Everyone loves a laidback day at the beach, be it working on your tan, swimming, or in the case of fishos, trying to get a rod bent on the many fish that inhabit the surf zone. While anglers may hit the sand with differing expectations, if your aim is mostly to get line ripped off a reel and possibly take home some tasty fillets while generally have a low fuss day with sand between your toes, then read on.
Beaches make ideal locations for rather simple fishing sessions that can often be rewarding fish wise, without the need for a hardcore outlook and a mountain of gear. One of the keys however to making your life easy on the sand is to initially put some thought into selecting a decent spot to invest your time, and furthermore to align your efforts with at least half-favourable weather and tides.
Weather wise, your sessions will be much simpler on the beach with an offshore or gentle onshore wind and moderate swell conditions, rather than a roaring swell and a head-on gale to contend with. Timing your sessions to suit the locations you fish will definitely increase both the enjoyment and success experienced.
Ideally try and time your fishing to coincide with a rising or high tide. Gutters and holes will often have the most life in them when they're well filled with water, rather than when they're shallow and sanded out. Some smaller fish like whiting, mullet and the like though can still be caught through the low water period, so don't write it off totally especially if you have a nice gutter to fish and conditions aren't too vicious.
Dusk and dawn are also prime times for fish to be moving close to the beach, and even better if this coincides with the tides mentioned. Morning sessions are also great for avoiding strong afternoon sea breezes, making it easier to fish with lighter tackle and generally more pleasurable.
There's nothing overly complicated when it comes to spot selection for an easy spin or bait mission. Try and fish areas of generally deeper water if you can, which will concentrate the most fish life, while any structures on the beach are also fish magnets. Whiting, bream, flathead, dart, mullet, salmon, tailor and others don't need overly deep water at all, and can all be caught within an easy lob cast of the shore at times, so don't think you need to punch casts over the horizon!
Some fundamental tips for bait fishos are to fish the fringes of structure or work the edges of drop-offs/sand bars rather than necessarily set baits in the middle of nowhere. Also don't overlook fishing quite close to the beach itself, with the shore break often dislodging food items, and many smaller species love to patrol the close-in edges for their next meal. A bit of berley can further encourage fish to come in close, while concentrating them in your immediate area at the same time.
Any reefy structures off the beach will also be worth investigating, similarly lagoons and beach corners where sand meets rock can be productive and focus a cross section of desirable target species.
Beaches are top spots for bait fishos, and can provide many DIY bait options that can be collected on location, with pipis and various worms on offer from select beaches, with a range of frozen and fresh offerings also working a treat. Bream, tarwhine, whiting, mullet and more can be tempted on a spread of offerings, while the use of pilchards is sure to sucker in salmon, flathead, bream and other larger species. You also have the option to chunk up, or use alive, species like mullet and smaller salmon etc. as well for a deadly yet cost effective bait alternative.
Keep your bait terminal tackle relatively simple. A basic spread of hooks, spool or two of trace line such as Tiagra Mono Leader or Ocea Flurocarbon, and a couple of sinker weights and styles should see you cover bases. With sinkers it's advisable to bring both set and running options, as you never know how much sideways rip and surge you may have to contend with on the day. A knife, bucket, rod holder and a bait bucket around your waist should round out the other essential bait items that you may wish to take. Maybe a deck chair if you want to put your feet up for the ultimate 'bait and wait' beach bait fishing experience. Hey, this caper should be relaxing!
In terms of outfits, shorter 7-foot threadline setups are fine in milder weather and for working smaller baits and lighter sinkers where a bit more delicate touch is required. While 9-foot combos tend to be better all-rounders in the surf for both medium bait work and hurling around lures if needed. If you're looking to cast slab and whole fish baits and heavy sinkers then you may want to consider stepping this up to a 12-foot outfit with a bit more backbone and line capacity.
Spinning the sand is the epitome of low-fuss beach fun, with salmon, tailor and host of other aggressive minded targets prime lure scoffing candidates. This form of fishing is all about travelling light, being mobile and covering water to find the fish.
At its most fundamental your surf spinning arsenal can be refined right back to a handful of lures, spool of trace, and a spin outfit or two. A little bit of thought should go into the lure weights you take. Often lure weight is guided by the outfit(s) you're using, the distance you want to cast, and to a degree, the surf/weather conditions. Try to take a balanced lure attack with some lighter metal slugs in the 20-40g range, and maybe a few heavier 60-100g options just in case. There's also some great casting stickbait and popper options on the market nowadays, with the Coltsniper Rockslide and Rockpop a couple of well weighted options that can be fished in the surf. Stickbaits and poppers are simply sweet fun to use, creating visual strikes from fish, and they have a habit of spicing up a spinning session!
Put together a good casting outfit in the 7-9ft range for your spinning efforts. Shimano have you well covered with rods and reels in this area, with braid such as Power Pro, an essential part of getting suitable distance and accuracy on casts and responsive hook-sets in the surf.
All in all, surf fishing is some of the most soul-soothing angling imaginable, and even in its simplest form is still darn productive fun!