Surf Fishing is Fun

Summer is here and what better way to enjoy the Outer Banks by trying surf fishing.

Fishing on the surf is one of the most relaxing and least expensive activities you can do at the beach and it can be fun for the entire family. All you need is a simple saltwater rod, reel and several items to enjoy this hobby.

The first thing you want to do is research the regulations. Make sure you know the limits of any species you catch. Also, you may need a license to fish on our beaches. Licenses and rules can be obtained at any local tackle shop. Tackle shops are the new (and experienced) angler’s best friend.

Next is selecting the spot on the beach. I always check with other local anglers or tackle shops for this information. They can usually point you in the right direction. But basically, any spot on our beach will hold fish.

Like any sport, you will need specific gear. These items will include a good medium seven rod and reel set up, a bottom rig, package of hooks, several different size sinkers and bait. If you don’t have your own rod and reel set up, a complete package can be purchased any tackle supply shop.

The standard rod and reel from a tackle shop will already be rigged with line. You will attach the bottom rig to the line. You can either tie the rig directly to the line or tie a snap swivel to the line first and then hook the rig to this connector. A snap swivel allows for a quick change over if you need to replace the bottom rig.

Next you want to install the hooks. Number four or six size hooks work fine. I slide the loop end of the hook line over the bottom rig loop and slip the hook through the bottom rig loop. This creates a strong connection. A sinker is attached to the bottom of the rig. I carry different size sinkers and attach the lightest one that will allow me to hold the bottom.

Bait is the most important component. I use fresh shrimp or fish bites. Do not peel the shrimp; just place a small piece on each hook. Sometimes, I insert a small quarter inch piece of a fish bite over the hook after the shrimp. This keeps the shrimp on the hook and prevents smaller fish from stealing the bait before a larger fish eats it. Remember – the fresher the bait – the better the chance for success.

Most bottom fish can be found within fifteen feet of our shore line. So cast just over the waves. Let the bait sit on the bottom and wait for the bite. The bite feels like a tap tap tap. When you feel the bite, just raise your rod tip and reel in. If your line moves on the bottom, change to the next size up sinker.

It’s that simple.

So the next time you have a little free time and want to learn a new hobby – take up fishing on our coast. It’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors and our beautiful beaches.

One final tip – release all fish carefully that you are not going to keep the fish so it can be caught again

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Tides Make a Difference

Tides have a major influence on whether you catch fish or not. It’s the tides that help create ideal conditions for fish to feed. And if the angler is present during these times, their chances improve.

As a rule, most anglers prefer to fish on the high or low tides. And frequently, anglers will also monitor sun and moon phases but it’s the tides that brings them out. But it’s the specific part of these tides that make all the difference.

Let’s take a closer look at why you too should consider following the tides.

Ocean tides occur up to four times per twenty-four hour period – two high and two low. The tide phases are influenced by a number of conditions but mostly the moon.  Frequently, we hear that it’s best to fish on the exact full or new moon or on the top of the high or low tide because in theory that’s when the bite is on.

Well, this is only partially correct. Let’s take a closer look at how the tides affect the bite.

First, a little background – when the high and low tide are at their peaks, the water is slack and not moving unless there is outside influence such as wind. And second, when the tide is between the high and low, this is where a significant water movement can occur between the two tide phases.

Now, let’s break down one side of a tide. At the highest phase of high tide the water is slack. As the tide begins to fall, water starts to move toward the low tide phase. As the level continues to fall, this tide or water begins to pick up speed until it reaches a certain point usually two thirds into this phase at which the water begins to slow again to a slack phase.  Then the process starts again but in reverse.

So let’s do an example to help find the best time to fish. Let’s start with high tide at 600am and the low tide at 1200 noon. The tide is slack at 600 and with gravitational influence the water level or tide begins to fall. As the tide continues to fall, it will pick up speed typically around 0730 and continue to increase flow or speed until 1030. At this point the tide begins to lose its force and between 1030 and 1200 noon the tide slows and finally is slack again.

As you can see in this example, the fastest moving water and the best times to fish is approximately 1-1/2 hours after high and before low tide. Other times work too, but for increased success pick these. These three hours are the key!!

Remember, there are many other conditions that can influence the bite. Water movement is just one. Monitoring water temperature, seasonal migration and barometer can also improve your success.

But reviewing tide phase should always be part of your fishing trip preparation.

So the next time you pick up a local tide chart – do some homework and you might just catch some more fish.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony  

OBX Fishcast

New Episodes of OBX Fishcast are posted each Friday at noon.


Created By Jody O’Donnell

“OBX Fishcast” is an in depth look at the week of fishing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and a peak at what to expect in the near future. 

Easy access to this podcast can be found in the Walkingangler links section.

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Measure It Right

Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff of summer fishing. Most Anglers may not be familiar with the local bag and creel limits for the many fresh and saltwater species.

Please “carefully” release all undersize fish and those you don’t plan to harvest.

Remember this important tip:

”Its not what the angler measures, it’s what the marine fisheries officer measures!”

Until Next Time – Tightlines – Capt.Tony

Organize Your Bags

Tackle bags can sometimes be compared with our backyard sheds. We buy a great tool, maybe use it once or twice, and then need a place to store it before the next use. And that next use may not be anytime soon.  So we place it in the shed and then the next thing we know, the shed is full and when we need that tool, you can’t find it.

