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 Surf Fishing Rods And Reels
Surf Rods For Drum, Cobia & Stripers - Spanish Mackerel & Bluefish - Trout & Flounder
Pier Fishing Rods And Reels - Pier Fishing - Surf And Pier Rigs
Fishing Line - Shock Leader - Fish Finder Rig - Sinkers - Bait (Live Eels Added)
Sand Spikes - Fishing Holes - Night Fishing - Water Conditions
Cleaning And Packaging Your Catch 

How to Clean Spanish Mackerel New

- Surf Fishing Rods And Reels -

Bottom fishing during the summer and early fall when the water is warm you really don’t need to throw to the other side of the ocean from the surf to catch fish. During late fall, winter and spring when the water is colder your going to need to be able to throw your bottom rig out further. If your just starting an inexpensive reel and a 10 foot rod would be a good year round surf fishing outfit and you can find a cheap combo for under 50 dollars. Custom rods and good reels are the best way to go for making longer casts but you can improve your casting technique and it will help you make longer casts on cheaper equipment. I would check out Breakaway’s Distance Casting Tips.

After awhile you will become more experienced and you might want to move on to better rods and reels or special rods and reels for going after certain kinds of fish like drum, spanish mackerel and trout. It’s expensive but a good rod and reel will last a long time if you take care of it. Hatteras Jack Tackle Shop in Rodanthe has a very good selection of All Star graphite rods which is the same rods Breakaway Tackle sells. Hatteras Jack custom builds the rods from the blanks. What this means is you get a better rod that can cast further than a factory made rod. The rods can be built for spinning or conventional reels and are made to your specifications including your choice of colors on the wraps for example if you wanted Hatteras Jack to wrap one like a Confederate Flag they can do it. I know there are other fine rods available like G Loomis and Lamiglas. Hatteras Jack can special order those blanks from those companies and custom make one but I think you will like the All Star line of rods. The way the All Star model number system is designed on these rods the letters stand for what it is like GSW means Graphite Saltwater, GSP is Graphite Spinning which is just a name the rod can be made for conventional reels, SS stands for Super Surf and that series is one of their hybrid rod series that has a fiberglass tip and graphite butt. HSU is Hawaiian Surf and IGMB means Intermediate Graphite Magnum Bass. The first numbers are the length in inches and the last number is the power tip size. For example a SS1386 would be Super Surf that's 138 inches long or 11 1/2 feet with a 6 power tip, SS1385 would be the same rod with a smaller 5 power tip. Unfortunately All Star does not have these rods on their website yet.

Site Links

Hatteras Jack Tackle Shop - Breakaway Tackle - All Star Rods

 

- Surf Rods For Big Drum, Cobia & Stripers -

If your looking for a heavy surf rod which are known as heavers check out the Breakaway All Star 2 Piece / 1 Piece Rod that costs about $300. It’s a 13 foot 6 inch rod that can be cut down to a 12 foot rod and has a recommended casting weight of 4 to 12 ounces. The blank was developed by Joe Moore from Sports Cast USA, Nick Meyer at Breakaway and Bill White the owner of Hatteras Jack. Ryan White’s test casts were 5 ounce sinker 675 feet and with a 10 ounce sinker 550 feet. Keep in mind your casting technique has a lot to do with how far you will throw, I’m just using this as a proven example of the rod’s ability. Mark Edwards won the 1999 Delaware State Casting Championship in the AAA Class casting 586.26 feet in a bad wind with a Daiwa Emblem XT 6000 Spinning Reel on a Breakaway All Star 2 Piece / 1 Piece Spinning Rod. That rod was custom made by Bill White at Hatteras Jack and it's used as a shop rod there for the customers to test cast before they buy one. Mike Langston the North Carolina State Casting Champion from Buxton uses the 6500 Mag Elite on a Breakaway All Star 2 Piece / 1 Piece Conventional Rod that he wrapped himself at Hatteras Jack.

