Want to be a better surf perch angler and have more fun doing it? If so, forget everything you know about the sport. Leave the 40-pound test and the 4-ounce pyramid sinkers at home and put that 14-foot telephone pole and giant coffee grinder you’ve been using on Craigslist once and for all.
We’re not chasing sailfish here, people… the biggest perch you’re going to find off West Coast beaches are going to be redtails, which rarely top 3 pounds… so why all the heavy gear? If you scale back your tackle you’re going to put more fish in the bucket – and have a way better time doing it.
So instead of the traditional surf rod, I like to run a light spinning rod. When surf conditions are mellow – what I call “3/4-ounce water” – I like the Lamiglas LX 96MS X-11 or the slightly lighter Lamiglas LX 96LS X-11. They both have the length to keep your line up out of the waves but are also light enough that the perch still have a fighting chance.
When the seas are a little larger, you can jump up to larger sinkers and heavier rods, but in reality, if the surf’s up enough that you need a big rod and more than about 1.5 ounces of lead, you’re kind of defeating the purpose of going light anyway.
As far as reels go, pick something that has a waterproof drag and anti-corrosion bearings, like a size 40 Quantum Cabo spinning reel. There are plenty of other companies that make fully-sealed reels – it all depends on how much you want to spend.
For line, I’ve really been liking Fireline Crystal in 14-lb. test, which has the equivalent diameter of 6-lb. mono. The cobweb-like thickness allows me to cast further and it also cuts through the surf better so my gear stays in the strike zone. It’s also super-sensitive, so I can distinguish even light bites from surf and kelp.
One of the real beauties of perch fishing is the inherent simplicity: you can pretty much fit everything you’ll need into your pocket – a few hooks, swivels and sinkers and whatever you’re using for bait and you’re in the game.
Though there are many ways to skin this cat, I’m pretty partial to the Carolina-rigged GULP! Sandworms. I’ve had success on clams, mussels and motor oil grubs, but for good ol’ simplicity’s sake, you can’t beat this rig. There are times when the fish will eat real bait better than the GULP! – but not often enough to make it worth the hassle.
In most situations, I’ll break the worm into thirds (or quarters if the fish are small) and thread it onto a No. 4 baitholder or Rebarb Hook. Next, add a 24-inch section of P-Line 8- or 10-lb. flouro leader and a 1/2- to 1-ounce tungsten bullet weight and you’re good to go.
Where to Fish
When chasing surf perch, you’re generally looking for beaches that are steep. As waves toss up onto the sand of a steeply-sloped beach, they wash food like sand crabs into the water. There’s usually a trough that forms close to shore (it will run parallel to the beach) and, guess what… that’s where all the goodies displaced by the wave action end up. Not surprisingly, that’s where the perch (and corbina and croaker if you live in Southern California) hang out. Waves also break closer to shore on steep beach like the one below, so the fishy water will be much easier to reach.
In addition to the deep feed troughs near shore, you’re also going to want to target shore rips and “holes” – deeper spots that can be identified by the lack of breaking water.
Again, the sweet thing about this whole program is it’s super simple. Take a look at which way the water’s moving (tide and current) and throw “upstream”. In other words, if the water’s moving right to left, toss your rig to the right of the water you want to fish so that the current will push it right into the zone.
When your gear’s on the bottom, start a slow-and-steady retrieve with the rod tip held high to keep the line off the waves. When the current’s really ripping, you can cast upstream and then allow your rig to bounce through the zone as if you were drift fishing for steelhead, reeling only to pick up slack.
In either case, bites usually come in one of two styles: dink..dink…da-dink – semi-subtle raps of the rod tip typically signify a small perch has come calling. Larger perch like redtails in the 1- to 3-pound class most often inhale the worm on the run and those are the no-doubt, can’t miss ’em type of grabs that we love.
For much more detail about surf perch techniques, check out my guidebook.
As with all saltwater fishing, tides do have a big influence on perch fishing. Generally, it seems the hour leading up to and after the change is best. However, the overriding factor in light tackle perch fishing is you need the surf to be down and manageable. So, I’ll base a trip more on ocean conditions than individual tides. In other words, if she’s flat, get out there!
Check out my video that shows you how to catch surf perch on light tackle:
Light Tackle Surf Perch: The How-to Guide
If you liked this article, your going to love my how-to guidebook, Light Tackle Surf Perch. Loaded with techniques and diagrams, this ebook will take your surf perch fishing to the next level!
Nice tips. when are the best times during the year to catch the perch?
Thanks. I like spring and summer
Randy Lal says
I’m keeping my 14 foot pole for Dungeness crab at marina state beach we been killing it
Dafore Wright, Wilmington, Delaware says
JD, what’s the name of the beach you are fishing for ocean perch
do you know of any good surf perch beachs around florance oregon , just got a 10′ 3/8- 3/4 oz rod and what to catch some perch
I don’t know that area well. Just look for steep and sandy!
Do you know any places near pismo?
Robert, Sorry…no I don’t. I have never fished that area.
long beach washington beards hollow dinner plate size surf perch for the last 4 yrs
Jeff H says
I have been meaning to write to you sooner. My wife and I stayed at Kalaloch Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula over Thanksgiving weekend 2013. In preparation for our trip, I came across your article on light tackle surf perch fishing and decided to give it a try. We followed your instructions exactly as to gear, tackle and bait, put on our waders and hit the beach just below the Lodge where Kalaloch Creek meets the Pacific.
What a great time! It took us a few casts to get our groove down, but after that it was “fish on!” about every 10 minutes until we had a bucket full. We fished just after high tide and followed the surf out for a couple of hours stopping to rest and enjoy the views every now and then. Most of the perch were in the 1 – 1.5 lb range with an occasional 2 lber thrown in. The weather was a bit off with an annoying Washington Beach drizzle coming down most of the time, but we didn’t let that slow us much.
