Where to Cast When Surf Fishing

Surf fishing (also known as beach fishing) presents you with variables to keep in mind if you want to have a successful day. In this article, we’re going to where to cast to have the best chance at catching fish.

Fish typically stay in the troughs and holes in between sandbars at the beach. These deep areas are where to cast when surf fishing. Your ability to correctly identify the components of a beach that are under the waves will give you a significant advantage. 

Let’s talk about what you should look for when going for your catch. 

The Parts of a Beach

Beaches share standard components but are never identical. In general, three parts compose beaches. These components are sandbars, troughs, and channels. 


Compiled sand and sediment create sandbars and they run parallel to the shore. Think of them as long hills of sand underneath the surface of the waves. There are usually about two or three sandbars that separate the coast from the open ocean.

Sandbars cause the crashing water from the wave to turn white. When white water dissipates over a long distance, you know the sandbar has a gradual slope. Conversely, if you see white water immediately close to darker water, this indicates a much steeper sandbar slope. 


Troughs are the hollows between two sandbars. Picture them as trenches beneath the waves. They can be shallow or deep depending on the slope of the sandbars on either side. 


Channels are cuts in sandbars that create a direct highway from the ocean to the shore. As water passes through  channels, a rip current that slices through the sand bar. 

Reading the Beach: Where to Cast 

Find the sandbars

Your first goal is to locate the sandbars where you plan to fish. As the waves crash, look for water that turns white. White waters indicate a bump below the water surface or the sandbars.

After pinpointing the sandbars, you can begin to look for where the water turns dark. These dark water spots will indicate troughs or even deeper holes that dig into the sand. Fish tend to crowd in these dark water areas for cover and the ability to feed.

Locating these structures on the beach will show you where to cast when surf fishing. Remember that spotting these structures is a skill in itself. Be patient and give yourself to learn how to recognize these parts. 

Fish hold on both the shoreside and seaside parts of the sandbars. These are the troughs or the holes where the water is colorful and deep. Smaller fish, as well as their larger predators, will stay in these areas. Cast your lines and adjust to where you’re finding success.

Fishing channels or jetties

Alternatively, you can also cast your line in the channels or jetties. These are other possible options for where to cast when beach fishing. 

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Surf Fishing

Small fish sometimes wait near channels in the sandbar for nutrients coming directly from the ocean. Predator fish will use these channels as a hunting ground to search for prey too. Channels offer the possibility of both kinds of fish. 

Built up rock formations create jetties. You can find these jetties on some beaches. Smaller fish and crustaceans will hold in the water around these formations as the rocks provide them cover. These are also ideal places to seek bigger catches as predator fish wander these waters in search of food. 

Show Up Early at Low Tide 

Arriving at your prospective fishing ground at low tide will allow you to view the best spots to cast your lines. Low tide reveals the layout of the sand so you can clearly see the sandbars, holes, channels, and troughs.

View of the beach from above during low tide

Locating these areas will increase your chances of success when the tide gets higher and fish begin to populate the area. It’s much easier to observe and take note of the structure of the beach than it is to read waves. 

It is advisable to plan ahead so you know where to cast when beach fishing.

Research Local Fish Species 

Species of fish in your specific area will have unique habits. Knowledge of the beach you’re going to, coupled with the understanding of the patterns of the fish will significantly increase your chances of a catch.

Maybe the species of fish you’re looking for tend to use the channels. Perhaps they prefer staying in the deeper troughs and holes in the beach. If you know the habits of the fish, you can predict their behavior and use it to your advantage. 


Along with the habits of your fish, the gear you use to catch them will also vary. Understanding the fish you’re looking for will help narrow down this list to the equipment you will need the most. Below is a list of some general gear that is useful in most surf fishing situations. 

Here are some equipment recommendations:

  • 7-12 ft medium to large rod with heavy corrosion resistant reel
  • 17-20 lb test line, or 30-40 lb test leader line
  • Lures, jigs, soft plastics, or live bait
  • Variety hooks 1/0 or 10/0 depending on the species and the size of the bait 
  • 3-8 oz sinkers
  • Rod holder/sand spike to hold your rod in place

Consider your fish species and your own preferences as a fisher too when deciding on your gear. 

Final Thoughts

As a general rule, you are casting your lines in the troughs and holes while at the beach are the best bets for catches. Every beach is different. Trial and error will be necessary, so stay open to adapting where to cast when surf fishing.

Other factors such as weather conditions, the strength of tides, and the number of people at the beach will also affect your fishing. These factors are out of your control and will require adjustment on your part. Use your knowledge and your gear to take advantage of the factors that you do influence.

Happy fishing!