth: one that is closest to the moon and one that is on the opposite side of the world. Knowing which tide is going to be affecting your region at specific times will help you understand when the tide will be higher or lower due to the movement of the sun and moon.

Using the Tide in Surf Fishing

The best way to understand how the tide will affect your chances of catching the fish you’re after is to study the fish and try to understand how they behave during certain tides.

Some saltwater fish species will sit back and wait on the low tide to force small bait fish into shallow pockets where they can corner fish while other species might utilize the rising tide to capitalize on the element of surprise and ambush their prey while they are disoriented. In either case, the tide always plays a large role in fish behavior.

Also Read: Where to Cast When Surf Fishing

You might not be able to have great success during low tide in some parts of the world, but you can use this time to get a better understanding of what the beach bottom looks like underwater.

The low tide will usually expose some types of structure that are prone to holding fish when the tide is rising. If you take the time to study these structures and depth changes during low tide, you’ll be able to make better use of the high tide.

Is High Tide the Best?

The main question we want to address is whether the high tide is the absolute best time to catch fish in your given area. The answer to that truly depends on the type of fish you’re going after.

There are some species that will use the shifting tides to chase different bait fish and other creatures down and eat them during the changing tides. Most fish that do this will typically be on the bottom of any outgoing tides or the first portion of the incoming tides since these waters will be the most likely spot where small bait fish and other prey will get caught up.

Some fish species will wait until the tides are shifting and prowl along the edge of the rising tide, ambushing various types of aquatic creatures as the water continuously rises until it reaches its high point. Some species that are known for doing this include pompano, croakers, and others that will run bait fish all the way up to dry land in an effort to chase them down.

If you’ve studied the area you’re fishing in thoroughly during low tide, you should be very well acquainted with certain spots that have deep holes, ledges, structure, humps, or really any kind of depth changes that might give you an edge when it comes to specific types of fish.

You can mark these spots on a map, or simply make a mental note of them and return when the tide is rolling in to take advantage of these areas where large predatory fish might frequent.

Understanding what type of creature your target fish will want to hunt will help you in planning when and where you’ll fish. If you’re targeting pompano that are eagerly swimming up into the brim of the high tide trying to devour sand fleas and small crabs, you can anticipate when and where they will be, as well as using the same type of bait that they are looking for in the surf.

In many cases, anglers who target pompano or croaker that are working into the rising tide will use small crab lures or even live crabs to catch these fish.

The Best Tide for Surf Fishing

If you’re wondering when the absolute best tide for surf fishing occurs, you can usually answer that question by looking for when the high tide will be coinciding with the times of dawn or dusk.

As any good surf fishing angler who’s worth his salt knows, fishing is always better at dawn and dusk because the fish will be using the limited amount of daylight to target their prey, as well as the tide.

If you’re able to time it just right, you can sometimes catch the high tide moving in right at dusk or just as the sun is setting in a certain area. This is undoubtedly the best time that you’ll have to catch most types of fish.

The high tide during the spring time is also viewed as being significantly advantageous for surf fishing for a few good reasons. The water level will usually be higher during the spring months, which means the water levels will rise even more and sometimes at a more rapid pace than usual.

This high influx of water can cause the perfect conditions for anglers who are willing to get up early and brave the chilly temperatures to target these fish along the beach as the tide is shifting.

Various types of fish species often rely on the changing tides to help them hunt down their prey and find their next meal. Without it, hunting would be much more difficult and they would have a much tougher time trying to survive.

Planning to Fish the High Tide

As we’ve noted, you’ll have increased success by fishing during high tide. This means that you’ll actually need to be on the beach fishing when the water starts moving in and also when it’s moving back out toward the sea.

If the high tide is predicted to be 6 a.m., you should start fishing at least by 5 a.m. or earlier and plan on fishing for a few hours in order to thoroughly fish through the rising of the tide.


When it comes to finding the best tides to fish in the surf, planning is key. By using the low tide to get a good grasp on what type of structure will be submerged during high tide, you can plan accordingly and maximize your efforts.

Pay special attention to charts and other data that might indicate when your area will be experiencing the first high tide, which is the highest, or the second high tide.

The best way to learn how the tides affect your fishing is to practice and take into consideration the lessons you learn as you fish the high or low tides. Doing this will make you a better angler and help increase your catch rate quite a bit.

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Best Surf Fishing Baits

Best Surf Fishing Baits

Surf fishing is nothing like any other form of angling. It requires the use of gear and tackle that are very different from fishing in lakes and rivers, and even tackle that’s unlike what you might use when fishing many miles offshore.

Fishing in the crashing waves creates an environment that makes small bait fish and other creatures disoriented and sometimes confused, making it easier for larger predatory fish to take advantage and make an easy meal out of them.

Most anglers know what bait will work for fishing offshore or even along the inlets and channels near the beach, but understanding what type of baits are best for fishing in the surf can be a bit confusing.

There are a number of other variables that come into play when you’re surf fishing, but nothing you do will be productive if you’re using the wrong type of bait.

Best Surf Fishing Baits

In this article, we will lay out some of the best surf fishing baits for most species of saltwater game fish that are usually caught along most beaches, as well as how to use each type of bait to heighten your chances of catching fish in the surf along your favorite shoreline.

1. Shrimp

Almost any type of fish that can be found prowling the waters along most shorelines will feed one shrimp if they have the opportunity to. In fact, some of the more popular types of saltwater species that are usually caught in the surf prefer shrimp over almost any other type of bait you could possibly use.

They are known to be hard to keep on the hook at times, but shrimp are the perfect type of bait for beginners and novice anglers who are just getting started in surf fishing.

One of the major advantages of using shrimp is that you can catch a huge variety of fish on them. You’ll also likely not have any trouble finding shrimp at your local bait shop or other places that sell bait because they are one of the most readily-available types of bait when it comes to saltwater fishing.