The neatest part was the fact that this area apparently doesn’t get much fishing action, so we had quite an audience lining the beach to watch us do our thing. The more daring junior lodgers would come in close and touch a fish. It was really special to see how these young people would light up when confronted by a little nature.
On Saturday night, we made fish tacos with about 4 of the perch. A simple foil-wrapped broil in the oven with butter and veggies. Then strip the meat away from the bones and heat quickly over high heat in a skillet with a little Old Bay Seasoning. An Old Bay seasoned roumalade, some chopped cabbage, corn tortillas and a couple of Coronas and we were eating like “El Rey y La Reina”
Anyway, thanks for the great article. You have created two, light tackle surf anglers for life!
Steve DeMuri says
Wow, JD. This is excellent. Any beaches near Dillon’s Beach that are good? We will be staying there next week for a few days.
Steve, the mouth of Tomales Bay right at Lawson’s is good!
Thanks!! Will definitely be giving your techniques a try.
Anyone fish near the Santa Ana River between huntington and Newport?
And is winter a good time for perch and corbina?
People have asked me how to fish on the surf countless of times and you couldn’t have explained it any better. Next time il just refer this link to anyone who ask. Now I have more of an idea on how to find the honey holes instead of guesstimating. Thanks
What other species have you caught while doing light tackle surf perch fishing along northern California?
JYK, the diversity isn’t great in Nor Cal…perch, smelt, rockfish, etc. Down around LA, however, I’ve caught perch, corbina, spotfin croaker, small halibut, mackerel and others…
Thanks for the info as well as your article, extremely helpful. I ordered a Lamiglas MH 8’6″ rod and Okuma Trio 40. Not exactly light gear for perch, but I figured it’d still work well (and be fun) and give me opportunities with other saltwater species and the salmon/steelhead run when the season comes (I’ve never done that either, if you have a beginners guide to salmon/steelhead let me know!).
You have any beach suggestions for a first perch outing in Half Moon Bay area?
Marvin Newland says
I was just figuring out how to catch these surf perch and then found this article and tried it in Seaside,Oregon, and killed them a cpl weeks ago. Going again this weekend. Thanks alot.
Dan Solliday says
Where can I buy perch in San Francisco?
Buy perch? Not sure…
What do you think about using Kastmaster lures. i bought a couple today for trout but haven’t tried it for surf. do you think it’ll work? one is a 1/8oz blue and silver and the other is 1 oz silver
I know guys who use em, so I think you can get bit!
where i live i have to use a heavier setup but i will try this setup to see how things go!!.. right now im using a lamiglas kenai special 8’6 baitcasting along a daiwa luna 253
Rodeo at Lone Tree Point Rocks. Becareful of the trains though.u can make a nice bonfire at night when its cold as well. Be sure to havr a day license or permit cause the ranger will sit on the hill to the right withbinoculars tryna catch evil poacher s…… Lol
If u know of any books on Perch specific spots, techniques and other info on how to increase my knowledge on each species feeding habits, schooling patterns, targeting Slabs Please email me. Especially prime seasons in the Sf bay as im from Oakland and travel throughout the bay depending on fish and seasons. Thank man!!!
If u know of any books on Perch specific spots, techniques and other info on how to increase my knowledge on each species feeding habits, schooling patterns, targeting Slabs Please email me.
Lol, this is THE Book.
I ive in the SF bay area too and this is THE BEST year for perch we have had in a longl time. They are everywhere!
Where have you been fishing cause i have yet to see this Great fishing.
Where have you been fishing cause i have yet to see this.
We’re doing pretty good in Crescent City, in spite of the high surf (11 ft this morning. You have to find a sheltered spot or fish from a cliff if you don’t want to get killed…) Things can only get better as the season progresses.
So i can catch Perch on low tide in San Pablo bay on low tide using these techniques. Im feening to go fishing and all the teports say the perch bite is Hot as of now.
Never tried it there but I don’t see why not!
shane snyder says
found this forum very interesting and educational for a land-locked (South Dakota) fisherman who is going to be in visiting relatives in Dana Point area mid february. What can i fish for at this time of the year. And how? Is the surf best or jetty?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Michael Howson says
I have been wondering if anyone surf fishes the winter months on the coastal
beaches of northern-California and Southern Oregon. If so, what has been caught,
and with what Bait?
Surf perch are there all winter but the fishing real gets better a little later in the spring when the fish start to spawn. Mussels, clams, GULP, shrimp, etc…
Wondering which months are the best, is october and november good?
November is perfect. Having lotsa luck on Gulp bait at all So Cal beaches now
It is really good info for the beginner like me.
One question, do I need to get a license for the surf/bay fishing?
I’m not very familiar with the system.
Where we fished for surf perch, in OR and WA, saltwater license is required. Check with your State’s fishing and gaming department for correct information. Most states should have those information up in their website.
I’m still catching surf perch these days. It all started when i switched to light tackle set up. In fact, I caught my limit today at my spot in ocean beach using scented plastic grubs. And I don’t have to break my back digging sandworms and soft shell sand crabs. But if you guys want to go for it, do it when the tide is at its lowest. Negative tide is the best time to dig worms and sandcrabs.
I’m still catching surf perch these days. It all started when i switched to light tackle set up. In fact, I caught my limit today at my spot in ocean beach using scented plastic grubs. And I don’t have to break my back digging sandworms and soft shell sand crabs. But if you guys want to go for it, do it when the tide is at its lowest. Negative tide is the best time to dig worms and sandcrabs. Plastics! I don’t leave home without it.
Hey, Good luck with your move . It will all be good, respect mother nature and how can one lose in long run. Take care kandy.
