Can You Go Surf Fishing in the Rain?

If you read our post about fly fishing in the rain, then you’ll recall that some precipitation doesn’t have to deter you from enjoying a day of fishing. You’re not into fly fishing though, but rather, surf fishing. Does the same logic apply? Can you go surf fishing in the rain?

Surf fishing is especially good in the rain since the water currents rise and fish will congregate closer to the shore. Likewise, if you can time it correctly, fishing before the rain rolls in will lead to increased fish activity in the water, as will surf fishing immediately after the storm.

This guide to surf fishing in the rain will tell you everything you need to know. We’ll talk more about surf fishing right before, during, and after the rain. We’ll even discuss if you could catch more fish when surf fishing in a drizzle, so keep reading! 

Is It Good to Go Surf Fishing in the Rain? What About Right Before or Right After?

Fishing in the rain can sound like a strange prospect at first, especially if you’ve never done it. You’ll think that you’ll be the only angler out there, because who else would want to go surf fishing in inclement weather?

You’d be surprised! Surf fishing in the rain has many hidden benefits. The weather is cooler so you’re more comfortable, and you don’t have the sun beating down on you. Fewer anglers bother with the weather, which reduces the rate of competition.

Plus, if you’re surf fishing, you’re usually getting wet anyway, so what’s a little more water overhead? 

Let’s investigate when the best times are to go surf fishing in the rain. 

Surf Fishing Before the Rain

If you read our post on fly fishing in the rain, then you may recall that fish can sense the weather. 

Did you miss that post? We’ll recap the information for you here. Fish have internal systems that can detect the level of pressure in their environment. That pressure happens to include barometric pressure, aka atmospheric pressure.

Barometric pressure increases on cool, comfortable, and dry days. When the barometer drops, it means the weather is about to turn stormy. Fish can tell the difference, even when the weather is currently clear. Their gauge can indicate rain hours before it happens.

Fish are pretty smart, but they can’t tell what the changes in barometric pressure will bring. Thus, they’re more eager to feed because they don’t want to go into the storm on an empty stomach. 

It’s not just that a fish is hungry. The fish is also anxious, so there is indeed a sense of urgency in its feeding behavior that is not present when the barometer is higher. The fish will overeat in case food is scarce.

What does this mean for you, the angler, when surf fishing? Well, for starters, the fish are being a lot less discerning about what they eat due to their heightened anxiety. Whereas usually, a fish might be reluctant to bite what’s on your fishing hook, they might not hesitate now.

Further, that fish are eating all they can means that you could get more bites on your line than you would when the barometric pressure is higher. 

Surf Fishing During the Rain

The pre-rain period is over, and the rain is coming down now. The precipitation causes the ocean waters to move. In doing so, the condition of the water is usually a lot murkier. 

When you consider that the consistent pitter-patter of the rain on the surface of the water also reduces visibility, the fish that are usually wise to your fishing hook or fishing line will struggle to see either. 

The decrease in barometric pressure is still occurring, by the way, and the consequences of such are still playing out. In other words, the fish are stressed and ready to eat anything, which is again to your benefit as you go surf fishing during the rain.

So what kind of rain is fair game for surf fishing? A light drizzle is pleasant (well, about as pleasant as fishing in the rain can be), and even a moderate, heavier rainfall is fine. 

In heavy rains, your own visibility is going to take a hit. If you can’t see your own fishing rod because the rain keeps pelting you in the eyes, then it’s going to be very difficult for you to know when to reel in your line. You could miss out on valuable catches. 

Surf Fishing After the Rain

The storm has passed, and the skies are beginning to clear up. The benefits of surf fishing in the rain don’t evaporate as the precipitation does. The fish are still out, and until their internal systems sense the rise in barometric pressure, you could still fill your cooler with fish. 

Will You Catch More Fish When Surf Fishing in the Rain Compared to Fishing in Dry Conditions?

We mentioned already that surf casters, compared to other types of anglers, spend more of their time in the water. Even still, if you’re going to get soaked to the skin, you want to have something to show for it.

And indeed, you will. Surf fishing in the rain can be more advantageous than doing the same when the barometer is higher for the following reasons.  

Although we talked about it for much of the last section, we can’t underscore enough how beneficial a fish’s internal barometer is. Anytime it rains, a fish is always going to assume that food can be sparse or even nonexistent for the foreseeable future. 

The fish will want to stock up on whatever food it can find, sort of like a bear eating in bulk before it hibernates for the winter.

When the atmospheric pressure is higher, fish are usually far pickier about what they ingest, and they can afford to be. The weather is good, there’s no perceived threat to their food, and so the fish can skip the tasty live bait attached to your fishing hook.

Of course, some fish species such as catfish are far less opportunistic, but we’re assuming you want to catch a range of fish, not just one species.

All this is to say that once you get a taste for surf fishing in the rain and see how much it can benefit you, you might not want to fish when the weather is clear!  

Moving Water Redistributes Nutrients

We established in the intro that the increase in the rain will cause the ocean swell to rise. The rate of water activity is also higher than on clear days. 

The sediment or sand gets stirred up, which is what causes the opaqueness of the ocean during the rain.

