Tag Archives: boat

Fall Surf Fishing

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

It’s getting to be that time of the year again—the dog days of summer are beginning to wane (even here in Florida), and there’s a cool breeze in the air. Pretty soon the water temperatures will begin to drop, and that means different fish species start to pop up on the radar for fall. If you’re lucky enough to live near the coast, you may find yourself in the perfect position to do one of my favorite types of fall fishing: surf fishing.

Man fishing on the beach.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

I’m asked fairly regularly by friends of mine to take them fishing when they haven’t actually been before. When it comes to taking someone fishing for their first time, it’s generally best to pick something low-key. I’m not exactly about to go pole the tarpon flats with the fly rod with someone who has never even caught a fish before. So when I introduce someone to fishing for the first time, it’s almost always surf fishing.

Surf fishing combines two of the greatest things around: fishing and sitting on the beach. And honestly, it’s generally fairly action-packed. But before you go running off to cast some lines out into the water, take the time to plan properly to maximize your enjoyment and success.

Tackle

Generally speaking, the name of the game with surf fishing is long distance casting—you want to be able to get the bait out past the breakers and into deeper water. At least one long surf casting rod is a must with line and leader weight depending on the species you’re targeting. For species like pompano and whiting, I generally stick with 10-12 lb test. With other species, like redfish, it might be wise to step up the game a little. Fall (particularly down here in Florida) is when the big bull reds come in to spawn. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least to hook a 40+ inch fish from the beach, so plan accordingly.

Fish in a cooler.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

When it comes to leaders and bait, I almost always use a double or triple dropper rig with a pyramid weight. The pyramid weight will help keep the bait from rolling around in the surf, and the multiple hooks allow for more bait. And everyone knows there’s no such thing as too much bait.

Equipment

Rod holders (a.k.a Sand Spikes)! These are pretty much a requirement. No one really wants to hold onto their rod the entire time as sometimes it takes a while for the bite to pick up. Bury the sand spike into the sand, and make sure it’s secure before putting a baited line in it. The simple fact that you don’t have to hold onto your rod now opens you up to use multiple rods, which increases the amount of bait out in the water (yes, lots of bait is important). This also means you can cover more water, which is important because sometimes fish aren’t always present in every part of a hole.

A fishing rod perched in the sand.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Coolers and carts are also fairly important in my book. Coolers for the obvious reasons of keeping fish and drinks cold, but the cart for its simple ease factor. Drop the cooler in a cart, put the rods inside of it, and suddenly you’re only making one trip from the truck instead of five. I’m also a HUGE fan of using folding chairs once I’m set up on the beach. I generally place the chair right in the middle of my setup so that I’m equidistant from my two rods farthest away from me, and then I sit back and enjoy a cold drink without sitting in the sand. Don’t get too comfortable, though; it’s not uncommon for three or four of your rods to get strikes at once, so you might not be doing too much sitting.

Tactics

The final and probably most important part of surf fishing are the actual tactics involved. They aren’t particularly complex, but you must always remember that not all parts of the beach are created equal. There are good spots and bad spots; holes that produce fish, and holes that just waste time. Look for areas of deeper water where the breakers aren’t, well, breaking. Deeper water closer to shore tends to hold fish. Also keep track of which direction your current is moving parallel to the beach. I like to set up on the down current side of certain holes to catch anything that may be chasing bait as it’s pushed along by the current.

Remember how I mentioned a longer rod is nice to have? Well it isn’t just nice because you can cast further. It’s important to try and place your sand spike as high as you can above the water line, because once you’ve cast out, the line is now at a downward slope toward the water. The longer the rod, the higher that point of entry is into the water, and the line doesn’t drag in the water as much. This is important because incoming waves tend to pull on the line, and it’s often easy to mistake a wave as a fish strike.

Fish.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

So if you find yourself with the chance to hit the beach this fall, consider giving surf fishing a try. If you’re also ever looking to take someone fishing for the first time, always give this type of fishing a go. It’s extremely low-key with easy clean up and is often times quite action-packed. Worst case scenario, their first time fishing includes siting on the beach and catching a good tan all morning, and that’s still pretty hard to beat. The only thing to make it better is a cooler full of pompano.

