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The Surf and its Fish

Surfcasting Striped Bass
Introduction to surf fishing

Fishing the coastal United States.
The Surf and it's fish

Striped Bass fishing Reports

By Region

North East and Mid Coast United States

The King Striped Bass is the game we are after

Stripers: Morone saxitalis a beautiful creature. Silvery to purplish blue lines running along its body thus the name linesider. Once you tie into a big one and he's pulling drag on you you bettter be ready with some stout gear because they can and will out muscle you.

striped bass



Bluefish: Pomatomus saltatrix
Common names: Snapper, Coctail Blues, Slammer Blues. (refers to size)

Habitat: Bluefish can be found globally in all temperate salt waters. From deep off shore waters to the beach surf. Little is known of where they spend the cold winter months. Optimal water temperatures for surf fishing are in the high fifties to mid seventies degrees farenheit. Bluefish have a voracious appetite and will eat anything that won't eat them.

Season: May through November. The spring and fall migrations are the best times for fishing this species. Snapper blues or juveniles can be taken frequently in August. When fishing for bluefish on the beach look for working birds diving after bait fish. This is a good indication that bluefish are actively feeding. If there are no working birds in the area try surveying the beach at low tide to determine where the cuts (in sandbars), troughs, holes, rips, points of land, and jetties may harbor deeper water and favorable bait conditions. Deeper water is indicated by the color change of the water. Deep water is darker blue than shallow waters. Optimal surf conditions along the beach are breakers around two to four feet and the water must not be roiled or muddied. Onshore winds are highly favorable as the wind drives the bait fish closer to shore. With surf fishing, the best times are the morning rise (an hour or so before daybreak and an hour or two after), the evening rise, and at night. Two hours before and two hours after high tide are best.
Blue fish in the surf.: The same set up you would use for striped bass. Except you need to use wire leaders because of there teeth. Do not put your fingers near their mouths. You may lose them.


Blackfish: Tautoga onitis
blackfish tautog

Common names: Blackfish, Tautog, Tog

Habitat: Blackfish can be found in depths of 20 to 200 ft. They frequent jetties, and seawalls. In bays and tidal rivers they can be found near sod banks, mussel beds and rocky bottoms with structure. (Structure meaning undersea reefs, manmade reefs, or large congregated boulders that offer fish a place to feed and hide from larger predators). Blackfish range in size from two to twenty pounds and is a long lived species.

Season: May through November.

Tackle: The most important thing to remember when fishing for blackfish is to have a rod tip that is light enough to feel the gentle biting action of the fish. An example of this type of tackle might include a seven to eight foot light to medium action rod, and a spinning reel with twelve to twenty pound abrasion resistant monofilament line. Light tackle can be used by the more experienced fisherman, but be wary, the blackfish is a strong fish and if the tackle is not heavy enough you will lose them. The newer fishing lines such as Spiderwire have excellent anti-abrasion qualities and should be considered if you are pursuing tog.


Sea bass : Centropristis striata
black sea bass
Common names: Sea Bass, Black Sea Bass

Habitat: Black sea bass can be found in depths of 15 to 100 ft. They frequent jetties, seawalls, natural and manmade reefs, and rocky bottoms with structure. (Structure meaning undersea reefs, manmade reefs, or large congregated boulders that offer fish a place to feed and hide from larger predators). Black sea bass prefer water temperatures from the mid forties to around sixty degrees farenheit. Females are brown in coloration while males are generally black. In the surf, sea bass generally range in weights from 1/2 pound to 2 1/2 pounds. Black sea bass are usually a bycatch by surf fisherman who are after another species.

Season: May through November.

Tackle: For the jetty fisherman a seven foot, light to medium action conventional/spinning rod, a spinning reel filled with twenty pound monofilament or a 2/0 to 3/0 conventional reel with twenty pound monofilament. The same rod setup can be used with Blackfish (Tautog). Line test can vary between 15 to 20 pound test. Sinkers should be heavy enough to hold bottom in the conditions you are fishing. Bank sinkers are best in rocky areas.

Rigs: The rig used for this type of fishing is very similiar to that of the Tautog. Leaders can be twenty to forty pound test. Hook sizes to be used are eagle claw size 2/0 to 3/0. Hooks should be snelled with the heavier monofilament leader.

Baits: Time and again the most successful method to catch more fish is to reproduce on the end of your line what the fish is naturally feeding upon. With the black sea bass, the number one choice is fresh squid or surf clams. Other baits that will take black sea bass are: sandworms, green crabs, chunks of bunker (menhaden), and killies.


Scup: Stenotomus chrysops.
scup porgy
Common names: Scup, Porgy

Habitat: The scup is a bottom fish and it can be found in the same habitat of blackfish, black sea bass and fluke. The scup is not a large fish, between 1/2 to 2 pounds is average. Can reach six pounds.

Season: Late June through early October.

Tackle: The same tackle can be used for scup as the tackle used for fluke and black sea bass. Light tackle is best for this fish. It is more fun.

