You Don't Need a Boat to Catch Fish

June 04, 2015
You Don't Need a Boat to Catch Fish

For many of us, the idea of having a boat is the dream, and sometimes only a dream. Buying a boat is a big deal, and while we might occasionally get to fish from a friend’s boat or go on a chartered trip, these opportunities can seem few and far between. But that doesn’t mean we can’t go fishing!

Fishing from the shore can be incredibly rewarding, and there is a huge number of fishing methods and techniques you can employ to bring home the oceanic bacon.

Firstly, we need to differentiate between fresh water and salt water fishing as some techniques are only applicable in certain environments either due to restrictions put in place by law, or because they simply don’t work effectively cross species. This article will focus only on fishing for saltwater ocean dwelling fish from the shore.

Before performing any kind of fishing activity you must obtain the appropriate license for your region. In some countries, you only need a fishing license to fish in fresh water, but in others (such as in Australia) you will need a license to fish in the ocean as well. Restrictions vary from state to state so it is best to check with your local department of fisheries before throwing your line in.

Fishing from the pier

A great way to introduce the young ones to fishing (and you’re sure to enjoy yourself, too) is by heading to the local wharf or pier. Typically, you will tend to catch smaller species of fish from the pier due to its proximity to land, but this depends entirely on the pier! Don’t be surprised if you hook a monster a few metres from land: it’s best to always be prepared.

You can fish from the pier in a number of different ways

It is one of the few occasions where you can drop your line directly at your feet as you would from a boat. Overhand reels are perfect for this kind of fishing as they are designed to fight fish directly below the angler.

kids fishing wharf

Casting from the pier is a great technique for getting your bait into deeper water where larger fish tend to feed. You can cast and retrieve lures, cast baits and employ the use of soft plastics using long flexible rods and egg beater reels designed specifically for casting. Or you can throw all the frills out the window and grab a handline. An excellent hassle free way of catching small species of fish, handlines are great fun for the kids too. All you need is your line, hooks, sinkers and bait and you’re good to go.

Surf Fishing (Surf Casting)

Fishing from the beach or low lying rocky shoreline is referred to as surf fishing, the technique most commonly used being surf casting. Surf casters use very long rods between 2 and 5 metres long that break down into two or three pieces when not in use. These rods are very long to provide the angler with enough power and leverage to throw their bait out past the breaking waves to where the fish like to feed. Big egg beater reels are popular for surf fishing as they allow the line to fly off the reel and reduce the chance of overruns (tangles on the reel itself). The technique for casting into surf is different from other methods of fishing for two reasons: the rod and reel combo can be heavy requiring two hands, and the goal is to get the bait as far out to sea as possible. When surf casting, an overhand cast is used, anglers using their entire bodies as giant springs to give power to the cast.

egg beater reel

Surf casters will often wade out into the ocean in order to reduce the distance between themselves and the target species before casting. They will wear specially designed waterproof waders for this purpose as they can spend a lot of time in and out of the water.


A number of rigs are used by surf casters to improve their chances of catching fish. I remember the first time I tried surf casting using a regular dropper rig and a simple lead sinker only to find my bait slowly washing in to shore in the surf and getting picked off by crabs along the way.

When a friend introduced me to spider sinkers, my surf casting success rates drastically improved. A spider weight is designed to catch on the bottom as you retrieve. When pulled sharply, the metal prongs flip around allowing the weight to be retrieved normally. All you have to do is flip the prongs back into place, check your bait and cast again!

There are many effective rigs used for surf casting, some are tied in such a way that they drastically increase your casting distance.

Pulley rigs can be tied with a bait clip that keeps the whole rig streamlined while in flight, effectively turning your terminal tackle into an aerodynamic missile. When it hits the water, the force of impact knocks your hook off the bait clip allowing your bait to float freely. The pulley system itself allows the bait end of the trace to slide reducing the weight the fish normally feels when it picks up the bait and the sinker. This encourages it to bite for longer and increases your chances of setting the hook. These kind of rigs can be tricky to tie yourself, but you can pick them up ready made from your local fishing tackle store.

Land based fishing

In many areas around the world, the sea level was once much higher than it is today. In such locations it can be possible to stand on rocky outcrops that would have once been part of reef systems and the sea floor itself. This kind of geography is perfect for fishing from the shore as they often fall straight into deep ocean channels that are frequented by big predatory fish.

Because you are right next to the action, you needn’t worry about casting great distances and can therefore employ a greater number of fishing techniques. Over hand reels can be used if you are more comfortable with this kind of set up, and live baiting can be an extremely effective method for catching big pelagic fish feeding close in to shore.

Land based fishing can be extremely dangerous as you will be standing close to the surf on slippery and jagged terrain. Always go with a mate, and keep one eye on the tide, or you might find yourself in the drink.


Just because you have two feet on dry land, fishing from the shore is by no means safer than fishing from a boat. Every year anglers are washed away in shore based fishing accidents that could have been avoided if the correct safety procedures were observed.

While wharf fishing tends to be the safer of the above methods, high winds can catch you by surprise, so it is always a good idea to make sure you have a good hold on to the wharf and the kids are secure and preferably seated so as to reduce the chance of someone falling in.

Surf beaches are typically not safe for swimming. This is because the shape of the beach tends to create powerful undertow and currents, so if you are surfcasting, and especially if you are wading out into the surf, make sure you are managing your depth and keeping an eye on the waves and the tide. Get in, cast, and get out.

Land based fishing can be extraordinarily dangerous as fisherman tend to try and get as close to the action as possible. Falling on the rocks, getting washed in by a rogue wave, and getting trapped on a rocky outcrop by the incoming tide are all real possibilities.

To avoid any mishaps you should; - Know the tides and keep track of them at all times - Wear appropriate footwear - If the weather starts to take a turn, turn around yourself and either find a more sheltered location, or leave to fish another day.

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