All Star has other good rods that you might also want to check out like Breakaway’s All Star Stinger that's rated to 12 ozs and the custom price range is $325. All Star has a 2 piece 13 foot Hawaiian Series, the HSU1564 rated to 12 ozs for $325 and the HSU1567 rated to 20 ozs for $350. The HSU1564 is a nice heaver but the HSU1567 is an overkill for drum fishing, they were really designed for sharks. Some other kinds are the All Star SS1386 which is almost identical to the old Fenwick Big Surf Stick and has a maximum casting weight rating of 10 ozs. Smaller versions of it are the SS1385 which has a maximum rating of 8 ozs and the SS1384 with a maximum rating of 6 ozs. They are 2 piece rods and the length on all 3 of these rods is 11 feet 6 inches but can be cut back to 10 feet, they all go for $265. Another one for $265 is the Breakaway All Star GSW1418 it’s a 2 piece rod that’s 11 feet 9 inches and is rated to 6 ozs. If you like one piece rods that are 10 feet in length then All Star has a 10 foot one piece GSW1209 rated to 12 ozs and a GSW1208 rated to 8 ozs they both go for $235.

On the point at Buxton under certain conditions you might need to use a bigger rod capable of throwing an 8 oz sinker plus bait and bigger reel spooled with a lot of 20 pound line for drum fishing there. The reason is you need to match your sinker weight with everybody else which is usually an 8 oz sinker if there is a strong current, this is in a situation where everybody is moving in a congo line and once you get to the end then you go back to the front of it and start moving back to the end again. The 20 pound line is necessary for getting out of the maypole dances with other people without getting your line broke when you have a fish on. Smaller rods and reels are not a good choice for that area. Most people use conventional setups on the point at Buxton for distance but the Diawa Emblem 6000 XT spinning reel about $126 on a 13 foot 6 inch Breakaway All Star 2 Piece / 1 Piece Spinning Rod and a lot of practice will allow you to get the distance close to what they are casting. If you want to use a conventional rod and reel on the point a good choice would be a big non-level wind Abu Garcia reel spooled with 20 pound line like the Abu 7500CT or Abu 7500C3CT which costs about $178. Another good conventional reel that’s not so expensive is the Daiwa SL3OSH and it’s about $121. A good rod for them would be a Breakaway All Star 2 Piece / 1 Piece Conventional Rod.

If your looking for a cheaper conventional rod and reel try the Daiwa SL3OSH on the 11 foot 6 inch Pinnacle Absolute that’s a 2 piece rod rated to 9 ozs which is perfect for throwing an 8 oz sinker plus bait and there is a spinning reel version of this rod. It would be a good rod for drum, cobia or striper fishing on the point at Buxton. The price of the rod was $220 and since it has been discontinued the price has dropped to $149 and there is still some available. For less crowded areas of the beach try the Daiwa SL2OSH or the Abu 6500 Mag Elite or Sports Rocket on the 11 foot Daiwa Sealine X that’s a 2 piece rod rated to 7 ozs for $89 which is perfect for throwing a 6 oz sinker plus bait. The Daiwa Sealine X has conventional reel and spinning reel versions of it. You can't use one rod for both kinds of reels because the spinning reel version has bigger line guides at the bottom. If your looking for a spinning reel for the 11 foot Sealine X then the Daiwa Emblem XT 5000 or the Daiwa Black Gold BG30 would be good choices. Cheaper spinning reels for it would be a Quantum Iron IR7F or IR8F, Silstar Performance Plus 70 or 80. The old Silstar Performance line that was blue green with a silver spool was discontinued which was a really good cheap spinning reel and it was replaced by their Performance Plus line that’s black with a gold spool. It's all a spin off of the old Silstar Edge series reels which was one of the best cheap spinning reels ever made. Silstar owns Pennacle but most of it under the Silstar name is junk the only exception I found to it is this reel and the old Silstar Shoreline Classic rods that were discontinued.