You can purchase them frozen or live, depending on what type of fish you’re going after throughout the year.

Fresh shrimp are much better than frozen shrimp when it comes to surf fishing because the fish that do feed on these small sea creatures will be attracted to the look and smell of the live shrimp in the water.

There are a wide variety of different ways you can rig shrimp and virtually any sort of surf fishing rig will be productive when using shrimp as your bait.

2. Fish Bites

Our second choice among the best surf fishing baits is one that most anglers might not select based on the simple fact that they don’t look like what you might typically use to catch saltwater fish.

Most beginner anglers might view this type of bait with suspicion, but they are actually very capable of catching a huge variety of fish in the surf. One of the main advantages of using Fish Bites is their ability to stay on the hook no matter how rough the seas might get.

Fish Bites can be found at virtually any bait shop or online retailer and come in a large variety of different colors. Some colors are better suited for certain species at specific times of the year, but colors like pink and orange are considered a great choice for year-round fishing for fish in the surf.

You can also use Fish Bites with other types of bait on the same hook. Some anglers will use fish bites as a trailer behind other types of saltwater fishing baits.

You won’t have to worry about keeping them alive, or dealing with bloody, slimy cuts of flesh or other types of creatures, which is another major reason why so many beginners should try this type of bait first before moving on to more complicated options.

As for the rigging of Fish Bites, there really is no wrong way to fish with these small slivers of rubbery material.

Some anglers might cut them into small strips or squares if they’re fishing for smaller species while others often use two of the normal Fish Bites strips on their hooks to attract larger fish to bite. Fish Bites are an excellent choice for species like redfish, pompano, and many others in the surf.

3. Sand Fleas

One of the most prevalent types of bait that avid surf anglers will use is sand fleas. These small crab-like creatures are somewhat of a mystery to novice anglers as they can be difficult to find or catch, as well as tough to place on a hook.

However, if you follow certain instructions related to using sand fleas, you’ll be certain to have great success in catching almost any type of saltwater fish species.

These small creatures are what you normally see quickly burrowing down into the sand when the waves recede along the beach. If you’re fast enough and have a solid small net, you can often dig down quickly and catch these critters before they burrow down too far.

Live sand fleas are without a doubt one of the best surf fishing baits you can possibly use, but they are incredibly difficult for new anglers to find and catch.

Also Read: Best Surf Rods

You can also find sand fleas at most bait shops near areas where surf fishing is popular. Fish that swim along the shoreline and come close to the waterline are usually hunting for sand fleas, so fishing with them will be a major advantage over other anglers who might be using different baits.

You can expect to catch pompano, redfish, whiting, and other fish with these small, but unique creatures.

They can be hard to hook if you’re unfamiliar with them, but you can’t go wrong by boring the hook down through the shell on either the head or the tail end of the sand flea. Once hooked, they will usually remain on the hook better than most other types of surf fishing bait.

4. Cut Bait

Another one of the best types of surf fishing baits is cut bait. This can be virtually any type of bait fish that’s cut into small strips that are more easy to use as they are easy to hook and attract literally any type of fish that are nearby.

One of the only downsides to using cut bait is that they won’t always stay on the hook very well. Avid surf anglers will often salt their cut bait down the day before their fishing trip in an effort to tighten up the skin and meat, which makes them stay on the hook longer.

One of the best types of cut bait are mullet and herring, as well as a variety of other species of small fish. You can fish cut bait in sections that are as large as you want. Using a larger piece of cut bait will obviously be better for catching bigger saltwater species in the surf.

When you’re buying cut bait or using your own catch to cut into strips, be sure that the meat isn’t too soft or it will fall off the hook too easily and be very difficult to cast.

Cut bait is a great choice if you’re looking to catch mackerel, striped bass, black and red drum, snook, and other species.

5. Squid

One of the other best types of surf fishing baits that is slightly less popular than the ones we’ve mentioned already is squid.

These small creatures are excellent choices of bait for beginners as their flesh is very tough and you’ll have no problem keeping them on the hook as you cast your rig out into the waves.

You will get ink and slime on your hands, so be ready to carry a rag with you or other materials to keep your hands clean so you don’t get your rod and reel too messy.

Also Read: Best Surf Reels

You can cut squid into small strips if you plan to target smaller species of fish, or use larger squid and bigger hooks to go after sharks and other big predators that come close to the shoreline.

There are a wide variety of different ways you can rig squid, but some of the most productive methods involve rigging that will keep your bait off the bottom and up where fish can see if more easily.

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Shock Leaders for Surf Fishing

Shock Leaders for Surf Fishing

If you’re not very well-versed in the world of surf fishing, some of the tackle and gear used, as well as the strategies, might be totally foreign to even the most skilled anglers.

There are a number of different strategies and tactics used in surf fishing that don’t apply at all to freshwater or even offshore deep sea fishing.

When it comes to the question of whether or not you need to be using a shock leader for surf fishing, there is no truly definitive answer for every scenario.

In some cases, shock leaders are an absolute must-have item among the rest of your gear and tackle while in others, it might not matter that much at all.

Read on if you’re interested in learning more about shock leaders and are wondering whether you should be using one on your next surf fishing trip at the beach.

What is a Shock Leader?

A shock leader is basically a heavier length of line that’s a few feet long and is used to prevent you from breaking your line when casting out into the surf.

You won’t have to use a shock leader for freshwater fishing or even fishing along the saltwater inlets and offshore reefs out on the ocean. These are exclusively used by surf fishing anglers and they play a major role in the overall function of a surf fishing rig.

Surf fishing often requires making very hard casts to get the bait out as far as possible. Anglers will use surf fishing rods that are longer and better suited for catapulting their rig out well over a hundred feet or more into the ocean.

