The ridiculously nice weather the past couple days here at the coast has got me back in the mood to do some beach fishing. I thought I'd post some ideas on where to look for them, and what to use.
Step 1: Drive west till you hit a beach.
Step 2: I'll talk about sandy beaches first. The beach is a big place. At first it seems like a completely ludicrous idea that a fish is going to find your bait in all the miles and miles of sand in front of you, but they are there, waiting for you to find them. There was a post a while back that said you might find structure w/o fish, but you won't find fish w/o structure, and that's true even on a seemingly flat even beach. If your beach looks like this:
Gently sloping, waves breaking a good way from shore indicating shallow water for some distance, you will be looking for slight dips, holes, troughs, most any signifigant change in beach topography will hold fish sometime during the tide. If you can get to the beach at low tide and mark these spots, you're way ahead of the game. If you show up later in the tide, you can still make educated guesses about what's under the waves. Look for places where the waves wash farther up on the sand, like this:
Right about in the middle of the picture, you can see where there is a little depression. Start your search in these spots, working a dozen yard north and south of the spot before moving on.
The other beaches to look for are steep, with quick drop offs and waves that don't begin breaking untill they are very close to shore, like this:
This picture was taken at low tide, as the tide comes in the and fills up the trough, the fish will come right up to within yards of the shore because the water is so deep so close. These spots can be hit or miss, but because they are generally short sections of the beach, if the fish are there it can be lights out! Or, absolutely dead, but generally nothing in between. The last two hours of incoming, the high slack, and very first part of the outgoing account for almost all of my catching.
For gear and rigging, on most days a stout 8' + steelhead or salmon rod will work fine, spinng reel unless you've got mad baitcasting skills. I like 20lb. braid for mainline, it cast's a mile and doesn't stretch in the waves and froth. For sandy areas, I use pyramids, for rocky spots cannonball or pancake weights. A rule of thumb for me is 1 oz. of lead for every 2' or so of swell height, strong currents, wind, other factors I will use more, generally never more the five or six ounces tops, if that won't hold bottom than it's probably to rough to fish anyway. I like it heavy enough to hold bottom on all but the biggest wave of the set, so that your bait slowly works it's way back to you with every big wave. The steep beaches need more lead to hold than the gently sloping ones. Terminal gear I use a two hook dropper loop setup, here is how I tie them:https://www.ifish.net/board/showthrea...t=dropper+loop
As far as bait goes, most anything will work. Sand shrimp, clam necks, grocery store shrimp, mole crabs, any wiggly thing you can dig out of the sand. The best IMO are the berkely gulp baits, they last forever and catch just as well as live bait.
Once you've got your gear rigged, made it to the beach, and located a prime looking spot, it's time to cast. Sit for a minute and watch the waves, follow the last wave of the set out and let 'er rip. I like to cast as far as I can, then let it work it's way all the way back to your feet. Keep your line tight and your rod tip as high as you comfortably can. It takes some practice before you can tell what your line is doing out there, but as long as you've got some tension on your line, you'll feel them hit. They fight surprisingly well for their size. No need to set the hook if you're using braid, just start reeling and they usually hook themselves. The hardest part can be getting them all the way to the beach, esp. in bigger surf.
There it is, I am certainly no expert but these methods usually get me dinner. This has become one of my favorite fisheries here, miles and miles of beaches to explore, and it's a rare day that I come across anyone else out there in the surf. To top it off, these little buggers are some of the tastiest fish there are, firm, juicy white meat, steamed in some fish sauce w/ some fresh veggies, mmmmmmm. Pretty good for frying, too. I hope this helps some folks out, if you've got any other tips or ideas feel free to add them!
Good luck, Jonah