Selected Excerpts from "The Art of Surf Fishing" by Owen Hatteras

Published in "Fish Stories" (1979):

The Art of Surf Fishing by Owen Hatteras (Selected Excerpts)

My father taught me how to fish in the surf. One summer at the shore
in southern New Jersey when idle time abounded, he gave me a short
fishing rod, took me to the beach, and explained how a cast could be
made seaward. There must have been a fish on my line soon after because
that was around 1930, and I have been surf fishing ever since. The
disease would not have caught on if the early experiences had been

Surf fishing has a number of advantages over other methods of
fishing, the major one being that it is possible to go for very long
periods of time without catching a fish. This is important because
fishless time can be spent relaxing. There are other surf fishing
advantages: it's cheap, it's lonely, it's healthy, and it wastes time.
But most important, surf fishing, if done correctly, leaves time and
energy for the more important aspect of angling anyway, which is to
observe nature while thinking about fish.


Now that you are traveling light, the question is, where do you travel?
Simple...go where no one else is. The proper distance between two surf
fisherman is no less than 75 yards and at least out of hearing range.
If you are fishing alone and someone comes up next to you, move
immediate, even if you are catching fish. Anyone who comes close to a
surf fisherman and starts to cast should not be associated with; put
distance between you.

Conversation with other surf people should be avoided. If you are fishing
in the surf and someone walking along the beach stops and asks a question,
usually, "Are you catching anything?" say, no. Here are
some other conversation guides:

"How's it going"? Slow.
"Anything doing?" Nope.
"Where's a good place to fish?" Down there half a mile.

The point is to discourage another fisherman from establishing a
base of operation nearby. This is difficult if you have a fish on your line
when the newcomer arrives at your side. In this situation, you have
two alternatives. I favor the "ignore the fish" routine. This means
standing with the rod in your hand, pretending there is no fish on
the other end. If the tip throbs mightily and your unwelcome guest
notices, explain that the waves are doing it or you happen to have
for bait an extremely large, lively herring or mullet or whatever.
I have carried on a conversation for 20 minutes while ignoring a
decent striped bass on the other end of the line. The second alternative
is to haul in the fish and leave the spot to the interloper.


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