The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Category: Beach Fishing (page 1 of 3)

Surf’s Up: Guide to Surf Fishing

This article was originally posted on the Pocket Ranger blog:

Pocket Ranger is a mobile app company that offers a variety of guides, tips, and services for outdoor adventuring via their app. I was approached last year about writing informative articles on hunting and fishing for their blog and gladly obliged. This particular style of writing isn’t something I’m used to as most articles are “how-to’s” and will be labeled as such on this blog. But it’s something I kind of enjoyed writing to get a bit outside of my comfort zone. They’re all much different than my usual ramblings. More information on Pocket Ranger can be found here: 

Beaches are some of the most traveled to places in the world. People flock from all over the country to visit beaches. Whether it’s spring break, summer vacation, or an escape from winter freezes, the beach is a year round destination for people. The simple thought of the beach often conjures up images of sun, sand, waves, and swimsuits. But one thing that is often overlooked is the opportunity to surf fish.
An incredibly wide range of fish can be caught year round from most of our country’s beaches. One can expect to catch anything from Pompano to sharks depending upon when and where they decide to fish. The actual process of surf fishing is relatively simple. Selecting and using the right gear is the first step.

From rods to reels, and everything in between.

A rod and reel is, of course, the most important piece of gear to bring to the beach… at least if you plan to catch fish. Now I’m sure there are quite a few die-hard surf fishermen out there who will go on and on about why you should use this length rod with this size reel, but in all reality, one generally has quite a bit of room to play around here. More often than not when surf fishing, the longer the rod the better. A long rod can make distance casting easier. It also plays an important role in keeping your line above breaking waves. However, a long rod isn’t always the way to catch fish. Many fish species such as Pompano or Whiting will cruise right along the edge of the beach, making short casts with smaller rods a better option.
Possibly one of the most important pieces of gear (next to a rod and reel) is a sand spike. Drive these into the sand near the water’s edge in order to have a rod holder. These spikes can be made easily out of PVC pipe and by cutting an end at an angle; one can make driving the spike into the ground much easier. For harder packed sands, a rubber mallet proves useful in driving the sand spikes.
The next thing to consider is what to actually throw to the fish. I like to tie my rigs using 12 pounds Fluorocarbon with 2-3 droppers for hooks coming off the main line. A regular barrel swivel is tied to one end and a snap swivel is tied to the other. The snap swivel is where the pyramid weight is attached and helps make storage in the tackle box much easier. Each rig is between 2.5 to 3 ft in length and orange beads can be attached to each dropper to act as an attractant.
Hook selection really depends on what you are trying to catch. Some fishermen swear by circle hooks while others prefer J hooks. Personally, I like to use J hooks simply because they are easier to hide inside the bait than a circle hook. Bait generally consists of dead shrimp, sand fleas (often called mole crabs), or small crabs.

Location, location, location!

Selecting a proper spot on the beach is the final step in surf fishing. Not all spots along the shore are created equal. Some are much better than others. Wave action will usually carve deep cuts in the bottom and strong currents can form shallow points that jut out perpendicular to the shore. These cuts, or holes, are often found on the down-current side of the shallow points. It’s these holes that hold the fish. Simply set your rod (or rods) up along the hole and cast out into the middle of it. Make sure that the line is tight when the rod is placed back into the sand spike in order to see a strike.

It will take some getting used to, but a trained eye can easily tell between waves moving the rod tip, and an actual fish strike. One can expect to catch Pompano, Whiting, Black Drum, Red Drum, Bluefish, or Sheepshead depending upon the time of year and the location. It’s not a bad idea either to bring a light rod for sight casting should a school of Spanish Mackerel or Little Tunny show up to chase bait. Lead head jigs or “pompano jigs” work like a charm.
It is wise to bring a cooler if you expect to keep fish, and a comfortable chair can be a life saver.  So the next time you’re planning to hit the beach, bring some fishing gear along with that sunscreen and take advantage of the fabulous fishing that passes so many by.

The Great 2012 Skunking

It was bound to happen again eventually. If you fish enough, it’s simply -going- to happen.

I got skunked.

And though I generally find an unproductive fishing trip to be less than noteworthy, this one was special.

As any of my regular readers may have noticed, I’ve been terribly quiet lately. It’s not because I haven’t wanted to write anything, but rather, the fact that I haven’t -done- anything. Absolutely nothing outdoor related over the past three weeks. It seems like every time I schedule a fishing trip around my days off, the weather turns bad and I don’t go.

