Surf Fishing in Southern California - SC Surf Fishing

Fighting a Fish in the Surf Zone

There are some unique variables that you have to deal with when you're fighting a fish in the surf. Being aware of these will help you to land fish in challenging situations.

Fighting a fish in the surf zone is different from fighting a fish in stillwater conditions. The major difference is the breaking waves and the movement of water along the shore. I'll talk about things to look be aware of when dealing with these variables while fighting a fish in the surf.

The most important thing is to keep tension in the line.

The breaking waves - Some areas in Southern California have very little wave action, like areas in Long Beach and Santa Barbara. However, most of the spots that I frequent usually have waves breaking on the outside, along with some shorebreak on the inside. Usually, the outside break doesn't really affect a fight since most surf fish are fought within the outside break. The only time I worry about the outside break is when I see a big set coming in. This tells me that there's going to be a pretty strong surge pushing water in towards me. Be prepared for the resistance of the fish to lessen, or for the fish to even come towards you. The key to fighting a fish anywhere is to keep adequate tension on the line. Reel in quick or raise your rod if you feel the water pushing the line towards you.

The waves pushing your fish or line towards you is more pronounced in the shorebreak. I've lost some nice fish when a wave pushed my fish in fast and it created slack in my line. I like to keep my rod tip low when I'm fighting a fish in tight to the shore. That way I can both raise my rod and reel in if a wave pushes a fish towards me. Sometimes it comes in too fast for reeling in alone to keep the tension in the line.

Water movement along the sand - Always be aware of the water moving in and out along the shoreline. Water moving in is going to reduce the pressure on your line and water moving out is going to increase it. It's fairly common for even a small fish to feel big because of the water movement's added pressure. Keep your drag loose and let the line go out when the water is pushing it out towards the sea. You can also give it some extra pull when the water is coming in. I'll talk more about this in the next section about landing a fish.

The landing - Often times you get a fish in close but it's so big that you can't just pull it in. You're at the mercy of the water movement and the fish just keeps coming in and out along with the waves. Many anglers stand too close to the shoreline at this point. The problem with standing too close to the waterline is that you end up pulling UPWARD when the fish comes in close. You're not using the water movement to your advantage when pulling up. Instead, make sure that you're in front of the fish and step back up the beach a bit. Step far back enough so that you're pulling the fish towards you instead of up towards the sky. Now you can pull the fish in the same direction as the water moving in, thus giving you a huge advantage.

The final step is to keep an eye out for a big set coming in. When you see a big shorebreak about to happen, give the rod a strong pull right as the shorebreak starts to push the fish towards you. I even palm my reel so the drag can't go out. If timed correctly, the fish should ride in with the water movement and end up on the sand. Now run down and claim your catch!

Article written by:
Tom Ito (aka Catfish)

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