Having a shock leader helps to absorb the extreme amount of pressure caused by a heavy rig that consists of a baited hook and sinker.

Shock leaders are usually a few feet in length, up to about 40 or 50 feet in some cases depending on what the angler is targeting and the weight of their rig.

Another way that a shock leader helps improve your overall performance on the water is by protecting your main line that is spooled onto your surf reel from developing any abrasions or nicks that could cause your line to snap.

Leader line is often very thick and heavy, with some anglers using well over 100 pound test for surf fishing.

When to Use a Shock Leader

You don’t always have to use a shock leader when surf fishing, but it is something you should certainly consider if you’re using a heavier presentation and trying to cast your surf fishing bait out as far as possible.

Whether or not you’ll need to have a shock leader really depends on what surf gear and tackle you’re using, as well as what kind of fish you’re planning to target.

If you’re using a monofilament line, you’re more than likely going to want to use a shock leader, especially if you’re using a lighter pound test line.

When using any type of fishing line, you want to make sure that your shock leader is at least twice the pound test of the line you’re using. You’ll want to have a shock leader on your rod, unless you’re using a heavier 50 or 60 pound test fishing line.

Mono vs Other Lines

Mono line has more ability to stretch than any other type of fishing line due to its composition and the fact that it’s made of basically one single strand of material.

Having several feet of much heavier line on the end of your main mono fishing line helps to offset the weight capacity and force that you’re putting on the main line and increase its ability to stretch.

This also helps you launch your surf fishing rigs out much farther than you would by simply using only your main monofilament line because the heavier mono leader is usually capable of stretching to a greater degree.

Typically, you won’t need to use a shock leader if you’re using a monofilament line that’s heavier than about 30 pound test. This is true if you’re using a normal-sized rig that’s not overly large or heavy.

If you are fishing with a heavier rig, such as a bigger hook and larger sinker used for species like sharks or other very strong fish, it’s usually a good idea to tie on a shock leader just to make sure you don’t snap your line.

The only instance where you certainly won’t need a shock leader is when you’re using a heavier braided fishing line. Braid is much stronger than mono or fluorocarbon fishing line and is made up of multiple strands of highly durable material.

You shouldn’t expect braided line to have the same stretching capability that mono does, but it is much stronger and will usually hold up well, even if you’re fishing with a heavier rig.

What Size/Length Shock Leader Should You Have?

When it comes to deciding whether or not you really need to be using a shock leader, the answer is usually yes. But how long should the shock leader be? How heavy should the line be?

There are a few rules of thumb that most surf fishing anglers go by to make sure they’re getting the right amount of durability and stretch in their shock leaders.

The first thing you need to calculate is just how much your rig weighs. This includes the sinker, hook, and bait. If you have a solid understanding of the weight, or even just a rough estimate, you can usually count on the fact that you’ll need at least 10 pounds of line strength for every ounce that your rig weighs.

In other words, every ounce you have on your rig translates to an increase in your line test of at least 10 pounds.

If you’re fishing with a 4-ounce rig, you’ll definitely need a shock leader that’s at least 40 pound test monofilament fishing line.

This is virtually true for nearly any rig, no matter how heavy it might be. Always go with a monofilament line as a surf fishing shock leader so that you get the most ability to stretch as you cast.

The length of the shock leader is another common question that anglers have. You certainly don’t want to have a shock leader that’s too short and doesn’t adequately serve its purpose.

Most anglers will use different lengths depending on the type of fish they’re going after or how heavy the line might be, but it’s better to be too long than too short when it comes to shock leaders.

Your shock leader should typically be at least 2 or 3 rod lengths long, or roughly 25 to 30 feet in length. Some anglers will actually measure this length, but most surf fishing enthusiasts rely on a rough estimate to make sure they have the right amount of shock leader for their particular rig.

It’s also very important that you secure your main line to the shock leader very firmly and tie them in a formidable knot to ensure that it won’t break or come loose.


Using a shock leader with your surf fishing rig is not only something that will prevent you from losing your bait, hooks and sinkers. It will also help to make your fishing experience safer for you and everyone around your position.

A line that happens to break when you make a very hard cast out to sea can be extremely dangerous and pose serious risk to anyone that might be in the way.

Shock leaders can save you a huge amount of frustration when you’re fishing around rocky areas with lots of cover as the line will be more capable of withstanding the rough underwater terrain.

By knowing just when you need to have a shock leader, as well as tying on the right kind of shock leader and using the proper amount of line, you’ll greatly increase your angling success along the shoreline and have much more confidence in your equipment and tackle.

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Surf Fishing for Redfish

Surf Fishing for Redfish

Redfish are one of the most popular game fish species along the southern Atlantic and Gulf coast. Many anglers consider them to be among the most exciting fish to catch due to their massive size and aggressive feeding habits at certain times of the year.

Avid anglers will agree that there’s nothing quite like catching bull reds on a topwater plug or other lure during the warmer months when they venture into shallow waters.

Redfish are known by a variety of different nicknames such as red drum, reds, channel bass, spot tails, and many other names depending on the region you’re fishing in.

For much of the coastline along the southeastern United States, redfish can be caught year round in the surf at almost any beach.

Fishing for reds from a boat is a huge advantage as you’ll be able to maneuver back into the inlets and flats where they will congregate in large schools.

However, if you don’t have the luxury of fishing from a boat, you can still have success surf fishing for redfish by using the right approach and the proper rigs.

In this article, we’ll cover the most important tips you’ll need to know when it comes to catching reds in the surf at your favorite beach.

Best Time to Catch Redfish in the Surf

If you’re already familiar with surf fishing, you probably know that it can be quite different from catching fish in the calm, shallow inlets. Redfish will usually venture closer to shore as the weather warms during the early spring.

Having success catching big redfish in the surf comes down to using the right approach and being at the right location at the right time.

