Spring is on the horizon, and with the season change comes warmer weather, longer days, and nicer fishing. Anyone with access to a beach and a rod and reel can surf fish, and Marcus Heflin, surf fishing instructor and founded of Christian Surf Fishing Adventures, has given some of his best advice for surf anglers this spring.
High tides and warmer water bring larger sharks and other species closer to shore. Bait fish come into the shallow areas more often during spring, and the game fish follow.
“Come March, we will be seeing sharks all up and down the Texas Gulf Coast. Bull and black tips will be more populous than bonnet heads. Spinners will also be in the mix,” Heflin said.
“Being the waters are still cool but gradually warming, sharks will range from new-born to young adults 1.5 to 6 feet long. If you’re wanting bigger, then you’ll need to target for bigger. That includes the type of bait used and how far out from the shoreline you go—500 yards plus.”
If you’ve been wanting to net a redfish, you’re in luck with all types weather and seas, according to Heflin. “Reds are the most easily targeted fish in all types weather. The beginning of spring is the end of winter fishing, but it is still a good time for slot size reds fishing from the shoreline.
Rough tides or smooth, a red can be found,” he said. “They can still be caught. You’ll just have to show more patience and experience.”
The state record red measured 54 ¼ inches.
“We have reds normally up to 46 inches,” Heflin said. “East coast reds are giants compared to ours. Those can be in the seventies.”
When it comes to attracting, reds forget the plastics,” he explained. “It’s just cut mullet or shrimp. They’re not the only go-to bait, but live and cut mullet are usually the best bait.”
According to Heflin, you don’t have to get your feet wet on the high tide days.
“We had an older man who met us to go surf fishing,” he said. “There were three sandbars where we were wading out with a trough between each one. We had a high tide enabling him to fish the first trough. We were casting into the second trough.”
“That man caught a red for every shark we caught,” Heflin said. “He did everything the same as us, except he only went knee-deep to cast while we were wading out 100 yards. The only way for anyone to know this would be to wade the waters.”
Heflin’s example is a good reason to know your fishing areas and tides. The coast changes almost daily due to tides, erosion and storms. This is important to know if you want successful surf fishing.
“Keeping a log is the best way to keep up with predicting what or how you want to approach your fishing strategy,” Heflin said. “At the peak of high tide during the first hour is best, so keep a close eye to your tide charts.”
Along with tides, wind direction and strength plays a crucial role in your surf fishing success.
“North winds are the best for surf fishing conditions, and west winds make it the worst,” Heflin said. “West winds make chocolate milk out of the water, so fishing is a lot less catching. South and east winds are good with light winds. South winds push the waves toward you and are great if the winds are not too high.”
High winds from east or west pull your lines onto the beach and cause havoc, according to Heflin. North winds and high tides call for trout rods and top water baits. The best two baits would be shallow diver cranks or plastics on ¼-inch jig heads, he said.
“North winds and green or blue water bring in trout,” said Heflin, “So plan on getting to your site an hour before daylight, and be ready to wade for trout the first two or three hours, then you can go to your surf fishing.”
Spinners will also be in the works this spring.
“Spinners are awesome to hook up with because of the wild breaches and how they got their name,” said Heflin. Spinners breach straight up nose first out of the water in a rocket motion, then land as if doing a belly flop, creating a huge splash, according to Heflin.
Aside from experience, age is a factor when determining what weather conditions are desirable, Heflin said. After fishing some forty years, he opts for calmer seas.
“When I was younger and more able to fight the tides and rough seas, wading in and out to cast my 12- and 15-foot surf rods was an adventure and got my blood pumping,” he said. “It was me against the elements to get my prey, but it was a lot of work and took all my effort and energy to do so. That was the fun of it. I love it. Now that I’m older, one to three is great for me and is much less undertow to fight.”
Heflin has a few pointers for those who are not accustomed to undertows and riptides.
“A rule of thumb is to go knee-deep straight out from the shoreline facing the water,” he said. “If you feel the water pulling against the back of your knees, then don’t go anywhere deeper until you’ve learned the ropes. First timers should always wear an air-inflated life jacket.”
Heflin also recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s app for mobile devices. The app, Texas Outdoor Annual, provides instant access to information such as statewide bag and length limits and exceptions to these limits, places to fish nearby, weekly fishing reports, and more.
When it comes to a successful fishing trip from start to end, Heflin said trial and error is what will make it happen.
“The best thing to do is take this information along with any other and go out and do some trial and error and observe everything that’s happening around you,” he said. “When your real-life experience comes into play, predicting your trips and observing where fish are will become second nature to you.”
—story by Danielle Sonielle