Well, our tackle bags are a lot like those backyard sheds. We need a place to store our go-to items along with that special gear we purchased with the hope that it would work. And like storing dozens of tools in the shed, the fishing gear somehow gets shoved in our tackle bags and frequently gets lost or damaged.

Not only can gear get damaged but the angler can get injured reaching into their bag for something only to get stuck by a hook or bait knife.

Organization of fishing tackle and gear is imperative. Most anglers use plastic trays or zip lock bags to store items in their bag. Hooks, sinkers, floats and other items should be kept in their original containers if possible. Bags and boxes have many compartments which can be used for frequently use tools, extra line, scents.

So when the fish are biting or the blitz is on is no time to begin digging into you gear box or bag to retrieve something. It’s best to put things in their place where you can access them quickly before the big rush occurs.

Remember, your target species won’t wait around for you to rig up the right gear and catch them.  You must be ready at any moment.

“Because most times you only have a moment to make that cast”.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Sea Mullet – Our Mainstay

Sea mullet are one of the easiest fish to catch on the Outer Banks. They have slender body with a slightly arched dorsal fin. Their color can range from a light to dark grey with dark shaded stripes. Their mouth faces downward to assist in feeding.

They range in size from several inches up to eighteen with the typical size being caught range to ten to fifteen inches.

Sea mullet can go by several names including Whiting, Kingfish or roundhead.  Most anglers just call them “fun to catch”

Sea mullet can be found along the entire Outer Banks coastline from April through October. They typically show up in the spring when the water begins to reach fifty degrees and stay around until the water cools in the fall.

Local anglers target these fish in the shallow surf zones and on the piers. They can range from the close in sloughs to out in the deeper water and also adjacent to structures such as piers and docks.

I usually find them either right near the beach in shallow water or half to three quarters out on the piers. When fishing on the piers, I usually will cast out and away from a structure and retrieve back to me. South side seems to work best for me but either should work when they are there.

They are typically bottom feeders and prefer cloudy or stained water. Sea mullet will stay in a zone where there is a lot of water movement.

This constant water movement stirs the bottom and mixes the food source that the mullet search for. They also search for food by smell so fresh baits are always the best way to go.

These regular visitors to our waters are caught on standard one or two hook bottom rig. Sea mullet have a small mouth so I always start with a small hooks and depending on my success, and change up or down in size as needed.

I prefer a number four “J” or circle hook. I just bait the hook with a small bait. The best baits for sea mullet is fresh shrimp, bloodworms, or fish bites.

When you use shrimp, always purchase eating type shrimp. I never peel the shrimp. The hard shell usually helps the bait they on the hook.

To increase your chances of catching, change the bait frequently.

When the sea mullet are in season, you can fill a cooler in no time. And most probably one of the best eating fish with its white flaky meat.

But please remember, when fishing, only harvest what you plan to use fresh. Frozen sea mullet or any fish loses it favor quickly.

So grab a rod and hi the surf today. There is no better time to catch a sea mullet is now.

Oh, and one more thing that will make your day better is to take a kid fishing. With every fish they catch that smile gets wider.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony

Know the Rules

Fishing in Florida during the colder months can be an extremely rewarding experience if you know the rules. Now we are not talking about the rules and regulations on creel and bags limits. Although knowledge of these regulations are mandatory in every region, it’s the small subtitles that can make a difference of success for the visiting angler.

We hear all the time that fishing is the same regardless where you fish. But in Florida that can’t be further from the truth. The various species are stealth and they spook very easily. And catching them can test even the most passionate angler.

There several interesting techniques that can increase the potential for success.

Know your target. Some of the most important items to be aware of when fishing in Florida is to know your targets specific tendencies. Temperature preference, tide phases, feeding habits, and movements and means of comfort and hideaways are important tips that help the angler. Being familiar with these can help improve your success potential

Match the hatch is probably the second most important tip to remember. Many species are creatures of habit and they will feed on the most plentiful and easiest bait available. So the best way to increase the success rate is use a lure or bait that is similar to what’s in the water. Color is also important but it’s the contrast and presentation technique that can have more influence. The key: mimic the food source and try to “BE THE BAIT”.

Downsize your gear. The lighter the gear the easier it is to place the bait in the proper location, present it naturally and then feel the bite. Minimize any foreign objects from the environment. Anything outside the lure should appear natural. So use the lightest leader materials, limit you connections to only small knots and avoid any type of metal on your tackle or baits.

Technique and Presentation. Regardless of your lure or bait selection, it’s the natural presentation that can make all the difference. The retrieval technique can make the difference between a strike and spooking your target. Remember, most strikes occur during a pause in any retrieve when the prey is most vulnerable.

Change it up. Some anglers will switch their salt to fresh water gear to encourage the strike. Modifying baits such as adding a rattle or cutting a slice from a plastic swim bait that mimics a wounded fish may spark the interest of a feeding fish. As a general rule, “change is always good”.

Although there are dozens of other techniques, I have found these to help increase my catch rate.

Never be satisfied with the basic package, experiment and challenge yourself and you will not be disappointed.

Until Next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony