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May 09, 2014

Six Tips for Fishing Safely Near Breakers

Here's how to stay safe in your boat when fishing in the ocean's danger zone.

The surging turbulence where ocean waves careen into the shallows creates rich hunting areas for game fish such as calico bass, redfish, roosterfish, striped bass and tarpon. Despite the dangers, boating anglers have found methods to get close and pull fish from under the menacing waves and foam. I talked to a few veteran anglers to glean six principles for fishing successfully and safely near the pounding surf.

1. If in Doubt, Stay Out

Stay away from the breaking waves when conditions are too gnarly. “If the swells are big, I steer clear of shore rocks,” says Capt. Benny Florentino, a guide and tournament angler who regularly braves Pacific swells in pursuit of calico bass ranging up to 9 pounds in the rocky shallows off Southern California. 

Capt. Greg Hildreth, who guides guests to big redfish and tarpon amid the wave-swept shoals of the Georgia coast aboard his 20-foot Action Craft bay boat, echoes that sentiment. “If you see big breakers blowing through — any thing bigger than 4 feet — it’s time to go elsewhere.”

Despite being on opposite coasts, both Florentino and Hildreth believe in observing each spot from a safe distance before moving in. “I might watch a spot for 15 or 20 minutes to see what the wave patterns are like,” says Florentino. “This gives me an idea of how to fish it safely on any given day, but some days I just drive away, because no fish is worth risking lives.”