Surf Fishing in NC
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Surf fishing in North Carolina is easy, fun, cheap, yet very productive. This pages discusses surf fishing in North Carolina including equipment and technique.
Photos: Courtesy NOAA

Surf fishing: Surf fishing is great. In surf fishing there is minimal expense, no boat to drag around, easy access to good conditions,

and plenty of fun and action. Possibly of more importance, surf fishing is a wonderful way to introduce our nation's youth to fishing. With a minimum of effort and expense, anyone can catch Drum, Spanish, albacore, Bluefish, Flounder, Trout, and literally anything else from the beach.

Technique: Surf fishing is easy to start but very difficult to master. Very often, fish feed at the surf break line and this is a good place to start fishing. To start don't try to cast much beyond the breaks. Retrieve back through any possible bait. Or cast into the break, with sufficient lead weight, and let the bait rest until something bites. When fish are schooling the action can not be beat. Lures need to be cast out and retrieved to look like a harried bait fish swimming away from a predator. On an average day, early morning and late afternoon will be the best fishing times. The best days will occur when the high tide peaks in the early morning, from say 6 to 7:00 in the morning. Try to study the surf and find the better places.

Keep your bait fresh and out of the sun either in a cooler or refrigerator. Baits can catch multiple species of fish. Try any of the following:

Bloodworms are good. Cut into small lengths.
Mullet can be filleted into chunks or strips. Many fishers like frozen or salted fish strips.
Squid to imitate a swimming bait fish in the current are very productive.
Shrimp is a very productive bait.
Sand fleas, common during certain seasons, are very good and you can often harvest them yourself by using a seine sand bucket.
Artificial lures can be good if nothing organic is working. Pick something heavy enough to fight the surf.

Good Links:

Joe Malat's Outer Banks Surf Fishing Adventures -- A long recognized Outer Banks, surf fishing authority. Has a couple of great books. Also, operates a surf fishing school of good reputation.
Saltwater Surf Fisherman -- Good surf info especially Hatteras.
Bassdozer Fishing Articles
Striper Surf --Good articles

St. Croix Premier Surf Rod - Casting -- Wonderful surf rods.
St. Croix Premier Surf Rod - Spinning-- Wonderful surf rods.
G-Loomis® Spinning Surf Rod -- Excellent surf rods.
G-Loomis® Surf Rod - Casting -- Excellent surf rods.
Penn® Jigmaster® Surf Rod Combos -- Good quality, reasonably priced combos.
Ocean Master™ Surf Rods - Spinning -- Good quality, reasonably priced rod.

Lures, and rigs, are easily lost so buy spares. Many other things will also work. It may be best to go to a near by bait and tackle shop for advice.

Rigs: Perhaps more than other types of fishing, surf fishing rigs need to be easy to change. As tide and other conditions change so will the amount of weight required to stay on bottom, the type fish biting will change, the necessary bait will change, and thus the rigging will all require change. As much as practicable keep a variety of hooks, weights, and rigs to 'match the hatch'. Again like humans, fish have favorite meals and dining conditions.

Very often you will be fishing natural on double hook bottom rigs. Lines of 10 to 20 pound test is strong enough for most fish. Use bait-holder hooks since you most often use dead bait. Also, use bait-holder hooks even with live sand crabs or fleas. Many surf fishers prefer a sliding sinker rig; this allows the bait to move without the unnatural restriction of the weight. All too often fish will drop the bait if it feels the sinker. Start with a few common rigs, some bait and a rod and reel and add equipment as necessary.

Use circle hooks. Circle hooks not only result in more hookups but are much better on the fish than are other hooks.

Selection of rod and reel: Many tackle shops will sell specialty surf fishing rod and reel combo in a variety of lengths and weights. No single combo will be perfect for all seasons. An adequate combo will be good for all seasons though and it does not have to be a specialty surf rod. If you are going to choose one perhaps an eight to nine foot rod that is not too soft is best. The rod must easily handle up to four ounces of weight, plus one or two ounces of bait, plus a hook and rigging in order to sufficiently hold a rig on the bottom. 10 to 15 pound test will do the job and will be exciting and challenging whenever a fish is on. To cast further distances use a longer rod.

Many beginners will say it is easier to cast using a spinning reel. The chance of fouling or tangling the line is much less with a spinning reel. A casting reel will often cast further but is subject to backlash problems. With the large weights used in surf fishing the a casting reel must be set appropriately or a tangle is inevitable. Casting reels without the level wind will cast further.

Selection of other gear -- nice or needed: There are some other things needed for surf fishing. They may well include:

A cooler is needed to keep bait and cokes in while fishing.
In many areas bug repellent will be needed if the wind is not blowing.
Something to move everything in like the cart shown here. Many will use a wagon or similar. Many will carry everything they need in a five gallon bucket with some ice in the bottom and a tool holder (get at Lowes or Home Depot) around the outside. Others will move everything in their cooler.
Your standard fishing kit most likely including pliers, knife, first aid kits, additional rigs and sinkers, artificials, a seine and/or a net for catching bait, and the such.
Rod holding spikes.
Something to sit on.

Bass Pro Shops Outdoors Online: saltwater
Recommended Books and Gear

Of course you can use some or all of this and add things yourself as needed.

Just start surf fishing: Surf fishing is great fun and among the easiest type of fishing to learn and perform. Don't be afraid to give it a try. Ask the locals for help; I have yet to be turned down for advice. Ask the tackle shop for help. Always check with the "Regulations Digest" or the "Division of Marine Fisheries" to insure you have the right rules before you fish.

September 18, 2003
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