 

- Surf Rods For Spanish Mackerel & Bluefish -

For spanish mackerel a Sting Silver is the best choice of lure for them in the surf and you can also catch small bluefish on them. It’s a metal lure that looks like minnow with a treble hook on the end of it. Sometimes spanish mackerel are picky and they will only hit certain colors of it. I would try a natural minnow color like the black and white or the green and white, if that doesn’t work try the fluorescent green and white or the pink and white. Usually you will see the spanish mackerel jumping around the outer bar if they are around and you need a rod and reel that can throw that small lure out there to them. All Star’s 2 piece 10 foot 6 inch GSP1265 rated to 3 ozs with the Fugi New Concept Guide System matched with a Shimano Stradic 4000 FG spinning reel is the King Kong of spanish mackerel rods. It’s the best rod and reel for throwing a 1 oz Sting Silver. Another good model rod that’s smaller in length is Breakaway’s line of All Star 2 piece 9 foot 6 inch GSW1145 rated to 4 ozs. and is $215. Breakaway also has a heavier version of GSP1265 and it’s the 2 piece 10 foot 6 inch GSW1266 rated to 5 ozs for $245. That rod is good for throwing heavier lures like a big Hopkins or Gator Spoon in a school of big blues or stripers late in the year and also if your just looking for a good rod for bottom fishing that would be the best one. A cheaper way to go would be a 2 piece 10 foot Daiwa Sealine X that’s rated to 6 ozs for $68 and depending on what type of reel your going to use there is a conventional reel and spinning reel version of it. Some good spinning reel choices for it would be the Daiwa Emblem XT 4500 or the Daiwa Black Gold BG20 or BG30 and cheaper reels would be the Quantum Iron IR5F or IR6F and the Silstar Performance Plus 60.

 

- Surf Rods For Trout & Flounder -

A popular trout rod for throwing jig heads with grubs, twister tails or Finn-S minnows on them and also Mirrolures in the surf is the 1 piece 8 foot All Star IGMB965 rated to 1 ozs for $190, IGMB966 rated to 1 ozs but can handle 2 ozs for $200 and the IGMB967 rated to 3 ozs for $212. The IGMB967 is the best one to use with a conventional reel. They also can be used as a flounder rod for throwing flounder rigs in the surf and reeling it in slowly with live minnows, strips of cut bait or squid on it. A good spinning reel match for them would be a Shimano Stradic 4000, Daiwa Black Gold BG15 or a Pennacle Deadbolt 40. If you want one made for a conventional reel a good choice for it would be a Shimano Calcutta 400 or a Shimano Corsair 400.

 

- Pier Fishing Rods And Reels -

If your just starting out an inexpensive reel and a 6 to 7 foot rod will work fine and you can find a cheap combo for under 50 dollars. I would get a short handled rod that has a tip that’s kind of stiff so it will be easier for you to work a lure from the pier like a double bucktail for trout and flounder or a jerk jigger like a Gotcha for bluefish and spanish mackerel. The rods with the long handles are better for boat rod holders. If you want a nice pier rod I would stop by Hatteras Jack in Rodanthe and check out their custom built 1 piece 7 foot All Star GSP845 for $165. It can be custom made in your choice of colors and the handle can be cut to any size you want with either cork ring, cork tape, hypalon or shrink tube on the handle. If your going to just be using it on the pier I would get them to cut the handle short and put cork ring on it. If your also going to be using it on a boat in a rod holder or as a small surf casting rod then you might want to leave the long handle on it and have them wrap the handle with cork tape. A good spinning reel to match it would be a Pennacle Deadbolt 35 or 40, Diawa Black Gold BG13 or BG15, Quantum Iron IR5F or the Silstar Performance Plus 50. If you wanted one made for a conventional reel it can be done and the Abu Garcia 5500C3 or the Shimano Corsair 300 would be a good match for it. If you want a special rod for sheepshead fishing on one of the piers or on the catwalk at Oregon Inlet then you will need a heavier rod. There's a sheepshead crowd on the catwalk and that's all they fish for on it. A lot of them use custom made All Star rods like the 8 foot GSW967 that has the 7 power tip or the 8 foot GSW968 that has a bigger 8 power tip and also the 7 1/2 foot GSW907. They use the Quantum Iron IR5F spooled with 30 pound test Berkley Fireline. Sheepshead usually take off around the pilings when they are hooked and the barnacles on the pilings will cut regular monofilament line.

