Beach Fishing in Style and Comfort
A while back we wrote about fishing while walking on a beach. Both spinning tackle and fly rods are popular with local anglers. But, as we hinted at then, there is another school of beach fishing that’s not nearly as aerobic. This style counts on the fish coming to the angler. Walking anglers are hunting fish up and down the shore.
When we take visitors to the beach, not everyone wants to fish. There are so many things to do other than fish; collect seashells or sharks teeth, build sandcastles or just sit in the sun with a cold beverage. Beach fishing from a “base camp” can be productive and relaxing with a little preparation and the right stuff.
Some folks don’t do well getting vertical from sand level so start with a comfortable chair for everyone. The popular beach sling chairs work okay but folding aluminum chairs with rails rather than feet won’t sink as far into the sand. Of course, bring a cooler for beverages and your catch. Hydration is important on the beach. Many local beaches have rules about glass containers so go with aluminum cans, they’re lighter anyway.
Depending on the weather, some folks will also want to bring along umbrellas, beach towels, picnic supplies, snorkel gear, shark tooth scoops and toys for building sandcastles. All of this will add up, leaving you looking and feeling like a pack horse as you trudge to and from the car. We haven’t even considered fishing gear yet.
To avoid the “pack horse” dilemma, some anglers use a cart or wagon that will haul everything in one load without stress. The most important things to look for on a beach cart are wide wheels that won’t sink into the sand. Narrow wheels will sink and leave you dragging the cart along on its bottom. It is also nice if your cart folds and fits in the trunk or the back of an already loaded SUV.
Tackle is another consideration. The 10’+ long surf rods popular on the Atlantic coast aren’t really needed here. Your basic medium weight spinning rod with a light weight will cast farther than you need to from our Gulf beaches. Most gamefish fish feed in the first trough off the shore; casting farther puts your offering on a sand bar, home to lizard fish and catfish which aren’t your primary target. If you want to sit back and relax while bait fishing on the beach, a rod holder is another essential item. It may take a while for a fish to find your bait so be patient. The rod holder helps. If, after a while, the fish aren’t biting where you are, we suggest you should move.
A suggestion for successful surf fishing here involves moving the bait slowly but constantly along the bottom. We seldom use pyramid sinkers designed to dig in and hold on a sand bottom. It is far more effective to use a barrel sinker that allows the bait to roll with the current and waves while slowly reeling in to keep a tight line. This is hard to do with a rod in a rod holder. Sinkers that hold in the current cause your bait to spin which most quality fish will reject. They have just never seen a shrimp spiral in place like that before.
Of course, for this type of beach fishing, most folks bring frozen bait or a bait bucket with live shrimp. Shrimp need to be aerated, kept cool and have the water changed hourly. Frozen bait should be kept cold. An alternative is scented artificial baits that need no refrigeration or aeration. Several companies make this type of product so experiment with color and size. We recommend small pieces on a 1 or 1/0 hook for most shore fish.
So, when the next sunny day with a light offshore breeze and a high afternoon tide happens, you have a decision to make. Do you want to go light and walk the beach while stalking gamefish and collecting shells? Or would you rather pack in a comfortable base camp and enjoy a cold beverage while the fish come to you. Either choice is a good one.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Shore and KAYAK Fishing Southwest Florida, contribute these excerpts from both Waterproof books to promote the excellent fishing available in the Englewood area. They are available locally at Old Florida Gallery on West Dearborn, and for download at www.anglerpocketguides.com & www.amazon.com.