Hi, I fished the cove with the plastics and caught mostly rock fish. but that is what I was expecting. Sometimes you can get lucky and catch a flounder or a decent lingcod in this area. I released all the rock fish and kept the sea perch. Only caught three surf perch with plastic worms. With this tide cycle this week one can hug the cliff area and cast out
with your plastics and catch many species of rock fish, all keepers. Be nice and only keep the bleeders. You will be happy when you return to fish again.
Where were you fishing? I live in monterey bay and just started to fish the ocean. I have no clue about when the fish are around and what types of species I can get at certain points in the season. How could I figure this out and should I be fishing of the beach or off the rocks? Anything that will help me get my first fish would be great! thanks
In Monterey you have tons of great fishing. Just use the techniques mentioned on here. The best time to fish is 2 hours before and two hours after high and low tide.
By we’re do you fish in Monterey or seaside , moslanding
Can any one tell me the easiest way to make bait specificly sand crabs.
When it comes to plastics or sand crabs, I always catch bigger fish with sand crabs, but it is so difficult to get those little rascals. Any ideas?
It doesn’t sound like you have a problem. You are catching fish. if anything, try red thread rapped around your bait.
Be on the beach right when the high tide is over, and is starting to go out. As the big set of waves comes in you follow it ebbing from the beach and you will see the crabs working. be ready to move north and south on the beach you are at as the waves will be different.
kandy, Will a fine mesh net in the surf work as opposed to digging them up by hand? Thank you for your last reply.
Yes that will work . But be sure you have a strong frame that is holding the mesh to catch the small critters. You still need to pull towards the land to get them. So you are fighting the ebb and sand with each pull. My best advice is to walk out when each big set that comes in and when it ebbs do your dipping. The only thing I have against your method is that you want to see the critters before you start going for them. It will save time. Also walk the beach where the high tide line was at and you will find all kinds of sea life to use for bait.
Thank you for the reply. Your knowledge is invaluable.
Why do you use red thread? And is that with the sand crab or other baits? What success have you had with the red thread? I saw some people last week using red or orange thread on the top of their shrimp. They caught a few but not as many as I on nightcrawlers.
Way back in the day there was only thread to use to wrap your bait. Red thread was the type to use for attraction and it worked. You can buy red magic thread and it will break off easier than regular thread. Salt water with line cuts on your fingers can tend to be irritating but it is all worth it to me. When those sea perch start biting in a frenzy you have to work fast to take advantage of it. Did you notice on some days using sand shrimp, the female with eggs worked awesome.
I like to use the red thread on male shrimp to make the bait look like a shrimp with eggs.
Paul Davis says
Aug 15, 2012 will be my first time surf fishing. do I need to buy new rod & real or will my 6ft spinning rod and real get me there?
You can get buy with your six ft. rod fishing light tackle in the right areas. At slack high tide you should be okay. The longer the rod the farther you can cast out into the surf. When you have the slack low or slack high you only need to cast out 15 – 20 yards. Again it depends on what beach you are fishing off. If you find the right area you will only have to cast out about 15 yards.
Buy another pole in the same model you have , any where from 8ft. to 11ft. This will allow you to fish heavy tackle if needed and be able to keep your line above the breakers you see in front of you. If the surf is five feet and more and you are in an area where you have to use heavy weight, (4-8 oz.) you want your longest pole you have.
Hi JD. Thanks for the article. I just moved to Pacifica, CA,, and am determined to master surfperch and stripers. Have only caught a few small barred perch and walleye, using the carolina rig as well as a standard 2 hook surf leader so far. How do respond to the small tick, tick, ticking that are obviously strikes. Do I try to set the hook at each strike?
Jesse, I wait until I get a little more load in the rod before setting…
Yup, after two good nibbles set the hook. Anticipate the bite and try to set the hook on the first or second nibble. These nibbles we feel are good bites. After three to five of them your bait will be gone and just the thread will be there on your hook with a little left over chewed bait. Some days especially in certain areas on the beach you will only get the slightest nibble. I have caught some of my biggest stripped perch just inside the bay dealing with the smallest nibble. Just be ready, that’s the best advice
Rocket Dawg says
I stopped setting the hook the traditional way. When I get nibbles I move the bait away from them by moving my rod laterally and slowly. This usually creates a reactionary (hard) strike. Since I’ve been doing the lateral move, I catch more fish.
Cool tip. Thanks.
I just got back from surf fish and I caught about 4 using sand crabs as bait. I was wondering if the gulp sand camo worm will work just as well using your Technique.
How do you rig the sand crabs? Surf rig? Carolina? How do you retrieve it? Let it sit or reel it in?
Carolina rig with a slow retrieve
How do you rig the sand crabs? How do you retrieve it?
Skin them though the collar and slow retrieve or let ’em soak
How do you retrieve grubs and sandworms?
Slow and steady…
I have been surf fishing since I was six yrs. old. Used all the ways you could think of. Even using a rock for weight because we ran out of lead. Boy those were the days. The light rig is definitely the way to go when the conditions are right. Tides are important, but the surf conditions are first. If you find the right areas you can fish out going and low tide. In coming tide averages out to be the best. Bait, get the freshest you can. Dig sand shrimp your self or buy it. make sure you change containers if you buy the shrimp.
I’ll give one bait rig that I bet everybody has used for trout but not for surf perch, worm and marsh mellow. I’am old school, these methods rarely fail.
I was wondering what type of worm were you using with the marsh mllow? I’m assuming nightgrawler, but you know what happens when one assumes. lOL
DBin SD says
I took your advice and caught a perch in Imperial Beach this morning. 5/13/12. Never tried it before, but will go back soon. :)
greg I says
California fisherman with 40 years experience formal french trained executive chef. Wrote articles for Western outdoor news for Bill Karr and Bud Neville under the Santa Cruz surf report. Was sorry to see the western outdoor monthly magazine end. I wrote several perspectives on the California MLPAI acts,why fishermen need to unite more than ever and the facts to enlighten anglers as to the smoke screen the MLPAI ( Marine Life Protection Act Initiative) represents to avoid the real issue of fresh water rights in California.
