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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am not a surf fishing expert – not even close. I have put in a lot of time trying to get better, and I’ve fished a lot this year. I just had my best ever success fishing in the surf at Emerald Isle. I caught 3 upper slot puppy drum (25, 26 and not measured – but bigger) a nice Spanish mackerel, and a bunch of snapper blues. I had so much fun I decided to start this thread to capture the changes to my approach which (I think) made it possible. This is a place to offer tips which can shorten the learning curve for someone who only fishes occasionally or is just getting into the sport. I’d like to maximize the chance of someone catching a fish of a lifetime and turning a regular vacation into a real memory. That being said, here goes:

1. Get mobile, get light – complement your bait fishing stick with an 7 ½ - 8 ½ foot rod with a 2500 or 3000 series reel capable to slinging metal up to an ounce. Go to the local tackle shop and tell them what you want to do, don’t try and buy it on the internet. This will give you the opportunity to try on and hold the rod and decide if it is right for you, and will earn you some free local advice. You want something light that won’t wear you out because you are going to cast it a few hundred times over the weekend. Be prepared to spend a small fortune – I’m kidding a bit, but buy something decent.

Once you get your setup, move around and fish artificial bait while you are fishing and watching the bait rod. This weekend I was walking and fishing 200 yards of shoreline or more, not a single spot in the sand (I gave up on bait, more on that later). Try stingsilvers in various colors, gold spoons, Hopkins lures, jig heads with soft plastic (which are hard to throw far in the wind) and other hard baits.

2. Pay attention to the surroundings – this weekend the water was crystal clear and the fish were busting glass minnows on top. The guys fishing bait on bottom rigs were not getting any action. If you see clear water and lots of surface feeding, try the artificial stuff. If the water is stirred up and dingy, bait is the best option. The fish were also clearly preferring a hole of some type probably 50 yards(?) wide. They were busting bait everywhere, but the activity was really concentrated in this one spot. Keep an eye out for this type of activity, especially in the morning when the beach is open.

3. Set your drag loose – my tackle is probably a bit undersized for catching puppy drum in the surf. I was fishing a 2500 series reel with 12 lb. mono. I set my drag quite loose and I was amazed at the power of these drum. I’m convinced with a tight drag they would’ve snapped my line. The loose drag allowed me to play the fish until he was tired enough for landing. Also bear in mind if you catch a big one you may have to tighten the drag - just a bit, not too much - at the end of the fight to help “surf” him on the beach.

4. Learn good knots and tie a leader – I tie a 30 lb fluorocarbon leader on my 12 lb. main line. Late in the day I inspected it and it was frayed so I cut it back. Those “frays” in a 30 lb. leader could easily be a cut main line and a lost fish if you don’t have a leader. Learn to tie a uni-to-uni or other leader knot and use one. I inspected the teeth on a Spanish this weekend for the first time and realized they are like scalpels. Also, shells and coarse sand will eventually wear down your line and a leader helps with this.

5. Don’t be afraid to change baits – on Friday my gold spoon was producing, on Saturday it was not. After I noticed all the glass minnows in the surf I switched to the smallest silver stingsilver I had and it immediately hooked up. That bait was hot on Saturday. If you are fishing bait, have both shrimp and squid or mullet (or all 3) available. If you catch a pinfish, cut it up for bait and try that too.

6. Have backup baits – my stingsilver had a red and white bucktail on the treble. The bucktail got bit off on Saturday late and that bait wouldn’t produce on Sunday. I only had one of these. I think something else changed as the fish weren’t as active, but in the back of my mind I was always worrying about that missing bucktail and I lost confidence in the bait. My point is you should have backup versions of your “go-to” baits. The stingsilver could’ve just as easily got cut off by a Spanish and I would’ve been stuck without the day’s hot bait.

7. Use the waves to help you land a big fish – If you get a nice fish in close, don’t try and “lift” it out of the surf. That’s a great way to lose the fish by allowing it to flop around and throw the hook right at the end. There is nothing more disheartening than watching a keeper fish swim away after you’ve come so close to landing him. Keep the fish on the sand and use the waves to “surf”/drag them to a dry spot – WHILE KEEPING THE LINE TIGHT AT ALL TIMES. My daughter lost a really nice drum in the surf at Ocracoke one year when she tried to horse it up in the air and I’ve never forgotten watching that happen.

8. Fish all times of day – early morning and evenings are a great time to surf fish because the beach isn’t crowded. However, make sure you are fishing all tides. I caught a drum this weekend at dead low tide at 4pm in the afternoon. I caught two more in the early morning on a rising tide. I prefer rising tides, but try them all. However, If the beach is crowded with families and small children please be considerate.

9. Be patient – if you are getting frustrated have a seat, take a swim or (if you partake) try a cold beer to settle the nerves a bit. Remember, if you are here on vacation and you don’t fish regularly, you are fighting the odds, but it only takes a single “trophy” fish to really make it all worthwhile. If you aren’t catching fish right now, you might in just a minute or two. You never know what turns the fishing on, sometimes a tide change, a wind change or a switch from sunny to cloudy skies can have an impact.

