With a minimum of effort and expense, anyone can catch
a fish from the beach. Start with a few rigs, some bait
and a rod and reel. If you do not have the necessary items,
start with a visit to your favorite tackle shop. Most
tackle shops on the Outer Banks sell balanced rod and
reel combinations in a variety of lengths and weights.
There's no single rod and reel that will be perfect for
spring, summer, and fall fishing, but eight to nine feet
is a versatile rod length, and a good starter outfit.
Look for a rod that is not too soft, with too much flex
in the tip, one that will handle up to four ounces of
weight to hold a rig on the bottom.
Most of the time you will be fishing with pieces of
natural bait such as bloodworms, squid, shrimp, or mullet
and two hook bottom rigs. They are versatile and good
for several species of small fish, and afford the opportunity
to change hook sizes, styles and sinkers easily, to
suit the species of fish, and conditions of the ocean.
Some shops sell them with the hooks and sinkers already
"Fireball rigs" are specialized bottom rigs.
They may have one or two hooks, with a brightly colored
float fixed just in front of the hook. They're good
for bluefish, but anything will bite them.
Baits are very seasonal, and I strongly suggest that
you ask the local tackle shop people for a recommendation.
Keep your bait fresh and out of the sun, in a cooler
or refrigerator. Like their human counterparts, fish
like to eat things that look good and smell fresh.
Each bait has a special method of preparation. Bloodworms
are cut into small pieces. Mullet can be filleted and
cut into chunks or strips. Squid works best when cut
into thin, wedge shaped pieces that imitate a swimming
bait fish in the current. Mole crabs, or sand fleas,
are small crustaceans that burrow into the sand between
the low tide and high tide marks, and are an effective,
low budget bait for several species. Hook them from
their underside up through the top shell.
It's also a good idea to take a few artificial lures
to the beach. Occasionally fish will school up and feed
very actively right in the surf. This is especially
true of bluefish, striped bass, or Spanish mackerel,
particularly early and late in the day. Lures need to
be cast out and retrieved, and when retrieved, look
like a harried bait fish swimming away from the predator.
If you have to pick one or two lures, choose something
that is shiny and heavy enough to cast.
When you buy one, buy a spare. The worst thing imaginable
is to have fish all around you in a feeding frenzy,
and hear the line break with a sickening "POW!",
as you watch your only lure sail off on a world record
cast. Some handy accessories are a knife, a pair of
pliers, and a rag. If I am walking over to the beach
and not driving, I carry a five gallon plastic bucket.
Hook your rigs and lures around the top, put your knife,
bait, a few pieces of ice and a cold drink or two in
the bottom, and use it to carry off your fish.
One other item you don't want to be without is a sand
spike, a piece of PVC pipe that is shoved down into
the sand. The butt of your fishing rod is inserted into
the pipe. Never lay the rod and reel down in the sand.
Sand gravitates to every crack and crevice of a fishing
reel like steel to a magnet, and can wreck a reel in
After a day's fishing, a gentle freshwater wash down
of the rod and reel will minimize salt corrosion. Spray
the reel and rod guides with a moisture displacer, and
wipe off the excess with a rag.
Some folks may miss out on the fun of surf fishing
because they don't know where or how to begin, and may
be slightly intimidated by the salty looking veterans
that can cast a country mile. Those folks have honed
their skills through years of practice and catch fish
from the beach when rookies come up empty. Don't crowd
them, they have paid their dues, and earn what they
catch, but don't be afraid to get out there and give
it a try.