Bait And Casting
Once your tackle is secure, it is time to figure out what to use for bait. When you are surf fishing on the North Carolina Coast, most of the time natural bait will work perfectly. It is abundant, available at most local bait shops and sometimes, you can find perfect natural bait in your own beachy backyard by using a cast net. The most popular types of natural bait are bloodworms, squid, shrimp or mullet, combined with two hook bottom rigs. These rigs are versatile and good for several species of small fish. They also give you the opportunity to change hook sizes, styles and sinkers easily to suit the species of fish and conditions of the ocean. Some shops sell them with the hooks and sinkers already attached.
"Fireball rigs" are specialized bottom rigs. They may have one or two hooks, with a brightly colored float fixed just in front of the hook. They are good for bluefish, but anything will bite them.
The right type of bait depends on the season, and the type of fish that are frequenting the ocean waters. Check with a local tackle shop before you head out for your day of fishing, and ask their advice on what is biting and what is the best type of bait to use.
The least expensive type of natural bait is the kind you catch yourself, and coastal anglers attest that they often catch more fish with a couple of "sand diggers," or mole crabs, than any other piece of bait. Mole crabs can be found in abundance along the shoreline, right where the waves plunge onto the beach. Pick a spot of wet sand that looks a little lumpy, and start digging. Chances are, you'll spot these little gray and pink crabs just a few inches in the sand.
If you are fishing with your family, keep the kids busy by digging away and looking for extra mole crab bait. Pick out the larger ones, and hook them from the underside up through the top of the shell.
Another great bait that you can typically find in abundance in a soundside canal or salty pond is mullet. Head out to a local deep canal that runs into the sound or ocean, and bring a cast net to scoop up these small fish, that generally run just a few inches long. Cut them up into shiny pieces while they are fresh - the blood of a mullet is a tasty lure for all kinds of big fish, like bluefish, puppy drum, flounder and trout - in fact, just abut anything will nibble on mullet.
Don't have the energy to fish and look for your own bait too? No problem! Many tackle stores sell fresh mullet, as well as other kinds of bait that isn't easy to come by on your own, like small squid and bloodworms. Cut bloodworms into large pieces, or don't cut them at all, and squid usually works best when it is cut into thin, wedge-shaped pieces that imitate a swimming bait fish in the current.
Consider bringing a few artificial lures as well, as sometimes fish will school and actively feed in front of the surf. This has been seen especially often with bluefish, striped bass and Spanish mackerel. This is common in the early morning and late afternoon, which are prime feeding times for most species of game fish. These artificial lures, preferably heavy enough to cast and shiny enough to attract fish, need to be cast out and retrieved on a regular basis to simulate a fleeing bait fish.
Other than the bait, you might also want to bring a knife for cutting, a pair of pliers, a rag and a plastic bucket to keep your live bait.
If you are new to surf fishing, it might be helpful to try a few casts on the sand in a large open area, to ensure that when it is time to cast into the water, you don't lose your rig.
There are different styles of casting, and some experts are able to overhand, starting with their hands well behind their head, down towards their back, and essentially chucking the line hundreds of feet into the water.
The more popular method is the simple, straightforward, conventional cast, which is a combination of having enough force to throw your line well into the ocean water, and finding the right timing for releasing the reel so that is propels the line far enough in the right direction, which is straight out into the ocean.