Redfish are a migratory species that will move to a new location throughout the year depending on the water temperature. Most of the time, redfish will gravitate toward areas where the water is at least 65 degrees and typically no warmer than about 90 degrees in the midsummer months.

When the water temperature begins to drop, you can expect the redfish to move out of a certain area in search of more comfortable habitat.

In the spring, redfish will begin moving out of the deep water where they’ve been throughout much of the winter months.

As they slowly make their way toward the shoreline of most beaches around the southeast, they will usually stick very close to some type of underwater structure such as reefs, shipwrecks, rocks or other objects.

Grass will begin to spring up in some areas when the water temperature heats up, which creates the ideal spot for redfish to move into. These fish love hiding in tall grass as it allows them to easily blend in and ambush any potential prey at the same time.

Redfish will feed more aggressively during the spring, but the bite will typically slow down when the heat reaches 90 degrees around the month of July.

Once the heat sets in during the summer, redfish will become a bit less active. They will spend most of the day taking cover in or around structures where they can find shade.

They will become much more active in the early morning or just before dark since they will be able to avoid the blazing sun and extreme temperatures.

The fall is when redfish will begin their annual spawning routine. This is widely considered to be the best time of year to target redfish as they will usually feed voraciously on anything they can attack. Reds will venture deeper into inlets and other inshore areas where they will prepare to lay their eggs.

The best time to catch redfish in the surf is anytime from late spring to early fall when they will be roaming the coastline looking for their next meal.

In late fall, when the spawn finally cranks up, you probably won’t have much luck catching redfish from the surf unless it’s a lone bull red making its way back out to the deeper water offshore.

Best Locations for Redfish in the Surf

Like any other stretch of water, you’ll need to be able to properly read the surf in order to determine the best spots where redfish might congregate or pass through.

Since there is rarely any cover for redfish in the surf, you’re more likely to have success in the early morning or late evening when the sun isn’t beaming down on the water.

Avid redfish anglers also know that an overcast day will usually bring cooler temperatures, which can be an outstanding time to catch redfish in the surf.

Redfish will generally prefer waters that are more rough and have harder tow than usual because it’s easier for them to chase down baitfish that can get disoriented by the strong waves and current.

This means that you shouldn’t always assume that the fishing might not be that great when the surf is very high. In fact, the opposite is usually true on most beaches around the southern United States around the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

Also Read: Surf Fishing for Pompano

You’ll want to look for areas where the waves break unevenly along the surf, or where there’s a dark spot in the water. This typically indicates some sort of depth change, which usually draws redfish in where they will set up to ambush small, unsuspecting bait fish as they swim by.

You’ll usually have better luck at times when the tides are shifting since redfish will use this time to take advantage of an easy meal.

If you can find any sort of structure along the beach, you can usually bet that there are redfish holding close to it throughout the day and this will be the best possible area to fish.

Surf Fishing Techniques for Redfish

Redfish won’t venture very far away from ledges and structure along the beach, so you’ll want to cast your rig as close as possible to any type of structure that you deem to be a good spot for reds to congregate. If there is no structure, you can expect redfish to be actively feeding in the surf just off the shoreline.

You don’t have to cast the rig out to a considerable distance to have the best chance at catching redfish. In fact, most avid redfish anglers who commonly fish in the surf say that reds will sometimes be about 20 feet off the shoreline at any given time as they hunt in the surf.

Also Read: Best Surf Reels

For surf fishing, you’ll want to use a pyramid sinker since these will usually do a better job of holding your line in place, no matter how strong the surf gets. Simply attach the pyramid sinker to a snap swivel that you then attach to your main line and you’re ready to hook your bait on the line.

You’ll want to have a heavy barrel swivel tied to the main line that is connected to a heavy leader line using a crimp.

Finally, you’ll want to use a circle hook that’s either 8/0 or 12/0 in size. Anything smaller won’t be able to hook the redfish’s mouth and larger hooks will usually be too big for most redfish to fit in their mouth. The best possible bait you can use is typically cut bait.

According to most avid surf anglers who regularly target redfish, your best bet is to go with porgies, mullet, pinfish, or some other type of small bait fish that redfish will be looking for in the surf. Using these types of bait will appeal to the fish’s sense of smell and they will often work to track down the bait in the surf.

Other Tips

Once you pick your spot for surf fishing for reds, you’ll want to spread your surf fishing rods out about every 20 feet or so, depending on how well you’re able to keep them monitored. Be sure to have the rod holders firmly in the sand as a monster bull red can easily pull the rod holder free and take off with your rod and reel.

Most small to medium-sized reds will run their prey up into the beach to eat them, which means you might see your line moving toward the beach if you have a bite. If this happens, simply wind the slack line up onto the reel and put pressure on the hook to make sure you don’t lose the fish.


Redfish can be one of the most exciting species to catch in the surf. If you stick to these tips and have a good amount of patience, you should be able to land a decent amount of redfish in the early morning, or late evening hours.

Be ready for any size redfish as the big trophy-sized reds will usually be prowling the surf during the early morning hours shortly after sunrise.

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Surf Fishing at Night

Surf Fishing at Night

Surf fishing is something that most anglers consider to be a daytime activity since the tides are shifting at night as it can be difficult to see your rig and line. However, more and more anglers are venturing out under the cover of darkness to catch the many different types of fish that feed after the sun goes down.

There are a number of benefits to fishing at night such as the fact that you can avoid the blazing sunlight and the winds are usually not as bad either. Plus, there aren’t any beach-goers trying to swim in the water, which means that you’re pretty much free to fish anywhere you want along the beach.

If you’re looking to get started surf fishing at night, we’ve compiled this article to give you some of the most basic tips and techniques you’ll need to know in order to be successful.

Best Locations for Surf Fishing at Night

Since you’re fishing at night, you won’t have to contend with beach-goers who are swimming in the water and obstructing some of the best fishing spots in the same way they do during the daytime.

