Getting into Surfcasting
By Gary Kemsley
The best thing about surfcasting is that anyone, anywhere can give it a go.
There is no need for an expensive boat and the gear required to get you started is not overly expensive. All you need is a rod and reel, hooks and sinkers, and some bait. That’s all.
Rods should be 3.6-4.5m long, to allow reasonable casting distances. Beginners should choose spinning or fixed-spool reels in larger sizes. Line capacity is important: 200 metres-plus is required. Line breaking strains do not need to be heavy for surf fishing – 6-8kg line will cover most situations. You will need the sinkers in weights to match your rod – probably 4–6oz (113–170g). Try the sinkers with wires in them (break-away sinkers) – they grip well in the sand.
Always buy good quality hooks. They are your connection to the fish, and you want the best connection possible.
You can buy made-up rigs with hooks ready to fish, which will make life easy for you – just clip on as directed on the packet, add bait and a sinker, and cast them out.
Where to fish
Where to fish is always a problem for those starting out surfcasting. There are well-known local spots wherever you are, but when should you fish them? It can take a while to work it out. I believe the fun in surfcasting is working these things out for yourself. Get out there at all stages of the tide, during the day and at night. Eventually you will strike it right. Keep a diary and you will quickly gather valuable information. Remember that fish are creatures of habit and they will return time after time to the same spot, year after year.
Reading a beach
Once at the beach, look for areas of darker water – that will be deeper water. Also seek out areas where the waves are not breaking – a sure sign the water is deeper there than the surrounding water.
Areas where there are strong lateral currents on the beach may be worth trying too, as food is swept along in such areas. Avoid the places where the waves are breaking the heaviest – fish don’t like too much sand in the water.
You could try at the ends of beaches where the sand runs into rock. These are often excellent spots to find moki.
River mouths are prime spots. They have the attraction of pouring food-laden freshwater into the sea, as well as being places where baitfish hang out. Kahawai are usually present at river mouths at some stage of the tide.
Move away from the actual mouth a couple of hundred metres and you are in snapper country. They don’t tolerate the freshwater so well, but still want some of the action in the vicinity of the mouth.
Broken shells on the beach could indicate an offshore shellfish bed, attractive to any fish in the area. It could be a good spot to try. If there is a surf running, try and place your bait over the back of the last wave or cast into any deeper water you can see, if that is not possible.
Here is a basic run down on favoured baits for different species of fish taken in the surf.
Snapper:pilchards, shellfish and squid
Sharks:fresh and oily fish, tuna, mackerel etc.
Gurnard:fresh kahawai, skipjack tuna
Cod:any cut fish bait
Generally, fresh baits out-fish frozen or salted baits. The exception could be salted skipjack tuna, which is a great bait to use for many species. The secret with this bait is its oil content.
Try using floats on your hook traces to add colour, flash and movement to your bait. The movement will help spread fish-attracting juices for you. Experience has shown that this is a very effective way of luring kahawai and gurnard in particular to your hook. Whatever rig you use, make sure that you tie your bait to the hook, otherwise they can fly right off the hook, slump into the gape of the hook or mask the hook point.
You will need a rod stand you can press into the sand to set the rod up in. While surfcasting can be fast and furious, it usually isn’t, and you’ll need to put the rod down. You’ll find you quickly tire of holding onto the rod while waiting for a bite.
Get yourself a sharp knife to cut up bait and another with a longer, thinner blade to fillet your catch. A bucket is handy to carry gear in, sit on and carry the fish home in. Waders or a wetsuit may be helpful, depending on where you fish, but remember to wear a wading belt and a buoyancy aid.
Polaroid glasses will help you locate the best water to cast into by letting you see subtle changes in water colour, indicating depth.
Try joining a local surfcasting club. You will get all the information you need to get you started there and you’ll probably find a mate to go out with. It is all really simple, actually – just get out and give it a go.
Species:Snapper Crayfish Gurnard Kahawai Kingfish Shark Squid Trevally Tuna
Getting into Surfcasting