Plenty of speck anglers are very content to stay dry and comfortable in their boats to catch yellowmouths — but for those who really want to dive in and have more of a ‘hand-to-hand combat experience,’ nothing beats getting down and dirty with trout in the surf.

Yes, there are stingrays, and sharks might eventually steal some nice fish from your stringer. Treble hooks can definitely be a pain to deal with, unhooking undesirables is sometimes an adventure and your body might feel it a day or two after getting pounded by waves in the surf all day. 

But in spite of all this, nothing beats hooking up with a nice speck on the beach with a topwater lure, and feeling the power of an angry trout in top condition that’s making a living in the surf. 

So if you’ve never done it, give it a try. And if you have experienced it and are eager to go back for more, noted surf fisherman Sammy Romano shared these three common mistakes to avoid to maximize your time in the water.

1. Wading right out on top of the fish

It’s common for surf fishermen to wade right on through plenty of trout early in the morning to head out for perceived greener pastures on distant sandbars, he said.

“Proceed slowly and cautiously,” said Romano, the manager at Chag’s Sporting Goods in Metairie. “Make long casts. Don’t get on top of the fish, and if you feel like you are — if you start hooking fish 10 feet in front of you on the Gulf side — back up a little bit.

“Because you really don’t want to hook a fish on a short line — you want to have some room for him to play out.”

2. Fishing the time of day — instead of the tide

If you wake up early and are in position at the crack of dawn, you’re guaranteed to get a great view of the sunrise — but not necessarily enjoy a great bite in the surf.

Romano recounted a trip to Elmer’s Island earlier this spring when he knew the tide started rolling around 9:30 a.m. — so that’s right about when he arrived.

“We got there and started catching immediately,” he said. “There was another angler who had been there since daybreak beating his brains in, and he was headed home with nothing. If he hadn’t seen us start catching and stopped, he’d have skunked….

“I prefer an incoming tide, personally, but as long as you have moving water, you’re in the game. An incoming gives you clean, salty water pushing on the beach. Your bigger fish are almost always on the last hour or two of the incoming tide.”

3. Using the wrong rod

Romano favors a 6-foot-8, medium heavy rod with either a fast or extra fast tip. 

“You’ve got to have enough backbone. The fish in the surf are typically larger fish, and a lot of times there’s more current in the surf than inshore,” he said. “A 2-pound trout in the surf fights like a 5-pound trout in the marsh, so you don’t want to go out there with a little wimpy rod.

“Even more importantly, you have to be able to give that lure a pop. It’s when you snatch it that the fish typically strikes, and if you don’t get enough twitch on the lure — if your rod is loading up and not moving that bait violently enough — I’ve seen guys go out there with the wrong soft rod and they just can’t get the right action.”