It’s not only sediment that’s being kicked around but nutrients as well. These nutrients might have been buried beneath the sand or even trapped within coral or weeds, but now they are free-floating. 

Fish need nutrients for survival just like any other living creature. The fish will venture closer to the shore to ingest the nutrients, making them a lot easier for you to catch. 

This doesn’t only occur during the rain, by the way. As the weather clears up, those nutrients are still traveling in the seas, at least for a little while longer. Post-rain, you can continue fishing with good success! 

Larger Fish Come Out to Play 

Every angler wants to catch a large, mean fish. Doing so though is often a lot easier said than done. Well, not when surf fishing in the rain!

The reason? Those smaller fish that are closer to the shoreline are very attractive to bigger fish species. The large fish know that they can get a quick meal without expending a lot of effort, which is a win-win. 

The large fish will head closer to the shoreline in kind. If you can reel in those big fish before they eat any smaller fish in the vicinity, then you’ll have some photo-worthy fish in your cooler to show all your buddies. 

Tips for Surf Fishing in the Rain

This section will address the practicalities of surf fishing in the rain and present some tips for staying safe and fishing more efficiently!

Learn How to Gauge When It’s Going to Rain 

You know already that fish have an internal gauge that indicates when the atmospheric pressure is lower or higher. While we people have a lot of things that fish don’t, such as the ability to speak and opposable thumbs, we are missing an internal barometer.

You can begin catching more fish an hour or several before it rains. If you roll up to the ocean 35 minutes ahead of the downpour, then you’re missing hours of opportune fishing. 

You must get better at gauging the rain. A good weather app can help, especially a paid service that allows you to review minute weather changes and check an up-to-the-minute radar. 

However, you can’t always use your smartphone when surf fishing, as you might get spotty reception (plus a soaked, ruined phone). To help you attune more with nature, anglers swear by the following signs as gauges that it’s going to rain.

  • Check for mosquitoes: No one likes mosquitoes, as they leave red, itchy bites in their wake. Their presence might not always be such a bad thing though if you’re waiting for the rain. When mosquitoes propagate more readily and bite more ferociously, it’s because their own internal sensors are indicating it may rain soon.
  • Smell the air: This ability takes some fine-tuning, but you can indeed get a smell for the rain. We recommend closing your eyes so you can focus on your olfactory senses. Take a deep, clean breath and inhale. What do you smell? If it’s a compost-like odor, that’s a good sign it may rain. The reason is that plants undergo changes before the rain, releasing waste. 
  • Check the pinecones: Should you come across any large, pinecone-bearing trees on your way to the beach, take a moment to check the state of the pinecones. If the pinecones have closed, rain could be on the horizon. Pinecones close since the seeds can’t travel in the rain.
  • Listen to the crickets: Crickets are a common insect that can also act as a gauge into whether there’s any impending rain. The hotter it gets, the higher the metabolism of a cricket. This in turn allows the bug to chirp more frequently. High temperatures are a frequent occurrence before the rain, so the more chirps, the better! 

Don’t Fish During Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms usually bring with them thick rain that reduces your visibility and thus makes fishing difficult, but much more so, lightning is dangerous! You should not go surf fishing (or any type of fishing) in a thunderstorm. 

Most people assume that lightning strikes only metallic objects. Really, the criteria for lightning strikes are whatever the tallest object is that’s the most isolated. On a beach without a lot of tall surfaces, the tallest object could very well be you standing there surf fishing on the shoreline.

The moment you hear a clap of thunder, no matter how far off in the distance, you need to take your equipment and get to shelter immediately.  

When the Swells Rise Too High, Call It a Day 

High swells can send fish nearer the shore, but when the oceanic swells get too high, your health and wellbeing could be at risk. 

The swells can knock you off your feet and pull you into the ocean. On a rainy day with fewer anglers and no active lifeguard, you might not have anyone there to rescue you.

Even if it was safe, you wouldn’t want to go fishing in high swells. The barometric pressure can drop significantly when the swells rise. This doesn’t drive fish to continue their feeding frenzy, but just the opposite.

The fish sense the very low atmospheric pressure as a threat, so they vacate the area until they find a location where the pressure is higher.

How high of a swell is too high? Once you get into eight to 10 feet, the swells are dangerous. 

Buy the Right Gear for Rain Fishing

As a surf caster, you probably have several pairs of waders, right? Unless you’re wearing the full-body kind with the gloves and the zippered hood, then a pair of waders is not going to cover you up enough for surf fishing in the rain. 

You’ll need a waterproof jacket and perhaps a wide-brimmed waterproof hat as well! 

Reconsider Eating Fish You Catch After the Rain 

Fish will continue to be active after the rain in their search for nutrients, but that’s not all the fish could be exposed to. Due to how some people unfortunately use the ocean, the seas could also be rife with chemicals. 

The fish near the shore have been exposed for potentially long enough that you probably don’t want to eat them after catching them. Toss them back instead! 

Final Thoughts

Surf fishing in the rain can be a highly rewarding experience, as the fish tend to bite a lot more readily. We hope the information in this guide helps you determine when to fish when it’s raining and how to stay safe when doing so. 

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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