A lonely stretch of beach, the early morning sunrise glistening off the waves of the incoming tide, and the only sign of life are the shadows of a half dozen surf rods waiting in anticipation for their call to duty. Sounds a little corny doesn’t it? But, if you’ve never spent the night or watched the sunrise on the beach while waiting and watching for a strike that could be the battle of your life, you haven’t lived. Surf fishing is usually played down by most boat owning fishermen. Terms like soakin’ bait, bottom fishin’, and bubbas have plagued surf fishermen for years. And I for one hope the majority keep thinking this way. Despite the flak from other anglers, surf fishing is both a challenge and a great sport. The wide range of fish, including game fish, that are caught from the beach is incredible. Bull reds, spanish mackerel, sharks, and the occasional ling or king mackerel are just a few of the many fish caught by surf fishermen. Fishing the surf sounds easy. After all, what’s there to know? Walk up to the water’s edge, make your cast, and wait for something to take the bait. Those of us who participate in the art of surf fishing know that to be successful you must learn how tidal movements affect the area, the contour of the bottom, and what equipment works best. It is a misnomer among many beginners to the sport that tidal movement has little or no effects on fishing the beach front. This is far from the truth. Bait and game fish travel and feed with the tides. As the high tide moves in, there is more water available for fish to chase their prey, sometimes coming within a few feet of the beach. Fortunately, this also places them within easy range of the surf fishermen’s casts. Learning the lay of the land or contour of the bottom in the area you want to fish is at least as important as knowing the tides. The Galveston surf is made up of three sand bars which run parallel to the beach. Between the bars are areas known as guts. The water is deeper in the guts and food is washed off the sand bars and into them by the waves. Traveling schools of game fish move through the guts in their constant search for food. The best spots for surf fishing are in areas where the sand bars are broken by a connecting gut. The break allows fish to move from one bar to the other and is usually an excellent location for a bait. Having the eye to locate these breaks is very important. By watching the waves as they break over the bars you will notice that in one spot the breaker is either not as strong or dies all together. This indicates that there is a break in the sand bar and is the spot where you should try to place your offering. Unlike most types of fishing, learning about where you want to fish should come before purchasing your gear. You must decide whether you plan to fish at night, overnight, or just during the day. Your decision will determine what gear you’ll need for your trip. If you’ve ever seen surf fishermen at work, you will have noticed their exceptionally long fishing rods. Although many long time surf fishermen use rods as long as 15 feet, the average is between 10 and 13 feet. These rods allow the fisherman to gain greater distances during the cast and help keep the rod tip high above the breaking waves. The latter is very important since figuring out if you have a fish on or the wave action is making your rod tip dance can be exasperating. The reel, whether it be spinning or casting, should be something you can cast comfortably. It should also be able to hold a minimum of 250 to 300 yards of 20 pound line. And, most importantly, the drag has to be smooth and operating at peak performance. As for leaders, weights, and hooks? There are no pat answers to this question. Many fishermen use a single drop wire leader rigged with a 5/0 or 6/0 hook, and a pyramid weight in the 4 to 6 ounce class. Others are rigged with a single strand of wire or heavy mono leader, a 5/0 to 7/0 hook, and a slip (egg) weight rigged above the leader. There are several other combinations of terminal that will work sufficiently, but the one that works best is the one you feel is best for your needs. Other equipment you’ll be needing might be a lantern for fishing at night, a cooler for the fillets, rod holders to lift the rods high above the sand, a knife for cutting bait, and other items that you might find on a camping trip. Surf fishing can be very exciting and you can spend more than a few dollars on equipment and accessories. But, if you enjoy the sport as I do, every minute you spend on the beach will be one to remember and talk about for years to come.
– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide