Let’s try Fishing – “Reading the Surf”

Reading the Beach is part five in the series, “Let’s Try Fishing”. In this step we try to help the new angler to find the right location that will hold fish. Most experienced anglers should have a good idea where to find fish but this could be a good refresher.

The question was “how does a new angler find a good spot to fish on the surf”. Of course, the new angler can just pick any place and cast a line and hope for the best. But following this strategy, their success is hinged more by luck than anything else.

Reading the Surf

The key for success on the surf is to look for the signs. It is important to keep in mind that the signs that you first see when arriving at the surf can change by the hour or even half day. So a constant awareness of conditions is imperative for putting you in the right spot.

When hitting the beach for the first time, anglers should first focus on the entire picture. Look at everything in the surf zone but more specifically focus on sand formations and waves.

Flat sand beaches can indicate shallow water. On the beach where the sand tapers from a flat surface into the water will indicate a gradual slope. This area will be shallow for some distance off shore and rarely hold fish.

Some sand formations that include cusps or small hills could indicate a greater slope and deeper water. The deeper water close to shore is better at holding for fish. One key here is look for gravel and shells. Also, look for the signs of sand fleas – that telltale “V” shape in the sand after a retreating wave is a guarantee give away.

Wave action will also give out specific signs. Normally waves form off shore and travel a good distance in and break on the surf. This is a sign that the bottom has a gradual slope for most of the wave set.

The best condition is when the waves break off shore on a bar, taper off and then re-form and break again on the shore. This is a good indication of a slough. Sloughs form between a sand bar and a steep sloping beach. The slough is where most of the fish will be found.

A slough is a channel of moving water that flows parallel along the beach and provides a highway for fish to find food and protection from other prey. This is the best place to find fish.

The final sign is a rip current. A rip current is a rapid outflow channel or river of water. This happens when the waves push too much water onto the beach and there needs to be a way for the excess of water to flow back out to sea. They are easy to spot, look for the rapid out flow current.

So when looking for the best place to fish on the surf, focus on the sloughs, deeper water and rip currents. Remember most fish are within ten feet of your feet. So keep your bait close.

Knowing when and how to fish the surf can make the difference. Next, the presentations and catching fish.

Until next time – Tightlines – Capt. Tony