Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater Fishing FAQ

Saltwater Fishing FAQ

Learning how to saltwater fish is a fun sport that requires some skill and timing. Our fishing FAQ list includes basic saltwater fishing information to help you get out on the water to fish.

What's the difference between fiberglass, graphite and carbon fiber fishing rods?

All three materials consist of a matrix of fibers rolled into a tube; yet each material offers very different properties. Fiberglass is flexible and strong making it good for trolling rods or fighting heavy fish. Graphite is sensitive but brittle; a good choice for targeting light biters or deep-water bottom-dwellers. Carbon fiber offers better sensitivity and performance than graphite while being tougher and heavier. Carbon fiber and graphite also have a faster response time than fiberglass making them good choices for long casts.

What is the difference between tide and current?

Tide is the moon's gravitational pull on the earth's water. Current is the flow of water from one place to another. While the rise and fall of the tide is predictable, the direction and strength of the current is not. Current can also be affected by wind and runoff. Tide tables tell the time that the moon passes through high and low tide, but a tide table cannot predict the current.

What is the difference between gps and loran navigational systems?

A GPS (Global Positioning System) uses satellites to determine location, direction and speed. LORAN (LOng RAnge Navigation) uses radio signals from land-based towers to do the same. GPS reports location in latitude and longitude, while LORAN uses time differentials called TDs. The LORAN system is scheduled to be phased out in the near future, but many charts are still marked with time differentials and a number of anglers still use TDs. Even though LORAN is becoming less available, there are electronic devices that will translate latitude and longitude into TDs.

How do I choose a rod and reel combo?

Different styles of rods and reels are designed to be used for specific fishing situations. To get the right outfit for the fishing you plan to do, consult the experts at a local tackle shop or stop by the dock and ask experienced anglers and pro guides what they are using. For a description of different types of combos, check out the rod and reel section.

Where should I start fishing?

Begin close to home. Whether you live along the coast or are visiting for the weekend, look for a species that is easy to catch at a place that is easy to access. Consider hiring a professional guide to show you the ropes or stop by a local tackle shop and ask for advice. As you master one type of fishing, expand your horizons to cover other species.

What causes fish to bite?

Five factors contribute to fish behavior: water temperature, current, weather, structure and bait. Determining what combinations of these factors will trigger a bite is the central challenge in fishing.

What fishing line should I use?

Fishing line comes in various styles and colors to apply to myriad types of fishing. For example, monofilament stretches, making it perfect for trolling. Fluorocarbon is used for leader material because it is virtually invisible under water. Braided line is sensitive and low-diameter, which works great for bottom fishing.

Do I need a boat to go fishing?

Many opportunities are available for anglers fishing on foot or from a kayak. Join a local surf fishing or kayak fishing club to learn about these very accessible ways to fish.

What tackle do I need?

Tackle varies from species to species and location to location. Consult a local tackle shop or pick up regional outdoor publications for suggestions on the most productive rigs and lures.

What clothes should I wear on the water?

Fishermen often face extremes of heat and cold. Dressing for the conditions is the first step toward a successful fishing trip. Stop by area launch ramps and docks to see what other anglers are wearing. Then, head to your local outfitter where you will find the clothes that outdoorsmen use to stay comfortable in the worst weather.

What electronics do I need to get started?

Electronics are essential for all saltwater anglers. Even in sheltered backwaters, don't leave the dock without a GPS, VHF radio and fish finder. Compact and high-powered personal locator beacons will alert authorities if you have trouble on the water. Any boater heading beyond the sight of land should also be equipped with a RADAR system.

How do I set the drag on my reel?

An accurate drag setting is key to landing a big fish. Drag pressure should be set at one-third the breaking strength of your line. Tie a loop in the end of the line and thread it through the eyes of the rod. Put the rod in a rod holder and attach the loop to a hand scale. Tighten the drag a few turns and pull line off the reel with the hand scale. Read the weight displayed on the scale to determine the pounds of pressure that the drag is applying. It's a good idea to check and adjust the drag before each fishing trip.

What hooks should I choose?

Choose a hook that matches the size of the lure or bait that you will be using. Also consider the size and feeding technique of the fish you will be targeting.

Should I use artificial or natural bait?

While natural bait is tough for any fish to turn down, there are many situations where an artificial lure works better. In some cases, a lure will imitate the target fish's natural prey. Also, natural bait can be difficult to obtain and maintain. Many anglers choose to use artificial lures because they present a greater challenge to catching fish.

What lure should I use?

When picking a lure, consider how the fish are feeding. Use jigs, deep-diving plugs or metal spoons to reach fish that are feeding on the bottom. Fish that graze along the bottom can be caught with jigs while predators hunting the lower water column will react to metal spoons and deep-diving plugs. Shallow-running plugs, jigs, swimming shad and popping corks will work the middle of the water column. In shallower water, these lures will attract bottom dwellers looking for a meal that is passing overhead.

Topwater plugs and weightless soft plastics are good choices for early morning or just before dark when fish are feeding on the surface. The size and color of the lure are also important. The size should match the fish's natural prey, while color should complement water conditions. Use a darker lure in off-colored water and a brighter lure in clear water.

What rig should I use?

When choosing a rig, take into account the fish that will be targeted and the bait that will be used. Consider where and what the fish will be eating when picking a bait and tying a rig. Use tackle that matches the size of the fish and the size of the bait.