Surf Fishing: Making Mental Notes - The Fisherman

Surf Fishing: Making Mental Notes

the caster
Had the caster in this picture tracked his past outings, he might have had a better idea of what to expect on this night.

If you haven’t yet committed to logging your trips on paper, you should at least make note of the conditions of each outing.

One thing that I try to do during every surfcasting trip is make mental notes. Certain things always stick out to me every trip that I go on. All this information that I compile in my head over time have made me overall a better and more consistent surfcaster over the years. The four main things that I always pay attention to are weather, bait, moon phase and structure. These are some of the most important factors to take into consideration when surfcasting, or any type of fishing for that matter, really.


Weather can be so inconsistent. It’s vital to keep an eye on the forecast as a surfcaster. Wind direction makes a big difference when fishing certain locations. All spots have wind directions that make fishing them either ideal or not ideal. Learning what wind works best for a certain spot is crucial. I know certain areas that are terrible on a north wind while some can absolutely be on fire. The intensity of the wind makes a big difference, too. Even an ideal wind can become unfishable if the wind is too strong. A series of days in a row of powerful wind can dirty or weed up the water making it unfishable too. Temperature can have a big effect as well. A sudden drop in temperature can move fish and get them feeding. Sometimes it can be good and move them into your area and sometimes it can move them out.


Try to figure out what type of bait is in the area when fishing a spot. Different baitfish have different profiles. Using a plug that fits the profile of the baitfish makes a big difference at times. For example if full-sized bunker were in front of me I wouldn’t throw a needlefish; I’d take a darter, bottle plug or even a metal lip out of my bag to use. If sand eels are the dominant baitfish in the surf I’d be more likely to take that needlefish out of my bag and cast that. Some common baitfish in the northeast surf can be bunker, mullet, herring, mackerel, sand eels, and spearing to name a few. Knowing what baits show up in your area at certain times of the year can be important too.

Moon Phase

Sometimes overlooked by many, moon phases play a big role in the shifting of currents and baits in areas. The increased currents move bait quickly into an area and disorientates it. This rings a dinner bell for predators waiting to feed on them. Pay attention to the time before and after full and new moons. These phases can offer some of the best fishing. Sometimes it happens on the upside and sometimes it’s the downside. The key is to just fish it and see which part is more productive. I’ve honestly never done very well on the actual moons. I’m not sure why but that seems to stay true almost every time. When fishing a full moon, it’s often better with cloud cover. The fish seem to be less skittish, although I’ve had trips where I could throw that whole idea out the window. But most of the time the cloud cover idea works for me.


When talking about structure in surfcasting, two different types exist: hard structure and soft structure. Hard structure is rocky areas, boulder fields, sometimes inlets. Soft structure is basically any sand beach, sometimes it can be an inlet too. The only main differences between the two is soft structure can change with a storm or strong currents. Usually hard structure doesn’t change unless the storm is massive. Then it may change a little. Both can hold fish but in my opinion hard structure is more consistent and holds bigger fish most of the time. Sometimes the soft structure can change by the week, which makes it difficult to fish.



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