Boatless Angling

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

Florida is one of the top fishing destinations in the United States. People flock from all around the country to chase the wide variety of both saltwater and freshwater fish species that our state has to offer, particularly in the summertime. However, upon arrival, a person doesn’t have to look long before they start spotting big offshore fishing boat, flats boats, and bass boats. It’s easy to feel as though there’s no other option for fishing in Florida if you don’t have a boat. However, with the right know-how, a fisherman can easily take advantage of the many boatless angling opportunities here in the Sunshine State this summer.

Wade Fishing

Fish caught on a lure.

This trout was caught on a wade fishing trip. [Image: Alex Vail]

What’s one of the nice things about wade fishing in Florida? You can wear your swimsuit to wade fish almost eight months out of the year. The state has countless opportunities and places for anglers to take a step into the water and immediately begin chasing big fish. Most state parks have easy inshore wade fishing access for places like mangrove creeks and sea grass beds, but obviously not all areas can be wade fished—a combination of oyster bars and chest deep mud usually snuffs that. But even so, there are a wide range of places to choose from (particularly along the Gulf Coast) if you’re looking to get a little wet while you fish. Just remember shoes! Many of the grass beds are home to sea urchins, and that’s the last thing anyone wants buried in their foot.

Beach Fishing

A fishing rod in the sand on the beach with a sunset in the background.

[Image: Alex Vail]

What’s more relaxing than the beach? How about fishing while relaxing at the beach. Beach fishing (or surf fishing) is an extremely easy and fun way to get your fishing fix without ever having to step on a boat. With the exception of the Big Bend and Ten Thousand Islands areas, beach fishing is a perfectly reasonable way to catch a wide variety of fish. Talk to local bait shops and ask what is running in during that time of the year and in that place, and you should be able to get a rough idea of what to expect. Just remember a cooler full of ice and a lawn chair, unless you prefer sitting in the sand.

Pier Fishing 

If you don’t mind fishing alongside other anglers, pier fishing can be an extremely effective method here in Florida. A quick Google search or looking at a satellite image of the coastline will point out the piers—they’re scattered all along our coasts. Do note, however, that just like some state park entrances, getting onto most piers comes with a small entrance fee. Pier fishermen in the Gulf or Atlantic can expect to catch anything from redfish and pompano all the way up to sailfish and tarpon depending on the place and time of the year. Don’t cross off inshore pier fishing, either! Most bridges in the state have been updated in the past few decades and many of their old ancestors have been converted into piers.

Canal/Bank Fishing

A peaceful photo of a canal with trees along the sides.

[Image: Alex Vail]

It’s easy to focus primarily on saltwater fishing when one comes down to Florida. We do, after all, have plenty of it to go around. Freshwater fishing shouldn’t be overlooked, though. In fact, Florida produces some of the biggest largemouth bass in the country. Freshwater fishing without a boat isn’t ideal, but it can definitely be done. Unfortunately in the Northern and Central regions of Florida, freshwater fishing from the shore won’t be too enjoyable. Most lakes or rivers have limited access or small piers. Wade fishing in freshwater isn’t the greatest idea, either, unless you don’t mind getting friendly with our resident alligators. Southern Florida, however, actually does have quite a bit of freshwater fishing access in the form of bank fishing. South Florida is riddled with canal systems that cross the state in almost every direction. Many of these can be accessed right off of the side of the road. Inland canals are home to largemouth, bream, catfish, and even exotic species like cichlids and peacock bass. Canals closer to the coast often get landlocked tarpon and snook as well. It certainly isn’t uncommon to reel in a bass only to catch a snook on the next cast. Just be aware that not all canal levees have public access, but they’re generally well-marked with signage explaining just that. Also note that, however sad it might be, the crime rate in many areas of South Florida is extremely high. When fishing in some of these urban canals, be conscious of your surroundings and be sure to lock your vehicle and hide/remove any valuables from your car while you’re out fishing.

So if you make your way down to hot and sunny Florida this summer and want to fish, don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a boat. There are opportunities everywhere around the state to fish without a vessel. Be it fishing in waist deep water for trout or casting for cobia from a pier, anyone can get down to the Sunshine State and still have a great time on foot.