Rigs: A basic scup rig is as follows: similiar to the fluke rig but with different size hooks. The three way swivel setup, in which the running line is tied to one eye of the swivel, a single snap is attached to the second eye of the swivel along with the sinker and on the third eye of the swivel is attached the leader material with the hook. Hook sizes are no. 6 eagle claw or no. 10 for light tackle. Leader strength can vary depending on how rocky and abrasive the bottom structure is. Twenty pound test is adequate in most cases and the length from 18 inches to two feet.

Baits: Sandworms are bait of choice for scup. Bait the worm fully on the shank of the hook and allow an inch or so beyond the hook to flutter in the current. Fresh squid and clams will also work.


Fluke: Paralichthys dentatus.
fluke or summer flounder
Common names: Fluke, Summer Flounder

Habitat: The fluke or summer flounder is found on sandy bottoms, in the surf, inlets, bays and the mouths of tidal rivers. It can be distinguished from other flatfish by having both eyes on the left side of its head. Fluke can be found at depths ranging from 10 ft. to greater than 50 ft. From the surf fisherman's perspective look for clean relatively calm water. A bottom fish, the fluke is somewhat lazy and will wait in the current for food to be swept his/her way. Fishing the drop tide as well as the flood can be productive. In the surf, it is often hit or miss.

Season: Late May through early October.

Tackle: For the Jetty, a six to seven ft.light to medium spinning outfit with 8 to 15 pound monofilament line should work just fine. Bait casting rods and reels will do the job as well. The trick here is to not leave your bait stationary. Simulate a bounce on the bottom with the rod tip every now and again to let the fluke know you are there. Casting in different directions and locations from the jetty should produce results if the fish are there. In the surf it is possible to hook up with fluke using a light surf rod and spinning reel (like the Penn 6500 SS) with 15 pound monofilament line.

Rigs: Some basic fluke rigs for the land bound fisherman include the three way swivel setup in which the running line is tied to one eye of the swivel, a single snap is attached to the second eye of the swivel along with a bank sinker. I always use bank sinkers because of the rocks. It is a matter of choice. On the third eye of the swivel is attached the leader material with the hook. Hook sizes range from 1/0 to 4/0. Fluke hooks are off set hooks. Leader strength can vary depending on how rocky and abrasive the bottom structure is. Twenty pound test is adequate in most cases and the length from 18 inches to two feet.

Baits: Bait of choice for fluke is the live killie. Although some guys swear by live shiners even though they dont live as long in salt water. Let them swim freely. The fluke is not particular in its feeding habits. Many strip baits will work on the end of a bucktail. Some examples include strips of squid, bunker, mackerel, sea robin, and strips from the belly section of the fluke itself. Always try to get fresh instead of frozen bait. The size of the stips range from 1 1/2 inches to 3 inches in length. They should taper towards the end. The idea is to simulate a fluttering action of the strip bait in combination with the bucktail. Bait strips should be 1/2 inch at the hook end tapering to a point on the loose end. Make it look like a fish and you will attract fish.

Tips: Gentle waters are preferable to big swells. The technique is to cast the lure and let it sink to the bottom and then lift the rod tip to bring the lure up a foot or two and then let the lure fall back.


Weakfish: Cynoscion regalis

Common names: Weakfish, Sea Trout, Squetegue, Weakies

Habitat: Weakfish range from Maine to Florida on the atlantic seaboard. The best scientific information available indicates that weakfish are presently severely overfished and in danger of collapse due to fly net commercial fishermen along the east coast. Average Weight - 1 lb., Peak Weight - 20 lb. Weakfish can be caught in the surf, bays, and jetties flanking inlets. In mid to late summer weakfish prefer the calmer waters of bays and inlets where grass shrimp and natural bait are in abundance. The morning and evening rise are the most productive. Night fishing with bucktails (I prefer white) is also productive. The weakfish can be found either near the surface water or the bottom.

Season: Weakfish may be caught from May to November along the New England Coast.

Tackle: Light to medium spinning tackle with 12 to 20 lb. monofilament line can be used to catch this fish.

Rigs: Use an 18 inch mono-leader tied directly to the main line. Then use a size 2/0 or 3/0 offset hook. Something like a fluke hook will do. Plugs and spinners can be tied directly to line with a loop knot or single black snap to facilitate quick changes of artificials. No leader is required for artificials, just tie them directly to running line. This includes bucktail jigs. Slow to medium retrieves are best for plugs and spinners. The rhythmic pop, pop of the rod tip with a slow retrieve works best with bucktails.

Baits: Clam necks, sand worms, blood worms, grass shrimp if available, squid, killies, and live lined eels are excellent baits. Baits are best left to sit on the bottom or float 2 to 3 ft. above the bottom a little while before your slow retrieve continues.