 

- Pier Fishing -

During the summer it doesn't matter what side of the pier you fish on but usually you fish the south side of the pier during the spring and the north side during the fall. The reason is the fish are migrating north during the spring then back south during the fall and the fish tend to go around the pier instead of under it. You can get an idea of what's going on by watching other people on it. I prefer to fish just behind the outer bar where the waves start breaking. If it's a slow day and the water is clear try casting a jerk jigger around the end there's almost always a small bluefish or two hanging there. You need to use a leader on those or you will lose it, I prefer a 12 inch piece of 30 pound test monofilament line over a wire leader on the jerk jiggers. The reason is if a spanish mackerel is around you will have a better chance of catching it if the fish doesn't see the leader. You can also try a white bucktail with a strip of cut bait working it along the bottom around the pilings and under the pier for a flounder. I'd also go around if the water is clear and check the pilings for sheepshead. The best way to catch those is with fresh shrimp or sand fleas on a bottom rig with a small weight. Just keep the rig right by the piling about a foot off the bottom and move it up and down a little bit. When you feel something tap it and you missed it then check your bait because it's probably going to be gone. When the water is muddy and nobody is catching anything I'd try bottom fishing close to the beach for a sea mullet or other bottom feeder. If you want to try your luck at big fish try king fishing off the end, for more about it click here.

 

- Fishing Line -

The best line size is around 20 pounds. Smaller line tends to get bit through more often by bluefish, they have real good eyesight and will see the line moving in the water and will try to bite it which would damage or cut your line. I don't like 30 pound monofilament because it doesn't cast as good as smaller size line and also a strong wind will catch it more so you have to use more sinker weight to hold bottom. I've tried a lot of monofilament lines and the best one is Berkley Trilene Big Game. It's strong and will hold up good after a lot of use in the sun and saltwater. If your looking for distance try a line made out of Spectra or similar type of braided fiber line, make sure you use a leather finger glove when you cast it because it will cut your finger. Also keep in mind that it tends to twist and knot up when your bottom fishing in a lot of wind. If your using monofilament line and want more distance try using a small diameter high strength line. When your in a crowd like on the point at Buxton you need to use at least a 20 pound test line, when your fighting a big fish you will probably get broke off in a tangle with somebody else if your using a line with less strength. If your going to be fishing that crowded area at night I would use a bright colored fluorescent line so you can see where your line is at in the water and it will make untangling the lines easier.

 

- Shock Leader -

A shock leader is just a piece of heavier fishing line that is tied on to your smaller fishing line and it handles the weight of the sinker during the cast. If you don’t use a shock leader the weight of the sinker on your rig could cause your line to break when you throw it and the sinker might hit somebody. If your going to be throwing the weight hard figure 10 pounds for every ounce your casting, for normal surf casting a 50 pound test line for the shock leader will be enough. The length of the shock leader will depend on the rod, usually the shock leader is around 15 feet long just make sure it goes around the reel spool about 5 times. Everybody has their own favorite knots to join the shock leader to the running line. If you need a knot that won't break make an 8 to 12 inch loop in your smaller running line with Bimini Twist or Aussie Braid and use the loop as a doubled running line to attach it to the shock leader with a back to back Uni-Knot or Improved Blood Knot. If your in a hurry a Spider Hitch will work for the loop but it's not as strong as the Bimini Twist or Aussie Braid. You can use a Palomar Knot or a Uni-Knot on your swivel. When your attaching a monofilament shock leader to a line made out of Spectra or similar type of braided fiber line then use a Double Surgeon's Knot to join it, that's like a regular Surgeon's Knot except your using the smaller running line doubled when you tie it to the shock leader. I wouldn't use that kind of line for a shock leader, the weight of the cast can cause the line to cut grooves into the line guides on your rod and the line can cut your hand if you have to grab the shock leader when your trying to get a big fish on the beach, it's also harder to untangle if you get it wrapped up in another fishing line.