You’re also not having to contend with other anglers who might already have the best locations to fish locked down early in the morning. This is one of the most freeing aspects of surf fishing at night and can serve as a huge advantage to anglers who truly utilize their freedom to fish virtually anywhere on the beach.

Saltwater fish will usually prowl around coastal areas throughout the night in search of various prey that might be swimming among the waves near the beach.

Sharks are also more active at night and surf anglers typically will hook into a few sharks while fishing at night. The best locations for surf fishing at night tend to be relatively the same as the top spots for daytime fishing.

Also Read: Where to Cast When Beach Fishing

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you’re going to be dealing with the changing tide at night, which means water will surge into the shore, covering areas that are usually exposed during the daytime.

This can be a major advantage for anglers who take the time to go out and scout during the daylight hours for a suitable fishing spot that offers significant depth changes or pockets.

As the tide continues to move in, you may have to relocate or simply move your gear and fishing position back a number of feet in order to avoid being soaked.

Be sure to look for areas of the beach that form deep holes or spots where large fish will lurk in wait for unsuspecting bait fish to swim by where they can easily be ambushed.

It’s also very important that you check the weather and be prepared for any potential rain or storms that might move into the area. Storms are known to move very quickly near coastal areas and can come up without much warning, leaving you scrambling to get your gear back to your vehicle or where you’re staying.

Also, keep an eye out for strong winds that could develop as this will certainly make fishing at night much more difficult.

Best Baits to Use for Surf Fishing at Night

When it comes to selecting the best type of bait to use, there are a number of factors that come into play that will determine whether or not you have a successful outing on the beach at night.

As always, it’s very important to do your research prior to arriving at your fishing spot and gaining a more thorough understanding of the different type of fish in the area you’re at, as well as what type of prey those game fish species like to go after at night.

Remember that fish will use their sense of smell to a much greater degree at night as they aren’t able to see as well in the water. Certain surf fishing baits that work during the daytime won’t always prove to be successful under the cover of darkness.

It’s usually a good idea to use baits that are naturally occurring in the area during the specific time of year you’re fishing from the surf. Things like sand fleas, crabs, squid, shrimp, herring, and other cut bait are typically considered to be ideal choices that anglers can’t really go wrong with.

As with any other type of fishing, you’ll want to ‘match the hatch’ and use baits or lures that closely resemble the same thing your target fish are going after. If you’re hoping to catch larger fish like sharks, be sure to rig a larger size bait and hook on your line.

Using the Right Tackle

When it comes to what kind of tackle you’ll need for surf fishing at night, your overall rod selection, as well as line, hooks and sinkers will remain relatively the same as what you’d use during the daytime.

If you’re specifically trying to catch large sized fish like sharks, be sure that you have a rod that’s big and heavy enough to handle fighting a fully-grown shark in the surf.

Since you’ll have much more room and won’t be impeded by beach goers and other anglers for the most part, it’s a good idea to use multiple rods to help maximize your chances of catching fish. Most surf anglers who venture out at night typically use at least two or three rods and some will even have as many as 5 or more per angler.

If you use multiple surf fishing rods, be sure that you’re keeping a very close eye on each rod in order to reel in any fish that happen to bite.

Failing to do so can usually result in the fish running parallel to the shoreline and getting tangled in the other lines you have set in the water, which can be a massive headache and will take loads of time to either untangle or cut the lines and tie all your surf rigs back on.

Other tips for Night Surf Fishing

Fish behavior will be slightly different at night than during the daytime in most areas. Instead of staying well away from the shoreline beyond the breaking waves, fish are much more apt to bite close to the shore.

This means that the usual strategy of casting your rig out as far as possible doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. If you’re using multiple rods, you’ll be best served if you utilize them in such a way as to fish multiple distances from the shoreline with one rod as far out as you can cast and the others set at incrementally shorter distances.

Also Read: Surf Fishing Gear List

Most anglers who have much experience surf fishing at night recommend that it’s best to stay out of areas that have larger waves when possible.

This is a tip that rings true during the daytime, as well as the night, but fish will almost certainly be hunting for potential prey in areas where the waves are a bit more calm. This usually allows them to more easily chase after fleeing bait fish without losing them in the waves.

Be sure to bring along plenty of lights that will properly illuminate your surroundings and help you see your rods and fishing line as well as possible. Having a bright headlamp is a must when it comes to surf fishing at night.

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Surf Fishing for Flounder

Surf Fishing for Flounder

Flounder are one of the most sought after fish along the coastlines of North America. They are known as one of the most unique saltwater game fish in the world as they have a reputation for burrowing down into the sand and waiting on their next meal to swim within reach.

Flounder are specially adapted to hunt in this manner thanks to their eyes being situated on one side of their head.

Despite their freakish appearance, flounder are excellent table fare and many anglers consider them to be among the tastiest of any coastal fish species.

Flounder fishing involves utilizing certain techniques that would often not work for other species. Most anglers who target flounder will cruise around the shoreline in search of the distinctive tracks the fish leave behind when they burrow down into the sand.

These tracks are often hard to see from the shoreline, making it a bit more difficult when it comes to surf fishing for flounder, even in areas where boaters normally have great success.

To offset this disadvantage, anglers can use a variety of techniques that help them cover more of the shoreline’s bottom in search of these elusive fish.

If you plan to have a successful outing along the shoreline when it comes to flounder fishing, we’ve compiled a few of the most important tips you’ll need to know in order to be successful.

When to Fish for Flounder Along the Surf

Surf fishing is vastly different from targeting certain species of saltwater fish from a boat. While these fish typically roam around along the shore, catching them from one central location on the beach can be difficult.

Fishing from a boat will allow you to target flounder at virtually any time of the year, but surf fishing for flounder is mostly done in the warm weather months of spring into the early fall in most areas.

