Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading the Beach

A big reason some surf anglers are so successful is that they are able to " Read " the beach to find fishy looking areas. The sheer size of the ocean is almost always intimidating to beginners when they are first learning to spot some of the features that make certain spots good for fishing. It takes a lot of practice and a trained eye to be able to find productive holes every time. There is also a whole lot of trial and error involved until you learn to read the beach well. It's also possible to find a good looking spot that just isn't holding any fish.

One good way to learn is by asking other anglers you see on the beach. I certainly don't recommend setting up and trying to fish a hole that someone else has found , but most fishermen will be happy to point out some of the features that made a particular spot look good to them. Some smaller "holes" can be ruined if too many people try to fish them , resulting in tangled lines and flaring tempers.

There are several things you can look for that will increase your chances of finding the fish. It's always a good idea to scout for holes during low tide , because the sand bars and outflows will be easier to see and you can get a better idea of where to place your bait when you're ready to fish.

To get started , you'll need to figure out where the sand bar is. The location of the bar plays a critical role in figuring out where the fish might be. If it's in close fish are likely to be behind it chasing bait fish into the shallow water on top of the bar , further out and fish could be holding between the bar and the beach. Waves are constantly rearranging things and holes can show up and then disappear over the course of a week , especially if a storm system comes through that really churns the surf up. Most of the time you can locate the bar by paying close attention to where the waves begin to break as they come in. As the waves cross over the bar , the shallower water causes them to cave in on themselves once the base of the wave can no longer support the top. Wikipedia has a fairly decent article about wave dynamics here , if you're interested in the science behind waves.

Once you have a general idea of where the bar is you can start looking for other features that might make the area more appealing to the fish. When the bar is farther out , it creates an area of deeper water between the bar and the beach that can often hold fish. Another important thing to look for are the outflows. Outflows are areas where a break in the bar allows water from the surf to go back out to sea. Also known as rip currents , these breaks are where fish will come in to feed in the surf. Fish will also lay to the right or left of an outflow feeding on smaller fish and crustaceans pulled out to sea by the current. It is often very productive to place your bait on either side of an outflow. A good indicator of a stretch of beach with a break in the bar is an area where the waves aren't breaking , but are breaking north and south. This usually indicates a break in the bar.

You can also look at the sand on the beach to get an idea of what's going on underwater. Areas with coarse , almost gravel like sand and lots of pieces of seashell washed up are often near deeper holes that may be holding fish. You can also look up and down the beach and find areas where the wind and waves have created points that stick out into the water a little bit further than the beach on either side of them. Sometimes the more subtle differences will have a big effect on the fishing.

Hopefully that will help you get started. I am by no means an expert on reading the beach , but that covers some of the basics. You can find a good article that covers some more of the features you need to look for here.

Have a great week!

1 comment:

  1. Great Post my friend, another good topic might be on bait placement (pictures would be awesome) I absolutely love surf fishing, and I know a lot of people struggle with knowing where to place their baits. So a little instruction might go a long way to help them out!


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