List Of Knot Tying Links

Fishing Knot Link 1 - Fishing Knot Link 2

Fishing Knot Link 3 - Fishing Knot Link 4

Aussie Braid

 

- Surf And Pier Rigs -

A regular double hooked bottom rig is the most common rig used for small bottom fish. They are sold at all the tackle shops and you can add your own hooks and sinker to it. You use the Eagle Claw snelled hooks with the monofilament leaders on them, just put the loop through the hole on the rig and run the hook through the loop on the leader and pull it tight. The best hook size is 5 for spot, croaker, sea mullet and blowtoads but size 4 is better if your catching big sea mullet or big croaker. For bluefish try size 2 with the wire leaders on them. If there's trout around use size 4 with small pieces of cut bait. Fireball rigs float the bait off the bottom and they work good for bluefish and they also work good if the crabs keep eating the bait off the regular bottom rigs. If the current is bad and keeps moving it around try one with the smaller balls, it will hold on the bottom better so you don't have to use a bigger sinker size. There is a rig that is similar to that called a sea mullet rig but it has smaller hooks and balls on it. That's a good one to use if your using bloodworms or shrimp but are having problems keeping the crabs off of the bait. If you come here in August for some pompano, the tackle shops sell a pompano rig for them that seems to work better than a regular bottom rig. It has gold bait hooks and red beads on it, the bait to use for those is fresh shrimp, small sand fleas or bloodworms. Puppy drum and stripers can be caught on regular bottom rigs, the Eagle Claw snelled hooks will work but a big one can straighten it. You will be better off getting some good strong 4/0 hooks and snelling them yourself with heavy monofilament line for those.

 

- Fish Finder Rig -

For catching bigger fish in the surf like drum, cobia and stripers use a fish finder rig, the version that's sold in most of the tackle shops doesn't work good. That's a small plastic sleeve that holds the sinker and slides over the shock leader. The problem with it is the ring on the sleeve can break during the cast and people have been hit by the sinker when this happens. Instead of using one of those use a big snap swivel rated to a 100 pounds and some people just use a McMahon snap but it will work better with a swivel, if you use a swivel with the snap it will let your sinker roll in the current and won't wind your leader and bait up on top of it. I would also use a bead to prevent it from going past your shock leader knot. You snell a short piece of 4 to 8 inch 80 pound test monofilament leader to your hook and your shock leader is attached to that with a good snap swivel. The hook size will depend on what you want to catch like a 4/0 to 13/0 short shanked type of hook, some people like to use circle hooks and some people don't like them. Circle hooks are designed so that the fish will hook itself in the jaw so that your less likely to gut hook one and kill it. Some companies size their circle hooks differently, for big drum and cobia use the Mustad or VMC 13/0 size or the 8/0 size Gamakatsu, Owner or Eagle Claw. Use a smaller hook size for stripers, big bluefish and puppy drum. If your going to use it for sharks replace the monofilament hook leader with a 8 inch piece of coated steel wire like 120 pound Berkley Steelon, you won't catch Jaws with it but you should be able to get one in around a 100 pounds. You might also want to use an 80 pound shock leader because the shark might get its tail wrapped up in the shock leader which could break the line.

