Surf Fishing: Wading Safely - The Fisherman

Surf Fishing: Wading Safely

Key ingredients to wading safely in the surf are a good fitting top and a secure belt that will keep water out in a worse-case scenario.

Dressing right will not only keep you dry and comfortable, but can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

The Striper Coast is rich in surf fishing opportunities and at the start of every season, anglers gather their gear and head to their favorite early season spots. Depending on where they fish, that gear is likely to include waders and a dry top, or even a wetsuit. These items serve a functional purpose, but can also provide a measure of safety. Navigating rocky shorelines can be treacherous at times, but even open sand beaches have the potential to put you in a dangerous situation so it is important that your gear be up to the task.

First on the list is a pullover dry top. There are many waterproof tops on the market. Good ones can range anywhere from $75 to well over $200. I have fished with a Grundens top for the past 15 years and it has served me well. A dry top is especially important when fishing areas that require extensive wading or when there is a big surf. They are a must-have when fishing in waders because they provide an added measure of safety. A foul weather top will allow you to stay dry, even if you take a wave or spray over your head, and also keep water from running down into your waders.

Next is a belt to put over the dry top. You should not spare any expense when purchasing this item because it plays a critical role in keeping you safe and dry. More specifically, a belt of the same quality as a diver’s belt is always a good choice. Rockhopper ( makes a quality belt built specifically for surfcasting that sells for about $85. Although it may seem a bit pricey compared to some of the cheaper models, it is well worth it. The last thing you want is your belt coming undone while wading the surf. I say this because odds are that your pliers, lure bag or scale are likely attached to it. Along with holding all of your beloved lures and fancy pliers, the belt is key to keeping water from getting into your waders. Your belt should always be snug around your waist so that water cannot get under your top and down into your waders. Should you step into a hole or get knocked off your feet, the belt and top over your waders will not only keep the water out, but keep air locked in. This added bouncy can provide precious seconds to help you regain your footing.

If you are fishing rocky shorelines, spikes or metal cleats on the bottom of your boots are essential. Wet rocks typically have a coating of extremely slippery algae or moss that make navigating them not only a challenge, but dangerous. Most of the rocks around the base and tips of jetties will have exactly this. Some of the best locations in places like Montauk and Block Island are nearly impossible to fish effectively without a pair of spikes. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen guys fall and get hurt because they were hopping around rocks without a set of spikes on. Korkers are popular with many casters and will make for a much safer experience when rock hopping.

Some form of cleats or spikes are probably the most important piece of gear to have when fishing inlet jetties. We should note here that if you are concentrating your efforts on jetties, you should not be wearing waders in the first place. Most veteran jetty jockeys will wear foul weather pants rather than waders on the rocks, with a pair of creepers attached to their footwear.

Working behind the counter at Paulie’s Tackle Shop in Montauk has taught me how necessary this footwear is. I recall more than one occasion when guys came in, buying all the tools of the trade, and then skip buying a pair of Korkers. A couple of hours later they are back, soaked and beaten senseless by the rocks, to purchase a pair of Korkers. While at first some of these expenditures might not seem necessary, the more avid an angler you become, the more you will appreciate having quality gear. Safety is often an afterthought for many surfcasters, especially those new to the sport. While bad things can still occur if you’re not careful, being properly equipped will make the experience safer and more enjoyable.



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