Surf: Beach Etiquette - The Fisherman

Surf: Beach Etiquette

When driving on the beach, make sure you know the rules of the road!

Learn and follow the unwritten rules of the surf.

There are many unwritten rules of the surf; if you follow them, your time fishing the beach will be much more enjoyable and free of stress.

When Driving

You know those washboard-like bumps that bounce your vehicle causing you to almost hit your head on the ceiling? Those happen when drivers are too lazy to air down. Not only are these bumps unpleasant to drive over, it’s also a posted rule anywhere you can drive on the beach. Airing down is also better for your vehicle’s powertrain, since you’re driving through the sand, not floating on top of it. Don’t be a clown, air down!

Always enter and exit the beach at the designated locations, and only drive in designated areas. Never drive on the dunes and always obey any fencing or barriers. Obey the beach speed limit, typically 10 mph, and don’t drive recklessly, save the donuts for Dunkin’.

When driving, maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, moving or parked. Don’t tailgate; if the buggy in front of you gets stuck, you’ll lose your momentum and might get stuck too. Also don’t drive down the beach staring at the water, pay attention and look ahead. I’ve seen many kids dart out into the driving path, and even at slow speeds, they might have been hit if the driver wasn’t pay attention.

Lights & Brights

When pulling onto the beach at night, drive with your parking lights or fog lights only. Everyone already on the beach has their eyes acclimated to the dark and you’ll mess up the night vision of your fellow fishermen. If you must drive with your full headlights on, try to resist the urge to use your high-beams. Additionally, when driving on the beach stay up close to the dunes. When you see a spot to your liking, turn towards the water and pull into your spot with your parking lights on.

Also don’t sit parked with your headlights shining on the water, besides being annoying, it could spook the fish. This is the single quickest way to get everyone on the beach mad at you. To anyone with one of those million lumen light bars mounted on their rig, you don’t need them to drive down a beach at 10 mph. This isn’t the Baja 500 night racing; and you’re the only one on the beach who thinks it’s cool. Trust me.

Rules Of The Road

Always drive in the established track as it will make driving much easier and smoother. If you need to stop for any reason, pull off so other buggies are not forced to detour. To simplify passing other vehicles meeting head on while in a single track, the driver who has the ocean or equivalent on their left, should yield and turn out of the track. If you get stuck and have to dig yourself out, once you’re in a more stable area go back and fill the holes that you created. Replace your divots!

Fishing Etiquette

For starters, try not to encroach on another surfcaster. If another angler has to alter his/her casting you’re too close. If you’re fishing in a line of other surfcasters going down the beach, pay attention to the person next to you. The angler positioned up-current should be a step deeper than the person situated down-current. The reason is that if the up-person angler hooks up and the fish swims down, the down-current angler won’t have the fish at their feet. To avoid tangles, pay attention to where everyone else is casting and the location of their plug. Wait until the person up-tide is halfway in before you make your cast.  Don’t be the one who tangles everyone’s line because you weren’t paying attention.

If you’re fishing a jetty, or a rock or in a lineup on the beach and you see someone move out of their spot, ask them if they are leaving before hopping into their footprints. I know they don’t “own” the spot, but it’s courteous to ask. While night fishing try to keep your flashlight use to a minimum. Also when talking to or approaching another surfcaster turn your light off so it’s not shining in their eyes. Also, just know that if you ask another surfcaster if they caught anything, they are always going to say something like, “a couple of bumps, but no action”. They are probably lying to you, the proper (appreciated) etiquette is to not ask the question. Also don’t ask what plug they’re using.


Don’t leave dead fish or unused bait above the high water mark. Nobody likes pulling up to a spot with the stench of sunbaked dead fish in the air. Toss it in or by the water and let the crabs and gulls fight over it. Carry out more than you carry in. When you park, take a little walk in your general area and pick up any trash you see and take it with you when you leave the beach. Always offer aid to any buggy owner, fisherman or person in need. Respect those that are already set up on the beach. Keep a decent distance between vehicles if you can.

And keep your radio down. The beach is peaceful and many anglers prefer to listen to the waves, instead of being forced to listen to your bad music!


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