Life next to beach in Santa Cruz and getting good reports off southern beaches for stripers with several shorts and a few keeper halibut taking wide range of plastics (fish trap,zoom flukes,tube jigs on darter head) with #12lb test fluorocarbon.
Capitola kelp gave up a nice 12lb plus size halibut to local Capitola mike on fish trap.
A slip bobber rigged tray bait to keep the crabs off tossed into kelp holes bagging assorted rockfish to make panko or beer batter fish dinner. Grass cod to me are little fish versions of filet Mignon..
Want more info usually check e-mails Early morning or later evenings and get updates from fisherman working waters Point Conception to San Francisco.
Most unique fish so far a 4lb sand bass from Santa Criz which is kond of north for them however we see one here and there but ususally more into the summer.
Tight lines to all.
JD thanks for the article. It was very well put together when I was looking for ways to rig for Surf Perch Fishing. I’ve used the old school 10 to even the jaynormus rig 15′ surf rods. Tossing 6 to 8 oz led. Anyway I think this will work and from what I’ve read on your comments section, I can’t wait to get out there again. I’ll let you know how it works up here on the south beach of Crescent City California. You rock Dude. ;-}
In general, are rocky bottoms a better bet for surf perch or do sandy bottoms produce just as well?
I really appreciate the great detail you go into! I just started reading into to surf fishing, and I’m really addicted now! I haven’t caught anything, but I’m re-gearing and going to give your most excellent tips a go! I’ll be fishing the Oregon shore anywhere from Tillamook to Astoria, and anywhere in between. I’ve targeted Seaside of late. I went fishing in Seaside at the cove, and a lot of fishermen out there were using nets to catch some kind of sandy looking sea shrimp/fea about 1 1/2 inch long to use for bait. I wasn’t sure what they’re called but the guy said they work very well.
Question for you: Any suggestions specific to the Northern Oregon coast? Bait, location, or anything you’ve picked up!?
I was just looking for some more surf fishing info and tips came across this informative page.Saw your post I lived in Tillamook for a couple years and now live on the beach in Rockaway Beach.I see people having really good luck surf fishing at the bar view jetty.Through the campsite and on the right side of the jetty seems like a promising area.
Thanks Nolan, I’ll give that a shot. I’ve camped there a few times, so it’d make sense to harmonize the two on a nice weekend trip.
Kevin Nguyen says
Can i just use a basic 7 foot medium action shimano rod? and i know my walleye perch are near my local pier but i cant surf cast there the waves are really big should i go down the beach to find a better spot where waves are smaller?
In late May I will be staying in Cayucos. Our house is right on some nice rocks with deep holes and kelp at all stages of the tides. Any tips for pulling some fish out of there?
Squid is always a good bet!
There are some nice perch in the rips near the Cayucos pier. Gulp sandworm on a carolina rig worked for just a few weeks ago.
When would be the best time of the year for surf perch if fishing between Pacifica and Monterey?
Spring through fall
Thanks much JD!
Thanks a lot JD. I was taken hook line and sinker with your “go light” techniques. Put away my 17 lb mono and 20 lb braided for a 6lb fluorocarbon line and 8 lb leader. Two weeks ago I went fishing to my usual spot but with a different result. My buddies who where there 2 hours earlier than me gave up with only a good size rainbow perch to bring home. An hour later I have to go home too bec the wind picked up and the waves beginning to swell higher than predicted. But two good size barb perch and a nice calico is not a bad thing. oh yeah, been catching perch since then. You rock, JD! Thanks and more power to you.
Hey JD, I just want to let you know, I just got back from the Big Island and techniques you offered on this page worked great with Bonefish and Moi (Pacific Threadfin). The Berkeley Gulp Sandworm patterns worked better than live bait. Thanks dude. I’m going to try to fish Carmel Beach, as soon as I buy my 2012 California fishing license.
Savon Henderson says
Caught a perch in San Pablo Bay today 19th of January 2012.
David Thompson says
What beach on San Pablo Bay? I live in Pinole.
Good fishin in 2012.
Good fishin in 2012. Have you discovered any new baits or lures. My motor oil grub is still the most reliable for me.
Adam C says
Would a 7′ rod with a line rating of 4-12 and a lure weight of 1/8-1/2 oz. be a good rod?
Rocket Dawg says
Would a 7? rod with a line rating of 4-12 and a lure weight of 1/8-1/2 oz. be a good rod?
That is the setup I use, if surf is light I use #4 test with a 3/8 egg sinker so I get a longer cast. When surf is tougher I use Stren extra Strength in #6 with a 1/2 to 3/4 oz egg- its sized like a thin #6 but breaks at closer to 10 or 12 pounds. I also use the #6line when I throw Kastmasters or other chrome lures.
Berkeley Sand worms in the camo color are called “perch Crack” here in SoCal, I have pretty good luck with the red ones too in overcast weather. I also cut them pretty short, just enough to cover my Owner #6 Mosquito hooks, Mosquitos are a light wire heat treated hook that is light but super strong- Its off center so I straighten them before use. BTW, if there is a lot of salad in the water, I hook the worm Texas jig style ( bury the hook tip in the worm body) to make it “weedless”
Sounds like a good rod choice… These days I’m running a slightly longer one 8 foot two,..
Is there any particular time of year when surf fishing is best ?
When the waves are small…the fish are in the surf year-round.
Adam C says
Hey would a 9 foot rod be generally too long for small surf?
Not at all…provided it isn’t rated for 40lb.!
