Camping is being included in this handbook due to the popularity of it while surf fishing. Staying on a beach over night or up to to a week presents challenges not found at most “civilized” camp grounds. You have sand, sun, wind, no lights at night, no running water and usually no facilities. This is camping at its most primitive form and takes much foresight and planning. If you have the family with you, even more planning has to be done to provide for spouses and children. Breaking this down even further is essential to make the first time surf angler aware of the planning that needs to go into this.
Placement of you camp should include a marginally flat surface high above the tide line. Getting awoke at night with water rushing through your camp because you forgot about high tide is no fun. Do not place your camp where vehicles vehicle might drive through it. Most beaches on the upper coast are two wheel drive accessible meaning there is a possibility of lots of traffic, especially on weekends and holidays. Many people driving on these beaches DO NOT come to fish. Enough said
When fishing at or near the water line, carry a lantern with you so people can see you. You can also buy inexpensive glow sticks to place on your rod holder or on your line above the rod tip. This not only helps you to be seen but aids in seeing fish when they strike.
Do not place a camp on the dunes or in grassy areas. This is not only illegal but will result in having to put up with lots of insects, snakes and possibly other animals.
First and foremost is your shelter. Most beach anglers have a tent as the very minimum. Tents come in all sizes and shapes. Dome tents are probably one of the more popular tents used on the beach as they are better suited for wind. Made to sleep anywhere from two to eight people they provide a sanctuary from mosquitoes and bugs. Paired with a sleeping bag, an air mattress or cot along with a nice sea breeze and you will be quite comfortable. New on the market in the last few years are “Tent Cots.” As the name implies, these are a cot with a tent built over them. They come in three different sizes, take minutes to set up and are very comfortable as they get you off the hard sand. The only drawback is they are expensive and only sleep one person. There is a double size version made and will sleep two people but in reality are not really practical for this purpose Larger “walled” tents are suitable for the beach but have a tendency to collapse if it’s very windy unless you provide a wind break of some kind.
Small Dome Tent
Large Dome Tent
There are many ways to block the wind around your camp. Place your vehicle upwind of your tent. Some anglers use PVC pipe, tarps and bungee cords to make a wind break around their camp. They also use the sand to their advantage. Shoveling sand along the bottom of your vehicle or on the bottom of the tarps holds them down and keeps them from blowing around.
Look at the picture below. This gives an excellent example of using a vehicle, tarps pipe and bungee cords to create a wind break around a camp. Notice placement of the tent behind the wind break.
The next item on your list should be food and drinks. Coolers are a must on the beach. It is highly recommended that you have a minimum of at least three with you. One for food and drinks, one for keeping bait cold and one to hold extra ice. Depending on how many days you will be camping will decide what you must pack. Bring stuff that won’t spoil and/or is easy to prepare. Having a small BBQ grill allows you to cook burgers and hot dogs without too much trouble and gives you a hot meal. Some anglers bring military meals called MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) with them. These are meals that can be ate cold or heated up if desired. Bring sandwich meat and bread along for a quick lunch. Peanut Butter is also a good staple to have along. Snacks such as crackers, granola bars and anything else not needing refrigeration kill the hunger pains until meal time.
Drinks should include plenty of fresh drinking water. Surf fishing demands that you stay hydrated. At the very minimum provide at least a gallon per day for drinking, washing your face and hands and if need be, rinsing off equipment. Sodas, fruit juices and energy drinks are good depending on your preference. Gatorade or any of the other hydrating drinks can also be considered. Staying hydrated cannot be stressed enough to the angler on the beach.
The upper Texas coast has all kinds of little shops to buy things you need if you run out during an extended stay but try to plan ahead and bring all you need with you. Things like food and water tend to more expensive along the coast particularly during tourist season. Having it all with you also means you don’t have to break camp to go get something and allows you more time to fish.
And although this should not need to be discussed, there is one final topic here and that is the use of alcoholic beverages. Let’s face it there is a large majority of anglers that enjoy them and bring them to the beach. Alcohol will dehydrate you very quickly on a hot beach. Police patrols can and will arrest you for public intoxication on the beach. Let your conscious be your guide but it is highly suggested that you save it for when you are done fishing for the day and sitting around the campfire. Our mission here is not to preach. All that will be said here is PLEASE BE RESPONSIBLE.
