Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips Reading the beach; where to go surf fishing.
Reading the beach; where to go surf fishing.

"I've bought the surf rod and reel, a sand spike, and a little bit of
tackle. Now I'm ready to go fishing! How can I tell a good surf fishing

Last week we talked about what to buy to go surf fishing. This week we will
talk on where to surf fish and what to look for on the beach. The first
question new surf anglers always ask is this: "Where should I go? How do I
know if a beach is good or not? What should I look for?"

The simplest way to explain the surf close to shore is this: White water
means shallow water and rolling dark water means deeper water. You want to
try to cast to this rolling darker water. A wave crashes when the mounting
water suddenly comes upon shallow water. If you can cast right behind the
wave where it "crests" before it turns to white water, you will be casting
to a "drop-off" and this is right where you want to be. Fish tend to feed
on these underwater changes of bottom depth called "drop offs" because that'
s where the bait is!

If you cast beyond this underwater slope into the deepest water you can
reach and slowly drag your rig up the underwater slope towards the shallower
water, you will have a good chance of catching a fish. You will have a much
better chance of catching in an area like this than if you are casting on a
"flat" beach.

The best way to view a beach is when it is calm and when it is low tide. If
it is not too cold it is good to wade out into the water and feel the holes,
drop-offs, and sloughs with your feet. (If you have waders on, be careful!)
If it is summer time get right out there in the water and walk around. If
there are surfers or body boarders in the water, sit and watch them as they
maneuver in and out of the water. See where it is deep and where it is
shallow. Sometimes you can learn a lot from a beach by just watching

"What is a slough?"

A slough is when you have a drop-off close to shore that is relatively deep
and then you have an outer bar that is shallower. You will see white water
in the distance and then deeper water close to shore. If it is high tide,
you want to fish right in the slough itself. If you cast too far your rig
could wind up on the outer bar and actually be in water that is too shallow.
If you just cast easy you could be in deeper water. The perfect scenario
would be to cast near the edge of the outer bar and let your rig fall down
into the deeper water. Again, you would be fishing a "drop off." Also,
look for "cuts" in the outer bar that would allow big fish to come into the

At low tide you can walk through the slough and walk out on the outer bar
and cast as far as you can.

Of course, this is not a perfect world and we do not always find the
"perfect" hole. Sometimes, when it is very rough, you can not tell anything
about the beach structure! That's why it is always best to observe the
beach while it is calm and low tide.

If you can not tell anything from the water itself, look at the sand. Deep
cuts or "gullies" in the sand mean bottom changes in the surf near-by.
Ruts that travel towards the water's edge where you see sand fleas (mole
crabs) burying in the sand is a very good sign of a good fishing spot. Most
fish will come in close to feed on sand fleas, little baby sea clams,
speckled crabs, and baitfish. Seeing baitfish is always a good sign. Be
observant. It will pay off. Look for sea gulls picking at the water. This
is usually a sign of fish.

"Are the beaches in the Delaware Seashore State Park and the Assateague
National Park better beaches to surf fish?"

The beaches change all the time. After a storm or blow we can have
excellent holes in Ocean City, but sometimes we go through a period of time,
where some of our beaches in Ocean City are "flat." The State and
National Parks have a more natural beach because there is no "beach
replenishment." Many anglers find that it is well worth their while to
spend the $5 or $6 bucks to park in one of the parking lots in the Delaware
State Park and walk up on the beach. One of the most popular surf beaches
in Delaware is the 3 R's Road that is located just south of the Indian River
Bridge. There is a "quick" drop-off here and is quite productive. Anglers
also do well on the beach just North of the Indian River Inlet. This is
what we call the 'pocket." Bait can be trapped between the inlet rocks and
the beach and produce some good surf fish!

The Assateague surf has a big slough all the way down the beach. Some areas
of the slough are wider, some are narrower, and some areas have cuts through
the outer bar. If you go down to the National Park, park in the fishing
area, and walk up to the beach, you will be in a pretty fair fishing hole.
If you spend the $70 bucks or so for the 4-wheel drive permit and drive down
the beach towards Virginia you will see some great cuts and sloughs that you
just won't see in Ocean City. That's why we see so many big stripers and
drum weighed in from that area.

"I want to fish right in front of my place in Ocean City! I just want to
walk out the front door and go!"

That is understandable, and there are plenty fish caught just like that for
the patient angler. Some people just cast out, put the rod in the sand
spike, and sit back. Others hold the rod and wait for something to happen.
Regardless of how you fish, it is still important to check out the beach at
low tide, even if it is within a 2-block area. Just moving over a few yards
up or down the beach can mean the different in catching or not. I like to
cast out, let it sit for a minute or two, and then reel in very slowly along
the bottom. If nothing happens, I move down the beach a couple yards and
cast out again. If I get a bite in a certain spot, I stay there and work
the area for a while.

Many people are very concerned about the tide. Tide is not as important on
the surf as it is in the bay. But if you are fishing an extremely flat
beach, I like a low tide because you can walk out further and cast into
deeper water. An incoming tide gives you cleaner, clearer water that makes
your bait more visible to the fish. Crabs are less troublesome on an
outgoing tide as well.

If there is a "hole" or a "slough" where you are fishing close to shore, the
higher tide is best. In some areas of Ocean City there are jetties.
Usually, one side of the jetty is deeper and the other side is shallow.
Always fish the deeper side and fish at high tide when working around

Time of day is actually more important for surf fishing than tide. Early in
the morning (dawn until about 10 A.M.) and towards dusk (4 P.M. until dark)
are excellent times to surf fish. Fish tend to feed closer to shore during
these times of day. If the tide is changing or incoming, so much the

Whether you are catching or just relaxing, there's nothing like surf
fishing. Look for a good surf fishing beach, work your bait across the
bottom, fish the right times of day and tides, and you'll be productive.

Good fishing.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 18:20