Great write-up on surf perch. How’s the perch fishing along the San Francisco area coast from Ocean Beach down to Pacifica during the winter, if the seas are down?
I want to go out there and try your approach.
Great article, very informative. I currently reside in Sausalito, CA and am interested in making the transition from fresh to salt water fishing. Can you recommend any places to do some fishing for perch or other species in the general area?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Youre a lot closer to the surf than I am here in Pinole but inshore fishing on the bay is perch striper halibut salmon shark & sturgeon
Got a day off on Thursday, after reading this article, it makes me want to hit the beach and try some perch fishing. I remember my dad taking me out when I was a kid and having a blast catching perch. Quick question, what area is a better bet for me to catch some perch, Moss Landing beaches or Santa Cruz Beaches. I’m looking more for quality instead of quantity. Thanks in advance!
Ray, I have always done best around Marina but I would go Santa Cruz over Moss…however, the swell is supposed to kick up so I’d go wherever the seas are lightest …
I checked the swells for tomorrow, I might try the Marina area. What’s the name of some beaches in Marina? Thanks JD!
Marina State Beach (I think that’s what it’s called). Nice and steep!
Mark L says
I hit Guadalupe Beach again this weekend and had some “fair” fishing. The lunar chart was predicting very good fishing and the surf was suppose to be in the 1 to 3 foot levels with high tide at 8:45am. Problem was once we got there about 7:45am the surf was 4 to 6 foot levels! I was alittle disappointed but after driving 200 plus miles what do you do!?? About 9:45 I noticed the surf letting up abit and we started getting some bites. One thing I noticed was the bites were not as “strong” as they were back at the end of August!?? I wanted to ask “IF” the surfperch bite is lighter in the winter months? Another thing I wanted to ask …I had hooked up with what felt like some good fish, so I was letting them run abit before I really tried to get them in. But once I committed to dragging them in and they caught some slack line because of the wave action …they were gone!!! SO is it better to try to “horse them in” and not play them that much? The other thing I notice was we were getting affair number of bites long after high tide! We ended up catching about 7 fish …4 barred and 3 silver perch. That’s my last question …the silver perch we were catching were all a “cookie cutter size” …about 4 1/2″. Is that a “standard” size for these fish …smaller, or did we just happen into a same size school? THX! …Mark
When you land a fish in the surf, you need to step backward to keep the line tight. Pull the fish up onto the sand at the same time an incoming wave pushes the fish forward. Just back up at the same speed that the wave is coming in.
I have absolutely no faith is wave forecasts. Recently, we had 14-foot waves while 1-foot waves were being reported on the Internet. No surf fishing that day!
We had beautiful conditions in Crescent City today, but I caught no fish. There are times when we do well in poor conditions. I can’t explain why.
Thanks for the info on perch fishing! I will be out that way towards the end of January. Last year we stayed at Faria campground. I noticed alot of perch fishing going on up the beach from where the waves break. So this year I’m bringing my rod. Do I need to switch my line from 12 pound mono to 8? Any advice for fishing in that area would be great. Also will be in the Newport Beach area if you have any tips on catching fish around there maybe by way of renting a kayak also to fish the bay?
Tyler, 12-pound is okay, but I’d make sure it’s flouro. Newport Harbor is fun — throw small swim baits to the docks and pilings just like you would if you were freshwater bass fishing — sand bass + more in there. Good luck!
Vic San Jose says
Follow up to 11/26/11 post. Sunset beach Watsonville Ca. Woke up had my coffee and started fishing using the same method as discribed. Nailed them, had a great time and was back to camp as my family was waking up. Got home in time for the Raider game and I have Perch for dinner. It doesn’t get better than this. Thanks JD
Vic San Jose says
Great article I tried this technique in September and had good success. I am spending the night at sunset sb right now and will be fishing at day break. Can’t wait! Thanks for the article JD.
Hello, JD, I thought I would stop by and comment.
Fishing with gulp worms is productive, and is great for the 8-11 inch surfperch, however have you tried using a lucky craft flashminnow 110 sp? These attract the monster surfperch, the big 15-inch bruiser Barred Surfperch.. Once these fish get big, they switch from sandcrabs to fish! Just like monster Yellowfin croakers, which slam Kastmasters and krocodile spoons!
Yea, thanks MB. I have been using Flashminnows for quite some time now & will cover that in another article.
JD- Do you ever fly fish for surf perch?
I’m fairly new to fly fishing and to saltwater. Would the combination give too steep a learning curve for a beginner like me?
I’m in Crescent City. I think the cove south of Point Saint George would be calm enough to give it a try if I can avoid getting hung up on all the kelp that grows there. NOBODY seems to be fly fishing the surf up here. People think I’m crazy to consider it…
What do you think? Should I stick with bait for a while, or should I go straight to the advanced stuff?
Dwight, I’d go for the long rod for some really cool fun. You just have to have calm conditions. Some fly shops carry crab imitations for bonefish and permit that work for perch. Slow crawl them with a shooting head. Good luck!!
My initial attempts in the big waves were quite pathetic. Now, I’ve identified a few places that are sheltered enough to fly fish without hooking a tourist on the back cast. (I almost caught a Labrador Retriever at Wilson Creek.)
If the number of comments are any indication, there seems to be a lot of interest in surf fishing the North Coast. More articles would be well received.
Matt Mitchell says
I spend a lot of time over in Crescent City and always bring my surf gear! I use a 10ft 7wt with a t-9 shooting head.
As far as flies go my go to is a saltwater clouser in chartrues and white. Be sure to get the saltwater version so the hooks don’t rust. The fly shop in redding also carries a sand crab fly that works great too! Make sure you have a file to keep the hooks sharp as they dull quickly in the sand.
The beach south of Point ST George is a good spot but has a little to much kelp for my liking. Try two parking lots down where there is a small creek that comes in, it creates a good bucket that is in casting range.
