Surf Casting Florida

Learn how to catch more fish off of the beach.

What size hooks do you need for surf fishing?

The size hooks that you need for surf fishing depends upon what species of fish that you are going after. Obviously, a 500 pound shark will take different hooks to catch than a 3 pound pompano will. You have to match your hook size to the species of fish that you are targeting and the size of the baits that you are using.

I am a FISHING CHARTER CAPTAIN on the Treasure Coast of Florida. I have been fishing in the surf; off of docks; on the grass flats and just about everywhere else in Florida for more than 40 years. In the article below, I will teach you how to choose the proper hook sizes and types to match the species that you are targeting and your bait sizes.

Let’s get started.

Watch the video below to learn where to target certain species when you are surf fishing.

What size hooks do you need for surf fishing for pompano and whiting?

Pompanos and whiting have very small mouths so you should use a 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook with fishing for them. The circle hook is your best choice of hook style because they will hook the fish in the corner of the mouth as they swim away with your baits in their mouths. The fish will hook themselves so you do not have to set the hook in other words.

If you use a j hook style of hook them you will often gut hook and kill the fish. That is fine if they are legal keeper size but if they are small, then you just killed a fish for no reason. Don’t use j hooks for pompano and whiting unless you plan on holding the rod the whole time that you are fishing for them. If you are not holding the rod, then the fish will often swallow the bait, hooks and all.

You will want to use a hook small enough to hook a sand flea or piece of clam or shrimp but not so big that it is obvious to the fish that something is odd about your bait.

What size hooks do you need for surf fishing for bluefish?

Bluefish can be caught in Florida up to 10 pounds or so if they are running big but further north they can be twice that size. Bluefish are not real picky when it comes to eating so you can get away with a larger hook and not scare them away from your bait.

The bluefish that I usually catch in the surf are 5 or 6 pounds. That size of a bluefish needs about a 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook to catch them with a piece of cut bait. You can get away with a 2/0 hook or a 5/0 hook but those are pushing the boundaries on being too big or too small.

If you are catching bluefish that are in the 10 pound plus range, then you can go up to a 5/0 or larger hook. Bluefish are a very toothy fish so you will need a leader when fishing for them. You can get away with a 30 or 40 pound mono filament leader for the ones that are under 5 pounds. Once they get any bigger than that you will want to switch over to a wire leader or they will cut the line almost every time.

What size hooks do you need for surf fishing for Spanish Mackerel?

Spanish mackerel can be hook shy sometimes so I like to use as small of a hook as I can for them. A 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook is about as big of a hook that I will use for Spanish mackerel. A huge Spanish mackerel will be 30 inches and most of the ones that you will catch will be 18 to 24 inches.

Spanish mackerel are common in the waters all over Florida and they have extremely sharp teeth. You can catch the smaller ones with a regular mono filament leader but the big ones will bite right through a 30 pound pound leader with little effort. You will have to use a wire leader for the bigger mackerel.

Whether you are using live bait or cut bait you can almost always get away with using a 2/0 or 3/0 hook. However, you might have to go down to a 1/0 hook if you are using very small baits like an immature thread fin herring or a scaled sardine.

What size hooks do you need for surf fishing for tarpon?

Tarpon come in all sizes so it really depends on how big of a tarpon you want to catch in the surf. The small fun sized tarpon that I like to catch are 4 feet long or smaller. Tarpon of that size only require a 3/0 or a 4/0 circle hook to catch with live bait or dead bait off of the beach.

Once a tarpon starts to grow over a 4 foot length they start to get thicker and much more massive. Those tarpon can weigh 100 plus pounds and you will need hooks from a 6/0 to even an 8/0 sized hook to catch them. They can straighten out a smaller weaker hook with ease once they get that big.

What size hooks do you need for surf fishing for sharks?

Sharks come in all shapes and sizes. Some people like to catch the really big ones 8 feet or larger off the the beach by bringing out big dead baits off of the beach in a kayak to get them out far enough. Other people like me want to catch sharks in the 4 or 5 foot range.

You will need a 5/0 or a 6/0 circle hook to catch the ones that I like to catch. You will need a 9/0 or a 10/0 circle hook to catch those really big sharks.

You are no longer allowed to chum, ie. use dead bait to catch sharks off of the beaches of Florida anymore. The Florida Wildlife Commission made new rules in July of 2019, that make it illegal to use dead bait on the beaches. You cannot bring sharks out of the water. They must be unhooked or the hooks or leaders cut immediately after catching them. You also have to get a special permit to fish for sharks in Florida. There are other rules that you must follow for the new shark fishing law.

Make sure to check the rules before you go surf fishing for sharks to make sure that you don’t get in any trouble.

Watch the video below to see some surf fishing for sharks in Florida.


Surf fishing is a blast and it really has a small monetary barrier to entry. You can get a good surf fishing outfit for under $250 and you are go to go. There are lots of different species of fish that can be caught off of the beaches of Florida. They might weigh one pound or 100 pounds. That is what is so exciting about surf fishing. You just never know what you will catch when you go fishing on any given day.

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