 

- Sinkers -

The best sinker to use is the pyramid shaped kind, they hold the best. For pier fishing a 2 oz. works fine but if the water is real rough a 3 oz. will hold better on the bottom. The best size for surf fishing is a 4 oz. or 5 oz. size sinker. If the surf is real rough and that won't hold bottom then you will have to use a 4 oz. to 6 oz. satellite sinker. They have 4 wires on them that will turn down when you pull them out of the sand. There is another kind called a british sinker. They have shorter wires on them and they don't hold as good as the satellite sinkers. Don't get a kingfish sinker the wires don't move on them. Just tell the people at the tackle shop you want a satellite sinker for surf fishing and they will know what your talking about. Breakaway has a plastic satellite sinker that you attach a lead sinker to it and that's good because you can put the size weight you need on it instead of buying different size satellite sinkers. If your trying to increase your distance try an arrowhead sinker that's shaped like an arrowhead.

 

- Bait -

Choosing the right bait depends on what you want to catch. The best all around bait to use for spot, sea mullet and croakers is bloodworms. If there is a lot of skates and rays in the water, bloodworms are going to be the only bait you will be able to use unless you want to catch a skate or ray. Another good bait to use is fresh shrimp from a seafood market. Most seafood markets sell bait shrimp, they are smaller shrimp with the heads on them and don't cost as much as the bigger shrimp without the heads. Frozen shrimp that you can buy at the tackle shops doesn't work as good as the fresh shrimp. If you decide to get some bloodworms remember that they come from Canada and have to be kept cool either in a refrigerator or in a cooler on ice, if you don't they will die and also don't let any water get in the bag because that will kill them too. When I'm buying several bags I dump them all in a gallon size ziplock and make one big bag out of it because they seem to live longer.

If you have a problem with real small fish or crabs eating the shrimp or bloodworms off the hooks, you can try using squid. That's hard for them to pick off the hooks but might not work as good as the shrimp or bloodworms. Cut bait is a good bait for bluefish, trout, flounder and also big drum, cobia and stripers if they are around. The two kinds that are sold in the tackle shops are jumping mullet and menhaden. Fresh fish will work better than the frozen fish. If the tackle shops don't have it fresh they sell the frozen mullet but I would try a seafood market. If they are out try to get a fresh bluefish or something cheap. The jumping mullet and menhaden are both good oily baits but the mullet skin is tougher than the menhaden skin and will stay on the hook longer. The best thing to do is start out with bloodworms or shrimp and use what you catch for cut bait. If bluefish are out there use one of them for bait. A fresh oily piece of bluefish is the best bait for a bluefish.

Live minnows work great for flounder. You can catch the minnows in a bait throw net in all the big drainage canals that go into the sound on the side of the road. You can keep them alive with a small battery operated aerator that hooks on the side of the bucket. If it's real hot I'd throw a few ice cubes in there with them. The trick to the bait nets is make sure it's not tangled up, grab it in the middle with one hand and open it up some with your other hand and throw it upwards with a good spin on it. The 4 foot nets are going to be easier to use than a bigger size net. A flounder rig is the best rig to use with minnows, that is a egg shaped sinker on a steel wire with a bait hook on the end. You can make them yourself or buy them. Throw it out there and reel it in slow, also move around and try different spots. The flounder are going to be close to the beach so you don't have to throw it real far. You will get a few here and there with other bait and tackle but flounder can be picky if there is a lot of small baitfish in the water. Try using the minnows most of what your going to catch will be small but you'll be surprised at how many are really out there. If you run out of minnows or don't have any minnows try using strips of squid or flounder belly on a flounder rig. It doesn't work as good as a live minnow but it will work.

