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Beach Fishing Clothes - What to Wear for Every Season (hot or cold)

Updated: Feb 17

A question I'm often asked by someone booking a guided beach fishing trip for the first time is: "What clothes should I wear?"


The answer depends on the season and type of fishing we're doing, with the following three outfits ones I recommend personally to my clients, to keep them warm (or cool) enough to fish effectively and safely throughout the year.


beach fishing clothes surf perch
The author with a winter-caught surf perch - learn how to stay warm (or cool) enough to fish effectively with this complete guide to beach fishing clothes
 

Beach Fishing Clothes - What to Wear for Every Season page index

 

Beach Fishing Outfit for Summer (65 – 80°F water temps)


In my opinion, choosing the right clothing for your fishing trip is really important, especially in a climate such as the West Coast and North East where temperatures and conditions can vary wildly. It's a subject that's often overlooked - but can really make or break your day.


Starting with summer, particularly in warm areas such as Florida, Gulf states, SoCal in summer, the goal is to stay covered skin-wise and cool with a well-ventilated technical performance shirt a good starting point to build a summer surf fishing outfit around.


The graphic below shows what I wear when the sun is shining and I'm chasing shallow water species like corbina.


What to wear for beach fishing in summer and tropical conditions
What to wear for beach fishing in typical summer and tropical conditions with 65 – 80°F water temperatutres. Copyright American Sea Fishing

From top to bottom, the summer beach fishing outfit I recommend and wear myself is as follows:


  • Mesh-backed cap with a wide bill

  • Good quality sunglasses with Polarizing lenses

  • Large buff (or two smaller ones) covers my neck and back of cap

  • Performance shirt with vented panels and pockets for tackle, bait etc

  • Shorts with built in liner and section for pliers in the back pocket

  • Water shoes with a strong mesh upper and well vented sole so sand and water can disperse


I usually carry a small waterproof pack (fanny pack or over-the-shoulder dry bag) with spare tackle, a drink and maybe a hoodie if it's an early start in cooler temperatures. But, generally, the goal with a summer surf fishing outfit is to facilitate being mobile, cool, covered up and well shaded in the face area.


 

Beach Fishing Outfit for Spring and Fall (60 – 65°F water temps)


I've lumped spring (March, April and May) and fall (September, October and November) into the same category because they require a similar approach in terms of clothing.


With cooler mornings and evenings, a couple of extra layers are best employed and a hoodie-buff-cap top combo with shorts and sports leggings on the bottom keeps everything covered, but you're not going to roast if the sun comes out.


what to wear beach fishing
What to wear for surf fishing in Spring and Fall - a hoodie and leggings are essential in the cooler transitonal months

From top to bottom, the spring and fall beach fishing outfit I recommend and wear myself is as follows:


  • Adjustable cap with a wide bill

  • Good quality sunglasses with Polarizing lenses

  • Large buff (neck gaiter) covers my neck front and back

  • Medium-weight hoodie with front pocket

  • Underneath this I either wear a long-sleeved performance-style UV-resistant top for when the sun comes out, or a t-shirt if that's looking unlikely

  • Specialist fishing shorts with built in pliers pocket and loops for belt and tethers

  • Sports leggings in black or a neutral shade, preferably UV blocking

  • Swimming-style shorts beneath leggings

  • Water shoes with a strong mesh upper and well vented sole so sand and water can disperse

 

Beach Fishing Outfit for Winter (40 – 60°F)


In any water temperatures south of 60°F, I rely on increasing amounts of neoprene in the form of modular wetsuit–style items purchased from the local surfing store.


I find these to be durable and effective at keeping me warm and on the hunt – whereas sports leggings and tops with less insulation definitely begin to cost you body warmth and energy when in contact with cooler water.


what to wear beach fishing in winter and cold water
What to wear for beach fishing in winter and cooler temperatures - Neoprene is your best friend!

From top to bottom, the winter beach fishing outfit I recommend and wear myself is as follows:


  • Large-size knitted beanie hat to cover cap, ears and back of neck

  • Adjustable cap with a wide bill

  • Good quality sunglasses with Polarizing lenses

  • Large buff (neck gaiter) covers my neck, front and back

  • Lightweight gilet or jacket with hood to block wind and rain

  • Heavyweight lined hoodie with front pocket

  • Underneath the hoodie I use a t-shirt and a thermal base layer to keep my core warm

  • Specialist fishing shorts with built in pliers pocket and loops for belt and tethers

  • 1mm – 3mm full-length neoprene surfer's leggings

  • Swimming-style long undershorts beneath leggings

  • Water shoes with a strong mesh upper and well vented sole so sand and water can disperse

  • I swap the shoes for 1mm – 3mm neoprene surfer's booties with a solid rubber sole for fishing in contact with sub–58°F water, which is when my toes start to go numb in normal water shoes (but everyone will have a different tolerance!)


 

More Beach Fishing Clothing Tips

  • Whatever the weather, I always use an SPF30-plus sun block lotion on my face, arms, hands and any other skin exposed to the sun, applied before I leave the house

  • Fingerless gloves designed for kayaking and canoeing are a great addition to the ensemble for keeping knuckles and fingers from freezing or blistering. Kayaker's gloves have an extra patch on the inner thumb area that takes some of the abrasion from constant casting

  • I rarely fish without some sort of buff (neck gaiter) – these are great for covering areas like a neck or head without taking up much space

  • Specialist fishing shorts like the ones pictured in this article are great because they have a re-enforced pliers pocket, upgraded zips and loops for mobile phone tethers etc. Surfer's board shorts fall apart pretty quickly

  • A full 2–3mm wetsuit is often employed for situations such as rock-hoping for striped bass in the North East, or a separate zipped neoprene top is also useful if you expect to get waist or chest deep in cooler water

water shoes for beach fishing
Water shoes for beach fishing should have great drainage for water and sand

  • I spend most of the year wearing water shoes for beach fishing as I find these give me a good blend of mobility, protection from sharp objects, and ease of use in terms of being able to hop in the car after a session and not change footwear. Look for a snug fit, sturdy mesh uppers and a sole with lots of large drainage holes to let sand out

 

Are Waders a Good Idea for Beach Fishing?


This is the usually the follow-up question when discussing fishing in cooler conditions: "Should I wear waders?" I'm not a fan of chest waders, to be honest, and here's why.


Primarily, with the unpredictable nature of fishing a beach open to the wild ocean, safety is a concern.


If a rogue wave, rip current or large piece of kelp causes issues, I want to be able to move fast and have as little material for the water to drag on as possible – neoprene bottoms win over chest waders in this regard, every time.


If I was roving the beach or shallows and happened to stumble over into a hole or gully whilst wearing neoprene leggings, I'd have little difficulty in picking myself up compared to someone in chest waders, no matter how tight that chest strap is. They're just more cumbersome.


If you're fishing super-calm conditions and don't intend to enter the water, waders are fine, but otherwise I'd rather wear neoprene bottoms with a matching top layer if needed. I'm just as warm but more mobile and safer.


The answer, in my opinion, is that waders are rarely a good idea for beach fishing.


waders for beach fishing
Waders - Rarely a good choice for beach fishing

Thank you for reading this article about clothes and footwear for beach fishing. If you're interested in learning more, I run specialist guided surf fishing lessons and sessions in Southern California and I'm also happy to answer any questions via ben@americanseafishing.com Get in touch if there's anything you'd like to know or need help with!


beach fishing what to wear
The author with a schoolie striper caught on the Central Coast in California wearing neoprene bottoms in 56°F water

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