The next topic that needs to be considered is providing shade. You have to get out of the direct sun and heat occasionally. Reflections of the sun off the water can make it seem hotter and make you burn quicker so a good source of shade is essential. This can be something as simple as a tarp tied to your vehicle or an umbrella. Easy-up canopies are very popular on the beach these days and are a great way to get out of the sun. If you do use one of these, carry some rope and extra tent stakes with you. This will help hold the canopy down during windy days. An alternative to this would be to have four extra small plastic buckets if you have the space. These can be partially buried in the sand at each corner and filled with sand This will provide a solid base to tie off your canopy and keep it from blowing down the beach. Some anglers have gotten really innovative and use old metal pie tins. By drilling a hole through the middle of these and tying a knot in the rope through the middle of the pie tin, they can be buried in the sand and the rope fastened to each corner of the canopy.
The pictures below show some examples of providing shade:
Basic shade using a tarp and bungee cords between two vehicles
Courtesy of TSF member Mike Multop
To the right in this picture is an example of an easy up canopy. Notice the vent at the top. This allows wind to pass thru the top. During windier conditions, the corners may need to be tied down to keep the canopy secure.
Photo taken during the TSF Mike Chaney Memorial Crawfish Boil 2009
Courtesy of TSF member Mike Multop
You will notice there is not much shade showing in this picture. This is an early morning picture so the shade it provides is not real visible but as the sun gets higher it will provide lots of shade. Notice the tent cots in the background. This particular canopy was handmade by TSF member Squidder and incorporates a ten by ten square canopy with tarps and bungee cords. There is also a lean-to on the left to provide even more shade for coolers and guests. If need be extra tarps can be secured to the sides if a wind break is needed. Guide lines are provided on each corner for stability. This picture also shows a table and umbrella which can be moved closer to the water if need be to provide shade while fishing.
Courtesy of TSF member Mike Multop
Night time camping presents another challenge on the beach. Beaches provide no lighting unless it is moonlight. Having lights in your camp at night is essential. Not only do you need to see but, you need to be seen as well. Many people drive on the beaches at night to go fishing and to do other things. You want these people to know where you are on the beach.
The most common form of lighting on the beach is lanterns. Be it gas or battery powered, strategically placed lanterns in and around the camp give you ample light for cooking, cleaning or rigging equipment etc. Many surf anglers are using generators at night to illuminate not only their camp but the surf as well for fishing at night. This also presents the problem of carrying gasoline with you to power them. Texas has ferry systems to get people across waterways and they prohibit gas cans so be sure to take this in consideration when planning your trip if using a generator. Take a look at the picture below. This is a nighttime shot of the same canopy as on the above page complete with lights powered by a generator.
As you can see, your camp can be as basic or as fancy as you want it to be. All it takes is some planning and trial and error. You are bound only by your imagination. There are anglers that bring nothing but a chair with them. There are those that come equipped with camper trailers. If fishing alone, it’s also a good idea to let someone know when you plan to return in the event something should happen.
In the beginning of this section we discussed camping with the family. Once again, you are looking at yet another challenge. Camping on a beach with no activities for the kids and no facilities for the spouse is going to pose unique problems such as providing some type of toilet for the women and children. A way to clean sand and salt off of them before going to bed at night. Not to mention extra clothing, towels, toys etc. You will have to find a way to keep the children occupied during the day, provide meals and drinks for them and being able to handle any injuries or sickness that might come up. This also includes having your pets on the beach. Do not let dogs drink salt water. It will make them sick. Make sure they have lots of fresh water. Dogs are also very susceptible to heat stroke on a hot beach.
If it’s just you and the wife, there are inexpensive showers and port-a-potties available these days so having a plan for the wife to take a shower occasionally and not have to head to the bushes to go to the restroom will make her a happier camping partner.
One other topic of camping on the beach is security. There is nothing more heartbreaking than waking up and finding all your rods and reels and other equipment gone. Unfortunately, thieves are everywhere these days and the beach is no exception. Never leave your camp unattended or your equipment lying around where it can be picked up without someone noticing. When finished fishing for the day, take your rods and reels as well as the rod holders and place them close to your camp and keep them secure. Keep valuables such as wallets and jewelry locked in your vehicle.
It’s not an easy task and planning cannot be stressed enough. Make a checklist before hitting the road and double check it before you leave.
