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Saltwater Fishing for Beginners

Saltwater fishing can be very exciting to a new fisherman, that is if you know where to find the fish and how to catch them.  This article will give you some good tips and advice to get you started.  If this is your first time heading out to the ocean it is always a good idea to bring a buddy or at least let someone know where you are heading.  All to often saltwater fisherman have accidents near the slippery shoreline and injure themselves.  Don’t let this stop you from having your first saltwater fishing experience however, as the ocean has much to offer a novice fisherman. 

Before you embark on your first saltwater fishing voyage you first should decide of what species of fish you want to target.  Here is a list of popular game fish that you may want to start off with.  I would recommend either Scup or Flounder as they are fairly easy to locate,catch and often times found in large numbers.

As with any kind of fishing it is always important to try and locate the fish or at least have an idea as to where you think the fish are.  This is especially true for saltwater fishing as the ocean is a rather big place.  So I will start off by discussing some popular fishing locations and indicators of where a good fishing location may be.

Good Saltwater Fishing Spots

The best advice that anyone can give you is to always talk to a local angler, someone you know and trust.  In fact talk to as many local fisherman as possible to get a good idea of the specific tackle and locations for region you plan to fish.  There are however some things that you can look for yourself while you are on the water.  Pay attention to nature as a free meal rarely goes unnoticed for long.  If you see a flock of Seagulls or Turns diving into the water odds are there is bait fish in the area.  Also pay attention to where vegetation is as striped bass generally feed near or around eel grass.



If you plan on targeting flounder as your fist saltwater fishing experience then I would recommend going on a guided trip or make a friend with a fishing boat who has fished for flounder before.  If you plan on taking a rented boat or your own boat then seek out the other fishing boats once on the water.  If local anglers are catching flounder in an area you will see a large number of fishing boats congregated in a small area.  When you see these fleets of fishing boats it is a very good indication that flounder or another species of fish are being caught.  Flounder do not migrate too far over the course of a day or even month so once you have found the Flounder or the boats catching Flounder make a mental note or create a way point in your GPS reminding you as to where the Flounder are.

If scup is on the menu for the days dinner then having a good fish finder is helpful, or look for rocky areas or areas that seem to have vegetation or debris on the bottom.  Trial and error is a part of fishing so you may have to try a few spots before you find one that produces good results.  Don’t give up if you are not successful on your first trip.  A good friend of mine always says, “This is why they call it fishing and not catching”.  Finding a good spot is all part of the fun.   Target rocky shorelines with depts of 12 to 20 feet of water for scup fishing.

Fishing Tackle for Your First Saltwater Fishing Trip

If you already have a fishing rod then that’s great!  There is no real need to buy an expensive fishing rod for your first saltwater fishing trip.  Even if you only have a freshwater rod that is fine.  Saltwater rods are larger and slightly more expensive that your typical freshwater spin-casting rod.  Your local superstore should have a sporting goods section.  A saltwater rod can cost anywhere between $30 and $50 dollars. 

While you are shopping you also may want to add the following items to your list.

  • Scup Hooks
  • Flounder Hooks
  • Teardrop Weights
  • Flounder Jigs
  • 3 way swivels
  • 10lb or 15lb test fishing line

This should be enough to cover your first saltwater fishing experience.  There is no need to buy out the fishing isle your first trip.

Rigging Methods for Scup Fishing

In order to catch Scup you must first attach the proper rig to your your line.  A typical Scup rig consists of a three way swivel, a few small prelined hooks and a prelined tear drop weight.  The procedure to attach this rig is as follows.  First attach the three way swivel to the fishing line with a clinch knot.    Then attach the tear drop weight to a few feet of 5 to 10 lb fishing line, which is attached to the three way swivel.  Now attach the small hooks to the other eye of the three way swivel.  Bait the hook or hooks with claim worms or quahog.   

Scup are rather small so some anglers actually prefer to fish with freshwater poles and tackle as the freshwater rods are more sensitive to feeling when the Scup nibble on the bait.

Techniques for Scup Fishing

Once your rig is set up the technique for Scup fishing is rather simple.  Simply lower your line to the sea floor by flipping the bail on your reel and then reel in a few turns until the bait flips placing tension on the fishing line.  Once the bait is on the sea floor you can bob it off the bottom a few feet at a time.  I will generally wait around 10 minutes per location.  If I do not feel a nibble on the line then I will try another location on the boat.  If I still do not feel any activity on the sea floor I will move to another location completely.  Once you begin to catch scup more will soon follow as they are a school fish and can be caught in large numbers.

Once you do feel a nibble on the line quickly set the hook by rotating the tip of the fishing rod skyward.  Scup are know to steal bait frequently so be sure to check your bait often if you think you felt a nibble on the line. 

Rigging Methods for Flounder Fishing

Bucktail Jig

Bucktail Jig

A flounder rig consists of a Buctail Jig or a Flounder jig.  A Bucktail Jig looks like a small white squid to the flounder.  It is generally painted white with an eye in the front to attach your line and white dear or horse hair streaming behind it covering an average size hook that is pointed upward.  The simplest rig is to simply attach this lure to your line and bait it with a small piece of squid. 

Techniques for Flounder Fishing

The same techniques for scup fishing can be applied for flounder fishing with a few slight modifications.  While flounder fishing it is important to fish while performing a slow drift or be casting and reeling in your line slowly.  You also want the Bucktail or Flounder Jig to drag in the sea floor or at least be a few inches from the bottom.  I have found that if you drag it on the bottom and then raise your rod a few feet and then lower it again every 2 minutes or so it increases the strikes you you get.  Set the hook the same way as described for Scup fishing.

A few words About Safety

Be very careful on any rock piling or breaker walls that you may decide to fish.  Very often as the tide goes out it leaves behind very slippery rocks covered with slippery sea weed.  Try not to venture off too far by yourself.  Also pay attention to the tides.  In certain states the tide comes in much quicker than others.  Always talk to a local about where you intend to fish or speak with someone in your local DEM office.  Bring a safety whistle and wear brightly colored clothing.

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