Want to play pirate for a day and search for buried treasure? Here are some pointers for the fossil hunter in you.

Sample of my finds from a day at the beach

Know where you're going

Use a map for reference. If you're just looking for a swim, Venice Beach proper works well, but if you're out for shark teeth, only Caspersen Beach will do. Look for the brightly painted sign.

Plan ahead.

Use common sense in your preparations. Check the weather. Take sunscreen, water, food, a blanket and possibly a beach umbrella. The dark sand can scorch feet on hot days, so wear appropriate shoes. If you're out looking for teeth, bring a cup for your finds.

Find your spot.

After parking, walk to the southernmost boardwalk entryway of the beach and continue walking south to avoid the crowds. The sand has been picked through more regularly in places with high foot traffic, so aim for a quieter part of the beach. Once you've passed the large groups, it's not difficult to find a good bed of teeth. Walk along the water's edge and survey the first drop-off of the sand at about six inches deep. If the lip looks black, set up camp and start digging. You've hit the shark tooth jackpot! Here, as in Texas, our gold is black. But how do you get teeth from the drop-off to your home? Easy.

Get sifting.

Bring a colander from home or buy a Florida snow shovel at a local surf shop. I prefer the shovel, but it takes practice and timing to yield good results. I search by scooping at the lip as a large wave recedes, using the force of the water to my advantage. Then I shake out the sand by pulling the sieve in the opposite direction of the waves, once again utilizing the ocean's pull. Work smarter, not harder, right? Once the smaller items have fallen through the holes, I dump the scoop out on the dry sand and begin my search for fossils.

Know what you're looking for.

What do shark teeth look like anyway? They're usually triangular and black, but some have been rounded by tumbling waves and others are red or brown.

Do the shuffle.

If you plan to walk, swim or play in the water, drag your feet in the sand as you wade out. Sure, it hinders your progress a bit, but not nearly as much as a stingray barb to the ankle would. The first time you startle a ray away from your tender toes, you'll thank me!