To Each His Own

To Each His Own
Bird frenzy in the Padre surf. (Oz photo)

I had a really rare and pleasant treat recently. I got stuck in a doctors office waiting room for five hours and I actually got to read the January issue of TSFMag cover to cover. The world moves at the same speed as always but our responsibilities take away the time to do the things we really enjoy and they often end up an overlooked treat. I was impressed with our publication, just as I always have been. Im proud to be a small part of the TSFMag family. There is a whole lot of talent and information in each issue. It also highlighted an interesting point to me. Our writers are long-term, tried and tested veteran anglers but, each of us goes at it slightly differently. They say in the end we are the equivalent of our personal experiences and its easy to ascertain from reading our mag we have had varying experiences and thusly have settled into concepts, strategies and use techniques that work IN OUR INDIVIDUAL AREAS.

For years my fishing customers would say, Well ol so and so says to do it like this.

My reply was always the same. Well then, I strongly suggest when you fish with him in his ecosystem you cling onto each word he says and fish exactly as he suggests, for he is the apex predator in that system. But, when you are out here with me you'd be way ahead to do it my way as this is my ecosystem.

Beyond any doubt there are similar parallels in any type of angling but there are distinct differences as well. My field of expertise is the surf and it has been for over fifty years. So there's no surprise that my ideas concerning what works in the surf varies from those of others. I should never read articles on surf fishing as I am too opinionated on the subject and I am going to be critical to a fault. So I thought Id write about how I do things just to put my two cents in. Then any who choose can disagree with my methods.

Lets start with the basics. Thinking on it, this may well end up the first of a how to series. That being the case well start at the beginning.

NEVER use a piece of PVC pipe for a rod holder. Sooner or later itll cost you a fine fish and may well cost you a rod and reel to boot. Use angle iron with one end cut at 45 and attach a short piece of PVC to the other in some manner so it will stay in place. Muffler and hose clamps work good. This type of rod holder can be worked into the sand without hammering.

If youre going to use a piece of PVC for a rod holder, after setting up camp and hammering your rod holders into the sand, immediately pull them back up and move to another location as the vibrations of driving those holders into the beach sand just ran off every fish within a mile.

When camping at night DO NOT shine lights nor place lanterns near the water. Old timers would automatically pick up and drive off if you backed up and shined your headlights on the surf at a potential fishing-camping site. They genuinely believed the unnatural sudden light spooked all the fish in the area.

When fishing light tackle with bait, one rod held in the anglers hands will catch as many fish as two in rod holders.

Our light tackle is just that; light tackle. BG15 Daiwa spinning reels and 8 medium action rods have served well for twenty-one years using both bait and artificial. I load the reels with FINS 20 pound braid and top it off 10 pound Ultra Green Berkley Big Game monofilament. The braid is for increased line capacity and the mono is easier for customers to cast.

I don't use spider weights on light tackle I just described but opt instead for 2 or 3 ounce pyramid sinkers. If the bait drifts slowly with the current thats fine with me. I MAY occasionally go as heavy as 5 ounce sinkers but these are actually too heavy for this setup and care must be taken when casting not to break a limber rod.

I do not and for many years have not bought pre-tied leaders. Those Asian snap swivels will cost you many a fine fish. Instead I simply cut a length of 60 pound mono and tie a barrel swivel on the top end, slide 2 hooks down the line and finish with the only snap swivel on the other end for attaching the sinker. I evenly space two hook drops made using surgeons knots and have a very strong leader. If fishing live bait with a fish-finder type rig I again make my own with various sized sinkers. I also make a supply of light single strand wire for days when Spanish mackerel and bluefish are plentiful. For lure leaders I use 30 pound Big Game with a barrel swivel on the top end and an unusual pigs tail connector on the lure end. Beware of mass produced ones made of wire that is too light. I use only the homemade connectors that are available from Roy's Bait and Tackle Outfitters and I have for twenty years. There has always been controversy about whether or not one needs a swivel. Maybe you don't need one; but I do. I use a swivel at the top of all my leaders.

If reds wont eat live finger mullet simply cut them in half and throw them back out and they'll eat them. Fish Bites is the real deal - chartreuse and pink colors in shrimp flavor seem to be the best producers for pompano.

Stringers and dip nets have no place in the surf. Slide your catch up on the beach slowly and put him in the ice chest.

When you get ready to go to sleep crank in all your rods; unless of course you are shark fishing and properly set up for it. Always take the baits off your hooks so an unassuming coyote doesn't get caught during the night and stack all your rods and holders at your truck. Then if some fool comes high-balling through your camp in the middle of the night he wont destroy half your equipment which you have left scattered here and there on the beach.

Always leave a driving lane open between your camp and the high tide line. Its not only courteous but it also safer for everyone as well.

If sargassum is bad don't try to fish several rigs. Just fish one per person and spend your time managing it. Cast at a 45 angle into the wind and current and you wont grass up nearly as quickly.

Never discard hardheads or other unwanted fish on the beach. Its not only illegal; hardhead spines are a major cause of flat tires and they'll sure get your attention when you step on one in the middle of the night that has been laying there rotting for a day or two.

I like writing this type article and hope you find it informative and as useful as I enjoyed writing it. Well do some more of it again soon.

If we don't leave any there wont be any. -Billy

Big Shell Beach Cleanup

The 18th Annual Big Shell Beach Cleanup will be held Saturday, 23 February, 2013. Volunteers will meet at the Malaquite Pavilion prior to 7:00AM and will be back at the Pavilion by 2:00PM.

Volunteers with four-wheel-drive vehicles and trailers for hauling trash are key to our success. Volunteers without four-wheel-drive are also needed and will be provided transportation to the worksites. Bottled water and sodas will be provided in the work area and at Malaquite afterward. There will be no food in the work area, so bring lunch if you feel you will need it.

We changed the date this year as there is a potential change of speed limits on the beach from 25 mph to 15 mph on March 1. At 15 miles per hour it would take most of the day to simply travel into and out of the work area. In addition; over the years we have received requests to schedule away from Spring Break.

Work caravans will leave Malaquite at 7:00AM sharp. Arriving early to get your team assignment is a great help as things can get awfully hectic getting everyone lined out. Updates will be available on and also

Years ago some folks got to calling this event the Billy Sandifer Big Shell Beach Cleanup but to me it never was. This is OUR Big Shell Beach Cleanup; not Billy Sandifers. This is a grass roots event of volunteers who care about this wondrous national treasure and are willing to spend a day being good caretakers of it. Its hard work but an experience you'll never forget.

Bring a slicker suit and warm clothing, inclement weather be damned, the cleanup goes on. Drivers are advised to carry fix-a-flat, tire plugs and a small air compressor, just in case. Wear sturdy shoes and long pants.

Event T-shirts and goody bags will be given to all volunteers. Big Shell Beach is a one of a kind place and this is a one of a kind event. You are cordially invited to join us.

Your brother in the sand,
Capt. Billy L. Sandifer