Look for fish when surfing for inshore fishing
Three years ago, when my wife and I bought a condo a long way from the white sands of the Florida Panhandle, I knew as much about surf fishing as my Appalachian grandmother. I’ve done this several times in my fishing career, but always in company with others with more experience. They have done the hard work in finding areas that offer a good chance of success.
For the uninitiated, waves are waves. It’s just endless miles of crashing waves on an indistinct shoreline, and the fish could be absolutely anywhere. Anglers with little or no experience can carry their rod to the water’s edge and walk the beach, making more casts than a desperate guy at a singles bar, just hoping for the best.
But my experience with other hunting methods tells me that this will not be the most efficient method. Ironically, what helped me develop my strategy for effective surf fishing was catching fish on water with the salt content of a glass of milk. Several times each year, when southern Louisiana goes a few weeks without measurable rain, I accompany 74-year-old Independence resident Joe Lavin as he skulls a thin metal flatboat down a local river.
Lavigne’s experience has taught him where fish land in moving water, and on each trip, he calls out his strike multiple times, accurately predicting which casts will produce bites from the feisty spotted bass. I may never be as skilled as him, but I’ve learned a lot in two decades of fishing with LaVine. I have become very good at identifying fish areas, where the ponds are directly adjacent to the shallows.
Realizing that the same axiom must be true in waves, I set out early in the morning after the first night in our new apartment, intent on reading the water to determine where the anomalies were. I imagined I would return with a fish hanging on my back, greeting my wife with “Good morning” as she took her first sip of coffee.
But as Mike Tyson quipped, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. What struck me that morning was the fact that, in the dim light, I couldn’t make out where the tracks were. An experienced surf angler might have seen subtle differences in how the waves broke, but to me, they seemed completely random.
So I just walked down the beach making casts, and lucked out with a small redfish. No one likes failure at fishing, but I absolutely hate it. It gnaws at me and lives in the forefront of my mind so I can transform myself from zero to hero. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait long for that to happen.
To me, the beach is just a great place to stand while fishing, but my wife would spend every day there if she could. So, in the interest of marital harmony, I hauled some beach chairs and an umbrella onto the sand under the rising midday sun, determined to put the misery of my early morning failure behind me.
That’s when I found what I was looking for. The wind was light and blowing offshore, allowing any sediment to settle in the water, and the tide had fallen since my early morning adventure. With those two factors, the early afternoon sun pierced the veil between Nirvana and me, illuminating an arm-shaped sandbar bouncing 200 yards east and kissing the edge of the beach. I walked over, and through my polarized lens, I could clearly see a deep sink adjacent to the bar.
I wanted to rush back to the apartment, grab the rod and spend the rest of the day fishing, but then I remembered the whole matter of marital harmony, and, moreover, I thought the fishing would be better in the morning at high tide.
I wrote down the exact location of the bar and returned the next morning.
By throwing a shrimp-colored soft-plastic paddle tail on a 1/4-ounce jighead, I caught a flounder on literally my first cast, then proceeded to catch nine more. The season was closed in Florida, so stuffed flounder wouldn’t be one of the first meals in our new apartment, but I didn’t care much. The validation of discovering something in a new hunting environment means much more than any feast.
Since then, she has used this precise strategy to achieve continued success in surfing. When we visit our apartment, I spend the first afternoon walking the beach, looking for bars that have an element perpendicular to the shoreline.
When I find them, I’m confident they’ll produce fish in the morning. In the fall, it’s flounder. In winter it is red fish. In the spring, it’s trout. In the summer it could be any of the above. I still don’t consider myself a surfing expert, but man, it’s been a fun ride trying to get to this level.