Surfcasting Tips from Montauk Pro Bill Wetzel

Take this fishing advice before going surfcasting.
Take this fishing advice before going surfcasting. Photo credit: Michael Garner/iStock/Thinkstock

Get ready for another season of surfcasting—the sport of fishing as you wade in the water—on the beautiful shores of the East End.

“We’re blessed here on Long Island. There is so much opportunity for surfcasting,” says Bill Wetzel, a licensed surfcasting guide who operates primarily out of Montauk. “It’s the surfcasting capitol of the world.”

The first thing to keep in mind about surfcasting, Wetzel says, is that there are many different types. In addition to sand beaches, jetties and marshes are also prime locations. Always become familiar with a location before casting your rod. Next, read the water. At low tide, survey how the current moves and what’s beneath the surface. Deeper areas with more shells will provide you with more fish.

Equally important is knowing what you’re fishing: striped bass. Because striped bass are nocturnal feeders, “your prime time to fish will be between 1 and 3 a.m.,” Wetzel advises. “Stripers are cold blooded, and because their body temperature equalizes with the water temperature, they don’t like those hot daytime temperatures of the water.” Between May and June, you’ll do well during the daytime—but the fish will be smaller. You won’t catch the legendary 50-pounder, and “that’s the big one,” Wetzel says.

It’s the summer months, July and August, when you’ll really see a decline in your catch rate during the day. “August water temperatures reach mid-70s, so that time of year you have to fish at night.” If you’re looking to catch striped bass during these months, you’ll need to be standing on the jetties in the middle of the night, getting beat up by the waves: a much different type of surf fishing, but fun nonetheless.

As for equipment, you’ll need a decent rod and reel, lures, buck pails, waders, and a rain top. “I always recommend a decent set-up,” Wetzel says. “You’re looking to spend about 500 bucks, and that’s just to get started. You can certainly find less expensive equipment, but you’re not going to catch anything and you’ll get frustrated.” You’ll be able to find all of your equipment at any local bait and tackle stores. “Ask them questions,” Wetzel encourages, “they’re really helpful.”

Even with the help of tackle shops, this may all sound a little overwhelming, especially for beginners. If so, licensed guides like Wetzel are here to help. “I’ve been guiding for over 15 years and will take anyone out,” he says. “For complete beginners, we’ll go over everything, including winds, tides, and migrations. I will even take people out who can go hardcore.” Wetzel can guide anywhere on the East End and equipment is provided.

Wetzel also offers a subscription-based service, the Surf Rats Ball Forums, for updated fishing logs, tips, forums, and tournament information. The Surf Rats Ball Striper Tournament running throughout June is the only striper tournament on the East Coast that covers the entire striper coast and makes catch and release possible.

Following the June tournament is the “The Shin Dig,” on July 18, an award ceremony for the tournament’s winners. The event will feature a barbeque, ice cream, children’s activities, raffles, and prizes. The Shin Dig will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor and proceeds will benefit Kids Need More, a nonprofit dedicated to serving children, young adults and families who have experienced life-threatening illness
or trauma.

For more information regarding guided trips and events, visit or call Bill Wetzel at 631-987-6919.

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