Tips: The weakfish derived its name for the soft mouth parts that is characteristic of this fish. Due to its weak mouth structure a net for landing this fish will be useful. For those of you who have fished for trout in fresh water, the weakfish is remarkably similar in its appearance and fighting abilities to its fresh water cousin.

Under Development: More to come.

Southern United States East Coast

Striped Bass
Blue Fish

Cobia: Rachycentron canadum

Common names: Ling, Lemon Fish, Sergeant Fish, Crab Eater

Habitat : This species has a broad habitat range. Cobia range from Massachusetts to Argentina in the western Atlantic, but their range is worldwide in warm waters. It can be found from estuaries, mangrove sloughs, or coral reefs in coastal water to the open ocean. Cobia are often associated with floating objects, including flotsam and moorings.

Averaging 15 to 30 pounds, they can reach up to 100 pounds

Rigs and Bait: Shrimp, squid and large spoons, plugs and jogs are good baits used with wire leader and 15-25 pound test monofilament rigs.

Tips:  Will definitely take pitched baits and lures on light tackle, and is a very tastey large fish. Anglers should look behind larger cruising and feeding rays, and around bridge pilings, bouys, floating weeds, and reefs for a cobia, then pitch a live bait such as a mullet, eel, pinfish, or croaker well in front of the cobia on light takle (15lb-30lb test) with a short leader of 40lb-50lb mono.  Alternatively, cobia are fond of large bucktail jigs with soft plastic tails or tipped with squid.  In the Northern Gulf of Mexico, cobia often migrate on shallow sand bars just beyond the beach, making for excellent sight fishing and pier fishing.  In the winter, cobia also often enter coastal spring fed rivers and power plant discharges in Florida.  In the Chesepeake, cobia lurk around the CBBT islands and also enter inlets near Buckroe Beach VA.

Red Drum
red drum


Black Drum
black drum

Atlantic Croakers

Southern Kingfish
southern Kingfish


Gulf Coast

Gulf Kinfish Whiting
whiting gulf kingfish




West Coast United States

Washington - Oregon - California

California's coastline extends more than 1,000 miles, from Crescent City in the north to San Diego in the south. Central California coastal waters produce several species of sole and rockfish, as well as squid, swordfish, and albacore tuna

What are Coastal Pelagic Species? Coastal pelagic species (CPS) include northern anchovy, market squid, Pacific bonito, Pacific saury, Pacific herring, Pacific sardine, Pacific (chub or blue) mackerel, and jack (Spanish) mackerel. “Pelagic” means these fish live in the water column as opposed to living near the sea floor. They can generally be found anywhere from the surface to 1,000 meters (547 fathoms) deep.

California barracuda


are nearshore, epipelagic, schooling fish found from Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, to Kodiak Island, Alaska





These bottom-dwelling flatfish are yearlong residents in sand and mud-bottomed coastal waters, found from the surf zone to about 300 feet deep, from Washington State to Baja California. The area of greatest abundance is southern California and northern Baja. California halibut, with a maximum length of 60 inches and weight to 72 pounds, are smaller than Pacific halibut. Ambush predators with both eyes usually located on the left side of the head, California halibut are non-schooling, unpredictable, elusive fish -- the "bread and butter" fish of California's nearshore groundfish fishery.


Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) are small, short-lived fish that are typically found in schools near the surface. They are found from British Columbia to Baja California and have recently appeared in the Gulf of California. Northern anchovies are divided into northern, central, and southern sub-populations. The Northern anchovy are an important part of the food chain for other species, including other fish, birds, and marine mammals.

Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) are also small schooling fish. At times, they have been the most abundant fish species in the California current

Pacific (chub) mackerel (Scomber japonicus) range from Mexico to southeastern Alaska. They are most abundant south of Point Conception, California and usually appear within 20 miles offshore. The “northeastern Pacific” stock of Pacific mackerel is harvested by fishers in the U.S. and Mexico. Like sardines and anchovies, mackerel are schooling fish, and they may school with other pelagic species such as jack mackerel and sardines. They are also heavily preyed upon by a variety of fish, mammals, and sea birds.

Nearshore rockfish Species include: North of 40°10’ N. latitude South of 40°10’ N. latitude black (Sebastes melanops) black (Sebastes melanops) blue (S. mystinus) black and yellow (S. chrysomelas) brown (S. auriculatus) blue (S. mystinus) China (S. nebulosus) brown (S. auriculatus) copper (S. caurinus) calico (S. dalli) quillback (S. maliger) California scorpionfi sh (Scorpaena guttata) China (S. nebulosus) copper (S. caurinus) gopher (S. carnatus) grass (S. rastrelliger) kelp (S. atrovirens) olive (S. serranoides) quillback (S. maliger) treefi sh (S. serriceps)

Arrowtooth flounder

Sole Species -
Cabezon - Kelp greenling - Lingcod - Pacific cod - Pacific whiting - Sablefish

Big skate Raja - California skate Raja - Leopard shark - Longnose skate Raja - Soupfin shark

Spiny dogfish


Striped bass



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