When I arrive at a fishing spot, that first moment is filled with anticipation. Whether I’m walking around a bend, pulling up and looking over a cliff, or just making my way onto the sand to try and get a good view of the water, there’s always a bit of excitement and a moment of uneasiness.

“Will conditions be good today Or will seaweed rue the day? I hope the current isn’t too bad”. There’s only so much you can plan for and even if you have access to live surf cams and up-to-the-minute forecasts, there’s no way to really know what the conditions are like until you’re there and your line is in the water.

Be Prepared for the Worst

It pays dividends to be prepared for all conditions and to be willing and ready to change your tactics as needed. I recall one session a few years ago that’s a perfect example of this.

Not optimal but manageable.

I arrived at my fishing spot late afternoon. When I laid eyes on the beach, my heart sank. Seaweed blanketed the shoreline from south to north as far as the eye could see. I had my shark rod in the car, my light rod for surf fishing with a Carolina rig, and my lure rod for targeting halibut.

This is step one of being prepared to alter your tactics to match the conditions. Have the right gear and have it ready. You’ll need to pick the right rod and reel for each occasion and select the best rod for your needs.

My Decision-Making Process

So, it was decision-making time. The kelp was thick, but the surf was manageable. I would have called it a 2–3-foot day with smooth swells rather than choppy. The current wasn’t bad either and we were smack in the middle of peak season in early July. On top of all that, the tide would rise for another hour, but then begin to fall from 5:30 pm through sunset.

What did all this tell me? Well, the shark rod was out of the picture. In order to fish for sharks, you need clean water. With so much line out in the water and a goal to keep your bait in one place, that would have been a battle not worth fighting.

Lure fishing was an option, but at the time, I was primarily a Lucky Craft fisherman when it came to lures, and we all know what happens when you mix jerkbaits and seaweed. Not fun. So, the light rod was all I carried onto the sand that day. I’d be using a Carolina Rig using a 1-ounce weight and a #2 mosquito hook.

Wetting a Line and Going from There

My next step would be to get a line in the water and start analyzing the conditions and figuring out my next moves.

The first cast, I send her out and it’s really not that bad. I can keep my bait in the water for at least 2 or 3 minutes before kelp gets in my way and I have to reel in and recast.

First Takeaway

It’s mostly whole chunks of kelp with minimal grass and clean water. That’s good… That’s great! If you find yourself in this situation and surf and current are in your favor too, you should be good to go for the day.

A couple more casts with no bites and my confidence begin to fade. It’s not unfishable by any means, but it certainly isn’t the best set of conditions either.

Second Takeaway

I check the tides one more time and confirm that we’ve got a high tide coming up in a little under an hour. What does that mean? Well, there’s some more seaweed on the dry sand up above the water line, but not much on the wet sand. With only an hour until high, I don’t see any more seaweed entering the water and with minimal current, I shouldn’t expect any surprises from either direction. A quick note though, sometimes the tidal change can churn things up initially, but wait it out and it should mellow down and clean up.

I tell myself, “I just have to make it through the high tide, and I’ll be good. As I continue fishing, I’m finding enough clean water, but I can’t get much more than 2 minutes of a soak with my sand crabs and at least for today, it looks like I need a bit longer soak time to make things happen.

Third Takeaway

I realize I’m forgetting an important facet of today’s conditions. It’s peak summertime season and I know corbina, spotfin, and guitars could be cruising the shallows, so why not shorten the casts a little bit. By doing so, I reduce the amount of line I have in the water, which then reduces the potential for accumulating seaweed on my line, therefore, increasing my soak time.

I start throwing my sand crabs short, and on my first cast, just after the 2-minute mark, “tap… … tap-tap… tap-tap-tap-tap”. I set the hook and she’s off to the races! After one hell of a fight, I’ve landed my first fish for the day. A 22-inch corbina and one that would turn any day into a success. Only, that was just the beginning. For the rest of the evening this tactic continued to work as I landed 17 fish from 5 pm to 8pm before calling it a day.

Moral of the Story

Sometimes conditions get the best of you, and sometimes they really aren’t worth fishing in. But you can’t catch fish if you aren’t fishing and often, you’ll find a way around tough conditions as long as you remain confident.

When you get a little flustered, take a step back and look through your arsenal. See what you can come up with and try it out. Remember, every time you go out, you learn a bit more and your arsenal gets a little bigger. And every time you fish through tough conditions, you become a better angler with more confidence to tackle the next set of unexpected conditions.

Nick has been an avid angler in the surf of Southern California since 2014. A hobby that quickly became a passion. In 2019, he created the website: surffishingsocalsd.com centered around surf fishing in Southern California, and he began blogging every week. Since that time his expertise has grown s...