Saltwater Fishing Basics

If you are planning on spending some time away on a saltwater fishing trip or vacation, this guide shares tips and ideas to help you get the most out of your next trip away

Saltwater fishing is fishing in water that has high quantities of salt, such as oceans, gulfs and seas.

Saltwater flows inland in coastal areas, so saltwater fishing is possible near the mouth of rivers and streams in coastal areas. Salt water doesn't come from precipitation nor does it come from melting ice and snow.

There are hundreds of saltwater fish species, including sea catfish, cod, mackerel, barracuda, tarpon, eels, swordfish, dolphinfish, snapper, mullet, flatfish, turtle, tuna, sharks, garth, bass, flounder and pollack.

Saltwater Fishing Equipment

Saltwater Rods - A fly fishing basic rod for saltwater fishing should be 8½ to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 meters) in length. These cost between $100 and $500.

Any rod under $100 will probably not be adequate for your needs considering the amount of strain and work it will most likely be doing.

If you are a beginner it will be wise to choose a rod in the $100 range. Once you hone your skills, you can buy a more expensive rod if you wish.

Another option for beginners is to borrow a rod from someone you know.

Reels - It is a good idea to buy a reel that is resistant to saltwater corrosion. These reels are made from such materials as fiber/resin, stainless steel, titanium and plated steel with components of bronze or brass.

This type of reel will run between $100 and $500. To learn which type of reel is best for your area, ask an experienced saltwater angler who has used his reel for more than two years, as this is the point in time when corrosion problems begin to appear.

Saltwater Line - If you plan on fishing in flat and shallow estuary situations, a floating fly line will work and these are the best lines for beginners.

If you plan to fish your fly beneath the water surface, you will be better off with a clear, intermediate fly line.

If you'd like a greater advantage, try one of the newer clear, sink tip lines when you're wading. These lines do not tangle around your feet like other fly lines tend to do.

Leaders - Keep it simple. There are a few basic rules related to leaders. Use longer leaders for shy fish. For toothy fish and those with sharp fins use tough, use thick leaders.

When using a floating line and a fly that is weighted, use a long leader in deep water. If you're using a sinking line in deep water, use a short leader.

Saltwater Flies - Saltwater fly selection can be simple. You have a variety of choices - you can buy flies at bait and tackle shops, on the Internet, or learn to tie your own.

If you're a beginner, purchase Crazy Charlies, Surf Candies and Clouser.

Keep them light and small until you hone your casting skills. A good way to choose flies is to buy those that are endorsed or have been successfully tried by experts in the location where you are fishing.

Casting - Casting shouldn't be a problem for saltwater fishing if you have experience in fly casting for trout.

If not, keep it light. If you have the ability to cast weighted nymphs, then casting weighted Clousers won't present a problem.

Remember not to 'overline'. Overlining is when you use a line that is over the recommended weight for your rod. Look near the rod butt for the recommended line weight for that equipment.

If you have no experience in fly casting you should consider fly casting lessons that are taught by an expert.

Hooking and Landing - When a fish strikes, set the hook with the line hand.

Do not lift your rod high into the air and do not fight your catch with continuous pull.

Alter your initial pull, try from the left, then from below, then from the right.

Try to upset the fish's swimming pattern by rolling it. This will make for a much easier landing.

Keep your rod tip low and do not 'high stick' when landing a fish. If you high stick, you are likely to break the tip of your rod. That can be a costly mistake.

Always add a pincher (pliers) and gloves to your fishing gear to ensure a safe landing of fish that have abrasive skin or large, sharp teeth.

A good way to protect yourself, other anglers and the fish, as well as minimize damage to flies is to pinch the barbs down on all of your hooks.

Saltwater Fishing Bait - There is a large variety of live and artificial bait for saltwater fishing.

Natural and live baits work well for a wide range of saltwater fish. Almost all saltwater species will take shrimp, so it is a good over-all bait to use.

Baitfish of all kinds is also good bait, as all saltwater fish eat smaller fish species. Always use bait that is part of your targeted fish's diet.

Other live baits include crayfish, crabs, oysters, lugworms, sand-eels, crustaceans of all types, razor fish, herring and a wide range of natural baits that include pieces of larger fish species.

Keep it simple, never overweight and use just enough for the job.

Match the size of your hook to the size of your bait, equipment and the fish you are targeting.

Putting small bait on a large hook looks unnatural and fish will not take it. The lighter the line, the lighter the hook. Follow this rule of thumb to match bait and tackle.

If you need help choosing saltwater fishing equipment, bait or need help learning to cast, ask an experienced saltwater angler or guide to help.

Another option is to ask for tips at the saltwater bait and tackle shop where you purchase your bait. The staff is always glad to help out when they can.

We hope this guide to saltwater fishing has given you the basics you need to tackle your next fishing adventure...To read more about fishing, click here to return to the Fishing Home Page

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