While there are a lot of fine points to be learned about surf fishing in Florida, getting started is fairly simple. Catching fish at the beach doesn't necessarily require expensive equipment or complicated tactics. Even the beginner can enjoy success. Here's some information that we hope will help you get started.
Don't be fooled into thinking that you need a lot of high end, expensive equipment to enjoy surf fishing. You don't.
Here's the basic equipment you'll need to get starting fishing in the surf in Florida.
Rod and reel - Surf rods come in various lengths from seven to fifteen feet. For the beginner a rod in the ten foot range is a good choice. A spinning reel with the capacity to hold 200 yards of fifteen to twenty pound test line is also a good choice for the fisherman who is new to Florida surf fishing. Any rod can be used in the surf; if you already have a seven to eight food spinning rod that is capable of casting a two to three ounce sinker, that will suffice for getting started.
Bottom Rigs - The most commonly used rig for surf fishing is what's known as the double dropper rig. It consists of two hooks, and a clip to attach a sinker, which will hold the rig in place after it's in the water. The most common variety of fish that are caught in the surf in Florida includes Whiting, Pompano, Black Drum, and Bluefish. While most experienced surf fishermen tend to make their own bottom rigs, many varieties of pre made rigs can be found in any tackle store, or in the sporting goods section of any Florida Wal-Mart store.
You should chose a bottom rig made with monofilament line which has a minimal amount of "hardware" (snaps and swivels). Wal-Mart sells a "Pompano Rig" which has the hooks included and has small yellow fish attractors on each hook; this is a good type of rig to get started with.
Hooks - A good hook size for general fishing is a size 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook. Circle hooks are a benefit to the fish and the fisherman; they prevent the fish from being hooked deeply in the throat which allows small fish to be released unharmed, and they are much easier to remove as they hook the fish in the side of the mouth.
Sinkers - Sinkers come in many basic shapes and sizes. The size and type of sinker you'll need changes as water conditions change, but on a nice day when the waves aren't very big, a two or three ounce "pyramid" style sinker is a good choice. The pyramid sinker will hold your bait in place and not be affected by wave action as easily as the round types of sinkers would be.
Here's another article with some more information on sinkers for Florida surf fishing.
Rod Holder - A holder for your rod and reel is not mandatory, but it's a good idea. Rod holders for surf fishing in Florida are usually called "sand spikes". Even if you hold the rod while you're fishing, you'll need some place to set it down while you bait your hooks or remove a fish you've caught. The most inexpensive types of rod holders for surf fishing are made from a simple PVC pipe which you push into the sand, and can be purchased for a few dollars at most tackle stores. Place your rod holder in the dry sand away from the water if possible; holders in the waves have a tendency to get washed out by wave action and will eventually fall over.
If you don't have a rod holder, carefully prop your rod against a lawn chair while you are baiting the hooks or lay it down on a beach towel. Never lay the rod down in the sand; if you get sand in the reel it will require total disassembly to clean it. Also never dunk a reel in salt water if you have gotten sand in it, as that will only make things worse.
Your reel will have a drag setting that you can adjust. If you leave the baited rod in your sand spike, be sure to loosen the drag before you walk away from it, and remember to keep your eye on the rod. It's the ocean, and a big fish can snatch the rod out of the holder and drag it away before you realize it's gone.
Here's another article with information on how to make your own sand spikes.
Baits - The most commonly used bait for Florida surf fishing is dead shrimp. You can find it at any tackle store, grocery store, or at many road side shrimp vendors. It is a great general bait that can be used to catch many types of fish. Remove and discard the head of the shrimp, and cut the body into small pieces about the size of your thumb nail; no need to put a whole shrimp on each of your hooks. Other baits you can use include squid, clams, and sand fleas. Sand fleas are little mole crabs that live in the sand at the beach and many times you can catch them swimming in the waves or burrowing in the sand near the edge of the water. You can find an article about sand fleas here. Pieces of smaller fish, such as mullet, can also be used for bait. Ask the clerk in the bait store what's biting, and he can recommend the best bait for a particular type of fish, but you really can't go wrong with shrimp.
Cooler - You'll need a small cooler to keep your bait fresh and to hold your fish that you intend to invite home for dinner. Never leave your fresh fish or your bait lying on the beach or in a bucket with no ice; they won't be fresh for very long.
Miscellaneous Equipment - You'll want a towel to wipe your hands, a small knife to cut your bait, and a pair of pliers can be useful to remove hooks at times. Don't forget the sun block - the sun in Florida is very hot and a couple of hours of surf fishing can result in a nasty sun burn.
One last thing you will need before you hit the beach is a fishing license. If you live in the state of Florida, you can get a free Shore License at any Wal-Mart store or tackle store that sells licenses. If you are visiting Florida you'll need a non resident salt water fishing license. If you aren't familiar with the type of fish you'll be catching, pick up a brochure when you get your license, which will show you the size limit and bag (number) limit on a number of common fish in Florida.
At this point, you are ready to go. Bait your hooks, and cast them out past where the waves are breaking and see what happens. It's the ocean, so anything is possible….
When you get home from your surf fishing trip, remember to wash your rod, reel, and rigs in fresh water; a good hosing down with fresh water won't hurt them and they'll be clean and shiny for your next trip.
A lot of detailed information about surf fishing in Florida and Georgia can be found on our
Florida & Georgia Fishing Forums. Please check the topic
"Information for Visitors" for more info about our fishing forums.