But I got off work for a few days and made the long Jeep ride back to Pensacola for Thanksgiving. My initial plan was to fish Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning and evening, and Thanksgiving morning. That…didn’t happen. I arrived a bit later than planned Tuesday, and rather than go fish, my dad and I opted to go to the gun range. After a full day of driving and shooting, my head found my old bed at my parents house and I was out like a light. Slept right through my alarm at 0530 the next morning, and well into mid morning.

Not wishing to waste any more time on something as silly as sleep, I was resolved to go fish Wednesday afternoon. And go fish I did. My dad and I launched the Gheenoe into the upper Escambia river in search of Flounder, Trout, and Reds.

We explored some new territory and I fairly consistently had fish strike at my lure. Small fish, but fish none the less. I was, however, not landing anything. I kept this up until sunset, and ended the trip without a single fish.

After dinner that evening, I decided I simply couldn’t handle getting skunked for the day. I called up one of my best friends that I’ve known since Kindergarten, and forced him to come beach fishing with me at night. I figured I could at least catch a hardhead catfish and just call it a bad day of fishing. While loading the truck up, my dad asked me,

“You’re going beach fishing…at night?”

“Well yeah…why?”

“You aren’t gonna catch anything”

“Have you ever been beach fishing at night?”


My buddy and I arrived at the beach a little before 10pm. I tossed out 3 rods with two shrimp each. The water was dead calm and it was a clear, chilly night.

At 12am I pulled in the rods, and tossed my 6 untouched and slightly waterlogged shrimp into the gulf. My dad was right. I’d been skunked.

So why was this noteworthy? Well, to be honest, I wasn’t bothered in the least by the fact that I hadn’t caught the first fish. Of course I went fishing to actually -catch- fish, but I still had a blast. I realized while I was home that I hadn’t actually been back to Pensacola in a LONG time. And being gone means that I’ve missed out on quite a lot in my family’s and friend’s lives. So the way I see it, getting to catch up with them when I oversleep, spend time on the boat, freeze to death on the beach at night, and stuff our faces full of turkey was definitely worth it. And worth far more than landing some fish. Very rarely is it all about the fish…

Note: I’m currently in the planning process of some big hunting/fishing trips along with some gear reviews. So my current internet silence in just the calm before the storm. Stay tuned!

Sight Fishing for Bonito

With my latest beach fishing trip resulting in a total skunk, I wasn’t particularly excited about going back just to “cast around”. I was invited to do this today with my dad and his friend and I -almost- said no.

Boy am I glad I didn’t.

We arrived at the beach around noon and were met with a nearly flat Gulf. The wind was blowing strong from the north, and had managed to lay all the waves down. For those of you stuck some place where it’s cold, I apologize for the following pictures.

I soon began walking along the edge of the beach and casting a a jig out into the emerald green water. My hopes for Pompano or Redfish went away fairly quickly as it was pretty easy to see in the water, and I saw no sign of them.

Soon I noticed a lone Bonito cruising right along shore. I make a quick cast, and spooked him. He actually turned and went around my lure. I got my jig back and made another cast, this time a littler further in front of him. Two quick twitches, a splash, and my favorite sound of drag screaming; The fight was on.

He absolutely rocketed out to the first sand bar and then continued. I had to tighten the drag a little, then try to follow him down the beach. Soon I began to get nervous as my reel was looking extremely low on line and I could just barely see the fish. Luckily, the fish finally turned, and I started gaining line back one reel crank at a time. It took ten minutes, but I finally landed him. Since my dad and his friend were no where near me, I snapped a quick picture of him in the sand, and released him.

As I walked back to meet the others, I thought to myself how I was perfectly content with catching that one and only fish. I soon scratched that thought as I found out my dad and his friend had just lost two Bonito on the fly, and watched as my dad hooked and lost another.

I switched to a small silver pompano jig and watched the shallows. It was an amazing site to see as four Bonito came cruising down the beach, no more than 10 feet from shore. I made an almost awkardly short cast to them (so close I could have killed them with a rock) and watched as all four turned and chased my jig.

Once again, there was a splash, and my reel sang for a second time. This time I had people around to take pictures.

A few minutes later, my dad landed one on the fly.

And immediately after that, his friend got one with a fly as well.

I ended the afternoon by catching one last Bonito in a school of three. Once again, it put up an amazing fight, especially on light tackle.

I’ll be heading back out tomorrow to try for them again. This time, I’ll be using the fly rod and take the helmet camera. Hopefully I can come home with some blistered hands and more fish pictures!

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