Live eels are a popular striper bait. Try bottom fishing them on a fish finder rig just hook the eel about two inches from the end of it's tail, it will try to swim away instead of wrapping up your line. Most of the tackle shops around Nags Head sell eels and a couple of the tackle shops on Hatteras Island are starting to do it like Dillon's Corner and Cape Point Tackle. They will keep for 3 days out of the water if they are kept cool, I would keep them in a cooler off the ice. Direct contact with the ice or icy water in it will kill them, just keep the eels inside a small bucket on the ice. They are caught at night in the sound in minnow traps and the commercial fishermen that sell them use a crushed up crab in it for bait but a chopped up fish will work. A lot of them are caught around Colington in Kill Devil Hills like at the second bridge. There is a 6 inch minimum size limit on eels. The green eels you buy in the tackle shops will not bite you but there is a something in the sound that looks like a brown eel called a sea lamprey that does bite.

Sand fleas are another good summer bait to use for sea mullet and pompano. You can find colonies of them as the wave recedes. You'll see a lot of V-shaped ripples where they have dug into the sand. I'd get a sand flea scoop, that's a square shaped metal basket on a long metal handle. The tackle shops sell them sometimes but they can be hard to find. If you have one and you find a colony of them just pull it along in the sand when the wave is going back out and you'll fill it up. They will keep for days in a cup on ice inside a cooler. Just keep them dry and remember to drain the yellow waste out of it everyday.

 

- Sand Spikes -

For sand spikes to set the rod in I use 2 inch pvc pipe. Just get a 6 foot piece at the hardware store and cut it at an angle in the middle and you have got 2 of them. That works better than the ones they sell at the stores. A big fish or ray will pull the other kind over and you don't want your reel in the sand. I cut a handle into a piece of 4 by 4 post to hammer them into the sand.

 

- Fishing Holes -

Finding the right spot on the beach to fish isn't that hard to do. Low tide is the best time to look for a hole. You want to try to find deep water that is close to the beach, if the waves are breaking all the way to the beach it's not deep. Sloughs are deep areas between the beach and the outer bar. The waves will hit the outer bar and break then reform again before they hit the beach. If you find one and it's long try to get in the deepest part of it. Shells and gravel will wash into that part of it and collect there, then when the water gets real rough they will wash back up to the beach so you can get a idea of where it is by looking at the beach for spots with a lot of gravel and shells around it. If it's during the summer and you see a spot that looks good, take a look around on the beach. If you see a lot of sand flea shells and pieces of them washed up on the beach that's a good sign there's fish around eating them. Also look around on the beach for markers that could be sticks sticking out of the sand or a piece of trash on the sand dune. A lot of people will fish a place and mark it if it's good so they can find it again later on. If you see all this together you found a really good spot.

Something else I want to talk about is try different baits and distances. Sometimes fish can be picky about what they eat. A sea mullet is a good example, they will bite anything but sometimes bloodworms are the only bait that works. I'd try different kinds of bait and see what works the best. I'd leave at least one rod out with cut bait on it all the time. You never know, there could be something big out there that might come around. If the fishing is good and slows down try throwing different distances. The fish move around sometimes as the tides change. Sometimes they are up close and sometimes they will move way out there around the outer bar. If they still won't bite then they have moved on down the beach or back out. Usually more will move through if the water conditions are right but it could take a few hours.

 

- Night Fishing -

Try night fishing if your not catching much during the day. Breakaway has a Old Red Eye rod tip light that runs on small batteries. They are bright enough to see from about 50 feet away and they work great. I have mine permanently mounted on my rod tips with thread and epoxy or they can be taped on it. If you don't want to use those the 2 inch glow sticks are available at most tackle shops. I do just as good at night as I do during the day sometimes better. Just remember to get there early before it gets dark so you can pick a spot and get set up. Make sure you park on a high spot above the last high tide line.

