Getting Started with Beach Fishing – Catch them in the Surf

Beach fishing can be one of the simplest ways of catching a feed and having a good day out – whether solo, with mates or the family.There’s no secret to beach fishing, just remember a few of the tips outlined below. With almost always something to be caught – following these basics you can’t go wrong.

Check the Conditions

When dealing with the ocean, some days are definitely better than others. A little planning before heading out can help get the most out of every trip.

The weather, swell and state of the tide play important factors on a beach’s fishability. There’s no shortage of technology to keep updated with, and WillyWeather is reliable and shows wind direction and strength, tide times and swell conditions. 

Light winds are easiest to work with, but offshore winds can also help casting. 

Strong cross winds or onshore gusts are the most difficult to work with and are sometimes best avoided. 

The swell, in conjunction with wind, dictates how the waves behave and how “messy” the water is. Swell of two metres and under is easiest to fish, allowing the angler to stay in contact with their line and keep baits and lures in the strike zone. 

Tides change water levels and the state of currents along the beach. A visit at low tide can reveal things that mightn’t otherwise be visible – like rocks and gutters – that can be fished at high tide.

As the tide rises, water floods into the gutters and starts to dislodge creatures hiding in the sand. Fish follow this movement, so a rising tide can be good to fish. 

Find the Gutters

With the initial planning done, it’s time to visit the beach. Finding a high vantage point is the best place to start. From here, you can look for the gutters that fish will be feeding in. From up high these stand out as darker strips of water running parallel with the shore, backed by lighter coloured water covering a sand bar.

Another way to spot the gutters is to watch the wave action. Incoming waves rise and break over the sand bar before sinking down into the gutter and again breaking at the shore. The gutter will show as a calmer section of water between lines of breaking waves. 

Look for a bit of water movement along the shoreline in the gutters. This shows that there is some current in there, pushing food around and making it more appealing to fish.

There will be fish on the ocean side of the sand bar where waves are dislodging food from the sand; and in the gutter either hunting under the wash of entering waves or right up on shore. 

You don’t have to cast out to sea – sometimes they’re at your feet!

Use the right Bait 

Bait is always best when it’s alive, or at least fresh. Match them to the type of food on offer, and the type of fish you’re after. Fresh beach worms and pipis are great choices for bream, whiting and dart; while fish baits are good for tailor, salmon, flathead and jewfish. 

This is the same for lures. Small to medium soft plastics catch most things, and larger diving lures, stickbaits and metal spinners work well for the larger predators.

Match your Gear

As with all fishing, it’s easiest to catch fish if your gear is suitable for the job. 

When the swell’s low and the gutter’s at your feet, it’s fine to fish with the same 7ft spin rod you use in the estuary. When it’s a bit rougher, or if you want to cast a long way, a longer beach fishing rod is much easier to use. A 9 or 10ft rod helps to throw lures and baits further with less effort, and keep the line above the breaking waves so it’s easier to feel bites.

Sidecast reels still hold their own on the beach because they’re tough, simple and don’t mind getting saltwater or sand on them. Their wide spools are great for casting un-weighted baits a long way.

A good threadline reel is the easiest all-rounder reel to use. 

Depending on what you’re chasing, line should be as light as possible so as to have the best sensitivity. For bream and whiting, 8-10lb is fine while 15-20lb will suffice for almost everything else. 

An assortment of bait hook sizes and sinker weights will allow you to adapt to the conditions. Work with a running sinker rig so that fish don’t feel resistance when they pick up the bait. 

Fighting and Landing Fish

On a sunny day when the water’s clear, there’s nothing better than watching a hooked fish swim through the waves as you fight it. 

Always stay in contact with your bait or lure, as many bites are subtle and easily obscured by wave action. That might mean slowly winding in line as the bait is pushed back to shore, or walking along the beach in time with the current washing through the gutter. 

Once a fish is hooked – don’t panic! 

There’s really nowhere for it to go on clean sand that will get you in trouble, so let the reel’s drag do its work and enjoy the fight. Maintain the bend in the rod and don’t let the line go slack. When the fish stops running, gently lower the rod while consecutively winding in line, then lift the rod back up to draw the fish towards you.

Receding waves will pull the fish away, so let that happen, and use the next incoming wave to push it up the beach. Don’t rush down to grab a floundering fish – keep the line tight and draw it up further with the next wave until it’s left high and dry.

Life’s a Beach

A day at the beach is always a great time, and a feed of fish at the end of it makes it even better. There are tasty table fish to catch as well as hard-fighting sportfish – so whatever you’re after the beach is a good place to be.

It can also be one of the most simple and affordable forms of fishing – as it doesn’t require any specialised gear. If you’re looking for a few extra tips, this video explains beach fishing really well.

Get out and give it a go – you won’t be disappointed.