My favorite spot is at the mouth of the Smith river off the rocks, followed by the mouth of the Klamath. Wilson creek fishes great too!
Dude, you are my brother! I am from Texas and still in Texas (Near San Antonio). But I have been to the west coast many times and worked with a guy in the Seafood Dept. of Whole Foods in Austin who was from the west coast and was a fisherman. He fished in the surf there the way we do it here. Except he caught halibut and rockfish, which as I’m sure you know now, are as ubiquitous as our “surf perch” (commonly called piggy perch but properly named barbed grunt) and pinfish (the true pinnies, who have razor-sharp dorsal spines attached to secondary, soft dorsals). Both are excellent eating.
I envy you! Fish in the surf there (in California) like you would here (in Texas) and you will be greatly rewarded. Also, consider the shellfish and crustaceans available to you on the west coast. Abalone (in season of course), surf clams (are they available), crabs (imagine the bounty), and other seasonal seafood like grunyon.
Enjoy it all!
This CA fishing has been a blast. I havent broken out the big Ugly Sticks yet but I think about it every time I have hit the beach here. One of these days when I have all day I will pull them out and see what I can get into. I hear they catch Halibut with fly rods around here too and when I fell like casting my arm off I will try that too. I never ate a piggy perch but I only ever caught small ones and was looking for the very tasty Redfish. Hope you are not too terribly hot down there. It feels funny to fish the surf in neoprene waders and long sleeve shirts!
Just moved from Texas to the central coast of California and went out yesterday to Oceano and had a ball! My surf gear is way too big so I took my 7′ bait caster out and carolina rigged a Gulp sandworm and mixed it up with a grub during the lulls. I didnt count but caught at least a dozen nice size and countless small ones. All were Barred. One thing I havent read about yet and that is the surf perch have soft mouths. The biggest of the morning came unbuttoned right at my hand but still giggled as it swam off. I haven’t kept any yet but plan to next week. That is a ton of fun!
Sweet! Nice work!
Just saw your post and wanted to ask if you would email me to connect. I live in Nipomo and have been wanting to talk to someone who does this kind of fishing.
Yep, just hit the contact button on the top of the page under “About JD”
JD. Thanks for the article. Got me started in the right direction. Going back out on Sunday. Tide is right but surf looks a little big but will have my marital equity account in the black after the next 2 days so going to hit the beach anyway.
John, thought maybe your reply was directed at me since you mentioned Nipomo. My email is [email protected]. Only my 3rd time out on the left coast but always happy to talk fish.
Paul S. Lambres says
Been surfcasting for Perch for years. Typically use 6-8 oz. pyramid with 10# line with 2 hook leader. We fish above Point Arena on the North Coast of California and usually the incoming winds won’t allow for the light tackle approach. We use sand crabs, sardines and dayfish we have caught with our dip nets. I do want to try the light tackle method but can’t imagine how to make it work with the winds.
Yea, winds are a problem. So is big surf. For the light tackle thing to work, you’ve gotta have some calm conditions. Try early mornings and look at the marine forecast and pick a day with mellow surf…
Mark L says
Hey I want to thank you for all the good advice! I do alot of fishing, but haven’t hit surfperch. I was talking with the local bait shop and the guy there was talking surfperch …got me interested. But my “medium action” rig is in the shop, so was thinking my “light rig” (7′ ft pole with 4# line) …was too light. But from your description I’m right in the ball park! I’m heading over to Pismo tomorrow, I give you a report when I get back. THX again! …Mark L
Mark L says
Well I promised a fishing report, but it’s been alittle slow in coming! I was going to Pismo and try there, but when I woke up to go early the next morning, I go out to find I have a flat tire! And of course I have only one of those get me home tires, so I didn’t get to go then. My work lets us have every other Friday off, so two weeks later I’m ready to go again. I’ve been talking with the guys down at the local bait shop, and they were alittle dubious about my choice to go to Pismo, they suggested Oceano. I have never been there so I was doing a Google map search; I did find a good spot or a clear way to get there. BUT I did see what seemed to be a great spot alittle farther south …Guadalupe Beach! The map showed and easy way to the spot, with a road and parking space just off the beach. SO yesterday I head out, getting there was no trouble, there was a locked gate when I showed up, but the park ranger showed up on time and opened it up. The next problem was the road to the beach, it runs along a river outlet, and a storm at one time washed out the road so now the walk to the beach is 1/4 mile walking on dry sand!!! Reminded me of my time at Ft. Ord during basic!!! ;) SO I finally make it to the water, this being my first time here I wasn’t sure where to go, so I just head south, walking along the beach looking for some good spot. I see what appears to be hopefully, slight gully hinting to a deep spot. I start with a motor oil grub with sparkles. About 10 casts into it I hook and land a 6″ barred perch. He’s kinda border line for me, IF I had a bunch that would be ok but right now he goes back. Another 10 to 15 casts and I hook up with something, but I loose it. Then the same thing happens, loose it too. Then nothing, so I pack up and move down, stopping and fishing as I go. High tide has come and gone about 30 minute when I stop and hook up a motor oil grub no sparkles …5 casts in and I hookup to a nice barred perch, get him in and he measures 8 1/2″ …definitely a keeper. But that was the only thing I get there, so I move on. I finally reach the very end of the beach, high rocks reaching into the surf, so I start to he back, doing the same thing, walking stopping and fishing. I only hook one more and real small barred perch again, about 4 1/2″ …he goes back to grow another 4″! I FINALLY make it back to the car about 4:15 …and I’m a hurting unit! ;) walking in sand that far is not for an old fat guy how makes his living behind and computer!!! ;) …Would I go back? …You bet!!! I maybe old-n-fat but I’m a fisherman first! This is a great beach, not alot of people and seems like a good spot, just not that day, plus I won’t go that far down the beach again. I want to add I did use the Glup worms, but didn’t get one bit on it, only on the motor oil colored grubs. ALSO it was solid cloud cover and foggy about 50% of the time, but I got wind burnt real good, so if you go make sure you bright and USE some good sun screen! …See you guys there next time! …Mark L
PS – Anybody got a good receipt for BBQ perch?
