I love the beach. The smell of salt, lazy criss crossing shrimp boats on the horizon, and a drink in hand makes the stresses of life drift away like a coconut in the current. Marry the relaxing toes in the sand aspect of the playa with the chance to tie into a variety of hard fighting and yummy fish–or better–watch your munchkin crank furiously with sweat and elation mixing on his face and you have the makings of a tremendous experience. The variety and size of the fish you can catch is unlimited and here’s what you need to harvest the surf’s bounty:
1. Rods and Reels. Check your local fish and game handbook, but I like to bring multiple setups with me. I use a couple big spinning reels, with 30-50 pound test braid for targeting sharks, bull reds, and black drum. I then have several smaller reels to catch fish in the 1-10 pound range like whiting, sheepshead, puppy drum, slot reds, pompano, etc. Whatever you bass or bay fish with will work well for these fish. But fair warning, eventually you will hook into a shark or bull red on a small set up. Fun times!
2. Five feet of 1.5 inch PVC Pipe. These cheap rod holders will stick in the sand deep enough to keep from falling over, about 12 to 18 inches. How do you get them into the sand? Well, this part isn’t so manly, but it’s quick and it works. Put your mouth inside the top of the pipe and suck as hard as you can. Magically, the pipe will sink into the sand. Or you can just bring a pair of post-hole diggers. I think you should just suck it up.
3. Ice Cooler and Ice. I think this is best anytime you are going to keep fish, but it’s mandatory for the beach. Stringers are no use in the surf unless you are wading while you fish. And then there’s sharks.
4. 4 wheel Drive. Unless you want to battle crowds, you need to get down the beach where others cannot. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but its really nice and partly makes up for your rod holder planting technique.
5. Leaders. Basically, a leader is a section of line stronger than your main line. If toothy fish are around, I’ll go with a steel leader. Others like to roll with a fancy one that has beads and multiple swivels. I find the best ones are simple and have had good luck with making my own. I do use store bought ones on occasion and haven’t lost many fish using them.
6. Weights. Sometimes, I think this is the most important item. If the waves are higher than your knees, I prefer 2-3 ounce spider weights. Otherwise, I use 1 and 2 ounce pyramids. If you are going to fish multiple rods, the weights need to stay put.
7. Hooks and Shrimp. I like to chill at the beach, so I use circle hooks that don’t require a hook set. This way, I can set my coffee down, make my way to the rod, and slowly start reeling it in. Once I feel the fish is well hooked it’s party time. Sometimes, though, I’ll have one rod I keep in my hand while watching the others and on it, I don’t mind sporting a J hook. On the gulf, nothing beats fresh dead shrimp.
8. Sun/Wind Protection. I’m basically pink. So to avoid advancing to a painfully burnt red, I usually go with a hat, pants, long sleeves, and a buff to protect my face. Plus, I look like a train robber.
9. A Wave Chart. Swell info rocks and can tell you prior to beach arrival what the conditions are. It’s a surfer’s website so I look for the bad days of surfing when there are no waves and the surface is clean.
10. Kids. Fishing from a pier, dock or boat is nice, but I think this is the best form of fishing for a young or new angler. There’s a good chance to stay busy getting bites, there are a variety of fish to catch, and if all else fails, you are still at the beach with all the fun that entails. Be sure to have some snacks, drinks and sand castle equipment and all should be fine.
Grab your gear and head to the beach. The fish are running!