As I begin this second How-To article it occurs to me that many of our readers are experienced and excellent anglers and they will probably find these articles on basics of little interest. But I also know that I'm the guy who gets all the e-mails from newcomers begging for information regularly. And I also know that as I travel the beach front of PINS I regularly see experienced anglers using techniques that I would consider counterproductive. This leads me to think they were taught to do things that way and no one ever told them different. What I am sharing in these articles is what I was taught or figured out and my way is by no means the only way to do things. Simply put these are the techniques I've used successfully for decades. Feel free to use what you will and do the rest your way.
In last month's article I advised you of how not to set out your surf rod holders, so it only seems fair to tell you the correct way to set them out as well. As I described, the bottom of the stake that is to be planted in the sand should be cut at sharp angles. Grasping the rodholder at the top and applying light to moderate downward pressure while rocking the holders back and forth, they will literally cut their way down through the sand,
The trick is placing them where the sand is workable. If they are placed too far from the water you will find the sand is too dry and tough to penetrate so they wont cut their way into position. If you put them too far out into the water the sand is too saturated to be solid enough to hold them securely and they will fall over. The area right where the water meets the sand is perfect and will do a fine job. That's really perfect since National Park Service regulations say that rodholders are to be placed AT THE WATERS EDGE.
I move rodholders as water level changes. Don't even attempt to reach down and grab a rod holder and pull it out of the sand. Instead, shake the top back and forth and pull upward gently and they will come right out. The longer side, or corner of the angle stock if you will, should face the sea and the holders should stand upright or angled slightly toward the shore. Anglers often lean them at a slight angle toward the sea and we refer to these as rocket launchers because if you get a hard strike and the drag on the reel is set very tight it will launch the rod and reel out of the holder and skitter it across the surface of the water headed offshore. It really is cool to watch as long as its someone else's tackle and not yours.
If rod and reel are left unattended (not within immediate reach), the drag must be loosened. When you take it out to fight a fish it must be tightened immediately. Never fish any reel with the drag locked down fully, whether you are holding it or not. The only exception is if you are almost out of line and are likely to get broke off anyway.
A word to the wise concerning factory built surf rod holders: Most have one holder on each side of the rack pointing forward at an angle. IF you carry rods and reels in them sooner or later someone is going to get stuck in the face with a hook.
The most common cry for help I receive via email usually asks me to tell them how to catch anything at all from the surf with a lesser number wanting to know how to catch something besides hardheads and whiting. The first thing that must be realized is that most species are seasonal in the surf and a species may be present in very high numbers in one month and totally absent in another. My web site at billysandifer.com has a Best Times to Fish tab which lists various species availability in the surf every month of the year. Check with tackle shops and read internet boards to see what is currently available and what current conditions are. Walk out on jetties and piers and drive down the beach and see what others are using and for which species. I learned to fish off Bob Hall Pier for a wide variety of species. Hiring the local guide can save you a lot of misery and money and a good guide that will teach you is a bargain at the price. Jeff Wolda is the licensed guide on PINS. His phone number is 361-215-8400 and his web site is PI-Adventures.com.
Now I'm going to save you some money. Don't go right out and buy all top-of-the-line equipment until you're experienced enough to gain from the utility of it. Start with less expensive tackle for your early learning phase and as you become a better angler and more knowledgeable concerning a variety of species you can upgrade your tackle as per your needs. I personally suggest spinning tackle to newcomers over baitcasting for the simple reason its easier to learn to use well. And the better you are at using your tackle the more fish you're going to catch.
Other anglers you drive by on the beach are wonderful indicators of how the fishing is at the time and what species are biting. If they are wading far out to cast, the fish are probably offshore in that area and unless you can cast well you would be well advised to drive on and find some deeper water close to shore. For example, pompano, which are a prime winter species, are rarely available without wading across one gut to enable you to cast farther out on the generally shallow north end of PINS whereas 40 and 50 miles down the beach they can often be caught on relatively short casts on light tackle from ankle deep water. This is due to the presence of deeper water closer to shore.
If anglers are holding their bait rods or standing beside them, the fishing is probably pretty good and they are regularly getting bites. If they are all passed out in the shade 50 yards from their rods it probably ain't happening. Its not brain surgery; its just being observant.
When lure fishing, look at what type and color of lures others are throwing or are on the rods in their rod racks. Knowing what type and color lures are working gives you one heck of a jump start on the day without having to try a large number of lures to find out what is hot. And if you see quite a few anglers all throwing bait and none are fishing lures, you know right off there is probably very little reason for you to throw them either.
On the beach, people with good manners leave each other space. Never crowd in on other anglers who are catching fish. Simply memorize what the surf looks like where they are fishing and go find a spot just like it and you'll catch fish.
Speed limit on PINS beach goes back to 15 mph on 1 March.If we dont leave any there wont be any. -Billy