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Basics for Surf Fishing

floats of all colors,shapes and sizes on Striped bass rigs, make these rigs very versatile

floats of all colors,shapes and sizes on Striped bass rigs, make these rigs very versatile

“Riggin-up” as many of us call it can be a confusing and frustrating process even for the saltiest of anglers.  Establishing what is biting is the first concern.  Using a flounder rig for drifting from a boat, fishing this from a pier is not going to work too well, unless you cast it out and reel it back.    You don’t want to fish top water for a flounder, though it has happened they do swim near the surface.  However that once-in-a-while fish is no fun compared to constant hook ups.  When I am fishing  in a  boat or on the shore/surf  I rig up for everything I can and then establish what is working.  This works so long as you have enough room (especially on a boat).  There have been many times I have just used one simple rig for an entire day.  This makes for a lot less gear to drag around, but cuts down your options.  This just requires you alter the bait, good ole fishing :D .

So what are we riggin-up for today?  Let’s start simple…….

Mullet rigs in multiple colors, shapes, and sizes and the split shank hooks
Mullet rigs in multiple colors, shapes, and sizes and the split shank hooks

You can purchase rigs already made up at all bait and tackle shops.  These are easy for the beginner and save on time tying up your own rigs.   I buy them when I am in a hurry,make them in the winter when I’m bored.  The rigs have a list on them for what fish they are “rigged-up” to catch.  There are top and bottom rigs, with floats and without.   These rigs are all set up so the weight is on the bottom for surf fishing, this keeps the crabs away from your bait (most of the time).  Floats come in many colors and most/all times these colors are important.  The floats help with the crabs and work well with fish finders and of course the colors.   A 3-4 ounce weight will keep  rigs in place, in the surf.  Pyramid and hurricane/breakaway sinkers are the best they can’t roll around and will plant themselves in the sand.  These are just basic rigs and work great when used properly.  Basically cast and let it sit, pay attention to the rod.  Very “hands-free” fishing, these rigs also work great off a pier or an anchored boat.  You can “drift” these rigs from a boat also.  The rigs with the floats work better in the surf than in the bays.  When drifting these rigs from a boat or a pier you will need to use the right weight for the area you are fishing.  Common sense comes in here, you don’t want to drag a 4 ounce pyramid weight along the bottom. You need a smooth drag.

Fish Finder with pyramid weight
Fish Finder with pyramid weight

Fish finders are small plastic sleeves that the line passes through.  The sinker is attached to the fish finder and the line is free to run through the plastic sleeve. The weight holds the bottom and as you slacken the line, you can feed as much line through the finder as you want.  This allows you to “find” fish in different areas of the water;  bottom,middle, and top.  A rig with a float is necessary with the fish finder unless you are using live bait (spot or minnows).  Otherwise you are just crabbing from the beach.

Pyramid weight attached to the loop on a Striped Bass rig
Pyramid weight attached to the loop on a Striped Bass rig

Weights come in many shapes and sizes.  Pyramids and break-away sinkers are the best in the surf.  The pyramid  attaches to the line on the flat bottom so the point can drop into the sand and hold the bottom.  Break-aways have wires on the bottom the wires are set, and when retrieved the wires fold back and makes it much easier to retrieve.  When using these weights your are going to want to have heavy mono or braided line in the 20lb range,  the retrieval of large weights can snap and stretch line.  Braided is great for the fact that 80 lb braided spools like 15 pound mono and casts like silk.  Yes I LOVE braided line, just watch your fingers.

Surf fishing is easier than people think.  You don’t have to cast to Europe to catch fish in the surf.  I love watching people wade out so they can try to cast farther.  Its hysterical, wading out waist to shoulder deep is not necessary.  The fish are either wayyyyyyy out there beyond your casting or they are right in the surf.  Now when we go for big fish I tend to cast way out there and there are times you want to do this.  This is why I rig for anything; you never know what is in the surf.  You have to know what fish are running and look for signs of birds feeding and schools of fish moving.  The fish are mostly in the first 40 feet of water feeding the surf.  They especially like to feed the “cuts” in the beach.  This is the area that looks like a small point where the waves roll over each other.  The stirred up sand provides lots of food for baitfish.  This brings in the bigger fish.

The GOT-CHA lures are great in the surf
The GOT-CHA lures are great in the surf

“Drifting” from a boat is when you drag a weight along the bottom and it is followed by a leader with whatever hook size  necessary for the targeted fish.  The boat drifts with the tide hence the term “drifting”.  Weight depends on the speed of the drift to hold the bottom; 2 ounces usually works well with a slow drift.  The weight type/shape drop sinkers are the best.  Drag weights come in a few shapes,  the barrel/trolling and the flat weight.   These drag the bottom smoother and create less of a disturbance on the bottom.  Drop/bank weights tend to bounce along the bottom.  This is necessary so you can distinguish between the bottom and a fish tagging your bait.

You can get creative with rigs once you get used to their function compared to a fish’s feeding habits. I recently put a 2/0 circle hook on a 4 foot leader with an 1/4 ounce egg sinker before the hook.  There is a float at the top of the leader.  You cast past the second swell and the water moves the float around in the surf.  The egg sinker works like a fish finder.  The float helps you see a fish tag the line and it allows the fish to take the bait without too much resistance.  I caught a flounder within 15 seconds of the first cast with this rig on a small chunk of bunker.  I call it “drifting” the surf for flounder.

So after all that what are we rigging for??…   We are rigging for whatever is running and biting.  We rig to find that out, and always talk to the folks fishing that area. Most people like to talk about their catch.  All in all though its called fishing for a reason :D.

So get out there and rip it up after riggin up.  When you do find that fish write us a post/comment and tell us.  We just might believe ya.  :D

Fish on gang!!!. Bring the meat or tell me a lie!!

Rich King

2 comments on “Basics for Surf Fishing
  1. seanfitz says:

    when is good start date for surf fishing ?

    • Rich King says:

      Sean,
      This all depends on what you want to catch. Surf fishing in Delaware changes with the seasons. We start really fishing heavy in the spring. As the seasons progress and change so does the fishing. We fish all the time, just depends on when you are here and what you want to catch. I know this is a vague answer but, this is surf fishing. We just go and know what to go for, when we are there. Keep up with the website and you will know what is going on out here in the surf.

      Fish On!!
      Rich King

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