I found a great recipe (ready ‘easy’) online. First off I cut off the head and gutted the fish, wiped the inside with olive oil and stuffed it with Sage. Grilled on a well oiled grill for couple minutes on each side. Also grilled Roma tomatoes and Zucchinni. Recipe said to pull out sage after cooking and stuff with tomatoes and zucchinni but I just put it all on the plate. Not too worried about presentation and this seemed like a wasteful step. It was delicious. BTW- I have fished Oceano a few times and have done well. The ranger at Guadalupe told me on a scouting trip that walk was 3/4 of a mile so I headed north. Deep sand walking is for camels in my opinion but the lack of people does sound nice. Glad you had fun and I will eventually check it out but catching my limit at Oceano this past Sunday was too much fun to pass up!
Mark L says
StreamKen …Actually I had seen that receipt on the internet, But I’m not a “grilled tomatoe” type of guy! *G* Your right about walking in the sand, I felt like a camel! So what type of perch did you catch? Eveything I got was a “barred perch”, I’m curious as to what else is semi-common out there?
All barred. My father in law said the fall was the best time of year so maybe we will see some other varieties moving in the next few months.
Mark Layport says
StreamKen …I also wanted to ask what was the biggest and smallest fish in your limit you caught at Oceano?
I live in the bay area on alameda
are there any place with good surf perch fishing around here?
Rudi, I know there are times when the perch bite gets ripping in the bay around pilings but I have not fished them in there….
I am wondering where to do some perch fishin around fort bragg<if you got any ideas i would appreciate it ,thanks.
Haven’t fished perch there…but there are some nice beaches like Casper that look interesting. Just look for a beach that is steep and not gently sloping….
Uminchu Naoaki says
I’m gonna try this on my kayak other side of the break!
Okay…just watch out for Great Whites! :)
trevor a pilling-miller says
hey there names trevor i live and fish all of the monterey bay and but no luck with the stripers or the surf perch….school me please !!!!!
Trevor, white swimbaits, big silver Kastmasters and Pencil Poppers are the tickets for stripers. Perch, either use live bait like mussels or sand crabs or fish GULP sandworms. Good luck!
AC Smith says
Im taking my daughter to Ft.Bragg this week. I want to fish from the beach at our friends place.. What is my best bet for putting my 8 yr young Daughter on some fish? There is also rock cliffs on both sides of their beach.. Should I fish the sand next to the rocks, middle of the beach..??? Any help would be Awesome!
Thanks a million guys.
Start working near the rocks on the beach and then look for any rips along the main strip of sand. GULP Sand worms or real sand crabs will do the trick. Good luck!
1″ of Gulp sandworm “Camo” Carolina-rigged. That is all that is needed for Southern California surf fishing.
I am a rookie’s rookie in surf fishing and going to Carlsbad and Ponto beach this weekend, any tips? Planning to use the Berkley Sand Fleas. thank you
Hans, never fished that spot but I’m sure the Sand Fleas will work fine. Just slow-crawl them along the bottom!
JD never did the surfperch fishing before but now after reading your page I am going to give it a try. Do you have any suggestions or tips for fishing in the Puget Sound Wa.
gary monelli says
I enjoyed the perch fishing article. any info. on tomales bay?
Greg mundt says
Hey Buddy hitting the SF bay, pier fishing any thoughts?
Not super up to speed on that one. Call Hi’s Tackle Box in SF. They’ll set ya straight.
Greg mundt says
OK Buddy .Thanks Greg
I have been catching Barred Surfperch, Redtail, Walleye Surfperch, Striped Seaperch, Rainbow Surfperch and Occasionally Rubberlip Seaperch…I used 15lbs line with 10 footer Med St. Croix Triumph® Surf Spinning Rods and size 6 hooks with 2 or 3 oz weight pyramid! The current on california coast are strong the weight is heavy enought to hold my line…
Hey JD! I try and stick with freshwater but have recently been drawn to Salt. Cant get enough! Was just wondering where your favorite spots for perch are in Humboldt County! Thanks!
hey im headed to Seacliff state beach on tuesday nov. 23 2010 and i was looking for some tips to fish the surf down there any advice?
1) Hope for calm conditions and small surf
2) Look for a beach with some “tilt” to it (sloped, not flat)
3) Use Berkley Gulp
4) Ignore the urge to cast a million miles out there…sometimes the troughs are right at your feet
5) Have a blast!
Thanks for the advice.. hoping to catch a bunch!!
Thanks for the info on perch fishing. I live on the coast and have spent many wonderful days out fishing for bottom fish and salmon, but I live perch to eat and finally bought a light rod yesterday. I needed a visual on the bait and you helped me a lot TYTY We shall see how it goes, but I can go anytime as I live beachfront:) Just never took the time. Thanks Again!
Glad to be of some use!
I’m headed to Kalaloch in northern WA in 2 weeks. Any thoughts from the crowd? I’m new to this! Help!!
Headed to Kalaloch in August. Any thoughts on good places around there??
hay jd its me im going to go in 2 days you think this will work? http://www.fishusa.com/Berkley-Gulp-Alive-6-Nightcrawler_p.html
Hey, APG256, I don’t recognize the name…but those GULP crawlers will work, just cut ’em down to match the size of the fish where ever you’re going. Good luck!