That’s all I’ve got for now and it’s probably too long winded for anyone to read. Please feel free to add your favorite tips as well.

Thanks for reading,
Wvlheel
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yeah this is certainly a " I rented a house and want to catch a fish right out there " style of fishing. I love the driving a loaded down rig on the outer banks, but that's a totally different deal. I would be interested in tips on sea mullet/ pompano, never had much luck with those.
 

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Regarding the effectiveness of the dressed hook, I've seen the same thing on Spanish Macks. More and better quality fish with the dressed hooks. If there's blues and spanish around, those feathers and fur will get gone. Good idea to carry extra dressed hooks (either home made or store bought) that can be switched out on any of your plugs or spoons.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
8 1/2 foot, fen wick, bought at the reel outdoors. It's rated to throw up to 3/4 oz, but I've thrown 1oz cast masters. It's just a bit too "whippy" but it handled those 26" drum ok. I was really looking something to throw 1/4 oz jig heads at the point, but I'm using this for heavier lures as well.
 

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Red X Angler
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I love surf fishing as well. And a good summary of tips from wvlheel. Only thing I might add is to get rid of the 12 pound mono and go 20 lb. braid. The extra strength will help you land those puppys. An overslot may overwhelm that 2500 series reel though and you don't want to totally exhaust such a fish. If you are going to become as addicted as the rest of us (and with those catches you surely will) you're going to drop a Franklin on a heavier and higher quality reel.

I keep a silver spoon on a rod while surf fishing for Spaniards and Blues but I don't cast it until I see fish working (okay, maybe an occasional chuck). Too old to throw it all day. Meantime I'm working a jig for flounder or sitting in a chair waiting for my mullet laden surf rod to bend. BTW, you don't need to throw that jig out far at all to catch fish. Unlike the Spanish, flounder and Reds will be right up in the surf line more often than not. A nice Medium action 7'6 rod (I use a Falcon...currently on clearance at Academy Sports for $49 btw) will suffice quite nicely.

Finally, as to the Pompano/Mullet question. Shrimp or Sand Fleas on a basic two hook bottom rig fished close to the surf line will get you into some good eating....
 

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Pompano are a clear water fish. If the water is stained or muddy don't bother unless you can get past the mud line and on the backside of the bar they'll hang out. If the water is clear you'll find them in the breakers a lot of times.

Mullet...find a hole, which is another entire thread topic. Watch the waves at low tide and even high tide. Study the wave patterns and what they do. When you find a place where they don't break and is inline of breaking waves...you found a hole. Some are 2 car garage big. Some are pantry small.

Some holes you can see low or high tide.

I don't walk and fish. I park my chair and fish structure. Your chances are greater fishing structure than fishing for a fish that may or may not pass through. Structure holds food sources. Fish will be around the food. I devote some time to just popping my head out on the beach at various points and looking for holes. Most times I never even walk on the beach. Pick a slightly elevated view at any public access and stand and watch. Memorize it's location or walk to it and GPS it. Hopefully it will still be there when you come back. If you are beach mobile with vehicle. Ride a long slowly looking for and marking holes.

Coupla weeks ago I was surf fishing and it was slow time during the day. I found a hole or cut that was probably not more than 2 feet across. the only way I found it was drifting into it. I lined it up with an object behind me and put a mark in the sand in front of me so I could continually cast to it. Every time I hit it I caught a fish. Outside that little hole....nothing.

Live bait and cut bait fishing usually keeps me pretty occupied but I usually have a rig set up with an artificial close by if I feel like I want to catch some little spanish or blues. This time of year my primary targets are big drum, tarpon, and sharks. On the seconday side, mullet, pompano, pig fish, spot tails and if there is rock, sheapshead.
 

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Red X Angler
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Yup, we could get into an entire thread on reading the surf too. Somebody posted some really good stuff on this subject a couple of years ago. I'm going to try and find it.

I may ride down the beach looking for a hole (in addition to watching where the waves break late I also look for collections of small broken shells at the surf line (denotes where water is 'backwashing' into the ocean...prime location for predatory pick offs) but once I find one I fish it pretty thoroughly. Same if I'm walking. Just like fresh water, 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water. I always wondered about those tournament bass fishermen doing the 'cast and blast' trying to find fish......but they are tournament fishermen so I guess they know what they are doing. I'll work a likely spot with different baits and techniques versus changing locations much.
 

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Yup, we could get into an entire thread on reading the surf too. Somebody posted some really good stuff on this subject a couple of years ago. I'm going to try and find it.

I may ride down the beach looking for a hole (in addition to watching where the waves break late I also look for collections of small broken shells at the surf line (denotes where water is 'backwashing' into the ocean...prime location for predatory pick offs) but once I find one I fish it pretty thoroughly. Same if I'm walking. Just like fresh water, 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water. I always wondered about those tournament bass fishermen doing the 'cast and blast' trying to find fish......but they are tournament fishermen so I guess they know what they are doing. I'll work a likely spot with different baits and techniques versus changing locations much.
http://www.ncangler.com/forums/threads/33733-Reading-the-surf
 
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