Flounder typically retreat to deeper water once the water begins to cool. They often swim out near large reefs where they will usually congregate in large numbers.

Their annual spawning ritual takes place in these deep waters and flounder won’t return to their summer time habitat along the coastline until the waters once again begin to warm.

If you plan to fish along the shoreline for flounder, it’s best that you do so throughout the spring and summer in order to have the best chance to catch anything.

Sometimes anglers can still catch flounder along the coastline in the early fall months, but they will begin to move out to deeper water when the water temperature drops below 60 degrees in most areas.

Being able to fish from a boat will allow you to utilize a number of deep water techniques and tactics to catch flounder in great numbers.

Most anglers often report catching bigger flounder in deep water as the more mature fish of the species are likely to be less pressured when they are in the sanctity of deep water reefs that are hundreds of feet or miles from the coast.

However, if you’re stuck fishing from the surf, there are certain ways you can maximize your efforts to bring in sizable flounder from the shore.

Where to Catch Flounder in the Surf

Surf fishing can be very confusing to those who are largely unfamiliar with fish behavior in the waves along their favorite beach. Some species of fish will avoid these areas while others seem to thrive in the surf and are regularly caught along the waves of most beaches. Flounder are one of the most common species of fish that you’ll find along the shoreline of any coastal area.

They often prefer the calmer waters near inlets and other areas, but you can also use certain techniques to probe the bottom for any flounder that might be lurking below the waves.

In many cases, flounder prefer burrowing down into the sand in areas where the tide is changing because this will usually be their best chance to ambush unsuspecting bait fish or other creatures.

It’s often nearly impossible to spot flounder in the surf since the crashing waves usually distort the water so much that anything on the bottom is mostly indistinguishable from the sand itself.

In most cases, people will only realize a flounder is nearby when they almost step on them and the fish quickly darts away, leaving a cloud of debris in its wake.

If you’re planning to fish along your favorite beach for flounder that might be burrowed into the sand among the waves, there are a few very useful strategies that will typically bring you success in your efforts.

Surf Fishing Techniques for Flounder

Beach fishing typically involves using a long, heavier surf rod and large surf reel to cast a variety of different kinds of bait well past the breaking waves and into the calm waters beyond.

Unlike the average method for surf fishing, you won’t have any success by casting your line out and placing your rod in a holder only to sit and wait for a flounder to bite. Instead, you’ll need to be proactive in your search for flounder and scour the beach with your rod and reel.

Anglers who are willing to make plenty of casts along their chosen beach will usually find a few flounder hidden among the waves if they use the right tactics. Since you won’t be able to get a sense of exactly where the flounder will be in the surf, you can use your bait to probe the area.

There are a few types of bait you can use to fish in a ‘fan’ pattern that allows you to thoroughly cover every square foot of the ocean floor along the coast.

While it’s typical for most surf anglers to cast their lures and bait out as far as they can, you’ll only be wasting your time doing this for flounder fishing.

Your best strategy when it comes to fishing along the surf for flounder involves casting the lure or bait out about 20 feet and slowly working it back in towards the beach. In many cases, flounder prefer to stay closer to the shore in an effort to avoid predators like sharks or other fish.

Surf Fishing Rigs for Flounder

Shrimp is the most popular menu item for flounder and you can choose between various soft plastic lures that are designed to look like shrimp, or the real thing.

Using real shrimp will appeal to the flounder’s sense of smell, as well as their eyesight, but you should be aware that other species of fish might easily tear the bait off your hook before you have a chance to catch your target.

You’ll likely find that using the imitation shrimp lures is less frustrating than having to stop and put more bait on your hook every few casts. Most anglers who have success fishing for flounder in the surf prefer to use a combination of a bucktail jig along with a shrimp lure.

You’ll want to tie the shrimp lure on a few feet behind the bucktail jig on the same line. The jig will act more as a sinker than an actual lure in this instance and the flounder that you’re after will most likely focus on the shrimp as it makes its way over their position. Be sure to fish slowly and thoroughly work the rig over every inch of coastline.

You’re more likely to have success fishing this style rig along areas that feature depth changes. Flounder like to burrow down on the low side of a ledge or dip in the bottom and use it as a spot where they will ambush their prey. If you’re aware of a ledge like this, work it very thoroughly and you’ll likely get a bite from a flounder at some point.

You can also swap out the shrimp lure for any kind of natural bait you want to use. There are instances where flounders might be more apt to bite cut bait or even small crabs instead of shrimp.


The key to flounder fishing is to remember that they are stationary fish and will not move from their location unless forced to by humans or large predators.

With this in mind, you should exercise patience when fishing an area of the surf for flounder. Eventually, you will get a bite.

Also Read: Difference Between Halibut and Flounder

When you do finally have a flounder bite your lure, you might realize that they will not aggressively strike at it like other saltwater fish species. Instead, flounders will sometimes be more subtle and bite the lure without trying to run away.

If you’re working the rig along and feel weight on the line, don’t try to set the hook immediately. Wait a few seconds and lift the line again to feel for any movement.

If you use this method, you’ll have plenty of success and will be able to find the right spots in the surf along your favorite beach for flounder fishing.

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Surf Fishing for Spanish Mackerel

Surf Fishing for Spanish Mackerel

Spanish mackerel are among the most popular fish species that saltwater anglers target for a few simple reasons. They make excellent table fare, are highly prevalent along the coastal United States, and they are loads of fun to catch.

They are commonly caught by anglers fishing out in the open ocean, but can also be caught with the right tackle and techniques from the shoreline.

If you’re like most anglers who fish along coastal areas, you probably don’t own a sportfishing boat, so you’re left to try your luck from the shore in the surf.

