Finding Fish On The Surf

This is outline in which I used to prepare and present a short seminar of the LBI surf with the American Anglers Fishing Club in Saturday April 30, 2022. Hopefully you attended because the attendee questions were really good and the topics discussed got deep fast.

Do you have a problem finding fish on a regular basis? Would you like to better find fish? I promise after our this short talk we will cover some important topics that will help you better understand a proper approach to fishing the surf.

When thinking about fishing always be prepared. The wise man once said, “Fish are caught the day before.” Sharpies gear up and prepare ahead of time so they are on point to maximize their time fishing effectively.

Deciding where to go can be the most challenging and debatable the most important part. It’s a fact… the best anglers can not catch a fish that is not present. For this reason it’s important that we fish where we think fish will be. Very simple concept right? Anglers must consider what fish prefer and need.

This is mainly based with a thinking around striped bass but many of the ideas can be used for other species too. Essentially fish have to swim to eat and eat to swim so they can follow preferred water temperature on their migration, eat, digest, grow, swim against tide/current. Fish can’t swim without energy and can’t get energy without feeding.

Daily Factors To Consider

Environmental factors that are part of the equation

  • Water temperature
  • Water movements: TIDE vs Current, longshore drift (sweep, water moving parallel to the beach)
  • Water clarity: turbidity, tint, weedy
  • Waves: direction, size, period/spacing, surge
  • Weather & Wind – barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, sunny, cloud cover
  • Sunlight & Time of Day – dark, golden hours am/pm, high noon
  • Season & Historic Trends – Month, Lunar Cycle, Moon Phase

Reading The Beach

When reading the beach, the beach profile is the first things you should consider.

From the dunes look east (at the water). How does the water look? Can you identify anything? What does the beach at the water’s edge look like?

Look north and south (up or down the beach). Can you identify points and coves, high and low areas?

Can you see the shallow waters of the sandbars where the waves are breaking? Can you see the deeper, darker colored waters? Watch the water’s movements and look for the surge in and out. Find the rips and tailing currents. You want to fish these seams. The cuts, the troughs and the bowl like holes. Fish use these features as an avenue to cruise the surf, moving in and out and to hunt.

For more on reading the beach go to 07:00 minute mark of the video.


Structure is very important to fish and anglers! Pay attention to both hard structure and soft structure.

  • Soft Structure: sand bars, cuts, sloughs, slender vs wide, inside/outer bar, long shore sections. These features were just detailed briefly in the text above and in more detail in the video. They are very important especially here on the LBI surf.

Remember soft structure moves as the beaches change! Storm erosion events can alter in a short term way. Also littoral drift, longshore sediment transport, is a phenomenon that surf anglers need to keep track of. Here on LBI we are a unique area, one of NJ’s nodal zone is approximately Barnegat Light to Brant Beach area. LBI face slightly south and gets a lot of south winds and south swells but the historic pattern is sand moves north to south against the wind and swell. There were extensive oceanographic studies you can look up for more details on this; BUMPUS, 1965 and then HALSEY, 1968). Extreme shoaling in Beach Haven Inlet is a great current event example of the Island’s sand moving south. Also look at the chewed out areas on the down current side of jetties or other hard structure on LBI.

  • Hard Structure: jetty or groin, rock pile, an outflow pipe, pier, bulkhead, dock, etc. These features are permanent and both refuge and have fouling.

Where are the sections of the water and where are the ins and outs? Anglers must fish the water that is available to them.

Scouting For Potential – Spots & Life

Scouting “pre-fishing” is just as important as actually fishing. This research and planning can be done with your boots in the sand or via 4×4 and a good portion can also be done from the comforts of your home. It’s also helpful to network with friends and/or a club. Letting others do the dirty work will help you save time which is valuable because no you can dedicate more time to fishing.

But nothing is better than your own reconnaissance. Those who fish a lot can cover more ground and see more things, all the while staying up to date and in the loop with the evolving situations and more over adapting their strategies on the fly along the way.

  • What bait is present? Are bunker, mullet running? Do you see mole crabs or calico crabs shells in the high tide line?
  • What birds are present? small birds (turns, gulls), large birds (gannets, pelicans)
  • What fish are present?
  • Where are the gill netters or the rec. fleet targeting and catching?


Now that we have reviewed and discussed these topics, we haven’t talked about or touched upon what baits, rigs, lures to think about using. That is a whole ‘nother can of worms. No pun intended.

I am Capt. Greg Cudnik from Fishermans Headquarters. I invite you to stop by and come shop with us.

I’m happy to have shared with you. Hopefully this was valuable and helps you catch more fish. I tried to sparked your interest in a variety of topics and maybe you have some questions? If so stop in the shop and let’s talk fishing.


Author: FishHead.Greg

A Long Beach Island native with life long experience fishing and navigating the local waters, Greg is a distinguished Master Captain (the highest qualified operator license), holding a US Coast Guard Masters 50T Near Coastal License with Towing Endorsement. Raised in and now managing his family's bait and tackle business, Fishermans Headquarters (Since 1962, The Saltwater Fishing Bait & Tackle Experts) Greg is daily immersed in fishing. He is the Chief Contributor of FishingLBI.com (Long Beach Island's best fishing report blog) as well as the Admin for the shop's social media pages (on Instagram and Facebook). Be sure to follow!

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