Surf Fishing Basics

Have you ever wanted to beach fish but just don’t know how or where to start? Have you started but don’t seem to catch anything? Gary Palmers’ (aka Squidgie) Surf Fishing Basics just may be your answer……..
The right rod on the beach is critical

The right rod on the beach is critical

Beach fishing is a brilliant way to get fit and if you are just sitting around gaining a few pounds this is the best way to get fit and a feed of fish! You don’t need to spend heaps either. You can gather your own bait at your feet or you can just use soft plastics or hard body lures and you’re on your way. For the beginner who wants to beach fish it can be daunting! What bait! What rod! What terminal tackle! This I can sort out easily for you. THE GEAR RODS The rod for bait fishing only needs to be 10 or 12 foot.  A Wilsons 4144 will catch bream, whiting, flathead and dart which are the most targeted fish. A Wilsons 6144 rod is good for tailor, school jew and salmon. You can also get some very good combos with Alvey Reels. You could also go for the Wilson Heritage range 10’6” or 12’, they are a very versatile rod and very light. REELS The reel is up to you but I would suggest that you get an Alvey reel either a 500,600 or 650. These reels are made for beach fishing and once you get use to them they are great. Get the guys or girls at your local tackle shop to show you how to use them and if you are buying new, get them to load your line for you. 10lb or 15lb is all you will need. You could  also use an egg beater reel,  but just remember you are fishing on sand and the reel mortality rate is high. Thread line reels seem to attract sand and if not maintained you will be putting your hand into your pocket a fair bit either in repairs or new reels. With Alvey reels you can rinse sand out in the salt water. When you get home give them a wash in fresh water and a bit of a spray with reel lubricant and all will be good.
The unmistakable silver of a sea-run bream

The unmistakable silver of a sea-run bream

TERMINAL TACKLE Hooks: Well you will need size 1, 1/0, 2, 2/0 baitholder hooks and also so some long shank hooks from 6 up to 2/0. These hooks are for prawns, beach worms, squid and any cut baits you wish to use. For me I use a lot of herring cut baits.  For blue pillies to target tailor and salmon, gang hook 3 x 3/0 and 4 x 3/0 hooks. Sinkers: Always carry ball sinkers in sizes 3 – 7. You need to carry a variety due to the tides and beach sweep (by this I mean current pull) You can also use surf sinkers in size 2, 3, 4, 5. I prefer ball but to each his own. Swivels: Don’t go and buy big ones. These will get sand in them and defeat the purpose of a swivel. Get them to suit the size of the sinker you are using. This means you will need a few different sizes. The Setup: For my set up I use a swivel on top then sinker then another swivel. The sinker in the middle of both swivels helps to reduce line twist. The line where sinker runs I make 100mm. Off that I use 300mm of fluro leader then my bait. If you are using ganged hooks for tailor I cut the tail of pillie. This helps to stop the pillie twisting your line and the bait runs smooth. For cut baits any of the above baitholder hooks will do you just have to make sure the hook matches the bait size. For whiting, the most popular hook is a long shank hook in size 6. The only issue with this is sometimes whiting swallow the whole hook. If the fish is under size don’t try and retrieve the hook. Cut the line and let fish go. The hook will dissolve after a while and normally has no adverse effect on fish.
Spend time looking at the waves before heading down to fish

Spend time looking at the waves before heading down to fish

THE SPOT TO FISH Now with set up done, how to pick best spots to fish. Always fish in or around gutters. To find a gutter you need to get to a high spot (ie) sand dune or like I have in my area, a Coast Guard Tower. You will see white water or waves breaking and near them see blue water were the waves just roll over and don’t break. The blue areas the deeper holes. Sometimes the gutter will have a beginning and an end, other times just one opening. The gutters that hook left or right are the ones that  have whiting written all over them! Worms or pippies are the best bait and you don’t have to cast a long distance because the fish are at your feet. Dart will also be there. On your leader line when whiting and dart fishing cut a 50mm piece of red tubing (found in tackle shop outlets) and place on top of hook. This will help increase your bites! In the deeper gutters that pull your line out (I love these places for big bream and I mean big) is where I use a size 6 ball sinker and 300mm leader cast as far as possible. Let the current pull you out the back of breakers. Hold on though as these brutes pull hard and fight dirty! They will use the waves and current to bust you off. Jew fish can also play there and I use squid or mullet fillets on a 6/0 hook. The squid I use are locally caught by trawler operators but if none available I will use California squid. I use them whole with a hook through top of body and then through head. Just make sure the bait looks natural. Most of these gutters hold school jew so no need to upgrade your line poundage, just upgrade your leader to 30lb.
Tailor like a lot of fish will be found in schools

Tailor like a lot of fish will be found in schools

If you want to try a bit of tailor fishing and bait is not for you then slugs are the go. What I mean is a bit of shiny metal and there are so many of them on the market what you have to remember is match the hatch.  That is, if the fish are feeding on small bait fish they are not going to have a go at a 100mm slug. If you stick to 20, 40, 65, and 85mm size you can’t go wrong. Spanyid Raiders, Halco twisty, Gillies Bait Fish and my favourite Sure Catch Knights are all easy to use. Cast as far as possible then wind in. I like to count to three before I wind in. Finding tailor is not too hard. If they are feeding on top you will see a lot of birds diving into water trying to get a feed as tailor smash the bait fish. Bream and flathead are in same areas as tailor. They are under the tailor waiting on the bits to fall to them. You can also use your Sure Catch Knight to catch jew fish. All you need to do is cast out as far as possible, let the lure sink to the bottom then do a slow wind in. File 15-01-2016, 2 53 25 PM Most gutters are not wide and to target Bream, Flathead, Dart and Whiting all you need to do is cast to the back of breakers or just in front. Fish will be waiting for the waves to bring in the food for them. Waves breaking on sand stirs up worms and pippies. Melon holes are another area I like to fish. Have a look at were waves are breaking and if it’s a long sand bar you will see holes like the moon surface. This is were flathead, bream, tarwine and whiting play. There is no need for heavy sinkers, use as light as you can. If your line is heading north or south along the beach you can walk with it so your line up doesn’t end up on the bank, and trust me I have seen this happen hundreds of times. There is another way to fish beaches and that with a small 7’ flick stick and soft plastics…………… but that’s for another time.

About Gary Palmer

My name's Gary Palmer, I live on the North Coast of NSW and most fishers up this way know me simply as Squidgie. I have been fish since I was a kid growing up down the South Coast of NSW and cut my teeth on bream and flathead in Lake Illawarra. I've been living up here for over 30 years and have not used bait for many years. Soft plastics and hard body lures are my drug - well they say once you use these rubber bands it's welcome to the dark side. I write for fishing mags and had my own radio show on fishing for a long time until I became ill and couldn’t continue, but still do small reports on radio. I love bass and estuary perch fishing but bream and flathead are still up there for me. I also love blackfish don’t think there is anything better than watching a float go down with fish on. I am a river rat I love fishing rivers but I do fish beaches and occasionally go out in the deep blue.

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