Contrary to popular belief, surf fishing for spanish mackerel can be just as productive as fishing over deep water reefs and shipwrecks miles offshore.

In fact, surf fishing for spanish mackerel is an excellent way to catch these tasty species and any angler can have a successful outing if they stick to a few time-tested methods that have proven effective when it comes to catching spanish mackerel.

Spanish Mackerel

Spanish mackerel are one of the most prevalent fish in the waters surrounding the United States and South American coastlines. They are migratory fish that will move along the coastline and inhabit certain areas depending on the temperature of the water in an area.

As the weather cools during the late fall and early winter months, spanish mackerel will make their way down the American coastline down to the Florida Keys and the Carribean where they will remain until the climate heats back up again.

These fish will generally move in large schools where they are known to hunt down other creatures like squid and shrimp. They will often follow these types of prey far into the shallow waters near the coast and they will cruise along the surf looking for potential meals.

When they venture into these shallow waters just off the shore, spanish mackerel will begin to target various types of bait fish that they can easily out-swim and chase down for an easy meal.

The spanish mackerel is nearly identical to the larger king mackerel, but has a few distinguishing features like the bright yellow spots dotting the sides of their bodies. These fish are virtually built for speed and power, which makes them one of the most fun fish in the ocean to catch.

When to Catch Spanish Mackerel

If you’re looking to target spanish mackerel, the best time of the year to do so is generally once the weather heats up during the spring months along most coastal shorelines.

Anglers can expect to start catching a few spanish mackerel once the water temperature in their area reaches approximately 70 degrees. If you’re relatively familiar with the water temperature in a given area, you can usually anticipate when spanish mackerel will start to arrive.

For most anglers who fish along the coast in the Gulf of Mexico, spanish mackerel will start to make their presence known around early April as the water temperature moves closer to the optimal 70 degree mark.

From that time through the hot summer months is one of the most ideal times to target spanish mackerel. In most areas along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coastline, these fish will stick around until mid-to-late November when they will make their way back south toward the equator.

Best Locations for Spanish Mackerel

If you’re relatively new to saltwater fishing, or fishing for spanish mackerel in general, there are a few solid tips you’ll want to keep in mind. One of the best indicators that fish are nearby are seagulls and other birds that fly overhead and keep a close eye on the water for unsuspecting prey.

These birds will be the first to spot fish like spanish mackerel chasing after small schools of bait fish and picking off any stragglers or simply swimming straight into the school and attacking them head-on.

If you’re walking along the coastline and see a cluster of birds overhead that are periodically diving down into the water, you can rest assured that it’s a prime spot for catching fish like spanish mackerel.

In most cases, you can watch these birds for a few minutes and gain a better understanding of just how far out these fish are depending on the general location where the birds are diving down into the water.

As soon as you spot an area like this, it’s a good idea to set up your gear and claim the spot as other anglers will likely move in quickly as well.

In general, spanish mackerel will hunt for their prey in water that’s anywhere from 20 feet to 5 feet deep. As you might expect, spanish mackerel will go wherever they are most likely to find bait fish congregating in large numbers.

This means that you’ll have a good chance at catching these fish from a pier, jetty, bridges, or other structures that are known locations where bait fish will take refuge in or around the structures and hide from predators.

How to Catch Spanish Mackerel in the Surf

Unlike most other fish species that anglers target along the coast, spanish mackerel generally prefer to strike at a moving target instead of a stationary bait that doesn’t move.

Anglers must tap into the predatory instincts of spanish mackerel and entice them to bite by making their lure of choice look like a frantic, fleeing bait fish that’s desperately trying to get away from the predator.

For this reason, anglers who target spanish mackerel will often use lures like spoons, plugs, tube lures, and a variety of other methods. There’s no need to use the same long, heavy surf rod and surf reel setup that you might utilize for typical surf fishing as you’ll need something that’s capable of throwing a smaller, lighter lure out as far as possible.

In most cases, a 7 or 8-foot rod with a smaller saltwater spinning reel attached will be more productive than the heavy surf fishing rigs that are equipped with 50 pound test line.

When surf fishing for spanish mackerel, be ready to use a totally different approach than you might go with for any other type of fish.

Spanish mackerel are aggressive feeders and are much more likely to strike at a lure that’s rapidly moving across the water’s surface, or just below the top of the waves.

A good rule of thumb for beginner anglers who are unaccustomed to fishing for spanish mackerel is to retrieve your lure at a speed that you might expect to be much too fast for most fish to bite.

In reality, anglers who do this will get more strikes as a fast-moving lure somehow activates the spanish mackerel’s instinctive need to chase down fleeing bait fish and take advantage of an opportunity to grab an easy meal.

One of the best strategies for ripping a lure through the water in the right spot to catch spanish mackerel is to cast the bait out well past a sandbar and work it back toward the rising bar very quickly.

If you’re doing this for several minutes without a bite, it’s advisable to slow down your retrieve just a bit and experiment with various speeds. Sometimes a spanish mackerel will strike at a lure that’s moving at just the right pace.


Spanish mackerel often travel in packs or schools, so if you catch one, there’s a high likelihood of there being others in the near vicinity looking to feed on any potential bait fish they can.

Most avid surf anglers will have their usual long, heavy rods cast far out past the breaking waves and securely fashioned in rod-holders.

It’s a good idea to have lighter surf fishing tackle that’s specially rigged to fish for Spanish Mackerel as you can quickly grab this rod and make a few casts when you see several birds congregating overhead.

In doing so, you can take advantage of the moment and land a few decent-sized Spanish Mackerel while you’re fishing for other species in the surf.

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Night Fishing for Striped Bass

Night Fishing for Striped Bass

When the weather heats up and the days become filled with the sweltering heat of the sun, most anglers prefer to do their fishing under the cover of darkness.

This benefits their chances of success for a number of reasons, most importantly because the fish will likely be employing the same strategy to hunt down their prey at night.