 

- Water Conditions -

When you have a wind that has been blowing off the beach for a few days it's going to cause a lot of upwelling. When the wind is coming off the beach the surface water is moved by the wind and can only be replaced with the layers under it which causes the water off the bottom to come up that's cold and brown looking. If the wind blows off the beach for several days it can really make the water look brown and muddy. When it gets that bad there usually isn't much in it except for skates and sharks that tend to feed with smell instead of sight. When this happens you'll notice a mud line way out in the water where the brown water changes back to clear blue water. You'll also notice that all the bird and dolphin activity will be on the other side of this mud line in the clear blue water. This is where all the fish are at out there. You might be able to get out past the mud line on a fishing pier but sometimes it will go out further than the pier. Your next choice would be to find a place where the wind would be blowing off the water. For example a south wind would be blowing directly off the water at the point in Buxton and in the hook right below it and it would be coming off the water on the north sides of the inlets. The water would be clear in those areas. But on the beaches north of Buxton the wind would be coming off the beach making the water muddy looking and the fishing might not be that great on those beaches. If the wind has been changing directions a lot blowing off the water and off the beach it shouldn't be too bad. You can get an idea of what you might catch by looking at the water, you will catch more bottom feeders if the water is a little muddy and more sight feeders if it's clearer water.

Another surf fishing problem is sea grass. If there's a lot out there it will pile up on a fishing line quick and when you reel it in you'll find a 30 pound grass ball on your rig. The best thing to do if the fishing isn't that great is move somewhere else. Look at the beach and find a place where it's not piled up on the beach. Even if it's not a hole it's better than constantly pulling sea grass off the line. If the fish are in it, the best thing to do is hold the rod and keep the line tight. You will still have to pick it off the rig and line but it won't be as bad as it would be if you let the line get a lot of slack in it and a tide change can move it away from the beach. There's not really any sure way to predict it but generally if the wind is coming from the southwest expect it to be bad in and around the inlets. A wind coming from the northeast can bring in a lot of offshore trash.

 

- Cleaning And Packaging Your Catch -

Everybody has their favorite fish and you can eat anything except for the blowtoads that have sharp spines on them. If you want a mess of fish to take home with you the best way is to go after the ones that aren't overfished and regulated like sea mullet, spot, croaker and pompano. If you don't have access to a freezer or refrigerator keep the fish iced down good in a cooler and keep the water drained off them, sometimes the ones on the top will get soft and their belly will split open if the ice melts too much and I throw those away. They will keep for a week like that but it's better just to go ahead and clean the fish and keep the fillets in ziplock bags iced down in the cooler. When I'm out on the beach for a few days I usually get out a board and a bucket and clean them when the fishing is slow so I'll have more room in the cooler. For long term storage I fill the bags up with water and squeeze all the air out before I put them in the freezer. This prevents the fish from getting freezer burnt and they will keep for a year in the freezer like this but tend to lose their taste after about six months. The fastest way to clean fish is fillet it and leave the skin attached to the tail then hold your finger there and run the knife under the skin to remove the skin. If you do it this way you don't have to scale the fish, I  take the fillet and cut the rib cage out also so it's boneless. This works for all sizes of fish and you can even make boneless fish chips out of small ones like spot. For a good example of this method click here. Blowtoads have to be cleaned differently, you will need two different knifes and a rag. Wrap the rag around it's head because they have rough skin then take a strong thick bladed knife and cut behind it's head at the top until you go through the backbone but don't cut any further. Take a regular fillet knife and start where you made the cut pulling the knife back towards the tail while twisting the head up, you will role the meat right off the skin. A northern puffer is safe to eat, it's easy to identify if you can grab it you can eat it. You don't want to eat a striped burrfish or any other blowtoad that has sharp spines all over it because it's poisonous. When I clean puppy drum, croaker and sand perch I also wrap a rag around their heads because the armor plating on the gills will cut your fingers.

These are some good tips that I have learned from fishing around here for awhile, since I was big enough to drop a line through the fishing pier rail. I'm no expert and don't want to be one. I hope it will help you out some, Good Luck !

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Tips courtesy of Outer Banks Fishing Homepage