Scott Huff says
JD going to be in CRESCENT CITY calif from the 26 of june to july 5 where are some good places to go sruf fishing up that way. thanks for the good tips on lite tackle fishing
The mouth of the Klamath is awesome perchin’
Lew Maciel says
Years back I fished Kellog Beach. Dig your sand crabs right off the beach,hook ’em through the head and toss ’em out.I’d use a surf leader with a double hook dropper,weight on the bottom.Lotta fun,great eating!
im goin to the oregon coast soon is north oregon good fishing? ive been fishing all over oregon even though im 12 but im good. so i wanted to go for my moms favorit fish:)
Yes, northern Oregon is good for perch, rockfish, crabs and salmon. Don’t know where exactly you’re headed, but I’m sure there will be something for ya to catch. Good luck!
B Dawg says
Yo JD, love the fishing guide!
What do you think about using red hooks for perch? And what size works best???
Hi JD, this past weekend was my first surf perch fishing trip and I had went out to the Bodega Bay area. Is Bodega Bay and the beaches near there ideal for surf perch fishing? I was wondering cause I didn’t catch a single fish. Thanks
Idid not do too well on the surf perch fishing at Windchester bay on this holiday weekend. Had really nice weather and threw everything from the gulp to live bait. So then decided to go off the south jetty and did pretty good catching black bass and kelp greenling. Was using sand shrimp catching the greenling and was casting out and jigging the gulp and white minnows catching the bass. Was hoping for a lingcod or two but luck was not on my side, but thare was lingcod caught by other fisherman there. Crabbing was really slow also, but there were boats trolling for salmon. I think thats it’s a little early might be a springer here and there but the coho and falls is just around the corner.
I live in Oregon and don’t do much surf fishing, and reading the article it says calm days are the best but the oregon coast they are few and far between especially in the spring. Am I just wasting my time fishing in rough water, and in these conditions should I stay away from the artificial and go with the live bait?
No, you can still fish the artificials in rough water, but it’s just tougher to get your gear (when fishing light) down into the “zone.” We fish off the Nor Cal/Souther Oregon coast all summer and there are plenty of calm days mixed in…
I am heading to Cayucos this week and we are renting a house on the beach. I am thinking about taking a light(er) action spinning rod and “largemouth bass” fishing in the surf with your Gulp minnow carolina or drop shot set-ups. With the cloudy, cold and possibly rainy conditions scheduled for this week, what can I expect from giving the fishing a try along the beach by our house? The beach is relatively flat and even as we are staying on Studio drive by Old Creek Road.
Okay, gotta admit…I’ve never been there. However, being along the central coast, there should be some surf perch around. Head out at the peak of the tide and see what shakes out and send us a report. Good luck!
I give it a shot and let you know how good the beer tasted. Thanks!
J.D. I just moved to southern California and I looking for fishing suggestions at the beaches. I got no problem with getting wet, was even thinking about a kayak. What do you think?
Well, there’s some pretty darned good perch, corbina and croaker fishing to be had on the beach right around the Santa Monica Pier if you can believe that. It’s more of a summer thing, but you can get halibut there too. Just north of Malibu are some nice beaches and Leo Carillo is always good. If y ou get a kayak, head for Newport Harbor/Balboa Island for some sweet sand bass action on plastics. Good luck!
Try South Carlsbad State Beach. Best surf fishing I’ve ever done. The mornings from sunrise to say 10am are great. There’s a reef just beyond the waves that keeps lots of fish in the area. Be ready for leopard shark and keeper halibut as well as lots of corbina on this strip. The beach is huge and there’s plenty of cover and variation in the surf. Study it from on top of the cliff.
Hello i just started fishing for surf perch at Cayucos Ca and been fishing off the pier. Have caught a few but not to much I am using a #4 ture turn hooks and a 3 oz weight. Whats the best way to fish off the pier?
I’d fish a Gulp worm on a dropshot rig.
Can I make announcement of trips our group is planning on your web site? Our members are retired seniors in the Bay Area from Redwood City to Burlingame.
We are interested in New Members.
Br 1 Fishing & Crabbing Group
Go right ahead!
I am interested in fishing & crabbing in SF Bay Area. Chairman of Br 1 SIR’s , Fishing & Crabbing Group LL 6507269658 Cell 6504306046
dennis grossi says
when is a good time at stensen beach for the perch are they there all year round?
JD, light tackle is definitely the way to go for bar perch. It takes a little finesse (using the motion of the ocean), but I use a crappie stick and a cheep little spinning reel. The sticks are 9 and 10 foot long, like buggie whips-unbelievable flexible. I use to be that guy with the 4oz pyramid sinkers, 12 foot surf rod with 20 lb test and a Penn Squidder. It is great fun fishing light in the surf. Going to give that fire line 8lb a shot, seems like it would cut through the sea weed a little better and eel grass when it is in the surf. Great article. Thanks!
Yea, the light tackle route really makes it a lot more fun. Good luck!
I like the Daiwa Coastal Hawaiian style rods or Ultra light surf rods # CLI1002LSS or SLS1002LSS. there a little heavier. I fish these alot in so cal casting Kroc’s for halibut. Both these rods are 10′ ( but they make them to 14′) and fish 8 – 10lb very well. These would also be good Striper surf rods.
Have you ever caught any in the S.F. Bay Area? If so, where?
You can catch perch around most pier pilings in SF Bay. Outside, all the ocean beaches have 'em. I like Bolians/Stinston Beach…
I can attest to this! JD and I did some of this up in Del Norte this summer from Trinidad Beach northwards. It was pretty much a wide open bite; you can catch as many as you're willing to stay out there. And the tides didn't seem to matter too much, as long as you could find the beach breaks in the swash zone. This was a lot of fun; something cerebrally pleasing about fishing before the wide expanse of the Pacific, with no one to be seen up or down the beach; and getting bit on every cast!