Striped bass are much like most other predatory fish when it comes to feeding and hunting habits.

Stripers know that their chances of ambushing bait fish and other types of prey are much better under the cover of darkness than it would be in the daytime when their prey might be able to spot them.

Night Fishing for Striped Bass

Night fishing has exploded in popularity over the past few decades as anglers become more familiar with strategies and tactics that work when it comes to night fishing for striped bass.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the main points you should consider if you want to maximize your chances of successfully fishing for striped bass at night.

Night-time Behavior of Striped Bass

Stripers are like most other bass species in that they will almost always use their surrounding environment to their advantage when it comes to hunting for food.

Striped bass will begin to be more active as the weather starts to warm up in the early spring. They will usually engage in heavy feeding habits in the few weeks leading up to their annual spawning ritual.

After the spawn, they will usually rest for a few days and then go back to feeding again to build back any strength they lost during their spawning activities.

This is a time when stripers can be caught during the early morning hours and late evening, but as the weather continues to heat up throughout much of North America, striped bass will increasingly begin to feed more at night.

Like most other large fish species, striped bass prefer to stay away from overly warm water as it is simply not comfortable for them to stay in it for very long.

They almost always prefer to be in the cooler, deeper portions of most lakes and rivers, as well as coastal areas. As the summer heat takes hold across much of the continent, various creatures will become more active at night, including those in lakes and rivers.

Striped bass always take notice of this increased activity and will take every chance they can to feed and hunt for prey during the night hours when the water is cool.

Stripers also have a significant advantage when hunting at night as their prey typically can’t see them as easily as they can during daylight hours.

Where to Find Striped Bass at Night

One of the most prominent questions among anglers who are learning the tips and tricks of night fishing for striped bass is where to find stripers during the night hours.

Remember that striped bass are opportunistic feeders that will use every type of structure or depth change to their advantage when it comes to hunting prey.

With this in mind, it’s important to consider where stripers are likely to stage at night and where they will have the best chance of ambushing their prey.

Also Read: Freshwater Fishing for Striped Bass

In most instances stripers will stage along points and the mouths of creeks or rivers where they will prowl around in search of unsuspecting bait fish. They can also be found along any type of sharp drop-off or ledge where they are able to ambush anything swimming over the edge.

Many anglers have successfully caught striped bass around deep creek channels and virtually anywhere else stripers can gain an advantage over their prey—much like they do during daylight hours.

What Lures or Bait to Use

Catching striped bass at night involves using many of the same types of bait you normally would during the daytime, but with slightly different approaches to certain areas.

Many anglers successfully use live baits like shiners and herring or other choices, but anglers have also reported having great success using artificial lures as well.

If you plan on using artificial lures, be sure to stick with those that are capable of drawing the most attention from striped bass as these giants will often be using their other senses besides sight.

In most cases, lures that create a distinct vibration or rattling noise are excellent choices and will draw strikes from hungry stripers who are willing to chase them down or ambush them as they pass by.

Stick baits and jigs work very well, but crankbaits are usually one of the most popular choices of lure among experienced striper anglers. In addition to shallow to deep-diving plugs, topwater baits are also another solid choice of lure in many cases.

Remember that you’ll need to use dark-colored lures when fishing at night instead of bright colors as fish can see these colors better.

The best live bait for striper fishing at night is undoubtedly live lining shiners or shad. If you can purchase these bait fish from a nearby bait shop, be sure to keep them inside an aerated tank in order to ensure that they are lively on the end of the hook and won’t quickly go belly-up.

Also Read: Best Bait for Striped Bass

Hooking bait fish on their back just behind the dorsal fin is the best way to keep them alive and allow them to swim around while hooked.

Using the Right Gear

One of the main differences between fishing for stripers in the daytime and night fishing is the fact that you can manipulate light conditions on the water to create a greater advantage for catching these monster fish.

Thanks to recent innovations in fishing and lighting equipment, anglers can utilize high-quality products that are capable of illuminating wide sections of the water.

These lights are aimed at bringing in baitfish and other prey that striped bass hunt for at night and they are known for being highly effective.

When using these lights, anglers have found that striped bass will come close and investigate what other types of bait fish are swimming in the area.

Stipers will typically lurk just beyond the light’s reach, in the shadows, waiting for a baitfish to unknowingly focus its attention toward the light, or for it to stray too far away from the light and into the dark waters only to be devoured by the striper.

Seasoned striper fishing enthusiasts who have experience fishing at night all agree that using shiners and other types of live bait fish around these lights are a highly effective strategy for catching monster striped bass during the summer months.

In order to have the best chance of getting a strike using this method, try to keep your bait out towards the edge of the light’s reach in the water.

This will put it closer to the striped bass that are lurking and circling the light and will usually draw a strike if the bait stays in place long enough.

Some anglers will put small glow ticks on the tip of their striper fishing rods so that they can detect the bite and strike quickly but they are not really a necessity.

In addition to using lights to illuminate the water, you’ll also want to come prepared to light up your boat and anything else you need to see clearly.

It’s often a good idea to just wear a good quality headlamp instead of trying to use a handheld flashlight when it comes to night fishing since this will free your hands up to allow you to perform various tasks and reel in your catch.

Also Read: Are Striped Bass Good to Eat

It’s also crucial that your boat is well-lit and other boaters passing by can easily see it and avoid any potential collision on the water.


If you follow the basic tips we’ve covered in this article, you should be off to a solid head-start when it comes to night fishing for striped bass.

Be sure to always be aware of your surroundings as boating accidents and other mishaps usually happen more at night as anglers aren’t able to see as well.

Lastly, it’s important to pay close attention to the laws in the specific area you plan to fish at night. Some lakes and waterways have certain restrictions or regulations that anglers must abide by in order to legally fish at night for any species.

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