Author: Patrick Meek
It's been a tough winter surf fishing for 2020 compared to previous years in my opinion due to the cold water temperatures, high 30+ mph winds, and the excessive rain we have experienced on the Florida Panhandle. However, I am a firm believer of positive attitude and persistence.
In the last few outings I've been out I have fished hard, checked baits steadily, moved to different locations, ruined two 9' wooden handle beach umbrella's due to crazy gusts of wind and left the beach without even a bite. I keep reminding my wife (and myself) that is how winter fishing goes off the beach sometimes and to keep pushing and stay positive.
Before heading out to the beach, I had to replace some 30# Bullbuster braid to a few of my reels. In the previous outing, the sargassum seaweed was very spotty in the water and would cling to my braid and drag my bait down the beach into my other lines. If you've ever fished with braid, you know the headaches that can come with it when it wraps around another braided line. I don't have the patience to try to solve that spiderweb puzzle, so I usually cut my braid where its free of knots and tie a 10 wrap double uni knot into my mainline.
My wife and I got out to the beach and started out fishing with 5 surf rods. The surf was still very rough with red flags flying and within a matter of minutes I noticed my bait being dragged down the beach. I reeled in and the sargassum weed was still spotty in the water. Instead of fighting the weed at the risk of losing more fishing line, we went down from 5 rods to 2 rods about 50' apart.
About an hour later, I looked over to my left and saw the tip of my 12' surf rod take a dive. Finally....something worthwhile on the other end of my line! I ran over and grabbed my surf rod and watched the braid peel off my reel. I have to admit it felt good to have a quality fish back on the line. Within a few minutes I beached a nice 31.5" Redfish with 3 spots on each side of it's tail.
After a quick photo session, I released the Redfish and got a new bait out. About 30 minutes later, I saw my surf rod twitching again and when I got to my rod the line was slack. I reeled fast to catch up with the fish swimming towards the beach and as soon as I caught up with it, the fish decided to cut back and swim in a different direction. At first, I thought I had a residential Pompano on by the way it was cutting back and forth, but in the end it turned out to be a nice Bluefish.
It was the Bluefish's lucky day because I wasn't going to use it for shark bait, so I released it back in the surf. We fished a little while longer and managed to catch a saltwater catfish and decided to call it quits for the day.
Some of the best advice I can give to newcomers that are starting to learn how to surf fish is that not every day is going to be a great day...especially when the water is too cold or too warm. There are going to be tough days when you do everything right, but the fish are just not there. It's called fishing for a reason. Keep pushing and grinding. Stay positive and persistent and I can promise the surf gods will deliver.
Until next time...
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