As a friendly reminder to camping on the beach: ALWAYS be respectful and leave your area as clean as or cleaner than when you arrived. Take some trash bags with you and use them. Don’t be afraid to pick up someone else’s stray trash. Many beaches on the upper coast have trash barrels set up along the beach. Dispose of your trash in one of these as you leave your camp, find a dumpster or take it back home. Leaving your area clean provides a proper image that other people will see and hopefully follow. There is nothing worse than having to clean an area someone else has dirtied before you can fish. Police patrol most upper Texas coast beaches and will ticket you for littering.
One last thing regarding camping on the beach and that is actually driving on the beach. You must be constantly aware and vigilant when you drive on the beach. This is especially true at night when you may be tired. There is lots of debris on beaches that wash up from storms and high tides. As stated above, most beaches on the upper Texas coast are two wheeled accessible but you have to know how to drive on them. Here are just some things to consider when driving on the beach:
- Never try to drive through soft sand in a two wheel drive. If you have to go through a soft spot, accelerate and try to maintain that speed until you get to solid ground again. If you feel yourself bogging down, do not try to accelerate. Stop and attempt to back out of it. Slowly rock back and forth to gain momentum again to get back to the solid sand and then find another way around. Stay in pre-made tracks or path others have made. This is where the sand is most packed.
- It’s not “IF” you become stuck, it’s “WHEN.” First of all don’t panic. Try to dig the sand away from your tires and make a clear path and try to get back to solid ground again. Some anglers will take buckets of water and pour it into the ruts. This allows the sand to pack down a bit and may get you going again. Boards and a shovel are good items to take with you. The boards can be placed in such a way as to get you onto solid ground too. There are also times when letting some air out of your tires will help. Remember to fill them back up the first chance you get when getting back on the road and avoid driving at high speed until you do.
- If all else fails, flag down someone in a four wheel drive and ask if they would be willing to help. Offering to pay them something for their trouble is also not a bad idea.
- Watch for and steer clear of wood and other debris when possible. Debris on beaches contains sharp objects and may puncture a tire. Make sure your spare is in good condition before you get to the beach. Having a can of Fix-A-Flat on board is also a good idea. If you have to change a tire, find something solid to place your jack on.
- Watch for other people while driving. Especially children. They are only interested in having fun and don’t think about cars and trucks on a beach when they are playing.
- Be especially careful when driving along the waterline. This is where people will be. This is where fishing rods will be along with the anglers. There is a very good chance you might hit a soft spot that has just washed out and will sink your vehicle. Never drive under anglers fishing lines that are in the water. This is considered in poor taste and will more than likely get you in trouble with the angler. Make every effort to go around anglers. If this is not possible, STOP! Politely explain to the angler what it is you are trying to do and most likely they will try to help.
Essentials to pack for camping on the beach:
- Rods and Reels
- Tackle boxes
- Shade & wind breaks (tarps, canopy, bungee cords , rope and stakes)
- Food and drinks (Don’t forget the water)
- First-Aid kit
- Sleeping bag, pillow and/or blanket (air mattress and/or cot)
- Rod Holders
- Various tools (screwdriver, hammer, pliers, wire cutter, knife etc)
- Cutting board and knives for bait and cutting/filleting fish
- Garbage bags and Zipper bags
- Flow thru bait bucket or aerating equipment if fishing piers and jetties
- Phone and car charger
Extra items to consider if you have the time and space to take them:
- BBQ grill, charcoal, utensils and charcoal lighter fluid
- Generator, lights, extra gas and extension cords
- Cook stove and coffee pot if desired (include coffee, sugar and creamer if desired)
- Extra tent spikes and bungee cords
- Fix-A-Flat and 12 volt air pump
- Drinking cups, disposable plates and utensils
- Toys and/or activities for the kids
- Tow strap
- Wagon or cart if fishing piers and jetties
Well there you have it. You have come to the end of the handbook. Here’s hoping it has helped you in being a successful surf angler. As stated in the very beginning, the topics discussed here are not all the answers. You will ultimately be the final judge in this. This handbook has merely provided you with the information needed to help you succeed in catching fish from the beach, pier or jetty. It will be up to you to apply some or all of these techniques, modify and adapt them to your needs.
In closing, Texas Shark Fishing is proud to provide this information to its members as well as guests to the web site. The Administrators, moderators as well as every member of Texas Shark Fishing is here to help with any questions you might have. Please do not hesitate to ask if there is something you need an answer to or clarification on. It is our desire to see anyone and everyone succeed in catching fish.
WE hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting it together!
TIGHT LINES ALL !!