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.