Living on the beautiful South Carolina coast for many years has given me plenty of opportunity to enjoy just about all it has to offer. Recently I was on my morning walk on the beach, and it hit me like a rogue wave that I have never been surf fishing. I’m always looking for new outdoor experiences, and that is exactly what I set out to have.
I knew I had a lot to learn. (The last thing I wanted to do was hook myself or some other unsuspecting beachgoer when I attempted to cast my line!) Instead of Googling surf fishing, I knew right where to go to get some expert advice. Captain Ron Bailey of Seven Seas Seafood , a true salt fisherman and a man I like to call my friend, was really animated when I told him I wanted to go surf fishing, and he immediately agreed to set me up with a rod and reel and some straight talk on what would be most important to know.
I figured out pretty quickly that my “surf-casting outfit” had nothing to do with what I was planning on wearing, but everything to do with balancing my rod, reel, line, and the weight of the lure to make sure everything was in proper proportion for the species I was seeking. As I listened intently to his words of wisdom and his expertise on what items I would need, my mind held on to one bit of advice in particular: “Make sure you bring a comfortable chair.” He laughed! I could tell immediately that a lot of patience would be required.
“Because our beaches are flat, with few natural troughs, most fish are attracted to the churning white waters and just outside of the suds. Don’t try to cast your bait to China—you will throw over the fish if you cast too far,” Captain Ron explained.
Captain Ron told me that two hours before or after high tide, especially when these times coincide with dawn or dusk, is the best time to surf fish. Fish tend to come in closer to feed at these times. “It doesn’t hurt to look for runoffs or drain drifts coming from land to sea. This additional water flow creates a backwash as it hits the waves and can attract fish,” he further explained.
I was getting very excited and I thought I would look through our home library to see what books we had about saltwater fishing. I found a few interesting titles, to say the least. One book in particular was a 1959 Fisherman’s Handbook, and I got a huge laugh when I read the first paragraph concerning surf casting: “Ample opportunity is presented for picnics and leisure while the bait lies idle on the bottom; the wife and kids can go along without upsetting the fishing.” Wow, how things have changed, mister! I thought to myself.
Armed with all the advice from Captain Ron, and my invaluable resources from my library, I was ready to take on surf fishing. My wonderful husband—who happens to be a very experienced offshore fisherman—was very accommodating and helped me with the plan. He had spent many summers in his youth on Edisto Island and had frequently fished the surf there.
We scouted out the best spots in Garden City and set up at 7 a.m., which was two hours before high tide. Our target species were pompano, redfish, and flounder. Always looking for an adventure, I wanted to fish for sharks, so we brought along some cut mullet for my rod as well.
As we settled in and set up, I was mesmerized by the rolling waves and sudsy breakers as the morning light shimmered across the perfect water. The beach was incredibly quiet at this early hour, with the exception of an occasional beachgoer taking a morning walk or a busy bird checking out our bait pail.
Everything was perfect . . . we had the right bait (shrimp, sand fleas, and cut mullet), the right rods and reels, rigs, sinkers, and hooks and we were there at the perfect tide at dawn. My excitement was at a fever pitch. I watched my husband skillfully cast his bait a couple of times, and I was ready to get in on the action. I was actually not bad at all, if I do say so myself. I rather enjoyed the casting experience, and nobody got hooked! I gazed intently at the tip of my rod to see if there was any sign of a bite. The rod swayed with the tide and teased me with the thought that a fish was tempted by my bait.
As the morning hours passed by, the beach filled up with families there to bask in the sunshine and swim in the ocean. I realized that one of the best aspects of surf fishing is interacting with the folks who come along. Everyone wants to see if you are having any success, and always an interesting conversation comes up. A very sweet young lady approached me, and in just a few seconds we found a connection; we both graduated from the same university in Pennsylvania—though it was still a college when I attended. I met her whole family, and we had a wonderful conversation. I love meeting new people, and the marvelous sport of angling facilitates that for sure.
High tide came and went. No, I did not catch a fish. Sadly, I did not even get a bite. As we packed our gear and made our trek to the truck, I admitted to my husband that it was the fish that “schooled” me today. I can’t wait to get back out and show them what I have learned!
Maggie is a Realtor, Próis Hunt Staff member, and a hunting blogger. Her blog site is camo365.com, and she welcomes new subscribers!
As written for Waccamaw Outdoors Magazine July Issue