Every year the question comes up, “Is surf fishing in the rain good?”. And every year, somebody tells a story about how their best day of fishing was in the middle of a storm with terrible conditions. Meanwhile, six other anglers rant about how they never seem to have luck when it rains. It doesn’t take long before you here somebody chime in with this fuddy-duddy – “fish don’t mind getting a little wet, so why should we?”. I enjoy watching it all unfold in conversation, I really do, but in this article, we’ll try to use as much logic as we can to come to a conclusion.
No one is all-knowing of how rain and storms affect fishing and in this case, how rain and storms affect surf fishing. Surf fishing in the rain is just like any other scenario in fishing; it doesn’t always produce. But, there are a handful of logical, common sense ways to theorize around the subject of surf fishing in the rain, so let’s break it down.
How Does Low Visibility During Rain Affect Surf Fishing?
The first thing we’ll be talking about in this article is water visibility. When it rains, or when there’s a storm that stirs up the surf, usually the water becomes murky, making for less clear waters. There are pros and cons to murky waters when it comes to surf fishing and fishing in general, so let’s get into it.
Pros: Why Rain and Low Water Visibility Is Good For Surf Fishing
Lower water visibility can actually be beneficial for fishing in certain situations. When it’s murky enough to provide a little coverage from predators, but still clear enough for fish to spot a lure or find bait, that’s your sweet spot.
Additionally, in low visibility water, anglers may have an advantage because fish might be more likely to bite on a lure or bait that they can’t see clearly, often causing what’s known as “reaction strikes”. Halibut and other predators are known for this.
Cons: Why Rain and Low Water Visibility Is Bad For Surf Fishing
When the water gets too muddy, extremely low water visibility can make it difficult or impossible for fish to see bait or lures, which can make surf fishing less effective. This can also be a problem when it comes to sight fishing. If you can’t see fish when your attempting sight fishing… well, you can’t cast so you can’t catch.
How Do the Overall Conditions and Weather Affect Surf Fishing in the Rain and Storms?
The catch all “rain is good for surf fishing” is a load of BS. Rain and storms can’t be “just good” or “just bad” for surf fishing because there are other factors that correlate with rain that may affect fishing as well.
Pros: Types of Rain-Accompanying Conditions That Are Good for Surf Fishing
In terms of surf fishing in the rain, my ideal conditions set would be as follows:
Diminished but not poor water visibility
Overall good conditions for surf fishing
Surf height: 3 feet or lower
Tides: totally depends… see link below.
As for “overall good conditions for surf fishing”, take a look at the linked article: Best Tides and Times for Surf Fishing. In the article, I break down exactly what tides, times of day, surf heights, and seasons are best for surf fishing along with a few other conditions and general tips.
Cons: Types of Rain-Accompanying Conditions That Are Bad for Surf Fishing
Water pollution/sewage run-off
Seaweed and loose vegetation
If you’ve read my article on how wave height affects surf fishing, you’d have a lot more context on this factor, but basically, the rougher the surf, the more difficult it is to go fishing. High winds will have the same effect. Again, in my article on surf fishing in the wind, I explain how the wind can make casting and retrieving extremely difficult and it can also affect the water and fish activity in a few different ways.
Water pollution and sewage run-off are two big ones. This not only affects the health of the fishery, but the health of the angler if they decide to keep and eat their catch. You should be able to check the local surf water quality by utilizing a website like the one linked here: San Diego County Beach Water Quality.
Seaweed and other loose vegetation caused by stormy conditions can further complicate fishing as trying to maneuver around all the debris in the water can be exhausting and disheartening.
“Storms churn up bait in the water causing a feeding frenzy”
I hear this one often. The theory also goes along with why many anglers believe that a high or rising tide is good for surf fishing. Believe it or not, some anglers believe the same is true with rough or higher surf. Whether it’s good or bad, the statement is true. Storms do churn up bait in the water. But, a lot more is churned up as well. In my opinion, a light rain with minimal churning can have a good effect on the near-term fishery while too much can be bad for fishing.
Is Surf Fishing Good Before the Storm, During the Rain, or After?
Another point I want to make is the timing of your session around a storm. Fishing before the rain can be very different than fishing during or after the rain. Let’s talk about why.
Surf Fishing Before the Storm
Surf fishing before a storm can be good for a few reasons, one of which is the change in atmospheric pressure. As a storm approaches, the atmospheric pressure drops, which can cause fish to become more active and feed more aggressively. The drop in pressure can also make it easier for fish to sense vibrations in the water, making them more likely to bite on lures or baits.
Additionally, the increased wind and waves caused by the approaching storm can bring baitfish and other food sources closer to shore, which can attract larger predatory fish to the area. This can make it easier to catch larger and more sought after species.
I’ve also heard that the change in water temperature that can come with storms often makes fish more active. While this one totally makes sense, it could just as easily kill or turn off a bite completely.
Fishing in the Rain and Surf Fishing During a Storm
During a storm, the atmospheric pressure will typically be at its lowest point. It’s said that fishing should remain good throughout the entire pressure drop, even to the bottom out. Personally, I can’t speak on this as I’ve experienced both good and bad results throughout surf fishing in storms. Either way though, if the winds are strong, the rain is heavy, and thunder and lightning are around, I’d advise not fishing. Between danger, discomfort, and difficult conditions to fish in, it’s just best to wait it out at that point.
Surf Fishing After Rain
After a storm, the atmospheric pressure will typically rise as the storm moves away. This rise in pressure can cause fish to become less active, and can make it more difficult to catch fish. However, the storm can also bring new food sources to the area, which can attract fish and make fishing more productive.
Water quality is again important here. During and after storms and heavy rainfall are when water qualities are at their worst. It’s typically recommended to stay out of the water and to not eat seafood that comes out of the water for 48-72 hours after the last rainfall.
Fewer Beach Goers and Fishermen
With all the theories that come along with fishing, this one is a fact. if there’s one thing I can guarantee you, it’s that beaches will be less crowded when it rains or when the weather is inclement. Depending on how clean the break is, surfers could be out there, but in general, you won’t have to fight many beach goers and you won’t have to fight many other anglers for your best fishing spots. Surf fishing in the rain provides an opportunity to have the beach to yourself in some cases, so if that’s all you want… fishing in the rain is for you.
Conclusion: Is Rain Good or Bad for Surf Fishing?
Overall, with the right approach and the right surf fishing gear and tackle, surf fishing before a storm can provide an opportunity for anglers to catch fish that are more likely to bite due to the change in atmospheric pressure and the disturbance caused by the storm. From all the information out there and my personal experience, I’d recommend either surf fishing before or at the beginning of a mild storm with minimal precipitation, and avoid fishing in heavy rain and immediately after a storm.
Now to answer the question, is surf fishing in the rain productive? Well, it can be. There’s a lot more that goes into it than rain. I think it’s like many fishing theories. It’s only natural to want to understand why and when fishing is better or worse, and if a theory makes sense, it can be exciting and tempting to grab hold of it and run with it. Sometimes theories work out. But, if there’s one thing fishing has proven to me over the years, it’s that no matter how true, or logical your theory or reasoning might be, you can never be sure if the fishing will be good or bad until you get out there and try for yourself.